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13.3. The Day of the Lord

A frequently found phrase throughout Scripture related to this time of trouble is the Day of the Lord (Isa. Isa. 2:10-22; Isa. 13:6, Isa. 13:9; Jer. Jer. 46:2, Jer. 46:10; Eze. Eze. 13:5, Eze. 13:9, Eze. 13:14, Eze. 13:21, Eze. 13:23; Eze. 30:3-6, Eze. 30:8, Eze. 30:19, Eze. 30:25-26; Dan. Dan. 9:1-27; Joel Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11, Joel 2:31; Joel 3:14; Amos Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20; Ob. Ob. 1:15; Zep. Zep. 1:7, Zep. 1:14; Zec. Zec. 14:1; Mal. Mal. 4:5; Acts Acts 2:20; 1Th. 1Th. 5:2; 2Pe. 2Pe. 3:10). This particular day is seen to be so unique and significant that it is also referred to as simply, that day (Isa. Isa. 2:11, Isa. 2:17; Isa. 2:20; Isa. 4:2; Joel Joel 3:18; Mark Mark 13:32; Luke Luke 21:34; 2Ti. 2Ti. 1:12, 2Ti. 1:18; 2Ti. 4:8).

The Day of the Lord refers to God’s special interventions into the course of world events to judge His enemies, accomplish His purpose for history, and thereby demonstrate who He is—the sovereign God of the universe.1

There is some disagreement concerning whether the phrase “Day of the Lord” refers just to the time of tribulation, or whether it also includes the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth which follows.

The most common biblical term for the seven years of Tribulation in both testaments is the Day of Jehovah or Day of the Lord. There are many who use the term, the Day of the Lord, to apply to both the Tribulation and the Messianic Kingdom. This is generally based on the assumption that the phrases, the Day of the Lord and that day, are synonymous. While it is true that the expression, that day, has a wide meaning that includes both the Tribulation and the Messianic Kingdom, in those passages where the actual phrase, the Day of the Lord (Jehovah) is used, they never refer to the Millennium, but always to the Tribulation.2

We believe there are reasons to understand the phrase as including the millennial reign:
  1. Peter’s description of the Day of the Lord appears to include events following the Millennium (2Pe. 2Pe. 3:10-12 cf. Rev. Rev. 20:11+; Rev. 21:1+).3
  2. The phrases this day and that day are not disconnected terms, but involve demonstrative pronouns which make little sense in the absence of any antecedent. The antecedent is seen to be the Day of the Lord (Isa. Isa. 2:12 cf. Isa. 2:20; Joel Joel 3:14 cf. Joel Joel 3:18).
Nevertheless, the phrase Day of the Lord is uniformly connected with darkness and judgment, whereas the phrases this day and that day do appear to be associated with the positive era subsequent to the initial dark elements of the day.4 The two-fold nature of the day is characterized by a time of intense darkness followed by incredible blessings:

The future Day of the Lord will have at least a twofold nature. First, it will be characterized by darkness and a tremendous outpouring of divine wrath upon the world (Joel Joel 2:1-2; Amos Amos 5:18-20; Zep. Zep. 1:14-15; 1Th. 1Th. 5:1-11). Amos Amos 5:18-20 emphasizes that this will be the total nature of the Day of the Lord for God’s enemies. It will bring no divine light or blessing to them. This will be the nature of the Day of the Lord during the 70th week of Daniel. Second, the Day of the Lord will also be characterized by light, an outpouring of divine blessing, and the administration of God’s rule. The Prophet Joel, after talking about the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars and God’s Day of the Lord judgment of the armies of the nations gathered in Israel (Joel Joel 3:9-16), foretold great divine blessing “in that day” (Joel Joel 3:17-21). In addition, the Prophet Zechariah, after discussing the future Day of the Lord, when all nations will war against Jerusalem and the Messiah will come to the earth to fight against the nations (Zec. Zec. 14:1-5), indicated that although the earlier part of “that day” will be characterized by darkness, the latter part will be characterized by light (Zec. Zec. 14:6-7), great blessing (Zec. Zec. 14:8), and God’s rule over the earth (Zec. Zec. 14:9). This will be the nature of the Day of the Lord in the Millennium. . . . Just as each day of creation and the Jewish day consisted of two phases—a time of darkness (“evening”) followed by a time of light (“day”) [Gen. Gen. 1:4-6]—so the future Day of the Lord will consist of two phases, a period of darkness (judgment) followed by a period of light (divine rule and blessing). . . . First, during the 70th week of Daniel it will be characterized by darkness and a tremendous outpouring of divine wrath upon the world. Second, during the Millennium it will be characterized by light, an outpouring of divine blessing, and the administration of God’s rule over the whole world.5

This dual nature results from both a sequential division (judgment bringing in the Kingdom of God on earth followed by the blessings of the millennial reign of Christ) and a spiritual division (the enemies of God will experience only the judgment whereas the people of God will experience the blessings of the millennial reign).

Since, . . . the present day of Satan and rebellious mankind involves their rule of the world system, the future Day of the Lord would not truly be His day if it did not involve His rule of the world system during the Millennium. How could the Day of the Lord fully demonstrate who He is—the sovereign God of the universe—without the sovereign exercise of His rule in visible form over the entire world?6

Day of the Lord passages can be difficult to interpret because of the close association of near-term (historic judgments of Israel’s enemies) and far-term aspects (astronomical signs). Interpretation in many of these passages is complicated somewhat by the Law of Double Reference (clearly evidenced in passages such as Zec. Zec. 9:9-10; Isa. Isa. 61:1-2 cf. Luke Luke 4:18-21; Mic. Mic. 5:2-4):

This law observes the fact that often a passage or a block of Scripture is speaking of two different persons or two different events which are separated by a long period of time. In the passage itself they are blended into one picture, and the time gap between the two persons or two events is not presented by the text itself. The fact that a gap of time exists is known because of other Scriptures. . .7

This has led to some difference of opinion as to whether the phrase Day of the Lord applies strictly to the future time of God’s direct intervention to bring the rule of Messiah or whether it also includes other “days of the Lord” in past history—significant days when God intervened on behalf of Israel (e.g. Jer. Jer. 46:1-10).

The Bible indicates that there have been several Days of the Lord in the past in which God demonstrated His sovereign rule by raising up several nations to execute His judgement on other nations. He raised up Assyria to judge the northern kingdom of Israel during the 700s B.C. (Amos Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20), Babylon to judge the southern kingdom of Judah during the 600s and 500s B.C. (Lam. Lam. 1:12; Lam. 2:1, Lam. 2:21-22; Eze. Eze. 7:19; Eze. 13:5; Zep. Zep. 2:2-3), Babylon to judge Egypt and its allies during the 500s B.C. (Jer. Jer. 46:10; Eze. Eze. 30:3), and Medo-Persia to judge Babylon during the 500s B.C. (Isa. Isa. 13:6, Isa. 13:9).8

But among literal interpreters, there is no question that the Day of the Lord is yet future because it entails cataclysmic events and astronomical signs which are not to be taken as mere hyperbole (Isa. Isa. 2:19-21; Joel Joel 2:2-10, Joel 2:30-31; Zec. Zec. 14:12; Acts Acts 2:20; 2Pe. 2Pe. 3:10).

Isaiah Isa. 34:1-8 and Obadiah Ob. 1:15 describe a Day of the Lord when God will judge all nations or Gentiles of the world. None of the past Days of the Lord involved divine judgement of all the nations. . . . In light of this, we can conclude that the Day of the Lord of Isaiah Isa. 34:1 and Obadiah must be future. . . . in 1 Thessalonians 1Th. 5:1-11 the Apostle Paul referred to a Day of the Lord that was future beyond the time when he wrote his epistle and that would bring sudden, inescapable destruction upon the unsaved of the world.9

There appear to be many different titles employed within Scripture to designate this intense time of judgment coming upon the earth.

Following the translation found in the American Standard Version of the 1901 edition, these names include [in the Old Testament]: The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. Jer. 30:7); The Seventieth Week (a seven) of Daniel (Dan. Dan. 9:27); Jehovah’s Strange Work (Isa. Isa. 28:21); Jehovah’s Strange Act (Isa. Isa. 28:21); The Day of Israel’s Calamity (Deu. Deu. 32:35; Ob. Ob. 1:12-14); The Tribulation (Deu. Deu. 4:30); The Indignation (Isa. Isa. 26:20; Dan. Dan. 11:36); The Overflowing Scourge (Isa. Isa. 28:15, Isa. 28:18); The Day of Vengeance (Isa. Isa. 34:8; Isa. 35:4; Isa. 61:2); The Year of Recompense (Isa. Isa. 34:8); The Time of Trouble (Dan. Dan. 12:1; Zep. Zep. 1:15); The Day of Wrath (Zep. Zep. 1:15); The Day of Distress (Zep. Zep. 1:15); The Day of Wasteness (Zep. Zep. 1:15); The Day of Desolation (Zep. Zep. 1:15); The Day of Darkness (Zep. Zep. 1:15; Amos Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20; Joel Joel 2:2); The Day of Gloominess (Zep. Zep. 1:15; Joel Joel 2:2); The Day of Thick Darkness (Zep. Zep. 1:15; Joel Joel 2:2); The Day of the Trumpet (Zep. Zep. 1:16); The Day of Alarm (Zep. Zep. 1:16). The New Testament names and designations include: The Day of the Lord (1Th. 1Th. 5:2); The Wrath of God (Rev. Rev. 15:1+, Rev. 15:7+; Rev. 14:10+, Rev. 14:19+; Rev. 16:1+); The Hour of Trial (Rev. Rev. 3:10+); The Great Day of the Wrath of the Lamb of God (Rev. Rev. 6:16-17+); The Wrath to Come (1Th. 1Th. 1:10); The Wrath (1Th. 1Th. 5:9; Rev. Rev. 11:18+); The Great Tribulation (Mtt. Mat. 24:21; Rev. Rev. 2:22+; Rev. 7:14+); The Tribulation (Mtt. Mat. 24:29); The Hour of Judgment (Rev. Rev. 14:7+).10

The Day of the Lord includes the judgments described within the book of Revelation which are poured out upon the earth, Israel, Babylon, and the earth dwellers. Passages such as Isaiah Isa. 2:10-22 appear to have a direct correlation to the sixth seal (Rev. Rev. 6:12-17+)11 whereas Joel Joel 3:1-16 and Zechariah Zec. 14:1-3 describe God’s judgment of the armies of the world (Rev. Rev. 16:12-16+; Rev. 19:11-21+).12

Notes

1 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 38.

2 Arnold Fruchtenbaum, “The Day of the Lord,” in Mal Couch, ed., Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 87.

3 Fruchtenbaum understands Peter (2Pe. 2Pe. 3:10-12) as describing the result of judgments described in the book of Revelation which are poured out prior to the Second Coming. Others see Peter as describing the final destruction of the very elements comprising the heavens and earth to be replaced by the new heavens and earth. Peter’s point seems to be on the total annihilation of all that is material. Understanding this fact is to inoculate believers from the temptation and distraction of materialism. Another possibility is that Peter is referring to the regeneration which precedes the Millennium (Isa. Isa. 65:17). This is the view of Peters: 2Pe. 3:10-13. This is self-evident , since the Kingdom is identified with the establishment of ‘the new heavens and new earth’ of Isa. Isa. 65:17 and Isa. 66:22. Peter expressly alludes to these two passages in Isaiah and appropriates them as descriptive of ‘the new heavens and new earth’ presented by himself, in the specific phraseology, ‘according to promise.’ The Millennial new heavens and new earth thus claimed by the Apostle, and which are associated with the Kingdom itself, are necessarily preceded by the fire, described. . . . some have wrongfully . . . endeavored to locate this fire after the thousand years.”—George H. N. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978, 1884), 2:506.

4 “[Some] wish to extend the period of the Day of Jehovah to include the Millennium and the Aftermath, but a study of the term in every passage will show that it is never used in any context except that of the Tribulation. While other expressions, such as that day or in that day, are used for both the Tribulation and the Millennium, the term the Day of Jehovah, is never used for anything outside the Great Tribulation.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 183.

5 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 32-33,39.

6 Ibid., 33-34.

7 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 4.

8 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 31.

9 Ibid., 31-32.

10 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 176.

11 “Isaiah Isa. 2:10-22 describes a Day of the Lord that will involve the sixth seal described by the Apostle John in Revelation Rev. 6:12-17+.”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 31.

12 “Joel Joel 3:1-16 and Zechariah Zec. 14:1-3, Zec. 14:12-15 refer to a Day of the Lord that will involve God’s judgment of the armies of all the nations of the world, when those armies gather in Israel to wage war against that Nation and the city of Jerusalem [Rev. Rev. 16:12-16+] and when the Messiah comes to war against them [Rev. Rev. 19:11-21+].”—Ibid., 32.