THE DAY OF THE LORD
By J. R. Lawendowski
The “Day of the Lord” is an ongoing theme throughout both the Old and New Testament. The exact phrase “Day of the Lord” is mentioned 28 times throughout the two Testaments. Secondary to that the phrases “in that day”, “the day” and “the great day” which is in reference to the “Day of the Lord” is mentioned over seventy times throughout the Old and New Testament. The underlying theme of all of them is judgement.1
The big question then is, what is the day of the Lord? Is it truly one day? When does it start? What occurs during it? What will it be like? Glad you asked.
Let’s start by looking at the question “Is it truly one day?” At first glance one might think so…this is where some go wrong. If you look at the word “day” both in the Hebrew and the Greek and try to determine strictly by definition you note there are two main ideas…it can mean a day (a 24 hour period) or an age or period (over a period of time). In either case it is determined by the context in which it is used. So at the start there is not a simple answer found here yet. We must press on and determine the context. In 2 Peter 3:10 we find this:
2Pe 3:10 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.
In 2 Peter 3:10 we see two statements that allow us to be clued into the context. First in v3:10a we see “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” and in v3:10b we see the heavens passing away and the earth being burned up.
Ok, so how are they connected in a time line of sorts?…we know that rapture of the church will come unexpectedly, “as a thief in the night”, as we are taught that His return for His Church is imminent. The church is told to live in the light of the imminent coming o the Lord to translate them in His presence (John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor 15:51-52; Phil 3:20; Col 3:4; 1 Thess 1:10; 1 Tim 6:14; Jas 5:8; 1 Peter 3:3-4).2 Also, from passages such as 1 Thess 5:6, Titus 2:13 and Rev 3:3 we know that the church is to be watching for the return of Christ not some signs that would precede His coming. So the Rapture, occurring before the Tribulation is a possible candidate for the beginning of the day of the Lord.
What else comes as a thief in the night? Well, the day of the Lord does for sure! This is plainly seen in the following passages: 1 Thess 5:2; 1 Thess 5:4; and 2 Peter 3:10.
Does this mean the Day of the Lord starts at the Rapture? It could…but I don’t think so. We know that the return of the Lord is imminent and could happen at any moment…and when it occurs the true church will be removed (John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:13-18, 1 Cor 15:51-58) leaving those who know not the truth and those who knew but didn’t accept it. When millions of people disappear chaos will break out. A departure from the truth of the Scripture will occur without the true church there to defend the truth (2 Thess 2:3).The attempted invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog (Exek 38-39) will occur and fail (NOTE: this invasion may occur and reach it’s peak with the Rapture of the church). At some point things will settle down and the antichrist will rise to power and the world will call peace and safety (2 Thess 2:3; 1 Th 5:3)….THEN the Day of the Lord will occur.
You have to remember that only Christians are children of the light and have the knowledge that will allow them to know that the Day of the Lord had begun (1 Thess 5:4-5) and after the Rapture there will be new converts to Christianity…many will find the truth. So, to the heathen, the day of the Lord WILL come like a thief in the night.
In sum we know that the day of the Lord will begin with the rise to power and assumption of control by the antichrist at the beginning of the Tribulation.
Now what about 2 Peter 3:10b? “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.” When does that occur?
I would contend it is at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ after the rebellion but before the final judgment (Rev 20:11, Isaiah 34:4). This passage describes the renewal of the earth prior to the arrival of the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1)
So by this we see that the Day of the Lord starts at the beginning of the Tribulation and continues until the end of the millennial reign of Christ…a period much longer than a 24 hour period. So in context…it is not to be understood as a literal day.
Now, I would caution you, that does not mean that in all references it is to be understood that way. I know this sounds confusing, but the events immediately surrounding the Second Coming are also referred to as the day of the Lord (still longer than 24 hours) as we have the return of Christ (Rev 19:11-20), the gathering of the elect and separation of the sheep and the goats (Judgment of the Nations - Matt 25:32), the resurrection of the righteous dead (Rev 20:4)…all these are tied to the day of the Lord. This is only part of it, as you read through the references to the Day of the Lord, in that day, the day and the great day you will see a LOT is occurring.
Now knowing that the Tribulation is part of the day of the Lord provides a really good picture of what is going to occur during the day of the Lord. Furthermore Amos 5:18 makes a pretty sound statement about it:
Amos 5:18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.
Not to make light of things, but any time the Holy Spirit inspires and author to add a “woe” to something…it’s really bad.
So looking at all the scriptural references and considering the information above we now know that the day of the Lord is an extended period of judgment by God on the people of the earth beginning at the start of the Tribulation and ending before the White Throne Judgment by Christ at the end of the Millennium.
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