In the Lord’s Day
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Caught into His Presence
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches that are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:9-11)
The book of Revelation is clearly a prophecy having to do with events occurring during “the Lord’s Day” (1:1, 10). These events begin with Christ’s return for the saved of the present dispensation, preceding the Tribulation (1:10; 4:1, 2), and end with events at the conclusion of the Millennium, anticipating “the day of God” (Revelation 20:7-22:5; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-12).
The book divides itself into three main sections in the opening chapter: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this [lit., ‘after these things’]” (v. 19).
The “things which you have seen” refer to the things in the latter part of chapter one (a description of Christ as Judge, with Christians in His presence [following their removal from the earth], in the future Day of the Lord), the “things which are” refer to the things in chapters two and three (God's dealings with His people [Christians] during the present dispensation, preceding the Day of the Lord), and the “things which will take place after this [‘after these things’]” refer to the things beginning with chapter four (things that will occur during the Day of the Lord, after the present dispensation [set forth in chapters 2, 3] has run its course).
Note that events in chapter one actually follow events in chapters two and three, though they are listed first in the book. The Lord's Day, during which time these events occur, will not begin until Christians have been removed at the time of the rapture (following events in chapters 2, 3). And this is where both chapters one and four begin. Events beginning with verse ten in chapter one and events throughout chapter four actually occur either at or about the same time, which is at the time of and immediately following the removal of Christians from the earth into the heavens at the conclusion of the present dispensation.
(As will be shown, John's removal into the future Day of the Lord in 1:10 is the same as his removal into heaven in 4:2. Events that follow in each chapter have to do either directly or indirectly with Christians. The events depicted beyond John’s removal in chapter one apparently precede events depicted beyond his removal in chapter four, for events in chapter one anticipate the events in chapter four.)
Events throughout the first four chapters, beginning with verse ten of chapter one, concern God’s dealings with Christians, both during and immediately following the present dispensation. Then chapter five is somewhat of a transitional chapter. God's dealings with Christians will have been completed at this point in the book (dealings that terminate in heaven with events at the judgment seat [chapter 1] and the relinquishment of crowns by the twenty-four elders [chapter 4]), and God will then turn His attention toward Israel and the nations on earth.
Chapter five is given over to a search for and revelation of the One found worthy to break the seals of the seven-sealed scroll; and the breaking of these seals — with the breaking of the first seal marking the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation — then begins to occur in chapter six.
Thus, along with the three-way division of the book given in verse nineteen of chapter one, the preceding divisions must also be recognized. Except for several statements in the opening nine introductory verses, the first four chapters constitute the Christian section of the book. Then beyond that, events shift away from God’s dealings with Christians to His dealings with the earth-dwellers (Israel and the Gentile nations); and most of the remainder of the book (through chapter eighteen) is given over to these events.
Christians appear on earth during the present dispensation in chapters two and three. They appear in heaven at the end of the present dispensation in chapter one and again in chapter nineteen at the end of the Tribulation, concluding the present age. Then events in chapter four indirectly concern Christians, in heaven, though there is no reference to them in the chapter.
Events in chapter five present a scene in heaven, anticipating the Tribulation on earth; and chapters six through eighteen are given over to a description of this seven-year period on earth. These chapters (6-18) have to do strictly with Israel and the nations, and they form the most exhaustive, detailed treatment to be found anywhere in Scripture of events that will transpire on earth during the last seven years of the present age.
Do you want to know what’s about to happen to Christians? Do you want to know what’s about to happen to Israel and the Gentile nations? Do you want to know how Man’s Day will end and the Lord’s Day will begin and end? We’re not left in the dark. It has all been made known in the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” that God gave to John the Apostle, in order “to show His servants — things that must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1).
In the Spirit
The expression, “in the Spirit,” used in Revelation 1:10; 4:2, refers to a person being removed from the natural state of affairs and into the supernatural for a particular purpose. John was on the Isle of Patmos “for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ [which must be understood in the light of v. 1, ‘things that must shortly take place’]" (v. 9). He was removed from his own time, near the end of the first century, and placed in the future Day of the Lord, nineteen centuries later (1:10). And he was not only moved from one time-period to another but he was also moved from one place to another. He was moved from the earth into heaven (4:1, 2).
John recorded the things revealed to him, not on the Isle of Patmos, but in heaven, nineteen and twenty-nine centuries in the future. These things were given to the Son by the Father and revealed to John through an angel (1:1; 22:6-9). And during this time he was commanded to “write” on twelve different occasions (1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5).
The fact that John wrote as these things were revealed to him is evident from the one time when he was about to write but was commanded not to so do (10:4). Thus, what we have in this book is an eye-witness account concerning events that will begin to transpire at the end of the present dispensation and age (excluding events in chapters 2, 3), which are prophetic insofar as Revelation 1:1 is concerned but current from John's vantage point in the future Day of the Lord. In this respect, we have a book that was written during “time” which is yet to occur.
Moving individuals into another time-period (either past or future) or into another location within that time-period in order to receive a revelation from God is not something new in Scripture. God, on one occasion, moved the prophet Ezekiel back in time, transporting him from Babylon to Jerusalem, in order to show him certain things about Israel's past (Ezekiel 8:3ff); and, on another occasion, God moved Ezekiel forward in time and once again changed his geographical location in order to show him certain things about Israel's future (Ezekiel 37:1ff).
God is not bound by time or space. He can move individuals forward or backward in time at will, as well as change their geographical location (cf. Acts 8:39). He lives in the eternal present, and He is omnipresent. He is the eternal “I Am” (Exodus 3:14), and He is present everywhere at once through the work of the Spirit (cf. Genesis 1:2; 2:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
In Ezekiel 8:3, God removed Ezekiel from Babylon and transported him to Jerusalem into a time before the captivity. God allowed Ezekiel to see the abominations that had been committed at that time by the children of Israel, which ultimately brought about the captivity in which Ezekiel had found himself (8:5ff). Thus, God, by allowing Ezekiel to see with his own eyes that which had occurred in Jerusalem at a time in the past, allowed him to see and understand why the children of Israel were in Babylonian captivity.
In Ezekiel 37:1, God removed Ezekiel from Babylon once again and placed him in the middle of a “valley that was full of bones.” On this occasion God revealed to Ezekiel, by that which happened to these bones, that which would happen to Israel at a future date. In this instance, the prophecy looks far beyond the Babylonian captivity to a time when the Israelites would be scattered throughout the nations of the earth, to a time when it would appear that all hope was lost and the people were cut off (vv. 11, 21ff; cf. Matthew 24:21, 22, 31; Luke 21:24).
Ezekiel was removed from Babylon and placed at a point in time over 2,500 years in the future and allowed to see that which is future even during the day in which we live. He was allowed to see the restoration of “the whole house of Israel” (v. 11) at a time when the Israelites would be placed in their own land under David their king, never to be uprooted again (vv. 12-28). Thus, he was allowed to see the restoration of Israel (both the resurrection of the dead and the re-gathering of the living [Daniel 12:2; Matthew 24:31]) as it will occur when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation.
And John’s experience on the Isle of Patmos — being supernaturally transported through time and space — is no different than Ezekiel’s experience. John, as Ezekiel, was transported after the same fashion (cf. Ezekiel 37:1; Revelation 1:10) for the same purpose (cf. Ezekiel 11:25; Revelation 1:1; 22:6). Both men were transported “in the Spirit” through time and space in order that they might be allowed to view different things first-hand, as they actually occurred, things that God wanted them to see, understand, and record.
The Lord’s Day
Controversy has existed over the years in the interpretation of different parts of the book of Revelation; and the fact that controversy of this nature has existed can, in no small part, be attributed to a misunderstanding of what is meant by the expression, “on the Lord’s Day [lit., ‘in the Lord’s Day’],” in Revelation 1:10. Some expositors view this expression as a reference to the first day of the week, while others look upon the expression as a reference to the future Day of the Lord.
The manner in which one understands this expression will govern, to some extent, his interpretation of that which follows in the book. Differences of interpretation in this realm usually involve only the opening several chapters, but sometimes they involve almost the complete book.
One school of thought, for example, viewing “the Lord’s Day” as a reference to the first day of the week, looks upon the book of Revelation as a prophecy having to do mainly with events occurring during the Christian dispensation (an interpretation requiring extensive spiritualization of the book). Almost everything leading into the Lord’s return at the end of chapter nineteen is looked upon as pointing to events progressively occurring over two millennia of time. All these events would have been future at the time John wrote the book, in line with Revelation 1:1, but they would be mainly past today.
A more common view among those expositors who view “the Lord’s Day” as a reference to the first day of the week is to look upon most of the book after the correct fashion — having to do with events during the future Day of the Lord — but to look upon the opening several chapters (especially chapter one) after an incorrect fashion. These expositors often see events depicted in the latter part of chapter one as referring to events surrounding Christ and His Church here on earth today, with Christ in the midst of the Church occupying His present high priestly office.
To view chapter one in this manner is to miss the whole point of the way the book is introduced, something that will reflect, after some fashion, on one’s understanding of various things in the remaining chapters, especially things in chapters two through four. On the other hand though, to view John’s reference to “the Lord’s Day” properly, as a reference to the future Day of the Lord, will start the person out in a correct manner in the book; and beginning the book after this fashion, he will be far more apt to see things within a correct framework in subsequent chapters than if he had begun after a fashion different from that which the author intended.
Most of the criticism concerning “the Lord’s Day” being a reference to the future Day of the Lord arises from the way that the Greek text is structured. It is structured differently in Revelation 1:10 than it is elsewhere in Scripture when reference is made to the Day of the Lord. Elsewhere, both in the Greek and Hebrew texts, two nouns are used (“Day” and “Lord”). In Revelation 1:10, by contrast, there is one noun (“Day”) preceded by an adjective (translated, “Lord’s”).
The adjective (translated as a possessive in the English text [a perfectly acceptable translation in this case; see also 1 Corinthians 11:20]) is a form of the Greek word for Lord (Kuriakos) and is used in the sense of “Lordian” or “Lordly.” The word is articular in the Greek text, referring to a particular Lordian or Lordly day. It is a particular Lord’s Day, or a particular Day of the Lord.
There is absolutely no difference in saying “the Lord’s Day” or saying “the Day of the Lord.” In fact, the Hebrew text where the expression is found most of the different times it appears in Scripture (twenty times in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and three times [other than Revelation 1:10] in the Greek text of the New Testament) can only express “the Lord’s Day” one way. There is no adjective for “Lord” in the Hebrew text, as in the Greek text, and the only way “the Lord’s Day” can be expressed in this language is by using two nouns and saying “the Day of the Lord.”
The context of Revelation 1:10 and central message of the book clearly reveal that the writer, through the use of the expression, “the Lord’s Day,” could have had only one thing in mind — the future “Day of the Lord.” John was not only removed from the Isle of Patmos and taken to heaven but he was also moved forward in time to the end of the present dispensation. He was transported to a place and time where he saw Christ occupying His future position as Judge in the midst of His Church (1:11-20). And from that point forward, the book of Revelation has to do with things either anticipating judgment (chapters 2, 3, 5), with judgment itself (chapters 1, 6-20, or with things resulting from judgment (chapters 4, 19, 21, 22) during “the Lord’s Day,” “the Day of the Lord.”
The first reference to the Day of the Lord in Scripture forms a first-mention principle, establishing a meaning and usage for this day that holds constant throughout Scripture. The Day of the Lord is first mentioned in Isaiah 2:12 as a day when the “lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted” (vv.11-17). To bring the latter to pass (the Lord’s exaltation), the Day of the Lord is always associated in Scripture with God’s judgment, both upon man and the material creation. Judgment during this day falls first upon the Church (cf. Revelation 1:10-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4), then upon Israel and the Gentile nations (cf. Revelation 6:1ff; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 2, 11, 31; 3:14), and then upon the material creation (cf. Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:10). This is the way the book of Revelation is structured.
This is the reason why a correct understanding of the expression, “the Lord’s Day,” in Revelation 1:10 is a major key to a proper understanding of this book. And one reason so many people have trouble with the book of Revelation is because they have ignored the interpretative keys that God has provided, especially this one.
Aside from the preceding, there is no evidence whatsoever that the first day of the week was ever called “the Lord’s Day” prior to the time this book was written. “The first day of the week” is always called just that in Scripture — the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2); and insofar as any historical evidence is concerned, this was the usage common in John's day.
Matters surrounding the expression, “the Lord’s Day,” and how it is used by Christians today though are quite different. This expression is presently used by numerous Christians as a reference to the first day of the week. In fact, one hears it almost everywhere, in and out of the pulpit. And this common usage may very well have had its origin centuries ago with a misinterpretation of Revelation 1:10.
Actually, if one is going to call a day of our week, “the Lord’s Day,” it would have to, according to scripture, be a reference to Saturday, not Sunday. Saturday is the seventh day of the week, corresponding within the septenary arrangement of Scripture to the seventh millennium, which will be “the Lord’s Day,” or "the Day of the Lord" (ref. the author's book, What Time Is It? chapter 3).
Thus, the use of the expression, “the Lord’s Day,” as a reference to the first day of the week is detrimental to sound biblical study in more ways than one. The scriptural use of this expression (or, “the Day of the Lord”) is limited to one thing: a period of judgment lasting slightly longer than 1,000 years that will ultimately result in that which is described in Revelation, chapters twenty-one and twenty-two. The Day of the Lord will terminate at the conclusion of the millennium (after 1,000-years of judgment, executed by Christ and His co-heirs) with God making “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
Come Up Here
John’s removal from the earth and appearance in heaven during “the Lord’s Day” points to that future day when Christians will be removed from the earth and find themselves in heaven during “the Lord’s Day.” This is clear from comparing Revelation 1:10 with Revelation 4:1, 2, along with the contexts of these verses.
In Revelation 1:10, John was transported, “in the Spirit,” into the future Day of the Lord. He then heard behind him “a loud voice, as of a trumpet,” instructing him, “What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches that are in Asia . . . .” (vv. 10, 11). John then turned to see the One speaking (v. 12) and saw the seven churches, with Christ, occupying His future role as Judge, in their midst (vv. 12-20).
In Revelation 4:1, 2, John heard a voice, “like a trumpet,” which said, “Come up here, and I will show you things that must take place after this [lit., ‘after these things’].” He was then transported, “in the Spirit,” into heaven. Once in heaven, John saw a throne, One seated on the throne, and twenty-four crowned elders seated on surrounding thrones (vv. 2-4). John then described the central throne and the worship of the One seated on the throne by four living creatures and by the twenty-four elders, as they cast their crowns before the throne (vv. 5-11).
Revelation 1:10 provides the time (the Day of the Lord) into which John was transported, and Revelation 4:1, 2 provides the place (heaven) into which he was transported.
Time is then looked upon in another sense in Revelation 4:1. This verse both begins and ends with the same two Greek words that mark the third division of the book back in verse twenty of chapter one — the words meta tauta (“after these things”). The verse should literally read, “After these things I looked . . . and I will show you things that must be after these things.” “After these things” follows “the things which are [the things set forth in the messages to the seven churches in chapters 2, 3, pointing to the present time, the time when God deals with the Church on earth].” Thus, John’s removal into heaven, “in the Spirit on [‘in’] the Lord's Day,” points, chronologically, to an event occurring during future time at the conclusion of the present dispensation, preceding the Tribulation (6:1ff).
This is where Scripture places the removal of the Church from the earth. It will occur at the end of the present dispensation, preceding the Tribulation on earth. And for those who have eyes to see, Revelation 1:10 and Revelation 4:1, 2 describe the same event as described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
1. Seven Churches
Following the removal of Christians from the earth, commonly called “the rapture,” Christians will see exactly the same thing John saw following his removal in chapters one and four. They will see other Christians (which, in Revelation 1:11-20, is clearly a reference to all Christians [all seven churches appear together, with Christ in their midst]), they will see Christ on His judgment seat, they will see God on His throne, they will see an active, ongoing worship of God, and they will see twenty-four elders cast their crowns before God’s throne.
The seven churches, to which John was commanded to send a record of that which he saw while in heaven, in the Lord’s Day, were seven existing churches in Asia during his day. These were seven particular churches that the Lord chose to use, because of certain peculiar characteristics embodied by each — things brought to pass under God’s sovereign control of matters — in order that He, having these things, might be able to teach numerous spiritual truths in the opening chapters of this book.
These seven churches, among other things, set forth a history of the Church during the present dispensation, beginning with the church in Ephesus that left its “first love” and ending with the “lukewarm” church in Laodicea (Revelation 2:4; 3:15, 16). Apostasy, because of the working of the leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33, began to make inroads in the Church early in the dispensation (set forth in the message to the church in Ephesus); and the working of the leaven was prophesied to be so complete (“until the whole was leavened”) that, by the end of the dispensation, within the Church, there would exist a state of total corruption (set forth in the message to the church in Laodicea).
This is the reason Jesus asked the question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith [‘the faith’] on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The answer, from the wording of the Greek text, is negative. When the Son of Man comes, rather than finding the Church holding to “the faith” (a reference peculiarly related to the Word of the Kingdom [Matthew 13:19]; see the author’s book, Salvation by Grace though Faith, chapter 2), He will instead find the Church, because of the working of the leaven over almost two millennia of time, described as being “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Such a condition, however, will make no difference insofar as Christians going forth to meet the Lord is concerned. All Christians, both the dead over a two-thousand-year period (resurrected) and the living at that time (translated), will be removed from the earth when the rapture occurs. They will be removed at the same time and be transported to the same place.
The seven churches dealt with in the first three chapters of Revelation (dealt with on earth during the present dispensation in chapters 2, 3 and dealt with before the judgment seat of Christ during the Day of the Lord in chapter 1) point, numerically, to the complete Church. “Seven” is a number showing the completeness of that which is in view; and in this case, the reference is to the complete Church, all Christians.
The book of Revelation, in one sense, is built around the use of the number “seven.” This number is not only used to point to the Church in the Christian section but it is also used, among other things, to point to judgments (seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials) upon the earth-dwellers during the final seven years of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. The three sets of sevens, outlining judgments on earth during the Tribulation, point to divine perfection (“three” sets) within God’s complete judgment (“seven” in each set) during the completion of Daniel’s prophecy (the last “seven” years).
The number “seven” must show completeness. It is the number associated with God and the completion of His work, in contrast to man’s number, “six,” showing incompletion. And when John sees all seven churches in the presence of Christ in heaven, as He exercises His role as Judge during the Lord’s Day, only one thing can be in view. The scene is that of all Christians in heaven during the Lord’s Day, standing in Christ’s presence to be judged.
All Christians are going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ together, at the same time and place. Their faithfulness or unfaithfulness, carnality or spirituality, will have nothing to do with the matter of their being removed from the earth to stand in this place at this time.
This is what is pictured in Revelation, chapter one. All who are “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) — i.e., all Christians — will appear in the presence of Christ together, at the same time, in order that they might give an account concerning how well they had previously performed their assigned duties as servants in the Lord’s house (Matthew 24:45-51; 25:14:30; Luke 19:11-27). Those represented by the Laodicean church will be there alongside those represented by the Philadelphian church. The separation of Christians on the basis of faithfulness or unfaithfulness occurs before the judgment seat, not via selective resurrection and translation as some teach.
This is what is taught in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, perfectly in line with corresponding Scripture such as the parables of the talents and pounds (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27) and the reference to the future judgment of Christians in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
2. In that Day
The expression “the Day of the Lord,” “the Lord’s Day,” because of how the expression is used in the Old Testament, is usually thought of by expositors as associated only with activities surrounding Israel and the Gentile nations on earth. However, the New Testament, following the inception of the Church, uses the expression in association with activities surrounding the Church in heaven as well (along with the expression, “the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6]).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:4, there is a clear inference that “the Day of the Lord” (v. 2) will overtake some Christians “as a thief.” Many of those advocating selective resurrection and translation of Christians at the rapture recognize this fact; and viewing “the Day of the Lord” in verse two as associated only with activities surrounding the earth-dwellers, they point to 1 Thessalonians 5:4 as one of their proof texts that some Christians will be left behind at the time of the rapture to go through either part or all of the Tribulation. However, Revelation, chapter one clearly reveals that God’s dealings with man during that part of “the Day of the Lord” prior to the millennium (as during the millennium itself) have to do with the Church in heaven, as well as Israel and the Gentile nations on earth.
“The Day of the Lord” will overtake unfaithful Christians “as a thief” at the time they are removed from the earth and taken to heaven — at the time of the rapture (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10; Revelation 1:10-20). For them, Christ’s appearance will be completely unexpected, as the unexpected arrival of a thief (Matthew 24:37-44 [note particularly vv. 43, 44; see also the author’s book, Prophecy on Mount Olivet, chapter 10]).
Such Christians will, “in the twinkling of an eye,” be removed from the earth and find themselves in heaven, in the Lord’s Day, before the judgment seat of Christ. And, in accord with the first chapter of the book of Revelation, it is there that they, along with all other Christians, will render an account, resulting in “a just recompense of reward” (Hebrews 2:2; 11:26).