What does “the day of Jesus Christ” refer to in Phil 1:6? Two weeks ago, I began answering this question by exploring the OT phrase “the day of the LORD.” I argued that “the day of the LORD” refers to a terribly awesome “day” (not necessarily a 24-hour period) of climactic divine judgment.
We run into a problem, though, when this OT phrase is compared to “the day” in Phil 1:6. In this verse, Paul expresses his certainty that God will complete the work of salvation that he had begun in the Philippians on this “day.” Unlike the OT “day of the LORD,” the Phil 1:6 “day” will be a day of salvation. How are we to understand these differences?
One way to resolve these differences would be to conclude that the OT “day of the LORD” and the NT “day of Christ Jesus” refer to the same “day” but express the different experiences people will have on that day. Non-Christians will experience God’s wrath, as highlight by the OT “day of the LORD”; and Christians will experience God’s salvation, as highlighted by the Phil 1:6 “day of Jesus Christ.” Same “day,” different experiences.
We see something like this in 2 Thess 1:9–10. Paul speaks of both judgment and salvation occurring simultaneously. Verse 9 mentions that “eternal destruction” of God’s enemies when Jesus “comes on that day to be glorified,” v. 10, “in his saints.” Once again, same “day,” different experiences.
The “day of Jesus Christ” in Phil 1:6 refers to the time of final salvation for Christians. This idea is contrasted with the OT “day of the LORD” as a day of wrath for non-Christians. These two contrasting yet complimentary ideas highlight that Jesus’ return will be experienced differently by non-Christians and Christians. Same “day,” different experiences.