Series | The Lord’s Day
George Orwell said,
Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
I’m not claiming intelligence, but I do think some restatement of the obvious regarding the Lord’s day is an eternally and spiritually intelligent thing to do.
Even the phrase itself, the Lord’s day is instructive. It isn’t just Sunday or the first day of the calendar week or the last day of your weekend. In fact it’s not your day at all. It is the Lord’s day. The name is biblical, and though only found in one verse, it is an inspired designation. The apostle John wrote in Revelation 1:10,
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.
John was isolated on the island of Patmos; exiled as punishment for preaching the gospel. As he began to write the Revelation of the end times he tells us when he received this vision: on the Lord’s day.
This is the only verse that uses this exact phrase. And after reading it in English I had a question, because I was familiar with a similar phrase found plenty of places in the Old and New Testaments referring to “the day of the Lord.” I’ve read my Bible enough and taken enough theology classes to know that “the day of the Lord” denotes a coming, eschatological day of judgment, when the Lord comes back and pours out His wrath on those nations and peoples who rejected Him.
And if you know anything about translation you know that there are numerous ways to indicate possession. You can say “the desk of Bob” or “Bob’s desk.” Both constructions show that the desk is owned by Bob. In English we typically show possession by adding apostrophe “s” but in highly inflected languages (like Greek) possession is expressed by this genitive phrasing.
So I wondered if it was same phrase, and if so, why every other time in Scripture we read “the day of the Lord” but here in Revelation 1:10 it was translated “the Lord’s day.” There are at least a couple reasons for the difference. The first is word order.
In most of the references to the day of the Lord, “Lord” comes after “day” in the typical genitive construction.
ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου
the day of the Lord
But in Revelation 1:10, the word for “Lord” comes between the article and the noun. This is the first attributive position and is the principal way to accentuate or highlight the adjective more than the noun. The emphasis is on Lord’s.
τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ
the Lord’s day
But word order is not the biggest reason why Revelation 1:10 is different. The biggest reason is because it isn’t even the same word. The word in Revelation 1:10 is a form of κυριακός. While in the same family of words as the noun, κύριος, meaning Lord, this is an adjective that doesn’t refer to the person, it distinctly describes what belongs to the person.
The word κυριακός is not a Bible-only word. It was used frequently in secular Greek writings in imperial, official language: “concerning the emperor” or “belonging to the emperor,” often referring to the emperor’s accounts and what was rightfully owned and due to his position. John applies the word to a particular day as “belonging to the Lord; the Lord’s.” Like anything owned by the King, this day is set apart for, specially possessed by, and distinctive of the Lord. It is not my day or your day or even the church’s day; it is the Lord’s day.
There is only one other place that κυριακός is used to describe something else owned by the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 11:20 Paul refers to “the Lord’s supper” and totally transforms ordinary food and common meals into something that is distinct, special, and set apart. Paul admonished the Corinthians that they were treating His table with disrespect and therefore treating Him with disregard.
So κυριακός is an imperial, royal, kingly word, and His day is not something for us to treat with indifference. Matthew Henry wrote,
The name shows how this sacred day should be observed; the Lord’s day should be wholly devoted to the lord, and none of its hours employed in a sensual, worldly manner, or in amusements….Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord’s day, must seek to draw their thoughts and affections from earthly things.
We are so far away from Sunday’s like this. We do not treat the day like it’s His. It’s our day, and we may share a few hours with Him if we don’t have something better to do. Instead, we should restate the obvious and remember and rehearse that it is the Lord’s day.