The Day of the LORD
The Day of the LORD in the Old Testament.
In the previous chapter I showed from the Scripture that the LORD chose to hide the details of Himself and His Son from the Jews because of their continual and characteristic rebellion against Him. (Isa 6.8-10)
To be sure, the “mechanics” of the Day of the LORD were clear enough, but the Jew of the OT missed entirely the significance of the fact that they referred to the coming of the Messiah with His judgment and reign. The Jews, up to and including the time of the ministry of the Lord Christ, assumed that “Messiah” would appear to deliver them from all their enemies and vindicate them as His chosen people. The Day of the LORD, to them, really had very little to do with the LORD; their narcissism blinded them to the glory and majesty that was to be revealed on that great day.
The “detail” which they corporately ignored was their national sin and rebellion and their own need to repent and turn, truly and permanently, from their sins both as a nation and as individuals. The Jews tended to view themselves, the “LORD’s chosen people”, as unassailable; this national disposition was reprehensible.
[Note the Jews’ insistence on “rewriting history” in the exchange with the Lord Christ in Joh 8.31-33. Note that not only have the Jews been enslaved and beaten down many times in their history, at the time of this verse they were under Roman rule (which they hated!). Their memory was astonishingly selective, besides the obvious fact of missing completely the moral/spiritual import of the Lord Christ’s statement.]
As a subsequent chapter will show, the LORD will indeed deliver and restore them, but not until first they have been judged severely by the LORD and have been decimated by their enemies. This simple biblical truth has never fully been realized either by ancient or current Israel; indeed, for national Israel, the worst is yet to come...
Moreover, national Israel has never truly and permanently repented as a nation. To date, their repentance and turning from sin has always been short-lived, self-serving and opportunistic (that is, a means to the end of escaping punishment rather than to the end of serving the LORD from a sincere heart), as this historical Psalm records:
When He killed them, then they sought Him,
And returned and searched diligently for God;
And they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
But they deceived Him with their mouth
And lied to Him with their tongue.
For their heart was not steadfast toward Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
It is now time to review the many OT passages which present the great truth of the Day of the LORD.
The LORD provided much information about His Day through His prophet Isaiah:
For the Lord of hosts will have a day
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols will completely vanish.
Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?
Note the overlap in some of the details of this revelation made to the Apostle John:
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
There is another phrase in this section that needs a closer look: “And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day …” (v11). This mirrors a wonderful passage in Zechariah chapter 14:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.
And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.
And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the one, and His name one.
In context, this can be fulfilled only when the Lord Christ returns to the earth to rule. The Lord Christ who is the “Lord alone” of Isa 2.11 is the One who is “Lord of all the earth” whose “name is One” of Zec 14.9.
Besides the fury of the LORD which will be poured out and the enormous topographical changes to the earth, there will also be terrifying events visible in the cosmos when the events of the Day of the LORD begin to break forth:
Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.
The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split through,
The earth is shaken violently.
The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard
And it totters like a shack,
For its transgression is heavy upon it,
And it will fall, never to rise again.
So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high,
And the kings of the earth on earth.
They will be gathered together
Like prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.
Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And His glory will be before His elders.
[Note that phrase: "never to rise again". When the Lord Christ returns, the global system at that time will be completely displaced by the Millennial rule of the Lord Christ. Compare this Bible fact to the incomprehensibly stupid and irresponsible interpretation of the "Christianization" of the world in the biblically-bereft view of post millennialism. Isaiah, by means of the LORD's Spirit, told us that that society will collapse while post-mil eschatology tells us that society will get progressively better.]
[This passage is especially interesting regarding one particular detail: the “prison” and “many days”. What do these terms tell us in this context?
For the following discussion, please refer to The Final Sequence for the detailed proof from the Scripture of some of the details.
From the very beginning through to the present day, those who die as unbelievers are transferred to the place known in the NT as Hades; Hades is not the same as the final and permanent place of punishment, the Lake of Fire/the Outer Darkness, etc. Rather, Hades is a transitional and temporary “holding cell” (in modern parlance).
In the language of Isaiah 24, it is “prison”.
Note that the LORD tells us here that “after many days” the “actual” punishment will take place after those guilty have spent some time (“many days”) incarcerated. To be sure, Hades is punishment (Luk 16.24), but Hades is not the permanent state of punishment (the Lake of Fire) that awaits the unbeliever.
The “many days” is the period between the return of the Lord Christ to judge the nations (as the Judge of the Living) and the Great White Throne Judgment (as the Judge of the Dead). In this context, the “many days” can only be the Millennium, that period of 1000 years (which, in human terms, certainly qualifies as “many days”) during which the Lord Christ will rule with a “rod of iron”. (Psa 2, Rev 2.27; 12.5; 19.15)
It is more than interesting that in the only passage in the Bible which assigns a duration in years to the time between the return of the Lord Christ until the Great White Throne Judgment specifies—six times!—that the duration is 1000 years. The stunningly irresponsible claim of both postmillennial and amillennial “interpretations” that such a time is indeterminant stretches credibility and reason beyond its breaking point.
(The NT authors had the term “age” at their disposal for indicating an unspecified, but large, period. It is a term used about two dozen times in the NT in the gospels, Acts, the Pauline epistles and the author of Hebrews.)
For some reason, the postmillennial and amillennial eschatologists want us to believe that John in Rev 20 used a very specific duration (again, 6 times!) when he could have used the general term for a period of unknown, but great, length.
It is equally fascinating that the following chapter, Isa 25, tells of the lavish banquet which the Lord Christ (again, in that context) will present to the peoples of the earth at the commencement of His sovereign rule:
The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
Implicit in this passage also is the restoration of national Israel. This is presented in detail in subsequent chapters.]
I mentioned above that inextricably linked to the Day of the LORD is the final punishment, with its attendant restoration of national Israel:
But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust,
And the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away;
And it will happen instantly, suddenly.
From the Lord of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise,
With whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire.
And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel,
Even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her,
Will be like a dream, a vision of the night.
It will be as when a hungry man dreams—
And behold, he is eating;
But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied,
Or as when a thirsty man dreams—
And behold, he is drinking,
But when he awakens, behold, he is faint
And his thirst is not quenched.
Thus the multitude of all the nations will be
Who wage war against Mount Zion.
The LORD will punish Israel by means of “natural disasters” (a misnomer, to be sure: see The LORD, the Author of Calamity) as well as through Israel’s enemies.
Referring back to Zec 14, look again at the first three verses:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
It is the LORD who “[gathers] all the nations against [Israel]”. Indeed, a very troubling time of national punishment awaits national Israel, against which its treatment at the hand of its past and current enemies (which nevertheless were and are very grave!) will pale.
Of course, the punishment of Israel’s enemies is also prominent in this passage. The LORD does not show partiality, judging some and leaving others unpunished. (Deu 10.17-18)
But, it is not just with Israel’s enemies who will endure the LORD’s wrath on the Day of the LORD: it is all those who are the LORD’s enemies! Note this very descriptive section from Isaiah chapter 34:
Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples!
Let the earth and all it contains hear, and the world and all that springs from it.
For the Lord’s indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter.
So their slain will be thrown out,
And their corpses will give off their stench,
And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.
For My sword is satiated in heaven,
Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom
And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.
The sword of the Lord is filled with blood,
It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats,
With the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Wild oxen will also fall with them
And young bulls with strong ones;
Thus their land will be soaked with blood,
And their dust become greasy with fat.
For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Its streams will be turned into pitch,
And its loose earth into brimstone,
And its land will become burning pitch.
It will not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke will go up forever.
From generation to generation it will be desolate;
None will pass through it forever and ever.
The Day of the LORD will be unmatched in its wrath and devastation. The language used to describe it is stark, brutal and bloody. It should be obvious to even the casual reader that it will be a time of wholesale destruction, death and bloodshed. Mankind will be punished en masse for its sin against the “Lord of all the earth”. (Jos 3.11-13)
Note also the particular judgment against Edom (vv. 5-6). Remember that Isaac had two sons, twins, by his wife Rebekah: Esau (the first-born) and Jacob. But, in an astonishingly careless, self-centered and short-sighted act, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a single bowl of stew. The LORD was very displeased with Esau and as a result changed his name to Edom (lit. “red”, for the color of the stew).
Esau would forever be beneath the LORD’s contempt:
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.”
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
Note also that both Ishmael and Esau are typically regarded as the fathers of the Arab peoples. It is no coincidence that their descendants’ wholesale hatred for Israel has endured through the ages. When Jerusalem was being destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, those from Edom are recorded to have said:
Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it
To its very foundation.”
Asaph the psalmist noted this in an imprecatory Psalm:
They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation,
That the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
For they have conspired together with one mind;
Against You they make a covenant:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites;
Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Assyria also has joined with them;
They have become a help to the children of Lot. Selah.
But, the LORD emphasized the destruction of Edom in another passage in Isaiah, once again in the context of the Day of the LORD:
Who is this who comes from Edom,
With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,
This One who is majestic in His apparel,
Marching in the greatness of His strength?
“It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?
“I have trodden the wine trough alone,
And from the peoples there was no man with Me.
I also trod them in My anger
And trampled them in My wrath;
And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,
And I stained all My raiment.
“For the day of vengeance was in My heart,
And My year of redemption has come.
“I looked, and there was no one to help,
And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold;
So My own arm brought salvation to Me,
And My wrath upheld Me.
“I trod down the peoples in My anger
And made them drunk in My wrath,
And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
Indeed, the descendants of Esau will experience a particularly devastating destruction from the LORD, from which they won’t recover. (cf., Mal 1.4)
The prophet Joel is a very small book, having only three chapters. But Joel appears to devote essentially the entire prophecy to the Day of the LORD:
Consecrate a fast,
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the Lord is coming;
Surely it is near,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As the dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
A fire consumes before them
And behind them a flame burns.
The land is like the garden of Eden before them
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
[Note the signs in the cosmos.]
“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”
“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the Lord has said,
Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
[Note the signs in the cosmos.]
“For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all the nations
And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
Then I will enter into judgment with them there
On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
And they have divided up My land.
“They have also cast lots for My people,
Traded a boy for a harlot
And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.
[A component of the judgment is the punishment of those who are national Israel’s enemies.]
Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!
Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!
Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”
Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
And gather yourselves there.
Bring down, O Lord, Your mighty ones.
Let the nations be aroused
And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
For there I will sit to judge
All the surrounding nations.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
The Lord roars from Zion
And utters His voice from Jerusalem,
And the heavens and the earth tremble.
But the Lord is a refuge for His people
And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.
Then you will know that I am the Lord your God,
Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy,
And strangers will pass through it no more.
[Note the signs in the cosmos.]
And in that day
The mountains will drip with sweet wine,
And the hills will flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water;
And a spring will go out from the house of the Lord
To water the valley of Shittim.
Egypt will become a waste,
And Edom will become a desolate wilderness,
Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah,
In whose land they have shed innocent blood.
But Judah will be inhabited forever
And Jerusalem for all generations.
And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged,
For the Lord dwells in Zion.
[Even though currently Egypt does not appear to be an active enemy of national Israel (in the same way as, for example, current Iran and Syria), that will change. Note how Egypt and Edom are both regarded as enemies of Israel.]
There is a single prophecy from Obadiah:
“For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you.
Your dealings will return on your own head.”
“Because just as you drank on My holy mountain,
All the nations will drink continually.
They will drink and swallow
And become as if they had never existed.
“But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape,
And it will be holy.
And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.
“Then the house of Jacob will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a flame;
But the house of Esau will be as stubble.
And they will set them on fire and consume them,
So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,”
For the Lord has spoken.
Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau,
And those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain;
Also, possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria,
And Benjamin will possess Gilead.
And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel,
Who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,
And the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
Will possess the cities of the Negev.
The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion
To judge the mountain of Esau,
And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.
The judgment and destruction of Edom is prominent also in this Scripture. Note also the indications that national Israel will take possession of the land of their enemies.
[An entire chapter is devoted to the restoration of national Israel.]
The prophet Zephaniah is also a short book of three chapters; nonetheless, the Day of the LORD was prominent:
Zep 1.2-7, 14-18
“I will completely remove all things
From the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will remove man and beast;
I will remove the birds of the sky
And the fish of the sea,
And the ruins along with the wicked;
And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah
And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place,
And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests.
And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven,
And those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom,
And those who have turned back from following the Lord,
And those who have not sought the Lord or inquired of Him.
Be silent before the Lord God!
[Note that national Israel will be punished for its past and continuing idolatry.]
For the day of the Lord is near,
For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
He has consecrated His guests.”
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.
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.
Notice the scope of the destruction: “all the inhabitants of the earth”!
The last Scripture of this section is from the prophet Haggai. Haggai does not use the phrase the Day of the LORD, or any of the equivalent phrases I catalogued in the Introduction. Rather, the description of that judgment can be answered only in the fact that it is, and can only be, the Day of the LORD:
But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”
Then the word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.’ ‘On that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’” declares the Lord of hosts.
While Haggai does not provide the details, Zerubbabel will apparently have a part in the restoration of Israel, no doubt as a resurrected believer.