Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa (December 2008)
The concept the day of the Lord (or: that day) is often used in the Old as well as the New Testament in connection with the fulfilment of end-time prophecies. It refers to the final phase of human history on earth when the Lord will directly intervene in the destiny of mankind by revealing Himself in various capacities – as Bridegroom, Judge and King. This revelatory phase will last slightly more than a thousand years as it includes both the tribulation period of seven years and Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace (the Millennium).
We are dealing here with a prophetic period in which one day represents 1000 years. To be able to correctly understand this we need to take into account that there are three different “weeks” to which the Bible refers.
Firstly, there are weeks with seven days of 24 hours each.
Secondly, there are prophetic weeks which represent seven years, i.e. year-weeks (cf. Lev. 25:8; Dan. 9:24-27).
Thirdly, there is the week of human history on earth, which represents seven millennia: Four days of one thousand years each have elapsed between Adam and Christ; another two days elapse between the first and second comings of Christ; to be followed by the seventh day of the Millennium (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8). In Luke 13:32 Jesus refers to the “two days” of the church dispensation, followed by the “third day” of His fully revealed kingdom on earth when the devil will be bound. Hosea 6:1-2 refers prophetically to the two days (2000 years) of Israel’s dispersion, followed by the third day of their complete restoration during the Millennium.
The following events will highlight the day of the Lord:
The day of the Lord is introduced by the union between the heavenly Bridegroom and His earthly bride – that is the Lord Jesus and the true church of all ages. He will meet her in the air above the earth, and it will be announced by the sounding of a trumpet. All believers will have received glorified resurrection bodies. Paul says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). This will be “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6), which is also referred to as “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).
In our new, incorruptible bodies we will all be caught up at the rapture to meet the Lord in the air: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
After the rapture we will experience our heavenly citizenship as a physical reality: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” Phil. 3:20-21; cf. 1 John 3:2).
Our first appointment in heaven will be before the judgement seat of Christ, where we will receive rewards of grace for our Christian service (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10,12). Paul confirms the fact that we will receive crowns during that day (of the Lord): “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Following our appearance before the judgement seat we, as the bride of the Lamb, will be united with Christ in a typical marriage ceremony (cf. Matt. 25:1-6; Ps. 45:6-15; Eph. 5:25-27). After this ceremony the bride will be described as the “wife” of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).
In a reigning capacity the wife of the Lamb is depicted as 24 elders from every people and nation. They will judge the world with Christ and later rule with Him as kings over the earth (Rev. 5:8-10; 1 Cor. 6:2). After these wonderful revelations to His true church the Lord Jesus will also progressively reveal Himself to the millions of people on earth.
As far as the people on earth are concerned the rapture will soon be followed by the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the Christ-rejecting nations. The seven seals of God’s judgements will be broken in heaven, followed by the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. That will all happen within a period of only seven years, which is known as the tribulation period or the 70th year-week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27; Matt 24:29). This period is divided into two halves of 3½ years (or 42 months) each. The first 3½ years will be characterised by a false peace under the rule of the Antichrist, followed by 3½ years of great tribulation such as has never been (Rev. 6:2; Matt. 24:21).
In Revelation 6:1-2, the first seal of God’s judgements is broken in heaven. This results in the appearance on earth of a false prince of peace riding on a white horse. He has a bow in his hand but hides his arrows as his coming will be in the name of peace. The whole world will follow him in amazement and also worship him (Rev. 13:3-4). He will establish a new world order for 3½ years, based upon the foundation of false peace and unity. Centralised political, economic and religious control will be exercised over the whole world.
The Antichrist will universally be worshipped as a consequence of the rejection by all nations of the supremacy of the Triune God. Because they have expelled the true God from their constitutions, public life, educational and legal systems, and also from their personal lives, He will surrender them to the devil and the Antichrist to worship and follow them. The Antichrist will make a short-lived effort to please all people, thereby ensuring their full support. He will allow unbridled freedom, which will propel sin and evil to unprecedented heights during his reign. That is why he is described in the Bible as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3).
Midway into the tribulation his false peace will suddenly collapse because of rebellion against him and his ideology of globalism. He will then resort to military power and institute a reign of terror such as the world has never seen. The entire world population will realise with a shock that they had been deceived and are actually finding themselves in the midst of the day of the Lord: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:2-3).
The Antichrist will openly blaspheme against God and the saints (Rev. 13:5-6), subject the whole world to his military rule (Rev. 13:7), and “go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Dan. 11:44). His reign will coincide with the most severe judgements of God, and people will know that the Lord Jesus, who was rejected and denied by them, is pouring out His wrath upon them. Surrounded by the shakings of great earthquakes they will cry out to the mountains and rocks: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand” (Rev. 6:16-17).
The judgements of the great tribulation should not be confused with the final judgement. The judgements of the great tribulation (the last half of the tribulation of seven years) will be poured out at the end of the church dispensation shortly before Christ will establish His thousand-year reign of peace on earth. In the process wicked nations, cultures and places will be utterly destroyed to make way for a government of righteousness, as well as God-fearing nations that will replace them. For thousands of years humanity has been heading for this time of great judgements when, in a dramatic way as in the days of Noah and Lot, God will intervene to end wickedness and let righteousness prevail. That will be part of the end-time revelations and judgements of God, by which radical Christian reforms will be instituted. The following Old Testament prophecies all apply to the last 3½ years of the tribulation period:
“Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land [and the whole earth] desolate, and He will destroy its sinners from it. For all 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. 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. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, and man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger” (Isa. 13:9-13; cf. Isa. 24:1-6, 19-21; Mal. 4:1).
From these scriptures it is evident that the main objective with the judgements of the day of the Lord will be the destruction of sinners and violent people on earth. The Lord wants to purge the world of evil.
“The day of the Lord is coming… a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness… For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it? … The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-2,11,31). “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). The valley of decision is the Kidron valley in Jerusalem, and this prophecy refers to the battle of Armageddon at the end of the great tribulation when the Lord Jesus will inflict the armies of the nations with His judgements and plagues at His return (cf. Joel 3:1-2; Zech. 14:12-13).
The public appearance of the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives in Israel will be one of God’s most significant end-time revelations: “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which face Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move towards the north and half of it towards the south. … Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You” (Zech. 14:4-5).
That will happen on the last day of the tribulation period when Jesus will return as Judge and King to judge His enemies, to save the remnant in Israel, and to physically establish His kingdom on earth. That will be the great day of His wrath when He will destroy the Antichrist, the false prophet and their millions of followers (Rev. 6:17; 19:19-21).
The day of the second coming of Christ will be a specific day of 24 hours within the wider framework of the day of the Lord – i.e. one of the climactic events within this long period of God’s special revelations which will have started seven years earlier at the rapture. His coming as King of kings will introduce a completely new dispensation which will continue for one thousand years.
The largest part of the day of the Lord will be taken up by His thousand-year reign of peace which will be established shortly after His second coming: “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them towards the eastern sea and half of them towards the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:8-9). There will indeed be many summers and winters in this long day of the Lord when Jesus Christ will rule the whole world form Jerusalem.
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17). Satan will be bound during the Millennium so that he should deceive the nations no more (Rev. 20:1-3).
Israel will be the Lord’s special witnesses among all nations, a blessing in the midst of the world: “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will thresh, from the channel of the River to the brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, o you children of Israel” (Isa. 27:12). They will have a special commission as the Messiah’s witnesses among all nations in the world: “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isa. 27:6).
“In that day the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people” (Isa. 28:5). “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).
“In that day will men look to their Maker, and their eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 17:7 AB). The true God will unanimously be worshipped by all nations: “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord” (Zeph. 3:9).
At the end of the day of the Lord there will be another judgement – this time the final judgement: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night [at the end of 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. … The heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Pet. 3:10,12). This will be the last big judgement when all unbelievers of all times will be condemned to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
“God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all, by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is a confirmation of the truth of the gospel. He has conquered death and the grave, and is the resurrection and the life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25). All people will be resurrected from the dead, and for this reason there will be a resurrection of life for the righteous and a resurrection of condemnation for the wicked (John 5:29).
Are you ready for the imminent and dramatic day of the Lord? It will bring great blessings to those who are co-heirs with the Lord Jesus in His kingdom. At the judgement seat of Christ they will be rewarded for their dedication and faithful service to Him, at the marriage of the Lamb they will be united with Him forever, and after that they will rule with Him as kings in His kingdom.
To those who were disobedient to the gospel by rejecting the Lord Jesus as Saviour there remains only the expectation of terrible judgements during the coming tribulation of seven years. Should they die unsaved, the great white throne judgement is awaiting them at the end of the day of the Lord where they will hear the final words of condemnation: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
The Lord will surely reveal Himself, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).