(Luke 17:20-37)

You may be wondering, why raise such a question? After all, 2 Peter 3:10-12 (NWT) clearly says the following: “Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought YOU to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, 12 awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which [the] heavens being on fire will be dissolved and [the] elements being intensely hot will melt!”[i] So is the case proven? Simply put, no, it is not.

An examination of the NWT Reference Bible finds the following: In the NWT for verse 12 there is a reference note on the phrase “day of Jehovah” which states “Of Jehovah,” J7,​8,​17; CVgc (Gr.), tou Ky·riʹou; אABVgSyh, “of God.” See App 1D.”  Likewise, in verse 10 “Jehovah’s day” has a reference “See App 1D. The Greek Interlinear version on Biblehub and Kingdom Interlinear[ii] has “the day of the Lord (Kyriou)” in verse 10 and verse 12 has “of the of the God day” (Yes, no typo here!), which is based on certain manuscripts although the CVgc (Gr.) has “of the Lord”. There are a few points to note here:

  1. Of the 28 English translations available on BibleHub.com, except for the Aramaic Bible in Plain English[iii], no other Bible puts ‘Jehovah’ or equivalent in verse 10, because they follow the Greek Text as per manuscripts, rather than making any substitution of ‘Lord’ with ‘Jehovah’.
  2. The NWT uses the points made in Appendix 1D of the 1984 Reference edition of the NWT, which has since been updated in the NWT 2013 Edition , as the basis for the substitution, except neither of which hold water in this case.[iv]
  3. There is the possibility that the original Greek manuscripts have lost a word between the two words translated “of the”. If it was ‘Lord’ / ‘Kyriou’ (and this is speculation) it would read ‘the day of the Lord of the God’ which would make sense in context. (The day belonging to the Lord who belongs to the Almighty God, or the day of the Lord of [Almighty] God).
  4. We need to examine the context of this scripture and the other scriptures containing the same phrase to examine the case for justification of the substitution.

There are four other scriptures which in the NWT refers to “the day of Jehovah”. They are as follows:

  1. 2 Timothy 1:18 (NWT) says about Onesiphorus “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from Jehovah in that day”. The main subject of the chapter and the chapter which follows, is about Jesus Christ. Therefore, when, as per the Greek manuscripts, all 28 English Bible translations on BibleHub.com translate this passage as “may the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord in that day”, this is the most reasonable understanding in the context. In other words, the Apostle Paul was saying, because of the special consideration of Onesiphorus gave him when imprisoned in Rome, he was wishing that the Lord (Jesus Christ) would grant Onesiphorus mercy from him on the Lord’s day, a day they understood was coming.
  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NWT) warns “For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s Day is coming exactly as a thief in the night”. But the context in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 immediately preceding this verse is talking about faith in Jesus death and resurrection. That those surviving to the presence of the Lord will not precede those who have already died. Also, that the Lord himself with descend from heaven, “and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first”. They would also “be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus [they] shall always be with the Lord”. If it is the Lord that is coming, it is only reasonable to understand that the day is “the day of the Lord” as per the Greek Text, rather than “the day of Jehovah” as per the NWT.
  3. 2 Peter 3:10 discussed above also talks about “the day of the Lord” coming as a thief. We have no better witness than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. In Revelation 3:3, he spoke to the congregation of Sardis saying that he “will come as a thief” and in Revelation 16:15 “Look, I am coming as a thief”. These are the only instances of these expressions found in the scriptures about “coming as a thief” and both refer to Jesus Christ. Based on the weight of this evidence therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the received Greek text containing ‘Lord’ is the original text and should not be tampered with.
  4. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 says “respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of you not to be quickly shaken from your reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression…to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here”. Once again, the Greek text has ‘Kyriou’ / ‘Lord’ and in context it makes more sense that it should be “the day of the Lord” as it is the Lord’s presence, not that of Jehovah.
  5. Finally Acts 2:20 quoting Joel 2:30-32 says “before the great and illustrious day of Jehovah arrives. And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved”. At least here, there is some justification for substituting the Greek text’s ‘Lord’ with ‘Jehovah’ as the original text in Joel contained Jehovah’s name. However, that assumes that under inspiration Luke was not applying this prophecy to Jesus as per the Bible they used (whether a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic). Once again all other translations contain “before the coming of the day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” or the equivalent. Points to bear in mind that would support this as the correct translation include Acts 4:12 when referring to Jesus it states “Furthermore there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven…by which we must get saved”. (see also Acts 16:30-31, Romans 5:9-10, Romans 10:9, 2 Timothy 1:8-9) This would indicate that the emphasis on whose name to call on, had changed now that Jesus had sacrificed his life for mankind. Therefore once again, we find there is no justification to change the Greek Text.

Obviously if we are to conclude that these scriptures should be translated as “the day of the Lord” we need to address the question as to whether there is any other scriptural evidence that there is a “day of the Lord”. What do we find? We find that there are at least 10 scriptures which talk about the “day of the Lord (or Jesus Christ)”. Let us examine them and their context.

  1. Philippians 1:6 (NWT) “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who started a good work in YOU will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ”. This verse speaks for itself, assigning this day to Jesus Christ.
  2. In Philippians 1:10 (NWT) The Apostle Paul encouraged that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ This verse also speaks for itself. Again, the day is specifically assigned to Christ.
  3. Philippians 2:16 (NWT) encourages the Philippians to be “keeping a tight grip on the word of life, that I [Paul] may have cause for exultation in Christ’s day. Once again, this verse speaks for itself.
  4. 1 Corinthians 1:8 (NWT) The Apostle Paul encouraged early Christians, “while YOU are eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also make YOU firm to the end, that YOU may be open to no accusation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage of scripture links the revelation of Jesus with the day of our Lord Jesus.
  5. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NWT) Here the Apostle Paul wrote “in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. Yet again, the context is talking about in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of Jesus and the NWT Reference Bible has a cross reference to 1 Corinthians 1:8 quoted above.
  6. 2 Corinthians 1:14 (NWT) Here the Apostle Paul was discussing those who had become Christians saying: “just as YOU have also recognized, to an extent, that we are a cause for YOU to boast, just as YOU will also be for us in the day of our Lord Jesus”. Paul was here highlighting how they could point to having helped one another find and remain in Christ’s love.
  7. 2 Timothy 4:8 (NWT) Speaking about himself near his death, the Apostle Paul wrote “From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation”. Here again, his presence or manifestation is linked to “the day of the Lord” that Paul understood to be coming.
  8. Revelation 1:10 (NWT) The Apostle John wrote “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s Day”. The Revelation was given by the Lord Jesus to the Apostle John. The focus and subject of this opening chapter (like many of those that follow) is Jesus Christ. This instance of ‘Lord’ is therefore correctly translated.
  9. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NWT) Here the Apostle Paul discusses “the time he [Jesus] comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith, because the witness we gave met with faith among YOU”. The timing of this day is at “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels”.
  10. Finally, having looked at the biblical context we come to our theme scripture: Luke 17:22, 34-35, 37 (NWT) “Then he said to the disciples: “Days will come when YOU will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man but YOU will not see [it].”” (bold and underline added) How are we to understand this verse? It clearly indicates there would be more than one “day of the Lord”.

Matthew 10:16-23 indicates “YOU will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives [properly: comes]. The conclusion we can draw from this scripture in context is that most of those disciples listening to Jesus would see “one of the days of the Lord [Son of Man]” come in their lifetime. The context shows he had to be discussing the time period after his death and resurrection, because the persecution described in this passage of scripture did not begin until after Jesus death. The account in Acts 24:5 amongst others indicates that the declaring of the good news had gone far and wide before the start of the Jewish revolt in 66 AD, but not necessarily exhaustively to all the cities of Israel.

Accounts where Jesus expands on his prophecy in Luke 17 include Luke 21 and Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Each of these accounts contain warnings about two events. One event would be the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. The other event would be a long time in the future when we would “not know on what day your Lord is coming”. (Matthew 24:42).

Conclusion 1

It therefore is sensible to conclude that the first “day of the Lord” would be the judgement of fleshly Israel in the first century with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD.

What would happen on that later, second day? They would “desire to see one of the days of the Son of man but YOU will not see [it]” Jesus warned them. It would be because it would happen long after their lifetime. What would happen then? According to Luke 17:34-35 (NWT) “I tell YOU, in that night two [men] will be in one bed; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned. 35 There will be two [women] grinding at the same mill; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned”.

Also, Luke 17:37 adds: “So in response they said to him: “Where, Lord?” He said to them: “Where the body is, there also the eagles will be gathered together”. (Matthew 24:28) Who was the body? Jesus was the body, as he explained in John 6:52-58. He also confirmed this at the instigation of the memorial of his death. If people figuratively ate his body then “even that one will live because of me”. Those ones taken along and therefore saved would be those who figuratively ate of his body by partaking of the memorial celebration. Where would they be taken? Just as the eagles gather to a body, so would those with faith in Jesus be taken to him (the body) even as 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 describes, being “caught away in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”.

Conclusion 2

Thus, the indication is that the resurrection of the chosen ones, the war of Armageddon and the day of judgement all occur in a future “day of the Lord”. A day that the early Christians would not see in their lifetime. This “day of the Lord” has not yet occurred and so it can be looked forward to. As Jesus stated in Matthew 24:23-31, 36-44 “42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming”. (See also Mark 13:21-37)

Some might wonder if this article is an attempt to downgrade or eliminate Jehovah. Never may that be the case. He is God Almighty and our Father. However, we must always remember to get the proper scriptural balance and that “whatever it is that YOU do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him”. (Colossians 3:17) Yes, whatever the Lord Jesus Christ does on his day, “the day of the Lord” will be for the glory of his Father, Jehovah. (Philippians 3:8-11). The Lord’s day will be just as the resurrection of Lazarus was, about which Jesus said, it “is for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

If we are unaware of whose day is coming then we could unwittingly be ignoring important aspects of our worship. Even as Psalm 2:11-12 reminds us to “serve Jehovah with fear and be joyful with trembling. 12 Kiss the son, that He may not become incensed and YOU may not perish [from] the way”. In ancient times, kissing, especially of a King or God shows allegiance or submission. (See 1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Kings 19:18). Surely, if we do not show the proper respect for God’s firstborn son, our Lord Jesus Christ, then he will rightly conclude that we do not appreciate his important and vital role in carrying out God’s will.

In conclusion John 14:6 reminds us “Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.””

Yes, ‘the Lord’s day’ will also be ‘Jehovah’s day’ in that the Lord Jesus Christ does everything for the benefit of his Father’s will. But by the same token it is vital we give due respect to the part Jesus will play in bringing that about.

We are also reminded of the importance in not tampering with the text of the Holy Bible because of our own agenda. Our Father Jehovah is more than capable of ensuring his name was not been forgotten or omitted from the scriptures where necessary. After all, he has ensured this is the case with the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament. For the Hebrew Scriptures there are sufficient manuscripts to be able to ascertain where the name ‘Jehovah’ was substituted with ‘God’ or ‘Lord.’ Yet, despite many more manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures / New Testament, not one contains the Tetragrammaton nor a Greek form of Jehovah, ‘Iehova’.

Truly, let us always keep in mind ‘the day of the Lord’, so that when he comes as a thief, we will not be found asleep. Likewise, let us not be persuaded by shouts of ‘here is the Christ ruling invisibly’ even as Luke warned “people will say to YOU, ‘See there!’ or, ‘See here!’ Do not go out or chase after [them]”. (Luke 17:22) For when the day of the Lord comes the whole earth will know it. “For even as the lightning, by its flashing, shines from one part under heaven to another part under heaven, so the Son of man will be”. (Luke 17:23)

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[i] New World Translation (NWT) Reference Edition (1989)

[ii] Kingdom Interlinear Translation, published by the Watchtower BTS.

[iii] The ‘Aramaic Bible in Plain English’ available on Biblehub.com is considered a poor translation by scholars. The writer has no view on the matter other than noticing in the course of research that its renderings in many places often tend to be different from all mainstream translations found on Biblehub and also the NWT. On this rare occasion, it agrees with the NWT.

[iv] The writer of this review is of the opinion that unless the context clearly demands it, (which in these instances it does not) no substitutions of ‘Lord’ by ‘Jehovah’ should be made. If Jehovah did not see fit to preserve his name in manuscripts in these places what right do translators have to think that they know better?