The phrase, “The Day of the Lord” refers to a special day or a period of time when God’s purposes for the world will be fulfilled.
Some scholars even believe the day of the Lord will be longer than a period of time — a period when the Lord will reign throughout the world before He cleanses heaven and earth in preparation for the eternal state of mankind.
Still, others believe the Day of the Lord will be an event occurring immediately when the Lord returns to earth to redeem faithful followers of Christ and send non-Christians to eternal damnation.
The Day of the Lord in Scripture
The term “The Day of the Lord” is used throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5).
The Old Testament handles The Day of the Lord with a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation.
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! (Isaiah 13:6).
For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations (Ezekiel 30:3).
Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, (Joel 2:1).
Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14).
Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests (Zephaniah 1:7).
When the Old Testament refers to The Day of the Lord, it has in mind a near and far fulfillment.
Some Old Testament passages refer to The Day of the Lord as historical judgments that have already been fulfilled in some sense (Isaiah 13:6-22; Ezekiel 30:2-19; Joel 1:15; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18).
It also refers to a future fulfillment when the wrath of God is poured out on an unbelieving Israel (Isaiah 22; Jeremiah 30:1-17; Joel 1-2; Amos 5; Zephaniah 1) and on an unbelieving world (Ezekiel 38-39; Zechariah 14).
Scripture is clear that The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (Zephaniah 1:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:2). Christians should be watchful and ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus at all times.
The time of redemptive history being described here in this article will be a time of judgment, but also of salvation as the Lord will deliver the remnant Israel, fulfilling the promise that “all of Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), forgiving their sins and restoring the chosen people to the land He promised to Abraham (Isaiah 10:27; Jeremiah 30:19-31, 40; Micah 4; Zechariah 13).
The outcome of The Day of the Lord will be what Isaiah 2:17 describes. The Day of the Lord will be the fulfillment of all concerning prophecies, which describe the end of history, when the Lord, with wondrous power, will punish evil and fulfill all His promises.
The Ministry of Malachi and Trusting the Lord
In the middle of the fifth century BC, the Judahites found themselves in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. Though, back in the land, they were not in charge of their testimony as they were but a small province of the mighty Persian Empire.
The Temple was rebuilt, but God’s presence hadn’t yet returned to the Holy of Holies (Malachi 3:1). David’s line had no throne in Jerusalem, and none of the great restoration promises seemed to be coming true for Israel at this time (Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:1-5).
We should not be surprised then that the Israelites, lacking faith, looked around and asked what they did in Malachi 3:13-14.
Malachi, a man of faith, saw the real problem was not that God was unfaithful to His promises, but that Israel was unfaithful to the covenant of the Lord. Full restoration depended upon true repentance, but such repentance was not forthcoming (Leviticus 26:40-45; Daniel 9).
Israel’s people were no longer worshiping idols, but this was only superficial because they were not genuinely worshiping the Lord God. Nearing his ministry’s completion, Malachi understood that restoration would not come without the Lord intervening as He did in the old days.
It would take no less than the Prophet Elijah, whose miracles and boldness proved beyond a shadow he was the Lord’s spokesperson to preach a message that would bring true repentance (Malachi 4:5-6).
The Day of the Lord is the day in which He completes salvation, sets Israel over the nations, and defeats all the enemies to come, but not before Elijah’s return (Malachi 4:1-4). Elijah would be the messenger to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3-5).
Following Elijah’s ministry immediately, the Lord would come to His Temple, to a repentant people, and would refine them in glory so they would serve Him all of their days (Malachi 3:1-4).
When the ministry of Malachi was completed, the voice of prophecy ended in Israel, but not forever. The great day of the Lord, in which He reveals the arm of salvation, was yet to come.
David would return to the throne of God, and the conditions of the exile would end. The faithful old covenant believer, though, would have to wait to see these days yet renewed.
Malachi’s ministry reveals the hardest part of the life of faith in Christ for Christians today. Often it seems like life is falling apart or that there will be no resolution to things happening in our world.
Sometimes we feel like we must wait, wait, and then wait for more for the Lord to intervene. Faith trusts the Lord that He is not slow to fulfill His promise but understands He works all things for good in His time.
Hundreds of years after Malachi’s day, the Lord Jesus came. Today, while we wait for the imminent return of the Lord and answers to our prayers, Christians must remember that the Lord in His time will fulfill His promise and answer prayer according to His sovereign purpose.
The Prophets, the Day of Visitation, and Jesus
The Prophets often spoke of the day of the visitation of the Lord, which they saw as a day of great comfort and rejoicing, and other times as a day of great distress and judgment.
At the birth of the Lord Jesus, fully God and fully man, He came to earth on a death sentence. The Lord’s visitation is celebrated in the Holy Spirit’s inspired hymn of Zacharias, which mentions the divine visitation of the Lord (Luke 1:68; 78).
In the Incarnation, the Lord Jesus, fully God and fully man, came on a death sentence to satisfy God’s wrath. The Lord’s first visitation was when He came with divine blessing, redemption, and divine warning.
Even so, the Lord also announced to the world that He promised He would return on a future day. For those who love the coming of the Lord, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus will be an event of unspeakable joy and glory, for, at that visit, He will bring to complete His mission.
Those who ignore the first coming of the Lord Jesus and fail to believe in His finished and sufficient work ought to shutter at the coming Day of the Lord; for them, it will be one of sudden disaster.
The coming day of the Lord to the non-Christian will be The Day of the Lord described by Amos as a day of darkness with no light at all in it (Amos 5:18).
As Christians, we should rejoice in the unspeakable joy and glory that awaits the people of God in the Day of the Lord and share that joy with others so they may join on that day.
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Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon.