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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Day and Night

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(figurative)* [Note: For ‘day’ and ‘night’ in the literal sense see art. Time.]

Besides their literal meanings, ‘day’ has frequently, and ‘night’ on two or three occasions, a figurative signification.

1. By a species of synecdoche, ‘day’ is often employed generally as an equivalent for ‘time’; cf. the similar use of יום in the OT (Genesis 47:26, Judges 18:30, 2 Samuel 21:1, etc.). ‘The day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2) is the time when salvation is possible; ‘the day of visitation’ (1 Peter 2:12), the time when God visits mankind with His grace, though some would make it equivalent to the day of judgment; ‘the evil day’ (Ephesians 6:13), the time of Satan’s assaults. In this use of the word the plural is much more common, and is illustrated by such phrases as ‘for a few days’ (Hebrews 12:10), ‘in the last days’ (2 Timothy 3:1), ‘good days’ (1 Peter 3:10). Sometimes ‘days’ is followed by the genitive either of a person or a thing. With the genitive of a person it denotes the period of his life or public activity. ‘The days of David’ (Acts 7:45) are the years of his reign; ‘the days of Noah’ (1 Peter 3:20), the time when he was a preacher of righteousness to the disobedient world. With the genitive of a thing, ‘days’ refers to the time of its occurrence, as ‘in the days of the taxing’ (Acts 5:37), ‘in the days of the voice’ (Revelation 10:7).

2. In Rev. ‘day’ is used as a mystical symbol for a certain period of time. As to the length of that time the interpreters of apocalyptic have widely differed. Some have taken the author to be using words in their literal meaning when he writes in Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6 of the 1260 days (with which cf. the corresponding 42 months of Revelation 13:5 and the ‘time and times and half a time,’ i.e. 3½ years, of Revelation 12:14). More commonly the ‘year-day principle’ (cf. Ezekiel 4:6) has been applied, so that the 1260 days have stood for the same number of years. Similarly the ‘ten days’ of tribulation (Ezekiel 2:10), instead of being regarded as a round-number expression for a short and limited period (cf. Job 19:3, Daniel 1:12), has been taken to indicate a persecution of the Church at Smyrna lasting for 10 years.

3. In a specific sense ‘the day’ (Romans 13:12, 1 Corinthians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Hebrews 10:25, 2 Peter 1:19) and ‘that day’ (1 Thessalonians 5:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:8) are used metaphorically for the Parousia with all its glorious accompaniments, in contrast with which the present world of sin and sorrow appears as ‘the night.’ ‘The night is far spent,’ St. Paul exclaims, ‘the day is at hand’ (Romans 13:12). Elsewhere he conceives of Christ’s people as illumined already by the glorious light of that day’s dawn, so that, although they still have the night around them just as others have, they do not belong to it, but are ‘sons of light and sons of the day’ (1 Thessalonians 5:5), whose calling it is to ‘cast off the works of darkness’ and to ‘put on the armour of light’ (Romans 13:12; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8). In keeping with this metaphorical description of the glory of the Parousia as a shining day is the conception of the heavenly city, illumined by the presence of the Lamb (Revelation 21:23), as a city of unfading light: ‘for there shall be no night there’ (Revelation 21:25; cf. Revelation 22:4-5). In this distinctive sense ‘the day’ is more fully described as ‘the day of the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 5:2, etc.), ‘the day of our Lord Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 1:14), ‘the day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6), ‘the day of Christ’ (Philippians 1:10), ‘the day of God’ (2 Peter 3:12), ‘the great day’ (Judges 1:6), ‘the great day of God Almighty’ (Revelation 16:14). It is further defined by a variety of epithets in which reference is made to its characteristic manifestations and events. Thus it is ‘the day of judgment’ (2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7, 1 John 4:17), ‘of wrath’ (Romans 2:5, Revelation 6:17), ‘of slaughter’ (James 5:5), ‘of revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Romans 2:5); but also ‘the day of redemption’ (Ephesians 4:30), a day in which Christ’s people shall not only have boldness (1 John 4:17), but shall rejoice (Philippians 2:16), and whose coming they are to look for and earnestly desire (2 Peter 3:12).

J. C. Lambert.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Day and Night'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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