Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > Future > The End of the Age > The Day of the Lord  


THE DAY OF THE LORD

The term, “the day of the Lord” (Heb., yom YHWH), appears throughout the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament (Gr., hēmera kuriou). The concept expressed by the term also appears in both Testaments in other forms: “a day,” “that day,” “His day,” “the day of God,” and simply, “the day.” The day is always the day of God’s intervention, the day when God thrusts Himself into the historical process just as He did when He appeared in Bethlehem.

The day is multi-dimensional: it is both present and future; it is also a day of judgment and a day of grace; and it is a day of dread and a day of triumph. Stated differently, the day is a day that is both near and distant, a day of suffering and a day of salvation, and a day of the Lord’s terror and a day of the splendor of His majesty (Isa. 2:10). On that day everything lofty and haughty will be bowed down and brought low, and “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11, 17). Following is a list of select passages from the Old Testament that contain some form of the term:

the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isa. 2:11, 17);

the Lord of Hosts has a day (Isa. 2:12);

in that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold (Isa. 2:20);

in that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious (Isa. 4:2; also see: 3:7, 18; 4:1; 13:6-16; 34:8-12; 61:1-3; 63:3-6);

Can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be save out of it (Jer. 30:6-7);

in that day . . . they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king (Jer. 30:8-9; also see: 46:10);

Wail, “Woe to the day!” For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near (Ezek. 30:5; also see: v. 3; 13:5);

Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near (Joel 1:15; 2:1);

The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11);

And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2:30-31; also see: 1:15-20; 3:14-16);

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord (Amos 5:18; probably the earliest use of the term in the Old Testament; also see: 3:14; 5:18-20; 6:3; 8:9-14; 9:9-15);

For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near (Obadiah 15; see v. 8);

The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly (Zeph. 1:14; also see 1:7-2:3);

Behold, the day of the Lord is coming (Zech. 14:1; see entire Ch.);

But who can endure the day of His coming? (Mal. 3:2; also see: Mal. 4:1, 5).

In the Old Testament the day of the Lord occurs with reference to Israel (Amos 2-6), Judah (Isa. 2-4), Babylon (Isa. 13-14), Egypt (Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30), Edom (Obadiah 15), Assyria (Isa. 10), and other nations (Joel 3:2, 14). In various ways God visits His nation, as well as the surrounding nations, perhaps through an invading and conquering army (Jer. 46), by some natural calamity, such as locusts (Joel 1-2), or a spiritual famine (Amos 8:9-12). Whatever the manner of visitation, the point is that God is not removed from history but is constantly at work in the affairs of His creation, guiding it to His determined destiny (see: Theistic Determinism).

Any visitation by God is the day of the Lord, because for the Hebrews all of life is under the Lord’s direction and unfolding according to His will (see: God is Sovereign). When the prophets announce the day of the Lord, a day in which the Israel or Judah will be judged and dispersed among the nations, within the prophet’s exposition of that coming day is an eschatological emphasis. And each of the historical visitations anticipates the eschatological visitation. Every contemporary act of God is a harbinger of the final and decisive act that will terminate history and initiate eternity.

Thus, there is a blending of the present and future, the immediate and the distant. So this day is both historical and eschatological; it is near and it is in the future. It will happen soon and it will happen at the end-time. In both aspects of the day of the Lord, there is a divine judgment on all the nations and a restoration of the nation’s greatness. The Old Testament term is incorporated into the writings of the New Testament:

For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shine to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day (Lu. 17:24);

before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day (Acts 2:20);

in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ . . . (Rom. 2:16);

blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:8; also see: 5:5; II Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; II Thess. 2:2);

the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (I Thess. 5:2; see: v. 4);

He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (II Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8; Heb. 10:25);

the day of the Lord will come like a thief (II Pet. 3:10; also see: 2:9; 3:10-13);

looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God (II Pet. 3:10);

the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (Rev. 6:17);

to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14).

In the New Testament the Old Testament eschatological characteristic of the Day is maintained and developed so that the Day is not only an eschatological day but also a Christological day—the day of the Lord is the day of Christ. It is Christ who will return and bring the conclusion to all things.

in His day (Lu. 17:24);

the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:8);

the day of the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 1:14);

the day of Christ (Phil. 1:10; 2:16).

Additionally, in the New Testament in connection with the Christological emphasis is the announcement that the end of days began historically with the person and work of Christ; so the concluding day, the day of the Lord, or the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, has been introduced, and the events that will assure its arrival have been set in place (see: The Last Days). From the perspective of the writers of the New Testament the end is near, even at hand. The day has been declared; it will come to pass. Consider several characteristics of the day of the Lord:

A day in the future – Isaiah affirms that “the Lord of Hosts has a day” (2:12). With this statement the prophet locates the return of Christ and His deeds of consummation within the historical process; the day will be a part of history.

The use of the word “day” indicates a specific day, a point in time. Therefore, the events associated with the day will come to be. The Lord “has” a day; the day is not yet but is still ahead. It is His day, and His day will be manifest when He pleases.

A legitimate question is the question of whether the word “day” refers to a single day or to a period of time during which this present order will end. On the one hand, there must be a definite time, a day, when the end-time events will be initiated; and the word “day” speaks of that day. On the other hand, there are numerous events that take place in connection with the end-time and these do not all happen in a single twenty-four hour span; rather, they transpire over an extended period of time. It is possible that the word “day” refers to all of those events and indicates the time-frame for their completion. A third possibility is that the word carries a dual connotation and includes both of the above perspectives.

A day with universal implications, involving all people – The Bible includes both the nation of Israel and the nations of the world in the events associated with the day of the Lord.

I will also gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat . . . Proclaim this among the nations . . . “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations” (Joel 3:2, 12);

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14);

For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near (Obadiah 15; see v. 8);

For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14).

The coming day will encompass all the earth, all nations, and all peoples. There is both a historical and a eschatological aspect to the day, in that each manifestation in history anticipates the future and final day.

A day when the Lord acts – There are two aspects in the term “the day of the Lord”: “day” and “of the Lord.” For the implication of “day” see section above: A day in the future.

For the  latter part of the term, “of the Lord,” there are two aspects: it is the Lord who will act, and it is the Lord who will be known. In both aspects the emphasis is on the Lord. Through His actions the Lord will make Himself known—He will be known by His deeds. Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s day: “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (2:11, 17) and “the Lord of Hosts has a day” (2:12).

A day of judgment – Whether the specific reference to the day of the Lord in a particular text is speaking of an event in history or is using the historical point in history to speak of an end-time day, the day of the Lord is a day of judgment. It is “the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:2); the Scriptures are plain:

Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty (Isa. 13:6);

Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate . . . I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity . . . and the earth will move out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger (Isa. 13:9, 11, 13);

For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries (Jer. 46:10);

In the day I punish Israel for their transgressions (Amos 3:14);

Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand. It shall come as destruction from the Almighty (Joel 1:15);

The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11);

For behold, in those days and at that time . . . I will also gather all nations . . . and I will enter into judgment with them there (Joel 3:1-2)

to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14).

When that day arrives it will bring a division, a separation of good from evil; the separation is through the judgment of the day. There is no hope for those opposed to the Lord. The question in Revelation is the question: “The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17).

A day of deliverance – In the midst of the Lord's judgment on His enemies, there will be deliverance, or salvation, for those who belong to Him. The Lord will be a shelter to His people, for God saves His people and judges His enemies.

For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob (Isa. 14:1; for “sojourners” the NKJV has “strangers”).

Amos makes the point of deliverance and salvation in different words; he affirms that before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2:32). “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1). God will pour out “the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced” (Zech. 12:10).

A day of vindication of God and His people – The day of the Lord is the day when God will finally and completely redeem His people and vindicate Himself and His Word. God informs the people that He will act so that they “shall know that I am the Lord your God” (Joel 3:17).

In rescuing His people and vindicating Himself, God is also vindicating the lives of His people who have lived their lives believing and acting on the fact that God will ultimately reveal Himself and bring justice.

A day when the present order is terminated – With the coming of the day of the Lord the present order will come to an end; that day will be the day of conclusion to the world as it is known. It is a day of consummation, of fulfillment, of history coming to a culmination.

Even in the forces of nature is seen the dynamics of the end of the present order. The Scriptures inform us that the day will be a day of gloom, darkness, upheaval, and judgment; disturbances will dominate the environment:

And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2:30-31; also see: 1:15-20; 3:14-16);

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. They the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17).

No wonder the prophet exclaimed: “The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). The question of Joel is the question of those depicted in Revelation 6.

A day when the coming order will be introduced – In that Day the Kingdom of God will be fully realized and all opposition to it will cease. All things will be made new: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1, 4). The apostle has additional commentary on the summary statement in Revelation:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3:10-13).

A day when the Lord alone will be exalted – All of history is moving toward a predetermined end, and the end is the exaltation of the Lord; twice Isaiah makes the point: “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (2:11), and “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (2:17). In His manifestation and in the terror of that manifestation there will be “the glory of His majesty” (Isa. 2:10).  


Return to: The End of the Age; Next Article: Battle of Armageddon

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.