- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Leadership for the Days of the Lord - Part 1
Figure 1. Beginning of a Causal Loop Diagram
An intertextual exegesis of the term "Day of the Lord" is used to provide context for the application of strategic foresight in disaster relief operations in preparation for the Parousia. A causal loop diagram (CLD) is assembled to illustrate 1) the differences between the natural causes of disaster and the human reactions to disaster, 2) the dynamics of envelopment and development, and 3) how Christian disaster relief workers can provide leadership to influence at the critical leverage point of worldview transformation. By personally entering into the chaotic “Days of the Lord” to serve others during disaster events, the Christian futurist strives to influence future outcomes in accordance with God’s plans.
Is their more than one Day of the Lord?
It might appear that there is no simpler job than being a Christian futurist; after all, one only has to skip to the last book of the Bible to see how everything turns out. In the meantime, the Christian futurist must prepare for the Day of the Lord to arrive when Jesus returns from heaven, and God finally makes his dwelling with humanity. Therein lies the difficulty of the work. It is in the preparations for the coming Day of the Lord that makes an apparently simple job quite difficult. The job becomes extraordinarily complex when one considers that there is more than a single Day of the Lord, and that some of them have already come.
Day of the Lord - Intertextual Exegesis
The phrase “Day of the Lord” appears over 86 times in the Bible in various forms. Robbins (1996) explains that this is significant because "Extended composition containing recitation, recontextualization, and reconfiguration produces narrative amplification" (p. 50). Like messages that might be received from a traveler in a time machine, Biblical prophecies made initially about future events represent local judgments that have already been fulfilled in history, not necessarily in the future of our modern times. Together they form a narrative that is amplified to indicate the coming end of life on earth, the end of the cosmos, and the end of sin that is still to come.
End of All Who Live on the Earth
One of the spectacular claims made in the Bible is in Zephaniah 1:14-18, “The great day of the Lord is near… In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth” (NIV). Clearly, this prophecy cannot have already been fulfilled because there are over 7 billion people still living. And yet, as Godawa (2017) explains, “The prophecy of Zephaniah 1 was made sometime before 621 B.C., the time of King Josiah’s reform in Israel” (p. 31). The purpose of the prophecy was to condemn Judah and Jerusalem because they were corrupted by idol worship. And while Zephaniah accurately foretold the catastrophic sacking if Nineveh in 612 B.C., the events clearly did not lead to the deaths of all people on earth.
End of the Cosmos
A similar example of poetic hyperbole can be found in Joel 2:1-11, “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming… before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine” (NIV). In this case, “Joel’s words in Joel 2 were made against the city of Jerusalem besieged by Mesopotamian forces before being taken into exile” (Godawa, 2017, p. 32). While it is not clear if the passage is referring to the Assyrian invasion of 701 B.C., the Babylonian invasion of 598 B.C., or the Babylonian invasion of 588 B.C., it is clear that he was referring to a local, historical event that has already taken place. All one must do is go outside and look into the nighttime sky to be reassured that the sun, moon, and stars are still in their places.
End of Sin
Still another example of the Day of the Lord that has already been fulfilled was delivered in Isaiah 13:9-11 “See, for the Day of the Lord is coming… I will punish the world for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless” (NIV). This prophecy was fulfilled, but the use of the word “world” did not mean the whole world. “The Day of the Lord in Isaiah 13 above was explicitly stated as being a localized judgment against Babylon when it fell to the Medes in 539 B.C.” (Godawa, 2017, p. 32). Evidence of haughty and ruthless people still abounds everywhere.
Strategic Foresight and Signs of the Last Day
For the Christian futurist, all of these Old Testament references foreshadow and amplify the narrative of the glorious and final Day of the Lord described in the New Testament Book of Revelations, “They are spirits performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them for battle on the Great Day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14, NIV). The discipline of strategic foresight teaches us that whatever the future may hold, there are “signals” today that can be observed and understood in terms of indicators of what is to come.
Christian futurists are like the disciples who asked Jesus about when these things will happen, and about signs that would appear when they were about to take place. Jesus answered, “Nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilence in various places, and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11). Although the coming of the Final Day cannot be known, Jesus also used the parable of the fig tree (Luke 21:29-31) to indicate that it was possible to discern when the Kingdom of God is drawing near.
Unlike the disciples, today’s Christian futurist is armed with an array of sophisticated tools of strategic foresight that help identify patterns of future development as they emerge from event signals that are occurring in the present. The term “Day of the Lord” was used extensively in the Old Testament to prophecy about human-caused warfare and societal collapse. Luke’s Gospel leads us to also consider other localized naturally-occurring events as possible signs of the Last Day. Figure 1 shows how this information can begin to be assembled into a foresight tool known as a Causal Loop Diagram (CDL). This CDL distinguishes causes of naturally occurring events when the tremendous forces of nature result in calamity; and the human responses to them that emerge as a result of the dominant worldview of the society experiencing the localized event.