Biblical Definition Of
People in Bible times used the word ‘day’ with a wide range of meanings, as we do today. They may have used it for the normal 24-hour day (Num 10:11; Acts 20:7), for the hours of daylight in contrast to the hours of night (Luke 18:7; John 9:4), for a particular time or occasion (Jer 12:3; 16:19; Luke 6:23), or for a more lengthy period such as an age or era (John 8:56; 2 Cor 6:2).
In an age when there were no clocks as we know them today, people estimated the time of day according to the sun. Times were only approximate, for the number of hours of daylight varied throughout the year. Usually people counted the hours according to a 12-hour division from sunrise to sunset. Therefore, if the approximate time of sunrise was 6 a.m. (Gen 32:21,24,31; Mark 16:2), the third hour would be about 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25; Acts 2:15), the sixth hour would be about noon (Mark 15:33; Acts 10:9), the ninth hour would be about 3 p.m. (Mark 15:33; Acts 3:1), and the twelfth hour would be about 6 p.m., or sunset (Mark 1:32; John 11:9; cf. Matt 20:3,5-6,12).
During the time of the Roman administration, the twelve hours of night were divided into four periods, or watches (Matt 14:25; Luke 12:38). In former times, the Jews divided the night into three watches (Exod 14:24; Judg 7:19).
The contrast between day and night provided preachers with an obvious illustration to contrast good and evil. The present era is a night of moral darkness, in contrast to the day of light that will dawn at Christ’s return (Rom 13:11-13; 1 Thess 5:4-8). The return of Christ is the great day that will bring the world’s history to its climax (Phil 1:6,10; 2:16; Heb 10:25).