The Day of the Lord (part 2)
The Day of the Lord throughout Scripture
© C. O. Bishop 4/5/19
I heard a sermon recently, written and delivered by a sincere man, a believer, but which stirred me to re-study the subject of the “Day of Jehovah” or, in the New Testament, “Day of the Lord”. The man had correctly read 2nd Peter 3:10-12 to describe the day of the Lord, but had incorrectly taught that it all happened at the same time. (Read it)
2nd Peter 3:10-12
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
We see there, that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, but that it results in the complete destruction of the earth.
There is a fair amount of confusion about this subject, so, I would like to begin at the beginning, so to speak.
The first mention of the Day of the LORD is in Isaiah 2:12. The introduction of the concept is a warning that God will judge the proud ones of the earth, and specifically, that judgment would begin at Jerusalem; that he would judge her before blessing and restoring her. Isaiah goes on to elaborate on the theme and he mentions the day of the Lord, in at least a dozen more passages. Frequently, the theme is enlarged upon without using the full phrase, but only calling it “in that day.”
- Idolatry will finally be utterly done away with, voluntarily, as every man will get rid of his idols. (Isaiah 2:20, 17:7, etc.)
- It will be a day of cruel Wrath and fierce anger (Isaiah 13:6-11)
- It will be a day of blessing, and peace, and gentleness. (Isaiah 19:23-25)
- The day of the Lord is said to be a day of vengeance, and of recompense. (Isaiah 34:8)
- Israel will blossom, and abound with fruit, and be utterly blessed by God…after a terrible judgment. (Isaiah 27:6)
- Everyone left alive in Jerusalem will be declared holy—a cloud and smoke by day will mark the city and a shining, flaming fire by night. (Isaiah 4:1-6)
- The Messiah, (root of Jesse) will be eagerly sought after by the Gentiles, and the twelve tribes of Israel will be united again—literally, and relationally. The Dispersed Jews will be brought back to Israel from everywhere on earth, and will get along perfectly, for the first time in history. (Isaiah 11:10-13)
Are you starting to see some apparent contradictions? And yet ALL these prophecies—the blessings and the destruction—will be fulfilled literally, in the Day of the Lord. If any fall short, then God’s Word would fall short. Remember that they are to be fulfilled in the Day of the Lord, not before, not afterward. There may be similar things that happen before, or have already happened, but the ultimate fulfillment is in the Day of the Lord.
- The country south of Israel, once known as Edom, or Idumea, will be destroyed—its creeks will flow with pitch (I believe it means tar—oil-seeps), and sulfurous dust will cover the ground. The tar (if that is what it is) will burn, and will not be put out. There will be some wildlife that still finds a habitat there, but humans will not live there anymore. (Isaiah 34:5-11; 63:1-6)
- Isaiah concludes by stating that God will judge the whole earth, and that after that judgment, the whole world will come to worship Him. (Isaiah 66:15-24) Interesting…that is pretty much what the book of the Revelation describes, too, as the tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the destruction of the enemies of God, and the blessedness of the Kingdom that follows. But it takes 1007 years: not just one 24-hour day. And yet, all this has to happen “in the day of the LORD.”
So we see that the Day of the Lord is not a 24-hour day, nor even a single occurrence, but a series of occurrences that follow a prescribed format and schedule. Incidentally, even Isaiah did not have the whole picture…there was more to come, after the Kingdom age. He did not see the new heaven and new earth.
- Jeremiah confirms Isaiah’s message—he says that Judgment will begin at Jerusalem, but will cover the whole earth, and that the slain will be from one end of the earth to the other, and that they will not even be buried, but will be allowed to rot on the face of the earth. (Jeremiah 25:29-33)
- Ezekiel confirms the terror of the coming day. (Ezekiel 30:1-3, ff) He also tells of some huge changes, regarding the temple (Ezekiel 41-48)
- Daniel (9:23-26)does not actually use the phrase “the Day of the Lord.” He does, however, describe the Day of the Lord and the 483 years prior to the Cross, but skips the Church age entirely, as does every Old Testament prophet…they were given no hint of the mystery of the Church age. His message begins with Nehemiah’s day, and runs as far as the Cross, but then skips straight to the tribulation, and beyond.
- Joel warns that the priesthood shall not escape the judgment of God. (Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-11) The whole nation will suffer the judgment. But then he also points to the coming blessing. (Joel 2:18-3:21)
- Amos reminds the people that the Day of the Lord would begin with horrific judgment on Israel…and was NOT something to be looked forward to. (Amos 5:18-20) But he, too, confirms that after the terrible judgment of God there will be restoration and blessing. (Amos 9:11-15)
- Obadiah 15-21 emphasizes the judgment on the heathen, and does not specifically mention the judgment on Israel.
- Zephaniah 1:7-18 again emphasizes the judgment on Israel.
- Zechariah 12:1-14, 13-1-6 describe the judgment and the salvation of Jerusalem, and the subsequent holiness of the people of God. Zechariah 14:1-21 describes the judgment of the enemies of Israel, and the fact that the survivors of that judgment will be worshipping God thereafter, and coming to Jerusalem year after year to do so (v. 16). All of this will occur in the day of the Lord.
- Malachi 4:1-6 concludes the Old Testament with the assurance that the Day of the Lord was certainly coming, and that Elijah would precede its coming. (Jesus talked about that too, and said it was fulfilled in John the Baptist. Interestingly, Elijah appeared personally, on the Mount of Transfiguration, and evidently will appear personally again, during the latter period of the Great Tribulation, though he is not specifically named in that passage.)
- Jesus described the same period of time, in Matthew 24:4-44. In verses 29-31, he specified when the second coming would happen: after the tribulation.
- In Acts 1:11, the angels said that Jesus would return in like manner as they had seen him leave (Ascending into a cloud)…so they could expect a physical, bodily visible return. But in Acts 2:19, 20 Peter again described the terrible signs of the Day of the Lord.
No further mention is made until Paul is correcting some bad doctrine that had already crept in, in Thessalonica. Evidently some people had been teaching that the Day of the Lord had already occurred. (2nd Thessalonians 2:2)
Paul gives them some hope in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, and describes what we, today, call the rapture. (Compare 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52) He then goes on in chapter five (1st Thessalonians 5:1-5) to describe the Day of the Lord, and states that it will overtake the world “as a thief in the night”, but states that that day would not overtake them (the recipients of the letter), as they were not of the night. (Ephesians 5:8 points out that the believers were no longer of the darkness but of the light, and admonished them to behave accordingly.)
It is interesting, too, to see that the beginning of the tribulation will be associated with what the world will see as security and safety—peace, in fact. It seems as though the middle-east peace treaty that everyone has wanted may finally be achieved, and that it may be the beginning of the tribulation.
In his second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul further described the events of the tribulation, specifically describing the antichrist, and explaining how the people would respond to the rapture, apparently, in saying that God will send a “strong delusion” so that those who had previously rejected the Gospel would NOT believe because of the rapture, but that those who had not rejected it (Never heard it, or whatever) would still be free to believe. (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12)
Finally, we get to 2nd Peter 3:10-12, the verse thatwas so poorly treated in the sermon I heard. The verse truly DOES describe the day of the Lord…beginning with the rapture, as a matter of fact. Consider: it comes as a thief in the night—not as an armed robber at dawn, or an attack at mid-day. The thief comes by night specifically to secretly take away with Him something of value. And those sleeping are not aware it has been stolen away until they awaken. Too late!
Remember that in 1st Thessalonians 5, Paul pointed out that the day of the Lord came as a thief in the night, immediately after he described the catching away of the church. He stated that this was the beginning of the destruction, as the beginning of labor, for a woman in childbirth. The time has come and it cannot be evaded or postponed.
What part of the tribulation could be described as coming as a thief in the night? The wars? The famines? All the judgments of the tribulation are done openly, and known worldwide. The physical second coming is seen by all…it is the most public event in history to that date.
The only aspect of the Day of the Lord that can be likened to a thief in the night is the rapture of the church. The world will be in profound spiritual darkness, and deeply asleep, in regard to the call of God. Jesus comes silently (from the world’s perspective) and takes the church secretly (so far as the World is concerned). We will hear the call! We will see him face to face! But those left behind will only wake up to find that a bunch of “Christian whackos” have gone missing. (Big deal! Good riddance! Party time!) And, at about that time, just before or just after the rapture, evidently a seven-year treaty will be signed with Israel. (Daniel 9:27) Everyone will rejoice, and cry out, “Peace and safety!” not knowing that judgment is finally, fully, inescapably upon them.
- The Tribulation will conclude with the second coming of Christ, as He physically, visibly returns to earth: and we will be coming back with Him. (Revelation 19:11-21) Those who try to oppose him will die in the attempt.
- The Judgment of the living nations will immediately follow (Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have become believers during the Tribulation (and survived) will go into the kingdom in their natural bodies (verse 34), but those who were enemies of God will go directly into judgment—specifically Hades.
- The kingdom will last 1000 years (Revelation 20), and will be the place and period of blessing described by all the prophets. During the Kingdom age (and only then), is the time when the Lion shall lie down with the calf (Isaiah 11:6-8) The whole world will know Jesus personally, face to face. (Jeremiah 31:34; Habakkuk 2:14) They will come and worship Him there in Jerusalem, as we have read in other passages.
But not all will willingly serve him…children will be born who do NOT want to serve him, and there will be a growing undercurrent of unrest. There will be some minor rebellion, quickly crushed. Nations that choose to ignore the feast of tabernacles will find that the rains choose to ignore their lands. It specifically says that Jesus will “reign with an iron scepter”. It will not be a re-run of “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” On the other hand, he will literally know the heart of every human, so there will never be a miscarriage of justice. Jesus is the judge of all the earth, and will do no wrong.
The Kingdom will culminate in a final attempted rebellion by those who had pretended subservience and loyalty during the kingdom age (Parable of the wheat and the tares: Matthew 13:24-30; 37-43), but the rebels will be rounded up by none other than Satan, who instigated the rebellion, and they will be burned on the spot.
At that point, the skies will open, and a Great White Throne will appear in the sky. The Judgment referred to as the “Great White Throne Judgment” will ensue immediately. The Day of the Lord is about to end. The judgment pronounces sentence on all the lost of all time, and they all are cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
The next scene shows the new heaven and new earth, the old having passed away… How? That is what 2nd Peter 3:10, 11, 12 are referring to—the fact that the heaven and earth shall pass away with a “fervent heat and a great noise”. I have long found it interesting that Colossians 1:17 states “…and in Him all things consist” (hold together)—if Jesus is literally what is holding all things together, then what would happen if he let go? A fervent heat and a great noise, I’ll bet!
Now, while we are thinking about, and looking at, the passage in 2nd Peter, please notice that the context in Peter includes verses 7-9: “But the heavens and the earth which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is, with the Lord, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
AH! So, maybe there was precedent for understanding that the 1007(+) years that constitute the “Day of the Lord” do not violate any scriptural norm. God is not restricted in His use of time, as we are. A millennium passes, and it is as if a day has passed. God is not affected by time. Time was created for the sake of Man, and will end with the passing of this world.
Don’t miss the point here, though—we Christians are running out of time! We are supposed to be ambassadors for God, here on earth. We are supposed to have the same heart for the lost that God has. We do not have to be afraid of the coming judgment for our own sakes, but we should be for the sake of the lost. Judgment is coming, and we are the only messengers God has sent to avert disaster.
So, the Day of the Lord begins with the rapture, which happens silently and secretly, as a thief in the night, where the world is concerned, and ends in the destruction of the world, as we know it, and the establishment of a new heaven and new earth, according to Revelation 21:1. We are not told a great deal about the new world. I am confident we will find it satisfactory. J
I am anxious that we conduct our lives in such a manner that our Savior will also find us satisfactory. We are already saved, but we are told that we can add rewards to salvation; that salvation is a gift that has been given and will not be lost. But that rewards can be missed out on, and that we will be grieved if that is the case.
Let us consider how to live so as to please the One who died for us. All else is ultimately worthless.