What Exactly Is the "Day of the Lord"?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Day of the Lord” and been confused. Is this a “good” and festive day, like a holiday or a Sabbath celebration? Is this a day of foreboding and dread, when something bad is going to happen?
The “day of the Lord” is what the apostle Peter is referring to in his second letter, as he warns followers of Jesus to stay ready and holy in anticipation of the second coming of Christ.
As he writes, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).
What is the “Day of the Lord”? While God’s people don’t seem to need to fear it, it’s certainly a day of reckoning and destruction for the wicked on the earth, and a day for which we all need to prepare.
Let’s explore a little more about what this day is supposed to be like, what Peter means, and how we can be ready.
What Does This Verse Mean?
In this verse, Peter is referring to a period of great trial and tribulation. Throughout Scripture, both in the prophets and in the New Testament, references abound to this Day of the Lord. While we know God flooded the earth in the time of Noah (Genesis 6-8), God’s prophets refer to another destruction coming one day.
For example, Isaiah writes, “Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:10-11).
In Joel 1:15, the prophet writes, “Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.”
In Amos 5:18, the prophet echoes this, saying, “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light.”
And in Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, he uses similar stealth language to Peter, reminding the church, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Essentially, Peter is telling the people that this long-prophesied day will come stealthily, when they do not expect it, and we must be ready, as it will devastate those who do not belong to the Lord.
What Is the Context of 2 Peter 3:10?
This book was the second letter written by the apostle Peter, also known as Cephas, or “the rock,” and one of those in Jesus’s innermost circle. It is thought to have been written not long before his execution, and the intended audience was believers scattered throughout Asia Minor. Like his first letter, Peter’s second letter warned these early Christians against false teachers who were leading many astray.
In this chapter, Peter tells these believers that evil scoffers will come, doing whatever they wish to do and spreading all kinds of erroneous teaching. They will conveniently — and, he says, “deliberately” (v. 5) — forget that creation was formed out of water, which also destroyed the earth.
But make no mistake, Peter says, for “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7).
God is coming when we least expect it. Indeed, this day of dread will come “like a thief” (v. 10).
As we wait for this day, we are to live holy and godly lives and make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace.
What Is the “Day of the Lord”?
The Day of the Lord is usually thought of as the end of the world. Some scholars interpret this in an apocalyptic manner, as meaning the day the Lord plans to destroy the earth and establish his new kingdom. For example, the book of Revelation, a vision given to the apostle John, describes the time of God’s wrath upon those determined to be wicked. Many of the events in the book of Revelation are described also by the prophet Joel, who prophesies, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).
Jesus also refers to some of this, also quoting the prophet Isaiah, stating, “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).
For some, the day of the Lord is a negative thing, a time of terror and reckoning. For others, those who belong to God, it is a day of hope, when God’s promises to his faithful will be fulfilled.
Do We See Mention of the Day of the Lord Anywhere Else in Scripture?
The Day of the Lord is also referred to as simply “the day.” It is mentioned or alluded to hundreds of times throughout Scripture, appearing everywhere from the psalms and Lamentations to the prophets, the epistles, and Jesus himself.
How Can We Prepare for the Day of the Lord?
Jesus said he would return one day. But, he said, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mathew 24:36). Like the flood with Noah, it will seem to come out of nowhere.
“That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man,” Jesus said. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:39-41).
Therefore, Jesus told us, we must always be ready and keep watch, much like the parable of the ten virgins with the oil lamps in Matthew 25.
Peter says we should remain holy, blameless, and spotless. We are to be on guard and to consistently strive to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Here are a few other ways we can be ready:
- Pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Read the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Repent and live free from sin (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Share the Gospel with others (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Forgive each other (Matthew 6:14-15)
- Stay strong in our faith (Hebrews 3:12-13)
- Try to hear God’s voice (1 Kings 19)
- Fix our minds on spiritual things (Colossians 3:2)
While we don’t know when the day of the Lord will occur or what it will bring, for those of us who follow Jesus, we can trust that we are on the side of victory. Until then, let’s stay strong in our faith and persevere, sharing the good news with others so they, too, can share in our collective joy.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/bluebycicle07
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.