"That Day"- what does it mean?

When I refer, for example, to a prophecy in Isaiah 19 regarding Egypt, they ask how can I know if that was already fulfilled or if it is meant for the future.

It is a good question. Many prophecies have a double fulfillment. This means it was partially fulfilled in the past, and the rest will be fulfilled in the future. This is called the Mountain Peaks view of prophecy. Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) created this picture to explain the unrolling of prophecy throughout the ages.

When you're climbing a mountain range and you think you've gotten to the top, you realize there is a valley and the peak you thought was nearby is actually several mountains away with several valleys between.

You can read more about Larkin and his Prophecy Peaks here. Whether you agree with all that Larkin said is not under discussion here but his view of prophecy being a mountain range rather than each prophecy being one peak is a good way to think about how prophecy unrolls through time.

Some prophecies, of course, are fulfilled only once. Jesus was only born once. He was called out of Egypt once. Some prophecies will be fulfilled once but haven't been fulfilled yet, such as Isaiah 17:1, Damascus will be destroyed, it will be a heap of ruins." The longest continuously inhabited city in the world has never been reduced to a heap of ruins, and when it is, it will happen only one time because the prophecy says it will never re-emerge as a city.

That is why it takes care to study the entire bible, and take care especially in studying prophecy to see if it is something that has been fulfilled, was never yet fulfilled, or is a double fulfillment type of prophecy.

Prophecy is also precise. One great example of how precise is Jesus when He read from Isaiah. Luke has the story--

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,"

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

"And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21).

Where Jesus stopped is of import. The next line of that verse in Isaiah reads "and the day of vengeance of our God;". If Jesus had read that it would be untrue. His first advent was to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and His second advent will be to bring wrath and justice. He was not there to bring vengeance yet, so He stopped in the middle of the sentence.

In timing, whenever you see "That day" or "The Day of the LORD" in the bible it refers to the 7-year period at the end of the age when God sends Jesus to render wrath on the world and exact His justice. It is not 'The Lord's Day' which is sabbath. It is specific to the end of the age and His wrath on the world.  Lambert Dolphin wrote,

"The Day of the LORD is a special term in the Bible used to refer to a period of time when God directly intervenes in human affairs---in judgment or in blessing. The Day of the Lord we are presently waiting for in our time frame will begin with the rapture (or "translation") of the church and will continue through the tribulation period (seven years), and on through the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth until the time of the "new heavens and new earth." (Rev. 21)"

So is Isaiah 19 prophecy about Egypt for now or was it fulfilled already? Walt Kaiser gave a good answer when someone had asked him that. He explains the timing. The question was asked in 2011 when Mubarak fell and chaos reigned in Tarhir Square during the Arab Spring.

Thoughts on Egypt and prophecies in Isaiah 19 by Walt Kaiser
"Recently I was asked by a friend who leads a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) class to offer my thoughts on the recent activities in Egypt, and to comment specifically on Isaiah 19, which the class was studying. Here's what I told the class. What do you think?"

"Yes, I believe the Isaiah 19 passage is most relevant. Verses 16 to 25 place the coming events “in that day” six times (vss 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, and 24). Since the prophecies to the foreign nations are bounded by chapter on the first advent of Christ (Isa 7-12) and the second advent of Christ (24-27), chapters 13-23 fall between those two end pieces in position and apparently in time as well. That is why I also stress the eschatological phrase “In that day.”

You can read the rest at the link.

So that is a quick little study on That Day, timing, how to read prophecy and how to view it in terms of peaks of mountain ranges instead of one Mt. Everest.

Be careful, be mindful, and keep praying to ask the Spirit to deliver a spirit of courage, wisdom and love in these days.