What shall it be like when the Almighty decides to visit? Is it desirous that He should do so? Essentially, it depends on one’s obedience to Him in His “absence.” For those who have remained righteous, the Day of His visitation will be one of blessing. For the wicked, however, the Day of the Lord will bring judgment, destruction, and terror. The prophets in the Old Testament speak regularly about this visit, building upon a concept introduced in Exodus 32.34. Here, the Lord reveals to Moses His decision to return in judgment of sin at an undisclosed future time. This is the “Day of the Lord” which gradually becomes more vivid in the progress of revelation, especially in the writing prophets.
It should be pointed out, however, that no one prophet discusses the Day of the Lord in such a way as to draw out all its implications. This makes it helpful (and necessary) to study all the prophets, collecting different angles on the concept as portrayed by each and compiling these together toward a biblical theology of the Day of the Lord. Furthermore, not every writing prophet even discusses the concept. The Day of the Lord as understood by the Hebrews and expressed in the prophets is a multifaceted concept. Five aspects of the Day of the Lord nearness, judgment, terror, call to repentance, and restoration may be readily drawn from a study of the texts in which the phrase occurs.
Nearness of the Day of the Lord
This prominent theme appears clearly in Obadiah 15, Joel 1.15 & 3.14, Isaiah 13.6, Zephaniah 1.14, and Ezekiel 30.3. The term “near,” however, carries a two-fold nuance. First, and perhaps most obvious, is the temporal nearness of the Day of the Lord. That is, it is exclusively future, and the emphasis is on the immanency of its arrival. This is clearly seen in Isaiah 13, with phrases like “the Day of the Lord is coming.” Concerning this passage, Young summarizes the nearness aspect of the Lord’s wrathful appearance as “sudden and irresistible.” This impending future nuance is also present in Joel 1.15 where, according to Cooke, “the Day is used in a pregnant sense, of the coming punishment of the heathen.”
Beyond the exclusively future nuance of the “nearness” aspect of the Day of the Lord is the present (or realized) nearness. That is, the Day is near in a physical, or locative, sense; so near, in fact, that it is already being felt. This is so in Joel 1.16-20, where present famine-like conditions are said to indicate the nearness of the Day of the Lord. Smith agrees, calling the locust plague in Joel “a precursor of the day of the Lord.”5 This “realized” Day of the Lord as a partially-present condition is also seen in Ezekiel 7.7 with the juxtaposition, “The time has come, the day is near.” Concerning this context, Smith paraphrases Ezekiel, “It is near! It is now, not in the distant future!” The nearness of the Day of the Lord, then, often carries the dual nuance of immanent future and present reality.
Judgment in the Day of the Lord
Drawing on the justice and holiness of Yahweh, this concept is particularly seen in Obadiah 15, Joel 1.15 & 2.31, Isaiah 2.11 & 13.6, Jeremiah 46.10, Amos 5.20, Zephaniah 1.7ff, Ezekiel 13.5 & 30.3, and Malachi 4.1. Perhaps no term characterizes the notorious Day of the Lord as the word “judgment.” In this vein is Hill and Walton’s comment, “In the Day of the Lord, justice is done. This is a positive time for victims, but a day of reckoning for oppressors.” Allusions and foreshadowing of the great judgment of Yahweh are sprinkled throughout the Old Testament, but its fullest and most comprehensive expression is saved for this Day. The picture of clouds (Ezekiel 30.3; Zephaniah 1.15) and fire (Isaiah 10.16; Zephaniah 1.18; Amos 1.3; Jeremiah 21.14; Ezekiel 21.1-4) in describing the judgment of God is common in the prophets. Furthermore, notice should be taken of the names of God in the discourses pertaining to His judgment. For instance, in Isaiah 2.12, Jeremiah 46.10, and Malachi 4.1 the military term “Lord of hosts” is used, while Joel 1.15 records “Almighty,” an expression of omnipotence. These indicate that He is not only worthy to judge wickedness (as the Holy One) but is also fully capable of carrying out the task.
Terror in the Day of the Lord
The natural response to a vengeful God preparing to carry out His righteous judgment is terror and dread, seen especially in Isaiah 2.19.21 & 13.7-9, Zephaniah 1.14-15, and Joel 3.16. The greatness of the wrath of God to be poured out on men in the Day of the Lord is highlighted by the prophets in eliciting just such emotions in their hearers. The judgment poured out on Babylon in Isaiah 13 draws out terror which foreshadows that of the final judgment. It involved “convulsing agitation and desperate perplexity” and writhing “in bitter pain like the mother that is bearing her child.” Such terrible wrath will be poured out that even the stars of heaven will withhold light. The heavens and earth will tremble, according to Joel. “Man has had his day…. Now, Yahweh is to have His day.” This persuades men to—in the words of Isaiah—hide from “the terror of the LORD” (2.10, 19, 21).
Repentance in light of the Day of the Lord
This theme is closely linked with that of terror, for the prophets often hoped to instill enough terror in their hearers by discussing the Day of the Lord that the nation would repent and avoid this Day of destruction. A call to repentance is found especially in Zephaniah 2.2-3. Reminiscent of Micah 6.8, this passage calls the hearers to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility,” thereby offering the hope of escaping the terrible Day of the Lord. In the words of Smith, “He offered them a choice: experience the wrath of God on the day of the Lord or seek God and transform your lives before the day of the Lord. Those who will humble themselves, seek God’s mercy, and pursue righteousness will enjoy the pleasures of the glorious kingdom of God.” Similarly, in Joel 2.12-17 there is a call to lament and so avoid the coming wrath of the Day of the Lord. The reality of the wrath of God in the Day of the Lord must, then, be predicated always in light of His indescribable patience and lovingkindness.
Restoration in the Day of the Lord
Along with the nearness, judgment, terror, and call for repentance in light of the Day of the Lord exists language of great blessing and rebuilding initiated by that same hand of God. This aspect of the Day of the Lord, known as restoration, is seen especially in Joel 1.15, Amos 9.11-15, Hosea 2.18-23, Micah 4.6-8, and Malachi 4.5. In commenting on the implied hope of restoration in Malachi 4.5, Smith states “On the Day of the Lord, God will dwell in Zion, roar against His enemies, and give the land back to His people.” This concept of victory and restoration is seen clearly in Obadiah, where he “bolstered future hope among the remnant of Jacob in affirming the final triumph of Yahweh in the world order.” Most certainly, these prophets understood a logical and temporal order to these two events of judgment and restoration in the Day of the Lord. First, the Lord had to surface and purify His people with a judgment of fire. After this—and only after—He would restore His people to a position of honor higher than before. The hearers of these prophecies of judgment and destruction accompanying the Day of the Lord, then, only properly respond to these warnings when they shake with terror and fully repent. After this, it is wholly appropriate to express hope in the immanent visit of the Almighty.
IN ACTS 1&2 THEY WERE WAITING FOR A KINGDOM
In the beginning of the book of Acts, the Jewish followers of Jesus, with not a gentile among them, had no ‘hope of heaven’ and were not waiting for ‘the bridegroom’ as Christians do today. What were they waiting for? They were waiting for a King to bring about the Kingdom as the Old Testament prophets has foretold.
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 (KJV).
That “kingdom” is an eternal nation of Israel in literal, physical and visible form. The Bible calls this the ‘kingdom of heaven”. Peter, James, John and all the rest had no clue about the Rapture of the Church, or even about the mystery of the church itself. This would not be revealed until the apostle Paul was commissioned.
“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;” Ephesians 3:3-5 (KJV).
So, when you read in the first couple of chapters of Acts about Joel’s prophecy coming true for the Jewish believers, this was possible because it was not the Church Age as we know it after Paul. It was the Kingdom Age where walking by faith alone was not required. The Kingdom Age is a different dispensation than the Church Age is. The Kingdom Age has signs and wonders, the Church Age does not.
JOEL’S PROPHECY STARTED TO COME TRUE BUT NEVER FINISHED
Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and boldly declared that the amazing spectacle that was unfolding was not caused by alcohol but was the promised fulfillment of Joel’s chapter 2 prophecy of the Second Coming.
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” Acts 2:15-17 (KJV).
This is what all the ‘signs and wonders’ crowd today in 2018 want to use as their ‘proof text’ to try and prove that Jesus is appearing to people in dreams and all the rest of that junk. But the Bible will not support their claims and here’s why. When you keep reading in Joel 2 you see something else that is part and parcel of his prophecy, and it’s a doozy.
“And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” Joel 2:30,31 (KJV).
Hmm, now when did all that happen? Answer? Not yet. But it will happen at the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Why didn’t it happen when Peter preached it coming true? Because when the Jews rejected the preaching of the Holy Spirit through Stephen in Acts 7, Jesus who was getting ready to come back, sat by down and hit the ‘pause button” on the Kingdom Age.
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:54-56 (KJV).
In Acts 8 we see the first gentile get saved, and in Acts 9 Saul becomes Paul and now we have the start of the Church Age. So, if you are looking to see the fulfillment of “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” I hate to break it to you, but you can only see that if you miss the Rapture and wind up in the time of Jacob’s trouble. Then you will see Joel’s prophecy come true in all it’s terrible and wonderful majesty.
Hopefully, if you know how to rightly divide your Bible, you can see why it is simply not possible to take the Second Coming prophecies of Joel 2 and 3 and try to place them on the Church. Joel’s prophecies can only come true in the Kingdom Age, Christians are not given signs, wonders, dreams and vision. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, access to the Throne of Grace, a completed Bible, and the command to ‘walk by faith’. Jewish believers had none of those things in Acts 2, hence the need to dreams and visions.
When you don’t rightly divide your Bible, then you wind up trying to place Kingdom Age doctrine on born again believers in the Church Age and fall into a mess. Signs and wonders, aside from not being for Christians in the Church Age, are the main tool that the Antichrist will use in the time of Jacob’s trouble. Did you know that?
“And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” Revelation 13:13,14 (KJV)
In many of the prophetic texts addressing the Day of the Lord, it is clear that the Day can be a time of unprecedented destruction or of overwhelming blessing contingent on one’s obedience to Yahweh. According to Obadiah, it is upon those who treat others unfairly that destruction will come. In Isaiah, judgment falls on the proud one. In Amos, however, the Day of the Lord is to be longed for by the righteous, though there will be great darkness for the wicked. The message of the Day of the Lord, then, is that it’s coming is inevitable. Its harshness, though, is directly related to our disobedience to Yahweh: The greater the disobedience, the greater the destruction; the greater the righteousness, the greater the blessing.