The First Day, the Lord’s Day, and the Day of the Lord
The three expressions ‘the First Day,’ ‘the Lord’s Day,’ and the ‘Day of the Lord’ could create confusion in the mind of many believers. It should be studied as given in the Bible by reading them as they are written (Luke 10:26). If we follow this as our principle in studying the Scriptures, then we will find a clear difference between the expressions ‘the Lord’s Day’ and ‘the Day of the Lord.’ In the former, the ‘day’ follows ‘Lord’s.’ In the latter, the ‘day’ precedes ‘the Lord.’ This as our starting point let us proceed to understand the three expressions.
Let me state that the subject of what is the ‘Lord’s Day’ in Revelation 1:10 is not a doctrinal issue but it is a subject of interest.
The first day of Creation is a shadow of the ‘First Day’ of the week. In the New Testament, the expression, ‘first day,’ appears in Matthew 26:17; 28:1; Mark 14:12; 16:2, 9; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7, 18; 1 Corinthians 16:2, Philippians 1:5. In Matthew 26:17 and Mark 14:12, it is in connection with the ‘first day’ of the feast of the unleavened bread. In Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; John 20:1, and 19, the ‘first day’ is in connection with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts 20:7, 18 and 1 Corinthians 16:2, the ‘first day’ is in connection with the observation of the Lord’s Supper. In Philippians 1:5, the ‘first day’ is in connection with the fellowship in the gospel.
In addition to these, we read this day as the Lord’s Day, in Revelation 1:10. The Greek expression is TE KURIAKE HEMERA (= The Lord’s Day). This is not to be confused with the expression, “The day of the Lord,” in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, and 2 Peter 3:10. “The day of the Lord,” in Greek is E HEMERA KURIOU. In 2 Thessalonians 2:2, we read about “the day of Christ,” (E HEMERA TOU CRISTOU). In these three scriptures, we read about the judgment of God and Christ.
On the other hand, in Revelation 1:10 we read about a day in which John was alive on this earth and he was in the Island of Patmos, because of his testimony of the Lord. The “Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10 was not the judgment day, but it was the day of revelation of what is to come to pass. At the same time, the Book of Revelation deals with the judgment of God and of the Lamb as revealed to John on the “Lord’s Day,” in Patmos. That is, the Day of the Lord was revealed to John on the Lord’s Day.
The easy way to distinguish the difference between these two expressions could be: if the “day” follows the word “Lord,” it deals with the ‘first day’ and if it is the other way around, then it is the judgment day of God and the Lamb. The ‘first day’ for a Christian is the day in which we gather to remember our Lord in His death according to His command and wish on this earth. It is the first day of the week as we read in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.
The major differences between ‘The Lord’s Day’ and ‘The Day of the Lord’:
The first and foremost is the order of words in which these two expressions are given to us by the inspiration of God. We have already looked into this as the order of words in the original.
We should also consider other reasons why we should distinguish them as different and distinct.
Some may say that the ‘Lord’s Day’ in Revelation 1:10 is not clearly defined. There may be some truth to that. Some may take it as a period of time and others take it as a definite day in the life of John. They have not given any justification other than they do not know what it is. After admitting that they do not know what it is, they want others to accept what they make that to be. In almost all of these cases, there is an assumption that the ‘Lord’s Day’ and the ‘Day of the Lord’ are synonymous, if not interchangeable. This error in their assumption is the cause that results in the effect of not knowing the difference between ‘Lord’s Day’ and the ‘Day of the Lord.’
Compared to them, let us search the Scriptures to understand the Scriptures.
In Revelation 1:10 we read, “I became in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,…” In KJV, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” Which one is the better translation of the original? To answer this question we must go to the original language in which this verse was written. Let me provide it using the Greek word and its meaning, next to it:
EGENOMEN (I come to be) EN (in, on) PNEUMATI (Spirit) EN (in, on) TE (the) KURIAKE (of Lord) HEMERA (day)…
It is clear that the translation “I became in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” is a better translation than what is in KJV. In Revelation 1:10 we read that Apostle John “became in the Spirit.” It was a state that he was not in before—the day before that Lord’s Day, or any other day. It also implies that he was not in that state when he wrote Revelation after that ‘Lord’s Day.’
On the contrary, the expression, “I was in the Spirit” implies that he was in that state before and continued in such a state. The expression “Lord’s day” indicates the time of the revealing of the things that was, is, and is to come to John, so that he could write and send what he saw and came to know on that day to the local assemblies. To the local assemblies it was the Lord’s Day in which they gathered together to remember the Lord as stated in 1 Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 11-16. It is what is written in the letter to Laodicea, where the Lord is standing outside their gathering place and knocking at the door to open to Him. The Lord gave us the needed information that the ‘Lord’s Day’ in Revelation 1:10 is the ‘first day’ of the week. It was an earthy day.
Those who try to establish this ‘Lord’s Day’ as a period of time, greater than one physical day, should also insist that John was in that state for a longer period of time, because this day was specified as the “Lord’s day.”
When we try to understand about this “Lord’s Day,’ the importance should not be on the day, but to whom it belonged. It belonged to the Lord. What else in the scriptures, especially in the New Testament, we read that belongs to the Lord. There is only one thing—the Lord’s Supper, and we read about it in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Because of this connection, many correctly conclude that the Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10 is the first day of the week. On that day, the disciples gathered together to break bread, to eat the Lord’s Supper.
In the general Christian literature, we read about the “Lord’s day” to be the same as the “Day of the Lord.” We read about the “Day of the Lord” (E HEMERA KURIOU) in 1 Thess. 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10; and the “Day of Christ” (E HEMERA CHRISTOU) in 2 Thess. 2:2. In these three places, the “Day of the Lord” is in connection with judgment and wrath of the Lord or Christ—the Messiah.
Therefore, it is safe to state that the Old Testament prophecies about the “Day of Jehovah” in Isaiah 27:1 and Joel 2:1 are what is mentioned as the “Day of the Lord” in the New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; and 2 Peter 3:10 we are told that we are delivered from the wrath and judgment of God. In the Old Testament, the KJV translators changed the name Jehovah to the Jewish practice and used LORD in place of Jehovah. Therefore, we read about the ‘the Day of the Lord’ in KJV in the Old Testament. They should not have changed the name of God—Jehovah—using a noun. Such mishaps could happen in all translations and we should be aware of them.
It is true that there is no grammatical difference in English between ‘the Lord’s Day’ and ‘the Day of the Lord.’ But, is there a structural difference? Yes, there is. Is there a difference in emphasizing the message? Yes, there is. Is there a scriptural difference? Yes, there is. Is there a difference between them in the lives of the New Testament believers? Yes, there is. What is that difference? The expression, “the Lord’s Day” tells us that the importance of the day is derived from its ownership. While the expression, “the Day of the Lord” tell us that day is set aside by the Lord for a purpose and that purpose is to manifest the wrath and judgment of God, Jehovah.
Let me explain using a passage from history. When President Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg speech, he said, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” He could have said “Government of, by, and for the people.” He could have also said, “People’s government.” Grammatically all these convey the same meaning, but not by its expression. The way in which it was spoken gave it a meaning far surpassing the other two. We should remember that expressions of words as in a sentence have the differing appeals as stones or pearls are placed in a necklace or jewelry. It is not the string that which gives the appeal, but they keep the stones or pearls in its place for our appreciation and value. Those who appeals to the grammar to interpret the expressions should remember that the grammar is to a sentence as the string to the necklace. The Holy Spirit used different expressions to provide the differing meaning of what seems to be grammatically same composition of words.
(To be continued)