What Is the Day of the Lord?

What Is the Day of the Lord?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:1-4; compare 2nd Peter 3:10, Isaiah 2:12 and others.


As we are working our way through 1st Thessalonians, we have come to a portion touching on the end times. In chapter four, we saw a detailed description of the Rapture of the Church. In the beginning of chapter five, we see the Beginning of the Tribulation and the fact that it does not involve the Church.

Some years ago, I heard a man teaching on 2nd Peter 3:10. I believe that he meant to teach honestly and accurately: he probably was not a false teacher. But he evidently also did not search out the other references to the “day of the Lord.” He tried to force both events in this passage to fit into a single 24-hour day.

2nd Peter 3:10

Let’s read it: 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.

  • It comes as a thief in the night, and
  • All the heaven and Earth (and all that is in it,) will be destroyed.

This verse summarizes the facts. I might say, “the Book of Genesis says God created the Heavens and the Earth, and Joseph was embalmed in a coffin in Egypt.” While that is true, it is not helpful: it skips 1700 years of history! 2nd Peter 3:10 tells us the “beginning and the end” of the Day of the Lord.

What do We Know?

We want to knowwhen the “opening bell” of the Day of the Lord will be. We also want to know what happens during that “day.” God freely tells us what will happen during the Day of the Lord. He does not tell us when it begins. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus specifically warns that “NO Man will know the day or the hour of His coming.” And, in Acts 1:7, He reiterates that “it is not given unto you to know the times or the seasons…

The teacher I heard probably tried to teach honestly. But if he had researched even a little, he would have found that it could not be a 24-hour day. During that “day of the Lord,”  the Gentile nations will come to Jerusalem: How often? They will come year by year, to worship the Lord, in person! And this is specifically after they had warred against Israel. So, it cannot be a single 24-hour day.

Zechariah 14:16 says, “and it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts [that’s Jesus!], and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

That places this specific occurrence after the Tribulation, and before the destruction of this World. So, the passage in 2nd Peter covers a lot of territory…not just a 24-hour day.

“First Mention” Principle

In Bible Study and Interpretation (also called Hermeneutics) we teach a concept called the “first mention” principle. It means that if we are addressing a topic, it is a good idea to go back and look up how God introduced that topic.

Isaiah 2:12-4:6 introduces the topic of the Day of the LORD. He says that it will be a time of heavy Judgment on Israel. He says that all their pride and self-will and idolatry will permanently be put away from them. But He also warns that in the process, they will lose everything they now count precious.

Relatively few people of Israel will even survive the “Judgment portion” of the Day of the Lord: We can see in Isaiah 4:1 that there will be an extreme shortage of men. They will be reduced to an approximate 7:1 ratio of women to men. It says that “in that day, seven women will lay hold of one man, saying, we will pay for our own food and clothing, but let us be called by your name, to take away our shame.”


In the books of Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets, the contrasts become sharper and sharper. Isaiah 11:10-13 says all the Jews from every nation will be brought back to Israel, and that they will all get along perfectly. It also says that the “Root of Jesse” (the Messiah) will be there, and the Gentiles will eagerly seek Him. That sounds like a total blessing! But we just read of all the judgment and destruction! We can already see what seem to be irreconcilable differences in what is predicted for the Day of the Lord. And that is just in Isaiah!

In Isaiah 11:6-9 we see that the entire animal kingdom will be restored to peace. (That indicates a partial lifting of the curse.) The predators and prey will all eat the same diet… the lion will eat hay, just like an ox, etc. Those all sound like blessings!

Are there Contradictions?

But in Isaiah 13:6-11, it says, “Howl ye, for the Day of the Lord is at hand; it will come as destruction from the Almighty!” Verse nine says it will be a day of “cruel wrath and fierce anger.” And, Isaiah 19:23-25 says it will be a day of blessing, and peace, and gentleness!

(Do you see some apparent contradictions?) Remember, ALL these prophecies will be fulfilled literally, in the Day of the Lord. If any fall short, then God’s Word would fall short. Remember, too, they must be fulfilled in the Day of the Lord, not before. There may be similar things that happen before it, (or which have already happened.) But the ultimate fulfillment has to be in the Day of the Lord. (Don’t take a “similar” thing to mean that the day of the Lord has come.)

So, Which is it? Destruction or Peace?

Will all the earth be blessed, as in Isaiah 11:9, where He says, “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea…”? Or will “…the heavens…pass away with a great noise, and the elements … melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein … be burned up” as 2nd Peter 3:10 says?

God’s Word is complete, and it is also completely true. Both of those “extremes” have to happen. And all the things attributed to the Day of the Lord have to happen exactly as predicted.

The Divine Puzzle

We see that “The Day of the Lord” looks like a very complex “puzzle.” We know it all has to “fit together,” but it really doesn’t look possible.

Years ago, my father sent us a wooden three-dimensional puzzle. As I recall, it had about nine very similar pieces. They all interlocked to make a sort of “many-sided wooden ball:” a polyhedron of some sort. Separately,, all the parts looked very similar. But they only went together in a very limited group of possibilities. Once you know the secret, you can reassemble it, but without that knowledge, it seems impossible.

Without the clues here in 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5, the “puzzle” of the End-times and the Day of the Lord would be very difficult to understand.

Is there “Order” in the “Puzzle?”

We see that there is a long list of things that have to happen “in the Day of the Lord.” Only one of them falls into the category of “unknowable.” It is the Rapture of the Church. We do not know when that will occur. It could happen very soon (and we hope it does, of course.) But it also could be many years from now.

We can list fairly accurately every other item on the list of “things to come in the Day of the Lord.” The Bible requires that they come in the order given in the book of the Revelation, including all the terrible wrath and judgment, the plagues, and all the peace and joy and blessings. How do they fit together?

In 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5 we begin to see “how they fit together.”

  1. The Rapture of the Church: We cannot predict this accurately, and it “Comes as a thief in the Night.” then,
  2. The Tribulation Begins: all the details are laid out in Daniel and Revelation. The Tribulation encompasses all the judgments: all the plagues, wars, and destruction on Earthexcept one.
  3. The Return of the Lord (Revelation 19:11-21) comes next. He immediately sets himself to the task of The Judgment of the Living (surviving) nations (Matthew 25:31-46.) But, The Tribulation does not include the final destruction of the Heavens and the earth, as described in 2nd Peter 3:10. That destruction is 1,000 years later.
  4. Kingdom Age begins: The Kingdom age encompasses all the blessings and Peace and holiness and Joy that is predicted in the Old Testament Prophecies. The Jews have been waiting for and hoping for this Kingdom, over the last 3,000 years. It will fulfill all the promises of Peace and blessing in Isaiah and elsewhere. Everyone who enters the Kingdom will already be a believer, but New Generations will be born and will reach adulthood during this time…and many will hide rebellion in their hearts, even though Jesus is living on Earth, and ruling from Jerusalem. They will still rebel inwardly, just as Judas did.
  5. End of the Kingdom Age: Satan will be released for a short time and all those “secret rebels” will join him in an all-out siege on Jerusalem, attempting to overthrow The King. At that moment (once they have all assembled there,) the Father will rain fire from Heaven and destroy them all, and then,
  6. The Heaven and Earth will pass away: (“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.”, and Immediately,
  7. The Great White Throne Judgment will occur: (Revelation 20:11-15) This is the end of “the Day of the Lord.” All sin will have been dealt with, once for all. The “bringing in of eternal righteousness” predicted in Daniel will also happen right there, and the eternal state will begin. The New Heaven and Earth will appear after the Judgment is complete.

What are We to Do, regarding the Day of the Lord?

In 1971, there was a book written, called “What to do until the Messiah Comes.” It was entirely centered on self-improvement, humanitarian activities, peaceful, communal living, gardening, and crafts, etc. Nothing about His coming, at all.

So, What is the Problem with that Picture?

Did Jesus give instructions about “what to do until He returned?” Yes, as a matter of fact He did! And none of it had anything to do with any of the things in that book!

He said we are to be doing what he said to do, and so, to be found faithful. That includes loving our neighbor as ourselves, submitting to civil authority, demonstrating a holy lifestyle, etc. But it also includes taking the Gospel to the lost and dying World.

Philippians 2:15, 16 says we are to “shine as lights” in that dark world, and to be “holding forth the Word of life.” That means offering Eternal Life to the lost!

In 1st Corinthians 15:34, Paul admonished the Corinthian believers to “Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”

You see, they had a job to do, and they were not doing it!

So, What about Us?

The Day of the Lord has not begun, but it could begin at any time. And once it begins, then our time for voluntary obedience to Jesus (out of Love and a genuine desire to please Him with our lives) will end. Our only opportunity to “join Him in double harness,” working with Him to “do the will of Him who sent us, and to finish His Work”… will be gone forever.

The Obedience of Faith is what pleases the Lord. When the people asked Jesus “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” He replied, “This is the Work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent!

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

What, then?

If I really believe He is coming back, What then? If I can see that my time is especially short, simply because of my age, I should take this seriously. Ephesians 5:16 says to “redeem the time, because the days are evil.” More explicitly, as Colossians 4:5 says, we are to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. This is about our relationships with unbelievers. This is “lifestyle evangelism” and “personal evangelism.” It has to be lived, but it also has to be spoken.

Some of you have friends who do not know the Lord. Some have relatives, and family members who are still lost. Give this some thought. The fact is, we all are running out of time. We are running out, and they are, too!

Lord Jesus, allow us to see our own mortality and how fleeting our time on Earth truly is. Help us to live in the Light of that Knowledge, and use wisely whatever time we have left.

The Day of the LORD (1)

The Day of the LORD, Part One

© C. O. Bishop 3/30/2019

Isaiah 2:6-22


We have been studying through Isaiah, and are already up against some of the central themes of the book: the awful Judgment and Holiness of God, as well as the Grace of God, and His desire to reason with fallen Man.

Isaiah is distraught at the wickedness of Israel, and begs God to not forgive them, as he sees that all the coming Judgment is fully deserved.

Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.

Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:

Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:

And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.

The remainder of the chapter promises the coming judgment on Judah, reminding all readers that it was specifically because she has forsaken her God, and sought her sustenance from everyone and everything except Him. In verses 6-9, Isaiah is speaking to God, commenting on the spiritual condition of the nation, and the reasons for the coming judgment. He specifically lists all the things upon which they have depended instead of God—and the things in which they have found pleasure instead of God’s values. He complains that from the least to the greatest, they have all bowed themselves to idols, as a nation (not excluding the possibility of a righteous remnant, which God says will always be there.) So, Isaiah begs that God not forgive them. This is an interesting insight into how a man of God may see the holiness of God, and demand retribution for sin.

In Luke 9:54, 55 (Read it), two of Jesus’s disciples, James and John, wanted permission to call down fire out of heaven to burn up some people (Samaritans) who rejected Jesus. But Jesus rebuked the two disciples for the idea, saying that they were wrong, and that He had not come to destroy lives but to save them. So, I need to recognize that even wicked, self-centered enemies of God (whomever they are) are still folks for whom Jesus died.

In the Psalms, there are many examples of “imprecatory prayers”, where the Psalmist called for judgment on sinners. Yes, Judgment is coming, but it will be in God’s timing, and under His righteousness, not our self-righteous indignation. The coming Judgment has a name, in fact: it is called “The Day of the LORD”, and it is first mentioned here in Isaiah 2:12.

The Name of the Coming Judgment

The Day of the Lord becomes a powerful theme in all the prophets, as we begin to see the various parts of it, and how widespread its effects will be.

10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.

11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:

13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,

14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,

15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,

16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.

19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

In verses 10-22, he speaks to the people, outlining the coming judgment. He says that all the things they have depended upon will become worthless. Looking at verses 11, 12 and 17-21 we see that the Judgment in question is the culmination of the Great Tribulation. Three is no other time when all the earth shall be judged in that fashion, and in the Revelation, he describes just such fear and trembling, and attempts to hide in the rocks.

What is the Day of the Lord?

The Day of the Lord, mentioned here, and many other places, begins with the removal of the Church-age believers from the earth, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Read it). But then (1st Thessalonians 5:1-3 (Read it)) it immediately transitions into the tribulation; next, the second coming (Zechariah 12:1-10; 14:1-15), the Kingdom age (Zechariah 14:16-21) and finally the ultimate destruction of planet earth (2nd Peter 3:10-12). All five aspects are clearly taught in both the Old and New Testaments. The immediate judgment coming upon Judah is very minor, compared to the ultimate judgment described here, though I am sure that they saw it as pretty major.

God says Judgment is coming (both immediate and ultimate), and that it will affect absolutely everyone (not just the Jews), and remove from them all the things they have depended upon and found foolish pleasure in. Verse 22 says that above all, they need to quit relying upon humans…which would include dependence upon themselves. (Cp. Proverbs 3:5-7) Part of our sin nature, our incurable arrogance, is that we continually trust ourselves over God, even though we have proven untrustworthy time and time again. Now: Am I advocating piously “trusting God” as opposed to going to a doctor? No! I trust that God will guide the doctor, and, unless I know a solid reason to do otherwise, I usually take the doctor’s advice. Do I mean, when I am forced to respond to a legal summons, that I should “just trust the Lord” and not get the best lawyer I can afford? No… I am to pray for God’s guidance, and look for the most honest and competent, intelligent legal counsel I can find. But my dependence is to be upon God.

The story has been told (countless times, I guess) about a man who was trapped by rising floodwaters. He sat on his front porch roof, and a boat came by, with a man offering to take him to higher ground. He piously replied, “No; I am trusting God. He will help me!”

The water rose higher, until he was on the peak of his upper roof, when a larger power boat came up, and the pilot offered to take him to high ground. He was frightened, but clung to his “faith” and said, “No, I am waiting on God!” Finally, when he was clinging to his chimney, and about to drown, a helicopter hovered overhead, dangling a ladder, and offering help. He made his final choice, to depend on God, and finally was swept away by the flood.

He appeared before God, and asked, “Why did you not save me? I trusted in you!” God replied, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What did you want??”

I do NOT think that the command to not place our trust in Man is an order to abandon sensible behavior, but rather to allow God to define what sensible behavior is. A hospital employee may say, “This child will never have a normal life, you need to have an abortion.”—and we should feel quite secure in saying, based our understanding of God’s principles, “No, I will not kill my child…I will give him the best life I can, and, though it may not be much, I will not deny him the right to live!”

Someone else may say, “Well, I would never stay married to a person like that…” and it may be that we feel the same way. But, we must have the conviction to do as God leads, not man. Marriage is sacred, and not to be lightly disposed of, though God does recognize both divorce and remarriage, according to John chapter 4.

The same things are true in Business, Politics, and Church Government. The “bottom line” must not be “Does it work?” or “Is it profitable?”, but, “Does it Honor God? Is it obedient to His revealed Word?”

As far as we know, the only two times Joshua got into any trouble were the two times when he simply forgot to ask God what to do. He thought he knew the answer, and went off to battle at Ai, when, in fact, there was sin in the camp, and God would not have allowed them to go to battle at all, without having dealt with the sin. So, 36 men lost their lives in a fiasco at a very small city. (Joshua 7)

The other time, he was fooled by the Gibeonites, because he trusted his eyes, and did not seek God’s counsel. (Joshua 9)

Joshua was a good leader and a good soldier. He made decisions on a daily basis that affected the entire country, but he also kept very close accounts with God, and, as a rule, he was always where he was supposed to be, and doing what he was supposed to be doing, because he walked closely with God and had His constant guidance.

That is what we need, too, as we approach the end times: we need to keep close accounts with God, and seek God’s constant guidance. We cannot see our deadly enemies, in the spiritual battle around us, but we are given some things we can do to be on guard. The first, is: follow Jesus! (The closer the better!) The second is that we are to arm ourselves as He directs us, and learn His wisdom from His Word, as part of that armament.

The battle is not ours, but we are in it, nevertheless. We need to take the coming judgment seriously, and live as those who have been freed from a death-sentence.

Lord, help us to see the coming judgment, as you have described it, and live to free others from the destruction to come.