The Day of the Lord is a phrase used throughout the Bible to describe the moment when God exercises His Divine justice to a people. One of the great interpretive challenges is understanding whether the Old Testament references to the Day of the Lord were fulfilled in the same time period, or if they reference a still future event, or if some elements of the prophesy were fulfilled in close proximity to the writers' times, but other elements still remain future.
This problem arises often when dealing with prophesy and will not be solved in this blog post. And while some "Day of the Lord" passages may have been fulfilled temporally, others remain without any indication that the things prophesied have ever taken place. Consider the passages below:
Isaiah 2:10-20, 13:1-22
Several key ideas can be arrived at. The Day of the Lord is about God's:
There are elements in these passages that don't seem to have happened yet. Such as:
Has the world been punished yet?
Isaiah 13:11 (NKJV)
11 “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
Did these cosmic signs occur, or is this a reference to still future cosmic signs talked about elsewhere in Scripture?
Isaiah 13:10 (NKJV)
10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.
But Joel makes a reference to "the great and awesome Day of the Lord". Probably the best understanding is to consider that while the Day of the Lord passages may have had an immediate and local fulfillment in some sense, they all foreshadowed a coming final Great and Awesome Day of the Lord.
What is significant about this passage is that Peter quoted it in his Sermon on Pentecost.
Joel 2:28–32 (NKJV)
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
Acts 2:14–21 (NKJV)
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’Clearly Peter describes fulfillment of the Spirit being poured out and sons and daughter's prophesying, but what about the rest. It was still future. And it is still future.
This passage also references signs in the heavens. The sun is dark. The moon is blood. These things precede the "Great and Awesome Day of the Lord." Jesus names very similar signs that precede the great and awesome day of His return.
If these are the same signs, then we can consider the Day of the Lord and the Return of Christ as coinciding events. What happens on the Day of the Lord? Christ returns!
Matthew 24:29–30 (NKJV)
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Peter describes the Day of the Lord as coming like a "thief" in the night, and goes on to describe the destruction of the heavens, the earth, and all the works in it.
Paul describes the Day of the Lord the same way.
2 Peter 3:10–13 (NKJV)
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Jesus was the first to use the thief coming in the night to illustrate His coming.
1 Thessalonians 5:1–10 (NKJV)
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
And most likely the "Son of Man...coming" in this verse is the same as the "Son of Man coming" that Jesus was talking about twelve verses earlier:
Matthew 24:42–44 (NKJV)
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The Day of the Lord is terror for God's enemies. But for those who belong to Him, it is deliverance. It is glory. It is rest.
Matthew 24:30b (NKJV)
30 ...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The Thessalonians were to be looking forward to that Day. The day their troubles would come to an end, and God would take vengeance for them. In this passage, both events seem to occur at the same time. "...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His might angels." Jesus is accompanied by an army, taking vengeance, punishing with eternal destruction. In That Day. Is this day, the Great and Awesome Day of the Lord?
2 Thessalonians 1:4–10 (NKJV)
4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.