The Day of the LORD
The Destruction and Restoration of National Israel: Introduction.
In the first three chapters, I showed from the Scripture that the Day of the LORD is an earth-changing series of events in which the righteousness and holiness of the Lord Christ is seen as He fulfills His duty as the Judge of the Living and the Dead. Indeed, the mention and details of that great day are prominent features of both the Old and New Testaments.
[Another series, The Final Sequence provides many details of the divine judgments not presented here.]
But as sobering as these events are, they tell only half the story. Inextricably intertwined with the Day of the LORD is the absolutely certain and unconditional restoration of national Israel, which has two easily identifiable components:
- The fulfillment of the promise the LORD made to Abram that national Israel would drive out the (then) current inhabitants of a very large region of land (most of what is currently known as the Middle East!) and therefore take complete possession of that land in perfect and complete security and safety.
- The rule of national Israel—along with the rest of the earth!—by the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, for an extended period (literally 1000 years, a time typically referred to as the Millennium).
The purpose of this and the next two chapters are to demonstrate from the Scripture these points.
We begin with a pivotal prophecy made by the prophet Hosea. His ministry spanned many years prior to and including the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria (~721 BC). Through him the LORD expressed His severe displeasure with national Israel and their coming judgment. At the end of the fifth chapter and the beginning of the sixth, there is this extraordinary prophecy:
Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment,
Because he was determined to follow man’s command.
Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim
And like rottenness to the house of Judah.
When Ephraim saw his sickness,
And Judah his wound,
Then Ephraim went to Assyria
And sent to King Jareb.
But he is unable to heal you,
Or to cure you of your wound.
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away,
I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.
I will go away and return to My place
Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;
In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
Hosea tells of an event that would take place, an event that is compared to the devastation made by a lion violently tearing apart its prey, like the attendant damage and rottenness left in the wake of a moth. It is clear that in the prophecy the LORD was the lion and Ephraim and Judah (note the plural object, national Israel, not simply the Northern or the Southern Kingdoms) were the prey. It would be a calamity of unprecedented severity to bring the entire nation to complete, sincere and permanent repentance!
But even more significant in this context is that the LORD also revealed through Hosea the guaranteed restoration of national Israel which would follow her punishment:
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
It was to be after “two days” that the promised national repentance would take place.
The prophet Zechariah saw that same sincere, national repentance:
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.
This event has not yet taken place in national Israel.
To be sure, there have been many times in Israel’s history in which dramatic trials came, the people grieved over their sin and “repented”. Always, that so-called “repentance” was temporary and insincere. (cf. Psa 78, an extraordinary historical Psalm)
But, as the LORD revealed to Hosea and Zechariah, something would be different at that time: by the LORD’s own words “they will earnestly seek Me”. Without doubt, that coming repentance will be permanent and sincere. The national Israel will be encompassed by a state of divine grace that it has never yet experienced.
But, what about that “two days”?
And, “two days” beginning when?
There appears to be only a single, biblically-consistent answer to these questions. The “day” appears to indicate what I tend to call the “divine day”, as indicated here:
For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.
2 Pet 3.8
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
If this understanding is correct—and I believe that it must be, especially based on the Scriptures I reference in this series—then the “two days” of Hosea 5 are two “divine days” of 1000-year days: two millennia!
Therefore, in the details of Hosea’s prophecy is the brutal devastation of national Israel (but not her complete destruction!) followed by essentially 2000 years of the virtual absence of the LORD’s work within the nation. From the “outside” it would look as if the LORD had abandoned His people Israel.
[In case some of my readers react with something like “Wait, that’s quite a leap!”, consider the following:
If we attempt to apply a strictly literal understanding to “two days”, then we’re left with nonsense. The LORD sent Hosea with a particularly brutal and bloody prophecy for the staggering sin of national Israel, because of which:
- they would be destroyed,
- then genuinely repent after a literal two days—a lasting, genuine and national repentance.
It should be obvious that the preceding interpretation is ridiculous. Any type of strictly literal interpretation of the durations involved would lead to the completely untenable conclusion that we should see the sincere and lasting repentance of an obedient national Israel. But, pick any period of Israel’s history and then successfully prove from the Scripture that they have been a sincere, faithful and obedient people to the LORD from a point in time of two days after their national, brutal and near complete destruction.
You won't be able to do so.
There is no such event in the pages of the Bible, and certainly no time in the known history of Israel from from her beginning until the present.
The nature of the prophesy made through Hosea precludes anything less than the virtual destruction of national Israel for two "divine days” during which the LORD would appear to have essentially no involvement with His nation. Then after “two days” the nation repents with a lasting and genuine repentance.]
This leads us to the second question: when did the “two days” start? What event essentially destroyed national Israel followed by a period of ~2000 years (two "divine days") during which the LORD appears to have abandoned His people?
There can be only one answer to that question: the “2000-year-countdown clock” began with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans during the Passover in 70 AD—exactly 40 years after the murder of the Lord Christ by the Jews during the Passover in 30 AD!
[Note also that 40 years is another biblically significant period always associated with judgment and/or testing.]
Now, essentially at the end of those two “divine days” the LORD has returned to His direct work with national Israel (witnessed, at least, by the re-forming of the nation in 1948).
Notice how beautifully the Scriptures below reveal this spectacular process. We begin with this event very early in the ministry of the Lord Christ:
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
The Lord Christ quoted from a portion of Isa 61. But, as you can see, the Lord stopped His quote from Isaiah mid-verse; note carefully what the Lord did not include:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (ç the Lord’s quote ends here!)
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
But you will be called the priests of the Lord;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
The purpose of the Lord Christ in the synagogue that day was to declare clearly that He was the One prophesied centuries before by Isaiah to proclaim the “favorable time”:
And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
To which Scripture did the Lord Christ refer? Specifically, that portion of Isaiah 61 which He read, not the entire prophecy! He stopped mid-verse because the remainder of chapter 61 was not yet being fulfilled. His ministry among the Jews was the implementation of the “favorable year of the Lord”, not the initiation of the judgment of Hos 5.11-15.
The judgment of Hos 5.11-15 followed His murder 40 years later in 70 AD.