Prophetic fulfillment is often a strange and puzzling thing. The word of God can be partially fulfilled on more than one occasion leading up to the final fulfillment. Sometimes we see prophecy related to the partial and final fulfillments woven tightly together as in Matthew 24. In this chapter it is almost impossible to separate events relating to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, with events concerning the end of the age. Both are in fact “Days of the Lord.”* Thus we can see that the Day of the Lord was coming in Isaiah’s day and also in Jesus’ day. It was partially fulfilled at least two times, in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the Romans in AD 70.
Backer’s painting of the Last Judgment
God’s day is still coming. Man’s day, on the other hand, is just about finished. He has done what he pleased; he has mocked God; defied his laws and polluted God’s creation. Satan’s day is also coming to an end. He knows that he has but a short time left (Rev. 12:12). For several thousand years he has claimed to be the “prince of this world,” but his authority is about finished. At various times in history God has broken in on man’s day and Satan’s day with events reminiscent of the coming Day of the Lord. Yet, the final day remains in the future. Dear friends, the final Day of the Lord is surely coming!
There seems to be no good reason for us to separate the concepts of “the Day of the Lord,” “the Day of Christ,” “the Day,” and “that Day” as they are used in scripture. All these speak of the same event. The entire book of Revelation likewise speaks in detail of this day. It is sometimes confusing because we are attempting to peek into a time frame that is partially hidden from us. In other words: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” ( 1 Cor. 13:12). It is much like a prehistoric man trying to glimpse the wonders of the electronic age in which we now live. It simply was not revealed to him. Electronic wonders for him were limited to occasional flashes of lightning.
A DAY OF JUDGMENT
There are two clear aspects to the day of the Lord.* The first one, which is most obvious in the Old Testament, is the aspect of judgment upon the wicked. Apparently in Old Testament times some wicked folks were desiring the Day of the Lord in order that they might escape from all their problems. The prophet reminded them of this judgment aspect, saying: “Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light” (Amos 5:18).
The prophets see that the Day of the Lord will bring down the proud and lofty. Isaiah says “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11). It is a day of disaster and destruction upon the ungodly (Isa. 13:6). We see this also pictured in Revelation 6:17: “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” God will shake the earth terribly (Isa. 2:19). As is said in Job 38:13, God’s plan is to shake the wicked out of the earth. Then the people will cast their idols of gold and silver to the moles and bats (Isa. 2:20). Earth’s great and mighty ones will cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15). The cry of that day will be bitter (Zep. 1:14). Wicked hearts will faint as they are seized with terror (Isa. 13:7-8). The heavenly bodies will no longer give their light (Isa. 13:10-13). A devouring fire will break out on the earth as the Lord comes.
In Malachi 4:1 the prophet says: “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them’” (Mal. 4:1).
A DAY OF BLESSING
While the day of the Lord will be an unmitigated disaster for the ungodly, we see that it will be a day of blessing for the righteous. The prophet Malachi also says that the righteous will go forth leaping like calves released from a stall. In Malachi 4:3 he says: “Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things…”
We who love and serve the Lord will actually be able to lift up our heads as the Day of the Lord approaches (Lk. 21:28). We will have great confidence and boldness in that day (2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Jn. 4:17). After all, when Jesus appears we will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4), and be like him (1 Jn. 3:2-3). In 2 Thessalonians 1:10, we see that he will come “…to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who
On that blessed day, Jesus will come with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13). Even those who sleep in Jesus will be brought in that great triumphal procession. For the saints of the Lord, the Day of the Lord has nothing for us to fear. It is a day of blessing and glory.
PREPARATION FOR THAT DAY
Thus we see Gods people will be involved in the final Day of the Lord as they have also been involved in every preceding Day of the Lord. After the disasters of that day, God’s people will stand. In Proverbs 10:25 we read: “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” In verse 29 we also read: “The way of the LORD is a refuge for the righteous, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.”
How can we prepare for the Day of the Lord that we ourselves might stand? We need to make sure our faith is not misplaced and that it is very strong. In Philippians 1:6 the Apostle says: “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” In 2 Timothy 1:12, the Apostle Paul states with confidence: “…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
We need not despair at trials and difficulties that may come upon us in the meantime. In 1 Peter 1:7 the apostle tells us: “These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
We must be very careful about deception regarding the Day of the Lord and the period leading up to it. Jesus sternly warns us on several occasions about being deceived. We are promised that the period leading up to this day will abound with false prophets (Matt. 24:4-5, 11). They will gently lead God’s people astray with fanciful tales and fables of the end days. They will cause them to relax and be unprepared for the day. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, we are told that those who refuse to believe the truth will be sent a powerful delusion that they should believe a lie. In 2 Peter 3:17 the Bible warns: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”
Obviously, those who do not love the truth will not be saved. The “belt of truth” is the first item we must put on in the last-day armor. If it is weak, the sword will fall off and perhaps the trousers with it, leaving us undone in the day of battle. The Bible tells us to buy the truth and to not sell it (Prov. 23:23). We will have many opportunities to sell out cheaply. As we see, truth in the end day will become a very precious commodity.
The fervent desire of the early Christians was that they would be kept strong to the end and be found blameless in the Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:8). This reflects the Lord’s own teaching that only “… he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13). To this purpose, it is God’s plan to seal his servants in their foreheads (Rev. 7:3). This is likely a picture of a mind totally protected by the Spirit against all influences of the final evil age. We know in the end-days that there will be a great falling away from God and at last, the Lawless One will himself appear. We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:3: “…that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…”
In spite of all the evil influences of the last day, Daniel saw a people there who would be strong and do mighty works for God (Dan. 11:32). In Ephesians 6:13-18, Paul gives some very urgent and practical advice to the Lord’s soldiers who will face the last day. Paul speaks in Greek, not about “some day,” but specifically about “THE DAY.” He says:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
* “The Biblical Concept of the Day of The Lord,” Renald Showers, faculty member at the Institute of Biblical
Photo Credit: Backer’s painting of the Last Judgment, Wikimedia Commons.