Reprinted from eParousia Vol. 2 No. 2, February, 2004

The Day of the Lord is a very significant event in God’s program for the End Times. The phrase “the Day of the Lord” appears about twenty-one times in the Old Testament and six times in the New Testament. In all but a few cases it refers to a time yet future. Adding together all the synonymous phrases such as “that day,” “the Day of Christ,” and “the Day of God,” there are over 100 references that refer to a future time when God will intervene in history. Indeed, it is the most prophesied event in all of Scripture. With so much written about the Day of the Lord in the Bible, it is crucial that we understand what the Day of the Lord is all about, and when this Day will occur. In this article, we will ask several key questions about the Day of the Lord. As we will discover in our study, understanding the Day of the Lord is the key that will unlock the timing of the rapture of the Church.

What is the Day of the Lord?

There are many passages in the Old Testament that give us a vivid description of the Day of the Lord.

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty… Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it… I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity… Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger. (Isaiah 13:6-13)

Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’s wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

From these descriptions and the other passages that illustrate it, it is clear that the Day of the Lord is a time when God’s patience will be over and His divine wrath will be poured out on wicked mankind. It is the time of God’s judgment when the wicked are recompensed for their evil. It is also a time when God will humble the proud and abase the lofty. Isaiah tells us that, “the Lord alone will be exalted in that Day.” (Isaiah 2:11,17).

The phrase “the Day of the Lord,” as used in the Old Testament, may indicate several different elements concerning that future time of divine judgment upon the world. Sometimes it is used to indicate the beginning point of the Day of the Lord and at other times it refers to a specific event that takes place within that time period. We must understand that this phrase does not refer to a 24-hour day, but an extended time period that will encompass many events and will be characterized by God’s judgment and wrath.

The prophecies concerning the future Day of the Lord are always given within a context of present or “near” historical reality. The future Day of the Lord often served as a backdrop to God’s indirect, local judgment coming on a specific city, nation or group of nations. The local judgment was a guarantee of the future eschatological Day of the Lord’s wrath which would be worldwide in its scope. This is the case with prophecies against Babylon (Isaiah 13), Egypt (Ezek. 30), apostate Israel (Amos 5, Zeph. 1), and Edom (Obadiah). The judgments prophesied against these nations did come in a local “Day of the Lord”, but the language in these texts also speaks of a time of judgment, which will involve the whole world and all of wicked mankind.

There are two main purposes for the eschatological Day of the Lord spoken of in Scripture. First of all, as outlined above, it is a time of wrath and judgment against the wicked on earth. The book of Revelation shows us that this time of God’s judgment will especially focus on the final beast empire of Satan that will dominate the world in the End Times. A secondary purpose of the Day of the Lord will be to refine that part of the nation of Israel who will survive the Great Tribulation of Antichrist (Jer. 30:11; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2-4) and prepare the remnant of the nation of Israel for her Messiah.

What sign will announce the Day of the Lord?

Scripture describes several natural phenomena that will accompany the Day of the Lord. These include a great earthquake (Is. 13:13; Ezek. 38:19-20; Joel 3:16; Haggai 2), clouds and darkness (Joel 2:2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:15) and the sun, moon and stars going dark (Is. 13:10, Joel 2:10, 3:15). The prophet Joel, who speaks almost entirely of the Day of the Lord, even gives us the sequence of these events. He states that, “the sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes” (Joel 2:31). It is very clear from this verse that before the Day of the Lord begins, before God begins to pour out his wrath on wicked mankind, there will be signs in the heavenlies. Joel makes it clear that BEFORE the Day of the Lord begins, God will announce it by making the sun and moon go dark. This brings us to our next question.

When does the eschatological Day of the Lord begin?

While we don’t know the exact day and hour of the rapture of the church or the onset of God’s wrath, Scripture gives us at leas six precursors that must happen before the Day of the Lord can begin. The Day of the Lord will begin:

1. AFTER the apostasy and revealing of the man of lawlessness
2. AFTER the persecution of Antichrist (Great Tribulation)
3. AFTER the opening of the 6th Seal
4. AFTER the rapture of the church
5. AFTER the “last trump”, the “trump of God” is blown
6. AFTER the coming of Elijah

This article was originally published through eParousia, Sola Scriptura’s monthly end-times e-newsletter.