Scripture tells of a time at the end of this age when God will strike down rebellious mankind to prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.
A major prophetic event looms on the horizon. The great prophets of the Bible, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel wrote about it. The so-called Minor Prophets—Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah and Malachi—also emphasized this event. Even the Apostles Peter and Paul wrote about it. It is called the Day of the Lord. But just what is it? And how does it fit into the framework of Bible prophecy?
The book of Joel contains a prophecy for our generation: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand: a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations” (Joel 2:1–2).
Almighty God will intervene in human affairs in a dramatic way. There will be major wars during this time when God executes judgment on the nations. Not only will military weapons bring destruction; there will also be vast ecological devastation. “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4).
Even today, locust invasions are not unheard of. In July 1874, the prairie region of the United States experienced the largest locust infestation in recorded history. An estimated 198,000 square miles of land—an area nearly twice that of the state of Colorado, and larger than Germany, Iraq or Japan—was shrouded by 12.5 trillion locusts that devoured crops, foliage, leather fabric and more. The thick layer of dead insects became so troublesome that even railroad traffic was stopped as tracks had to be cleared.
Earlier this year, the island nation of Madagascar found itself battling a locust infestation that threatened two-thirds of the nation’s land mass. Experts have identified at least 100 locust swarms across the island, consisting of about 500 billion ravenous insects that eat about 100,000 tons of vegetation daily. The nation’s livelihood is threatened, yet this is a minor disturbance when compared to the future plagues that will make today’s seem minor by comparison.
When God brings punishments upon rebellious nations, He will call upon them to humble themselves and repent! Of course, you and I need not wait until then: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty” (Joel 1:14–15).
The Day of the Lord is the time of God’s judgment on the nations. It is the time when Almighty God will begin to intervene more directly and powerfully in mankind’s affairs.
In Revelation 5, we read of a scroll sealed with seven seals. Jesus, the Revelator, opens those seals, as described in Revelation 6. The first four seals are known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first horse (the white horse) and its rider represent false religions—false Christs.
The second seal reveals a horseman (riding a red horse) with the power to take peace from the earth. The third seal presents a rider (on a black horse) representing the scarcity of food and resulting famine. The fourth seal shows a rider (on a pale horse) named “Death and Hades.” These riders’ combined power will bring destruction to one-fourth of the earth.
This description parallels the events Jesus outlined in His Olivet Prophecy: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7).
The trumpet plagues described in the book of Revelation are waiting for us on the horizon. And we are laying the foundation for our own destruction. As Jesus said, “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
The Day of the Lord is a coming time of God’s powerful intervention in world affairs. God will even stir the elements of nature to bring great destruction as He calls on carnal human beings to repent and seek Him. He will judge rebellious nations, even letting them destroy one another in world conflict.
Critics say we have always had war, famine and pestilence. But we will see the four horsemen of the Apocalypse intensify their ride with increasing global impact as time goes on. These four horsemen are revealed as Christ opens the first four seals. What happens when Christ opens the fifth seal? “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9).
Here we read of the martyrdom of the saints—true Christians. In the first century, the Emperor Nero violently persecuted Christians and put them to death. This fifth seal also predicts a major end-time persecution of God’s people. Then Jesus opens the sixth seal, revealing the heavenly signs that will shock people all over the earth.
John wrote: “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).
Not only will asteroids and meteorites frighten people, but massive earthquakes will also shake the earth. As the Apostle John saw in vision, “every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” Almighty God will get the attention of rebellious humanity through these earthquakes and heavenly signs. The Creator God tells us, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hebrews 12:26).
Obviously, it would be better for all of us to repent and humble ourselves before God now, rather than having to be shaken for our rejection of the Creator and His way of life! Yes, the great men of the earth will flee in terror. The Apostle John recorded their fearful response: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:16–17).
To use the vernacular, God will “get our attention!” The heavenly signs will terrify people. The great leaders of the earth will be frightened.
The heavenly signs introduce the Day of the Lord, the time of God’s wrath and judgment on an unthankful, rebellious world. Jesus Christ, the Lamb, will be wrathful. He will execute God’s righteous judgments. The Day of the Lord is called, here, “the great Day of His wrath!” (v. 17)
Just how long is this “Day” of the Lamb’s wrath? As many Bible students know, prophecy often uses a day to indicate a year. The Day of the Lord, in one sense, is the year preceding the return of Christ! Isaiah made this plain. “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8).
The environmental and political problems symbolized by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will continue to intensify. There will be wholesale religious persecution, as revealed through the fifth seal of Revelation. The sixth seal, the heavenly signs, will awaken the world to the beginning of the Day of the Lord—the seventh seal!
The seventh seal lasts approximately one year and it consists of seven trumpet plagues. As John described: “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1–2). The trumpets give us warning—they announce seven plagues or judgments!
Notice in Revelation 8 that as the first four angels sound their trumpets there is great ecological devastation all over the earth. There are earthquakes. Vast areas of vegetation are burned up. A third of all sea life dies. Water sources are poisoned. The heavens are darkened.
The last three trumpet plagues are called woes. The word “woe” is an exclamation of grief! “And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” (Revelation 8:13).
Revelation 9 describes the first woe, or the fifth trumpet plague. This “plague” is a devastating military action lasting for five months. The second woe, the sixth trumpet plague, pictures an intense military counter-attack from the east, by a 200 million-man army that will kill one-third of the world’s population. This phase of World War III will kill billions of people! Yes, Jesus said that unless those days were shortened no flesh would be saved—otherwise, all life on earth would be destroyed.
Next we hear the sound of the seventh trumpet. For Christians, the sounding of the seventh trumpet is good news, because it announces the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. We all need to be preparing for that time! “Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). What wonderful news!
But the seventh trumpet is also called the third woe! Why? Because it will also signal the final seven plagues. This will be an intense fulfillment of the day of God’s wrath. “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1).
You can read the description of these plagues in Revelation 16. They include plagues of painful sores on those who have worshiped the Beast power and its image. They include even greater poisoning of rivers and seas to the extent that “every living creature in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3). The sun will become hotter—resulting in extreme heat waves tormenting those who will not repent of their sins!
Finally, when Christ returns to this earth, He will judge and conquer all His enemies. These are the enemies of peace. These are the enemies of Christ—and these powerful armies are influenced by fallen angels or demons (cf. Revelation 16:14).
This year-long period called the Day of the Lord ends with the announcement that Christ is taking over all the kingdoms and governments of this world! That is the good news we all look forward to hearing!
Jesus Christ will be victorious over the world’s armies! They will foolishly choose to fight Him at His coming, but Christ Himself, the King of kings, will prevent humanity from destroying itself! Jesus Christ will save the world from destruction and will bring our planet peace and restoration for a thousand years! We all look forward to hearing that seventh trumpet sound, because it will announce the coming Kingdom of God on Earth.
In one sense, the Day of the Lord is the year preceding the return of Christ. In another sense, it continues on through the millennium and on out to eternity.
The Apostle Peter described it this way: “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10–13).
Peter exhorted Christians to be in a spiritual state of readiness. We must be alert to the Day of the Lord, a sobering period of judgment on the nations. Beyond that lies tomorrow’s world, a wonderful millennium with beauty, prosperity and restoration under the rulership of Christ. May God speed that day! And may you and I be ready for it!