The Day of the Lord is predominately addressed in the Old Testament but is mentioned by name in three New Testament passages. Contextually, these three New Testament references offer tremendous insight on the duration and timing of the Day of the Lord. Based upon these references, one can understand that this “Day” lasts 1,000 years (2 Peter 3:8), is introduced with signs (Acts 2:20; Joel 2:31) just prior to the Lord’s Second Coming, and concludes with the burning up of the present heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:10).
Much like the Hebrew day (made up of evening and morning), the Day of the Lord begins with night (spiritually speaking). It is a time of darkness rather than light (Amos 5:18, 20) opening with destruction (Isaiah 13:6; Jeremiah 46:10) as a result of God’s wrath and fierce anger (Isaiah 13:9) in response to the controversy of Zion (Isaiah 34:8). Although this night of suffering may seem long to those who endure it, God’s wrath will swiftly give way to the rising of the Sun of righteousness (the Lord Jesus Christ) with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2).
All things considered, the Day of the Lord holds much more light and hope for Israel than the short period of despair. Although it opens with God’s wrath, it swiftly yields to the Lord’s deliverance and establishment of His earthly, millennial kingdom. It is a Day when the Lord is “in charge” on earth—it is His day. He is the Judge, the King, the Prophet, and the Priest.
Children of the Day Versus Children of the Night
All things considered, First Thessalonians chapter 4 provides the greatest detail concerning the Church’s Blessed Hope (Rapture), but the context immediately shifts in the next chapter. This shift is twofold: (1) a shift in events—from the Blessed Hope (1 Thessalonians 4) to the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5), and (2) a shift in applicable people groups (discussed below).
The apostle Paul was adamant that the believers in Thessalonica not be ignorant concerning the Blessed Hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13) but followed by stating their personal lack of need concerning details of the Day of the Lord. In fact, to understand the inclusion of such information, one must take note that chapter 5 addressed another group of people indirectly, one that desperately needed to understand Paul’s writing concerning the Day of the Lord. Paul referred to them as those who are “of the night” or “of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). The distinction of the audience in chapter 5 is crucial: Paul addressed the saved directly (“you”) and referred to the lost—those of the night—indirectly (“they”).
What Is the Day of the Lord?
The Day of the Lord commences when the Lord steps into time, thrusting His will upon earth’s inhabitants. This direct involvement in earthly events will become obvious when the Lord leaves Heaven’s glory (Second Coming) with His armies following Him to conquer His earthly foes (Revelation 19:11-14). Following the Second Coming, the Lord will establish His earthly and millennial kingdom, fulfilling the prayer of Matthew chapter 6, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This direct implementation of the Lord’s will on earth is the Day of the Lord.
Although the Day will last throughout the millennial kingdom, it starts as a destruction from the Almighty causing men’s hearts to melt.
Isaiah 13:6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. 7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:
This description ties together with Luke chapter 21 (and its parallel passage—Matthew chapter 24) and is obviously not a reference to the Blessed Hope of the Church. In fact, the Church is not even in view in these passages from the gospel books.
Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Three Specific Events BEFORE the Day of the Lord
As a warning to those who will inhabit the earth during Daniel’s Seventieth Week, the Lord provided ample insights as to the arrival of the Day of the Lord. In fact, there are three major and specific events that must take place PRIOR to the onset of the Day of the Lord.
- The moon shall be turned to blood BEFORE the Day of the Lord.
Joel 2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
The moon is turned into blood BEFORE the Day of the Lord and this “blood moon” happens at the opening of the sixth seal.
Revelation 6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
The fact that the sixth seal does not take place until the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week reveals why the so-called blood moon hype a few years back was nothing but a farce. It caused confusion and ridicule and understandably so since the moon never “became as blood” and the timing was ALL wrong.
- Elijah (one of the Two Witnesses) will come BEFORE the Day of the Lord.
Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
This timing is also easily pinpointed as Elijah is one of the Two Witnesses during Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Revelation 11:3-8).
- The Day of the Lord will not take place until AFTER the tribulation of those days.
Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
The timing of this context is also easily pinpointed. According to the next verse from the Olivet Discourse, the inhabitants of the earth “shall see the Son of man coming,” “And he shall send his angels … and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31). Interestingly, there is no one leaving earth at this time (no Rapture) and the gathering addresses ONLY Israel’s restoration, regeneration, and resurrection.
A popular and often misused passage from the Old Testament further describes this restoration (Ezekiel chapter 37). The prophecy of the Dry Bones will be fulfilled in the resurrection and subsequent glorification of the nation of Israel—“these bones are the whole house of Israel. … I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. … I shall place you in your own land” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).
The gathering of the elect includes Israelites from all over the earth where they have been scattered. “I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land” (Ezekiel 37:21). The nation will be united and is promised “so shall they be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23). A united Israel will have one king: “And David my servant shall be king over them” (Ezekiel 37:24).
Christ Returns with Armies on the Day of the Lord as a Thief
Unlike the Church’s Blessed Hope, the beginning of the Day of the Lord is not associated with comforting believers but with the execution of the Lord’s vengeance against His enemies (Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6, 9; Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 46:10; Lamentations 2:22; Ezekiel 13:5; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1, 11, 31; Joel 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 8, 14, 18; Zephaniah 2:2, 3; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Each of these passages announces that the Day of the Lord involves destruction, howling, cruel wrath, fierce anger, desolation, vengeance, recompense, terrors, the Lord’s anger, cloudy day, time of the heathen, alarm trumpets, trembling, great and very terrible day, sun turned into darkness, moon into blood, darkness, day of the Lord’s sacrifice, punishment, bitter crying, dreadful day, and that all of this is coming as a thief upon an unsuspecting, unrepentant world (Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:9-11).
The Day of the Lord will encompass the Lord’s day of vengeance upon His enemies and continue through the Lord’s 1,000-year reign upon the earth (2 Peter 3:10), the heavens passing away, and the formation of the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). The confusion is compounded by those who fail to distinguish between the Day of the Lord and the Day of Christ. This description of catastrophic destruction surely does not equate to the Day of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:2; Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16).
The association between Christ’s Second Advent and the coming of a thief offers a spiritual picture of a literal event. According to Joel 2:9, the Lord’s army (which consists of saved saints from Heaven according to Revelation 19:14) will “enter in at the windows [of the houses of the Lord’s enemies] like a thief.” The Lord also reminded the Thessalonian believers that they knew “perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
In a similar context, Simon Peter warned that “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). The Lord Jesus identified the applicable event when He promised, “Behold, I come as a thief” and admonished, “Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Revelation 16:15). When the Lord returns at His Second Advent, He will come upon an unsuspecting and ill-prepared world.
Although New Testament saints will take part in the Day of the Lord, it will be from a much different perspective and in a much different role than that of the Jews or of unsaved Gentiles. The Church, as part of the armies of the Lord, will return with the Lord Jesus as He comes to establish His kingdom. We will participate (although to varying degrees) in His millennial reign. We will certainly take part in the Day of the Lord, but “that day” will not “overtake” us “as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4) because we have already been gathered to the Lord years earlier (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).