The Day of the Lord at Hand in the Prophets
We've noted that the Day of the Lord is referenced all through the prophets (Charles Welch writes that "there are no less than 285 references" to the Hebrew Canon in the Revelation). We can't go through all the references, but in light of John repeating its imminency, I just wanted to note one such reference from the Book of Zephaniah.
Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God:
for the day of the Lord is at hand:
for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice,
he hath bid his guests.
Something thousands of years away would not normally be said to be "at hand." But something can be "at hand" if possible under certain conditions. When Jonah is sent to Nineveh with a warning of destruction in 40 days, he is never told that there is a possibility it might not happen. The overthrow of Nineveh was "at hand" in that it was in the foreseeable future.
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. -Jonah 3:4
The overthrow never happens. Why not? The proclamation has no suggestion of a way out in it. Well, we read Nineveh's reaction to Jonah's warning and then Jonah's reaction to God relenting.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them... And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. -Jonah 3:5,10
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. -Jonah 4:1-2
God did not destroy Nineveh. He had mercy upon them. Mercy is an attribute of God. In the same way, he continually gave Israel a chance to repent. If he looked upon the gentiles of Nineveh with compassion, how much more so with his people Israel?
Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? -Jonah 4:10-11
When the Lord Jesus Christ is ministering to his own people he references Jonah several times. In addition to "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (three days and three nights in the belly of the fish as the Lord would be in the tomb), the Lord points to the repentance of Nineveh.
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. -Matt 12:41
Jonah was also an Galilean. The chief priests and Pharisees mocked the Lord for being a Galilean. "They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52). They had forgotten about Jonah (perhaps because he ministered to Gentiles).
Jeroboam took back Israel’s land, which ran from the Lebo Hamath to the Arabah Sea. This happened as the Lord of Israel had told his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. -2 Kings 14:25
Gath-Hepher was just northeast of Nazareth in Galilee.
As Jonah taught that judgment and destruction were "at hand," so the warnings to Israel in Zephaniah. Nineveh returned to its idolatrous ways, and destruction will come to it. Zephaniah prophesied two centuries after Jonah and speaks of a future destruction of Nineveh just as he speaks of a future judgment of Israel.
And He will stretch out His hand against the north,
And make Nineveh a desolation,
As dry as the wilderness.
Israel's King came "to confirm the promises made to the fathers" (Rom 15:8) and was rejected. But the Lord sent his messengers out to continue to minister "to the circumcision" (Gal 2:7). This is the sewing we see in the Parable of the Sower in the parable of the kingdom in Matthew 13.
[A theological note here: notice in Nineveh that gentiles are spared by faith. They are not put under the law, required to come to Jerusalem, etc. The Law was given to Israel alone as her promises and covenants are hers alone.]
The Lord on His Cross and Peter in the Acts
When it comes to Israel, God's forbearance is well in view. Even as the Lord is being rejected and mocked by his brethren according to the flesh, he asks that they be forgiven. That forgiveness is seen in the continual offering of the kingdom and the promises to the fathers [of Israel] all through the Acts Age.
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. -Luke 23:34-35
But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye [men of Israel] therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you... -Acts 3:18-20
As the Day of the Lord is the time of Jacob's trouble, even though at times it was "at hand," God has delayed it and delayed it. It will come to fruition in the Revelation, but even there it will be feature mercy and rescue. As we look at the book, and the events in the world around us, we may very well be close to the Day of the Lord being "at hand" again.
We now live in the great parentheses of Israel's time as "not my people." This age started with Paul's declarations in Acts 28 and will continue until Israel is once again God's time-clock and channel.
Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews
Well did Nathaniel say, and unwittingly did Pilate, a Gentile, pronounce that the Lord Jesus Christ is, in fact, the King of the Jews! But at first, Nathaniel had the same thought as the Pharisees. He is a microcosm here of Israel's rejection and then acceptance of her Prophet-Priest-King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Revelation is the unveiling of Israel's King.
Nathanael said to him [Philip], Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth [Galilee]?-John 1:46a
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. -John 1:49
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. -John 19:19
The Lord told Israel that he was leaving their house desolate UNTIL they called his name blessed. And that day will come.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” -Matt 23:37-39
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
The passage in Matthew is immediately followed by the Lord leaving the Temple (Matt 24:1), for their house had been left desolate by their unbelief. He then shares with his disciples his discourse on the end times events paralleled in the Revelation.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” -Matt 24:3
It is to Israel that he will come, after Israel is purged and a believing remnant remains. These will be the OVERCOMERS central to the Book of the Revelation. We continue our studies with the idea that the Day of the Lord will soon be upon Israel as she readies to, once again, take her place at the center of God's plan for the ages.