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The Day of the Lord

This article, written February 2023, is a spin-off to our Introduction to the Book of Joel.  In the ninth century BC, God sent a plague of locust to devastate the land of Judah as judgment for their evil doings.  He then had pity and restored the people when they repented.  This series of events foreshadows the coming of the great Day of the Lord.

So, what is this mysterious day?  Is it one specific day or a series of events spanning an unknown unit of time?  When will the events happen?  In simplest terms, we can describe the day of the Lord as a future historical day or time that God will personally intervene in human affairs to set all things right, punish the wicked, exalt the faithful, and establish His righteous rule.

In this article, we’ll further examine what the Word of God says about this great day.

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Day of the Lord in Joel

In the Bible, God first introduced us to the “Day of the Lord” by the eighth century BC prophet Joel, as he described the invasion of Judah by an army of locusts as a prefiguration of a greater future event.  Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill.  Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.  It is close at hand -- a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes.  Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste -- nothing escapes them…  Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.  The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command.  The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:1-3, 10-11).

In Joel 2:12-27, the Lord then offers His people forgiveness for repentance and declares: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.  I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:28:32).

Of course, many of our readers will recognize the last five verses of Joel 2 (28-32) as being quoted by the Apostle Peter in his address to the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost in the first century AD (Ac 2:16-21).  Some, particularly those who subscribe to a Preterist view (the view that all of Scripture, even the events predicted in the Book of the Revelation, have already been fulfilled), believe that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2 fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32.  While all believers present at Pentecost were filled by the Holy Spirit, this initial outpouring could probably be considered as a partial fulfillment, as well as a precursor to the end-time events in which the Messiah will establish His righteous reign.

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Events Associated with the Day of the Lord

The day of the Lord is often associated with, and includes certain end-time events such as the Rapture, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom, and the Final Judgments.  The time frame of these events can range from instantaneous (the Rapture) to a thousand years (the Millennium Reign of Christ), so it’s probably best to view the “day” as being a period of time.  Both the Hebrew (singular: yom, plural yomin) and Greek (singular: hemera, plural: hemerais) words for day can refer to a literal 24 hour day, the daylight portion of a day, or to a certain period of time (age / era).  In addition, we also find that a thousand years are like a day (Ps 90:4, 2Pe 3:8) to our eternal God.

We also note that Bible interpreters may have differing views on how to interpret these various end time events.  We generally hold to a more literal interpretation unless the context dictates otherwise.  Note also that a literal interpretation can also contain an allegorical view of a certain portion of the overall event.  For more information on the various interpretive views of end time events, see our list of Related Articles at the bottom of this page.

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What the Bible Says - A Brief Survey

The exact term “Day of the Lord” appears a couple of dozen (24) times in the English Stand Version of the Bible.  The number may vary slightly in other translations.  In addition, the term is also expressed in other similar phrases such as “day of the anger of the Lord”, “day of God’s anger”, or in the NT, “day of Jesus Christ”.  In many other cases, it is simply referred to as “that day”.

In the OT, particularly in the books of the prophets, the Israelites often looked forward to that day, believing that God would destroy their enemies while restoring the Jews to their “rightful prominence” among the nations. They neglected to understand that their nationality would not save them, only those individuals from all nations who revered the Lord (Mal 4:1-3).

Here's a sampling of what the Bible says about the Day of the Lord:

It will be a day of universal judgment on all the nations. Behold, the Day of the LORD is coming -- cruel, with fury and burning anger-- to make the earth a desolation and to destroy the sinners within it.  For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light.  The rising sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.  I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity.  I will end the haughtiness of the arrogant and lay low the pride of the ruthless (Is 13:9-11).

Persecution of Christ’s followers will greatly increase (Mt 24:5-14), but Christ will make all thing right when he returns (2Th 1:5-10).

The wicked is “storing up wrath” for that day (Ro 2:5).

The nations will gather against Jerusalem, (Zec 14:2, Lk 21:20), but the Lord will fight for and deliver His people (Ez 38:18-23; Zec 14:3-5).

God’s kingdom will be established (Zec 14), in particular, On that day the Lord will become King over all the earth—the Lord alone, and His name alone (Zec 14:9).

The faithful martyrs will be avenged (Rev 6:9-11, 12:11-12, 20:4).

The Lord will reign over a restored Jerusalem (Is 2:2-4).

The Messianic hope will be fulfilled.  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey…  Then I will pour out on the house of David and on the people of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look on Me, the One they have pierced.  They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zec 9:9, 12:10)

We need to be prepared for this day.  It will come expectantly, like a thief in the night (2Pe 3:10), but signs heralding the day will be given (1Th 5:2-8), including the sign of the 1948 restoration of Israel in their native homeland (Is 11:12).  In addition, these signs are intended to be understood (Lk 21:31).

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Final Thoughts

No one knows the exact time of the coming day of the Lord.  Yet, in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, Jesus states multiple times that “I am coming soon”.  Thus we should all ask ourselves, “Am I ready?”.

Christians have no need to fear the coming Day of the Lord, because we are assured that God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Th 5:9).

For those who have never surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or if anyone have doubts, we invite you to read our How to Know for Sure that You’re Going to Heaven article.

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Related Articles

Refer to the following articles for more information on the various interpretations / views of the events of the End Times.

Interpretations of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel

Views on the Book of Revelation

Views of the Millennium / Millennial Kingdom

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