Study of Important Biblical Distinctions - 11 - THE DAY OF THE LORD

A Study of Important Biblical Distinctions
By William MacDonald




By now we should have developed some appreciation of the importance of making proper distinctions as we study the Sacred Scriptures.  When we come to the study of future events, we will have a headstart in understanding them if we are able to distinguish the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, and the Day of God.

The Day of the Lord

    It is certainly not a day of twenty-four hours, but a period of time with certain characteristics.
    In the Old Testament "the Day of the Lord" was used to describe any time of judgment, desolation, and darkness (Isa. 2:12; Joel 2:1, 2).  It was a time when God marched forth against the enemies of Israel and punished them decisively (Zeph. 3:8-12; Joel 3:14-16; Obad. 15, 16; Zech. 12:8, 9).  It was also any occasion on which God punished His own people for their idolatry and backsliding (Joel 1:15-20; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1:7-18).  The Day of the Lord spoke basically of judgment on sin and of victory for the cause of the Lord (Joel 2:3 1, 32).
    In the New Testament, the Day of the Lord covers approximately the same period as "the times and the seasons" (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1).  It begins after the Rapture and includes

  1. The Tribulation or, as it is also called, the time of Jacob's trouble (Dan. 9:27; Jer. 30:7; Matt. 24:4-28; 1 Thess. 5: 1-11; 2 Thess. 2:2 ASV; Rev. 6:1-19:16).  This is the first phase of the Day of the Lord.  It will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  It will also come deceptively, suddenly, destructively, inevitably, and inescapably.  It is a period of approximately seven years during which God will pour out His judgments on apostate Judaism, apostate Christendom, and the Gentile nations.  These judgments of ever-increasing intensity are pictured in Revelation under the symbols of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.  The last half of the Tribulation is known as the Great Tribulation; it will be the worst time of trouble that the world has ever experienced or will ever experience.
  2. The Coming of Christ with His saints (Mal. 4:1-3; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).  At the end of the Tribulation Period the Lord Jesus will return to earth with His mighty angels "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel." He will destroy all His enemies before He sets up His kingdom on earth.
  3. The thousand-year reign of Christ.  This is included in the day of the Lord (Joel 3:18, cp. v. 14; Zech. 14:8, 9, cp. v. 1).  It will be a time of instant judgment for anyone who rises in rebellion against the Lord (Isa. 65:17-25).  The King will rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15).
  4. The final destruction of the heavens and earth by fire (2 Pet. 3:7, 10).  At the conclusion of Christ's millennial reign, the heavens and the earth will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat.  This is the final phase of the Day of the Lord.

The Day of Christ

    Whereas the Day of the Lord is a time of judgment on a world that has rejected God's Son, the Day of Christ is a time of blessing for those who have trusted Him and who are thus members of His Church.  There are two main features of the Day of Christ.

  1. The Rapture of the saints (1 Cor. 5:5; Phil. 1:6, 10).  The dead in Christ will be raised.  Living believers will be changed.  Together they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and to return with Him to the Father's house in heaven.
  2. The Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 2:16).  Believers will appear before the Bema-the judgment seat-for review and reward.  It will not be a question of their salvation but of their service.  Rewards will be given for all that meets Christ's approval.  Those who have wasted their lives will suffer loss, but they themselves will be saved, though "as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15).

    Through an unfortunate translation in the King James Version, "the Day of Christ" appears in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, whereas it should be "the Day of the Lord." Because of the intense trial which they were experiencing, the Thessalonian believers thought the judgments of the Day of the Lord had already begun.  Paul assures them that two events will precede the inauguration of the Day of the Lord-a worldwide falling away from the faith, and the revelation of the Man of Sin-the Antichrist.
    The Thessalonians would have had no reason to fear the coming of the Day of Christ.  For them that would have meant deliverance from trial forever.

The Day of God

    The Day of God is not to be confused with the Day of the Lord or the Day of Christ.  It is the day of God's final triumph.  It will take place after all evil has been forever put down, and after the heavens and the earth have been destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:12).  For all practical purposes, the Day of God is the same as the eternal state.