The Day of the Lord
In Two Parts
Isaiah 13:9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate:
and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
When taking up the topic of The Day of the Lord, we are entering a genre of Biblical literature, that is in a class by itself. This genre is called Apocalyptic. Milton Terry gives us important helps when approaching this type of literature. He says,
"The Old Testament apocalypses are a necessary introduction to the interpretation of Jesus's eschatological sermon on the Mount of Olives and to that of the Apocalypse of John. If the reader will take pains to examine our references he will find ample proof that the principal sources of the New Testament prophetic language and imagery are the Hebrew Scriptures."
It is important to note what Mr. Terry said, "The principal sources of the New Testament prophetic language and imagery are the Hebrew Scriptures." If we are to come to the proper understanding of the New Testament Apocalyptic passages, then we must gain a working knowledge of this same type of literature found in the Old Testament writings. For the New draws its influence from the Old. We must not be lazy students. We must be willing to dig into the fruitful fields of Old Testament literature, to find our way in the New.
Many Christians have been taught to think that this day of the Lord, is a singular event at the end of history, when Christ returns. However, the truth is quite different. When you conduct a search of the phrase, day of the Lord, you will find it is mentioned 18 times. It is characterized, as we see in the above passage, as a day of judgement against sinful man. Not only is it mentioned 18 times, but it is pronounced against five different people groups. Twelve times it is pronounced against Israel, or Jacob; twice against Egypt, once against Babylon, once against Edom, and twice against the nations in general. All of these are viewed as past events, except for four found in the NT, which speaks of what would become the judgement upon Judea, in AD 70.
The Day of the Lord
|Against Israel||Against Egypt||Against Babylon||Against the nations|
|Isa. 2:12 - against Jacob||Zech. 14:1 - against Israel||Jer. 46:10 - against Egypt||Isa. 13:6, 9 - against Babylon||Isa. 34:8 - against Edom|
|Ezek. 13:5 - against Israel||Mal. 4:5 - against Israel||Ezek. 30:3 - against Egypt||Joel 3:14 - against nations?|
|Joel 1:15 - against Israel||Acts 2:20 (quoting Joel 2)||Obadiah 1:15 - against nations|
|Joel 2:1,11, 31 - against Israel||1Cor. 5:5 - “day of the Lord Jesus”|
|Amos 5:18, 20 - against Israel||2Cor. 1:14 - “day of the Lord Jesus”|
|Zeph. 1:7, 14 - against Israel||1Thess 5:2; 2Pet. 3:10 - “day of the Lord|
comes as a thief in the night.”
Acts 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10, refers to the coming day of the Lord Jesus in judgement, in AD 70.
If we seek a Biblical characterization of the Day of the Lord, Zephaniah gives us as good a picture as any.
1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice (sound) of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.
When we read about the cosmic events associated with the Day of the Lord, or the Day, the description above in verses 15-16, would be quite descriptive of such an event.
The Day of the Lord in the Old and the New Testaments
|Day of the Lord Language -Old Testament||Day of the Lord Language - New Testament|
|Isa. 13:10||10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.||Matt. 24:29||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:|
(also see Joel 3:14-15)
|10 The earth shall quake before them;
the heavens shall tremble:
the sun and the moon shall be dark,
and the stars shall withdraw their shining:|
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
(quoting Joel 2)
|19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:|
Isa. 2:10, 19-21
|Isa. 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll:
and all their host shall fall down,
as the leaf falleth off from the vine,
and as a falling fig from the fig tree.|
Nahum 3:12 All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.
Isa. 2:10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.
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.
|Rev. 6:12-17||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; 13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?|
We can see that the sixth seal is descriptive of the Day of the Lord.
|Isaiah 13:7||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:||Luke 21:25-26||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.|
As we can see from the passage above [Isaiah 13:9], the Day of the Lord, is described as a day of wrath and fierce anger. It is a day in which He will lay the land desolate, and destroy the sinners from off of it. Notice, He states what He is going to do in plain language, then He transcribes this into the Prophets' Tongue. He describes this laying the land desolate and destroying the sinners out of it, as,
The stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
In Jesus' Olivet Discourse, He used this same language, saying,
Matt. 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:
What He is describing here, is not a real cosmic event, but using the Prophets' Tongue, to tell His disciples that the land of Judea would be laid desolate and the sinners thereof would be destroyed out of it. This desolation that Jesus speaks of is recorded by the historian, Josephus, when he reports,
And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about*, as I have already related...for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding.
[Josephus, Wars, 6.1.1] (*90 furlongs is approximately 10 miles. So for 10 miles around Jerusalem, there stood not a single tree. Josephus describes it as a desert. It would appear as a moonscape, or totally desolate. He remarks if someone who had seen Jerusalem before, were to stand in its midst at that time, they would ask, "Where is Jerusalem?". It had been so throughly decimated and razed to the ground, its former beauty could not be seen anywhere.)
Jesus was speaking a language that the disciples would be quite familiar with. He was speaking the language of the Hebrew prophets. He was also a Hebrew prophet, speaking to God's covenant people as all the other prophets before Him. However, He was much more than just a prophet here. He not only pronounced the judgement, but He would be the one who would execute it, in fiery wrath.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians,
1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Paul uses day of the Lord language, when he speaks of Jesus being revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is very definite, day of the Lord language. The day of the Lord is referred to as a day of vengeance, (Isa. 61:2; Jer. 46:10; Luke 21:22; 2 Thess. 1:8) Paul evens calls this a day of the Lord, when he refers to this as "that day." The phrases, "the Day," "day", and "that day", can all be referencing the time known as the Day of the Lord. However, this can only be confirmed by the context. This context is a judgement context, and the language is very much in line with other day of the Lord language.
It is the day of the Lord the writer of Hebrews refers to when he writes, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." [Heb. 10:25] The writer is referencing a circumstance that was common to both him and this readers. He states, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another." In this, he is speaking in the present. It was something they should all be doing at that present time. Then he states, it should be done, so much the more, as you are seeing the day approaching.(or as you are seeing the approaching day) He is communicating the fact, that if they are being observant, they can see, with their eyes and perceive in their minds, that the Day, that great day of the Lord, is fast approaching. If they care to look, they can see its approach.
This leads us into the next part. What was the Apostolic Expectation of the coming Day of the Lord?