The term day of the Lord has a rich OT background as the day of Yahweh's righteous judgment and vindication of his holiness. In the NT this imagery describes the coming of Christ.
The issue concerning the “dead in Christ” may have led to the question of times and dates for Jesus' coming. In Paul's view, they already were adequately instructed about this.
Unlike some modern students of prophecy, Paul refuses to speculate. Instead, he reminds them that the Day of the Lord will come unannounced. For those who are not in Christ, it will be completely unexpected and not particularly welcome.
For Christians, however, that day will not come as a surprise because they will be watchful and alert. For them, it is the day of salvation, not judgment. Paul's careful language stresses both the present reality of salvation and the anticipation of its future consummation. It is ours now but also awaits the coming of the kingdom in fulness. As Marshall states, “God's salvation is still to come in all its fullness and replace the present age of sin; but it already has come and God's people can enjoy its benefits through faith. The age to come overlaps the present evil age for the believer. The Christ who will come has already come” (p. 136). The NT tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of salvation must be maintained.
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