Before continuing with this post, please read Joel 2.
It is useful here to repeat our basic framework, before considering the Day of the LORD.
- Covenant confirmed for 7 years (possibly including provision for rebuilding the Temple)
- Abomination of Desolation
- Great Tribulation
- The heavens are darkened
- Christ appears in the heavens, accompanied by angels
- Resurrection and rapture of the saints
- Day of the LORD
- Commencement of Christ’s kingdom on earth
The Day of the LORD is a vast topic, to which entire books have been devoted. Alan Kurschner’s Antichrist Before the Day of the LORD is a very good introduction to this topic.
By way of summary and introduction, they Day of the LORD (also known as the Day of Wrath, Dies Irae in Latin) most frequently means a period (not necessarily a literal 24-hour) day of divine judgment in Scripture. Such a period will involve destruction and punishment of the wicked and vindication of the righteous.
Day of the LORD passages frequently have both historical and eschatological application, shading from one into the other. Historical events described as the Day of the LORD include:
- the destruction and deportation of the Northern Tribes and Judah under the Assyrians and Nebuchadnezzar;
- the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians; and
- the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
However, these passages usually involve elements that can only be eschatological in nature, including unprecedented physical disturbances and loss of human life. One passage even states that humans will become rarer than gold. This may be hyperbolic, but it is sufficient to show that the end times are in view.
In the New Testament, the Day of the LORD is referred to as the Day of Christ, indicating that the authors of the New Testament had a high Christology, equating Christ with Yahweh, the Creator. Revelation cites many Old Testament passages about the Day of the LORD and expands upon them. We will consider those in the posts specifically about Revelation.
The passage from Joel set above (and cited by St Peter in Acts 2) is important because of its intersection with the Olivet Discourse and other New Testament passages. Synthesising these passages, we can develop a firm framework that has the Day of the LORD commencing with the return of Christ in the clouds with His angels.
In Joel 2 we see that the Day of the LORD does not start until after the darkening of the heavens (2:31). In the Olivet Discourse, Christ places the darkening of the heavens at the cutting short of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:29).
By linking these two passages and understanding that they are referring to the same darkening of the heavens, we learn that the divine judgments do not run parallel with the beginning of the 70th Week and Great Tribulation as pretribulationists suppose. This is important to grasp (the reader is directed to my series at this blog on 2 Thessalonians 2, which interacts with Bosco’s pretribulationism).
Many people, in studying the end times, confuse the wrath of God (which takes the form of various cosmic events) with the persecution visited on the saints by the Antichrist. But they are not the same thing and it is important to differentiate them, as Scripture does.
Scripture tells us that it is ordained the saints should be crushed by the Antichrist (e.g. Daniel 7:21; although Daniel had Israel in view: he did not know that the Great Tribulation would include persecution of Gentile Christians and that it would be cut short). Scripture also affirms that the saints are not ordained to suffer the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9).
This structure is confirmed by the Olivet Discourse in which Christ compares the destruction of the ungodly following His return with the destruction visited on the ancient world by the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Christ does not use the phrase “Day of the LORD”, but it is clear from His language that He has this in mind.
The Day of the LORD is a day of vindication. Horrific in its destruction, it affirms the righteousness of God, just as the crucifixion and the Great White Throne Judgment do. Although an in-depth study of this topic is beyond the scope of this series, the reader is encouraged to make further enquiry as it speaks to deeper themes of anthropology, sinfulness, and righteousness.