"Get ready for the Day of the Lord!" cries the fiery preacher. Those in the audience listen almost in terror as the pulpit-pounder describes horrifying phenomena that he says will soon engulf the entire earth.
In graphic detail they hear that the sun and moon will cease to give light, that heavenly bodies will collide with the earth, and that plagues will stalk the land—disease, starvation and war! Great earthquakes will topple whole cities as fierce and relentless storms punish men, women and children. Thus will Almighty God lash out in anger and exact a cruel revenge on a sinful mankind!Does the Bible teach that “gloom and doom” is all there is to this period of time? Is Jesus Christ going to return to the earth merely to destroy it?
"The time of judgment is at hand, and you had better be ready!" the voice thunders through the loudspeakers.
But, we might ask, is this picture of the Day of the Lord accurate? Does the Bible teach that "gloom and doom" is all there is to this period of time? Is Jesus Christ going to return to the earth merely to destroy it? Just what is the Day of the Lord anyhow?
The Bible refers to this same time in a variety of ways. The expression "Day of the Lord" is synonymous with the "day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12), the "day of the Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 1:14), the "day of judgment" (1 John 4:17), the "great and awesome day" (Joel 2:31), the "day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2) and "the great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14). Other passages simply refer to this time as "the day," "that day," or "the day of God."
Regardless of how it is referred to, it is going to be the most awesome time in all of human history! And it's imperative that you understand what will happen during this period and the incredible changes it heralds for our world.
So what is the Day of the Lord?
In its broadest sense, the Day of the Lord simply refers to the era wherein God will take control of the earth. Right now we are living in the "day of man," since God presently allows wayward mankind to rule over this planet apart from Him.
The Bible also indicates that we could refer to this time as the "day of Satan," since Satan is now the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and "deceives the entire world" into following his social and religious systems (Revelation 12:9). But his influence on the earth is only temporary according to God's purpose.
The Bible reveals that Jesus Christ will remain in heaven "until the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). Thus, something that used to be here is going to be restored—put back in place. But what was removed that needs to be restored?
The answer is simple—God's direct rule over the entire earth! It will be restored during the Day of the Lord.
More than 2,500 years ago, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a disturbing dream. In it, he saw a vision of a huge statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay (Daniel 2:31-33).
As he was admiring the statue, a supernatural stone came out of the sky and smashed the statue's feet and toes! The entire statue then collapsed into dust and was blown away by the wind, with no trace left behind. Then the stone quickly grew into a great mountain that filled the entire earth! (Daniel 2:34-36).
The only one able to explain the vision was the prophet Daniel, who at that time was a captive serving in Nebuchadnezzar's court. Daniel explained to the king that the statue represented a succession of empires that would dominate the known world from that time forward.
The final stage of these governments—represented by the feet and toes of mixed iron and clay—would be an alliance of 10 distinctly governed nations or regions. During the time of their unified kingdom, the God of heaven will come to the earth to destroy every vestige of these national powers. He will then establish His own Kingdom that will last forever (verses 41-45).
The Day of the Lord is referred to in some scriptures as the day of the final battle—when Jesus Christ and His army of angels and resurrected saints defeat the army of the final human empire. Not surprisingly, this final empire is referred to as mighty "Babylon," now falling for the second time (Revelation 18:2).
Jesus foretold that on this day He will be visible in the sky like lightning: "For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day" (Luke 17:24).
The final cataclysmic battle takes place at Jerusalem. The prophet Joel gives some vivid details of the devastation that will take place, beginning with an alarm of war being sounded: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand" (Joel 2:1).
He then goes on to describe an immense army coming down to Jerusalem—an army including soldiers from virtually every nation on earth!
These armies will be gathered by Satan and his demons in one last, desperate attempt to prevent the Kingdom of God from being established on the earth. "For they are the spirits of devils, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14).
But their efforts will be for nothing as they are defeated by the returning Christ. Indeed, His weapons will be earthquakes, a hail of fiery stones from heaven, and a "plague" that virtually melts soldiers away while they are still standing (Revelation 16:18-21; Zechariah 14:12-13). Modern weapons, destructive as they have become, will be no match for the infinite power of Jesus Christ!
Then, after the battle is over, Christ will ascend the throne of rulership over the entire earth and at last establish His Kingdom: "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9).
So the Day of the Lord can be correctly understood as the day of the final battle at Jerusalem—the day when all the combined armies of the world are defeated and the Son of God establishes His rule over the earth.
These momentous events, it should be noted, take place after the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 16:17). However, a number of scriptures also include events that precede this trumpet as part of the Day of the Lord. So it is also correct to see this "day" as a lengthier time period.
The year of trumpets and plagues
The apostle John opens the book of Revelation by telling his reader that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10—not Sunday, as many assume, but he was having a vision of the Day of the Lord). According to Vine's Dictionary of the New Testament, the Greek word herera, translated here as "day," can mean a "period of undefined length marked by certain circumstances . . . The Day of the Lord is the Day of His manifest judgment on the world" (pp. 270-271).
This understanding is borne out by the message of the book—the visions John saw and recorded for us concerning this awesome march of events that culminates in Jesus Christ's Kingdom being established here on earth! Christ also included what will happen just prior to His return as part of "the day when the Son of Man is revealed" (see Luke 17:28-30).
Leading up to these events is a series of ever more frequent and intensifying calamities, the first manifestations of which occurred shortly after Christ's first coming. They are represented by the opening of "seals" in Revelation 6.
The visions of the first four seals are known as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." They represent false Christianity, war, famine and disease epidemics. The same global problems were also foretold by Jesus Christ directly (Matthew 24:1-12).
When the fifth seal is opened, Satan initiates a great persecution of true Christians (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:12-17). This will also be the time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7)—when the devil is allowed to vent his wrath on the nations that have been enjoying the blessings of Abraham. (For more understanding on this critical topic, read our free Bible study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
The "Beast"—the European-centered world government foretold in Revelation 13—will have risen to power at this time. As this union of civil and religious rule enforces its "mark" on all mankind, true followers of Jesus Christ who refuse to receive this mark will be afflicted, hated in all nations, betrayed and in some cases even martyred for their refusal to disobey God (Revelation 13:15-16; Matthew 24:9-10).
This time, referred to by Jesus as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), will be Satan's last attempt to harm the people of God!
These events signal the beginning of the 3 1/2-year countdown to the final battle! According to Revelation 13:5, the Beast will rule the earth for 42 months (3 1/2 years). This same period of time was revealed to the prophet Daniel as the time when this powerful church-state union would come like a whirlwind into the "Glorious Land"—that is, the Holy Land (Daniel 11:40-41)—and would shatter the power of the "holy people" for "a time, times, and half a time" (Daniel 12:7). This also refers to the 3 1/2 years—each "time" evidently representing one year in prophecy.
It is during the 3 1/2-year period, "immediately after the tribulation," that terrifying heavenly signs will be seen (Matthew 24:29). These heavenly signs—visible phenomena in the sky—constitute the sixth seal of Revelation in Revelation 6:2. They occur between the persecution of God's people and beginning of His wrath upon the earth.
The prophet Joel tells us that the heavenly signs will occur before the Day of the Lord: "And I will show wonders in heavens and in the earth . . . 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).
The tumultuous and chaotic events Joel writes about earlier in the same chapter occur after the heavenly signs and during a period leading up to the great Day of Battle. Over the course of this period the "seven trumpets" of the "seventh seal" are sounded (Revelation 8-9). Each trumpet brings a new plague upon the earth as God, in His great mercy, begins the process of leading deceived and defiant human beings to repentance so that Jesus Christ can rule them.
This time is heralded as the "great day of His wrath" (Revelation 6:17)—a "day" that, following the prophetic "day for a year" principle (see Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34), is referred to in Isaiah 34:8 as one year: "the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion." That year—the last year of the 3½-year period—will include the most intense part of God's wrath upon sinful mankind.
On the heels of these tremendous events and their culmination in the immense battle at Jerusalem, a new era in history begins! And the Scriptures reveal that the Day of the Lord will then continue throughout the 1,000 years that follow.
The wonderful truth that Jesus Christ is going to establish His throne—His Kingdom —upon the earth and rule with His saints for 1,000 years (a millennium) is well documented in Scripture (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 20:4). When Jesus returns as King of Kings, He will land exactly where He left from—the Mount of Olives, just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (see Acts 1:9-12; Zechariah 14:4).
From that time forward, He will begin the healing process for the nations and teach people to obey God's laws—so much so that the knowledge of the true God will cover the earth as water now covers the seabeds! This wonderful time of peace and rebuilding is pictured for us in the book of Isaiah: "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
From the earliest days of Christianity, some Bible scholars have traditionally believed that God has allotted a time period of 7,000 years to deal with mankind. In this "7,000-year plan," each day of the week is understood to represent 1,000 years, with the "seventh-day Sabbath" as the final millennium—the time when Jesus Christ will rule the earth and give it rest from the influence of Satan the devil.
The Day of the Lord sometimes refers to this 1,000-year period, as it is the "day" when the Lord will rule the earth. The apostle Peter seems to have been referring to this particular understanding in 2 Peter 3: "But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise . . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" (2 Peter 3:8-10; see also Psalm 90:4).
The Bible also confirms the identification of the Millennium as a 1,000-year-long Sabbath day in the book of Hebrews. The author uses the keeping of the Sabbath as an illustration of the "rest" or reward that Christians are striving to enter.
"For there is a place where it is said, concerning the seventh day, 'And God rested on the seventh day from all his works' . . . for if Y'hoshua [Joshua] had given them rest, God would not have spoken later of another 'day.' So there remains a Shabbat-keeping [Sabbath-keeping] for God's people. For the one who has entered God's rest has also rested from his own works, as God did from his. Therefore, let us do our best to enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:4, Hebrews 4:8-11, Complete Jewish Bible).
So the Millennium itself, in some cases, is represented as a "day"—indeed, the Day of the Lord. Isaiah 19 and numerous other references in the prophetic books of the Bible describe the time when Jesus Christ will be ruling over the nations and teaching them His ways. The phrase "in that day" often occurs in these passages and should in this context be understood as meaning the Millennium—the day when the Lord rules the earth and all its nations!
But the Kingdom of God will not end after the 1,000 years are finished. In fact, God's Kingdom will have no end (Isaiah 9:7). Finally, then, the Day of the Lord, meaning the time when the Lord will rule, can also be applied to what comes after the Millennium.
In the broadest sense, the Day of the Lord begins shortly before the Millennium starts and continues through the endless eons of time afterward—for all eternity. Daniel was told in no uncertain terms just what would happen: "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever" (Daniel 7:18).
Adding a dual meaning to a passage we examined earlier in 2 Peter, the apostle seems to also include events beyond the Millennium—when the earth's surface and atmosphere are burned away—as part of the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10).
Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse of the new heaven and earth that will replace what we know today: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God'" (Revelation 21:1-3).
So God the Father and Jesus Christ will dwell for all eternity with those who have been born into Their family! God proclaims, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7).
So, incredible as it may sound, each one of us has an awesome invitation from Almighty God, the great Creator of the universe, to spend His Day—all eternity—ruling with Him over the vast universe. What a day that will be!
Are you ready for the Day of the Lord?