The mysterious “Day of the Lord” is mentioned throughout the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments and the writings of the Apostles. Learn to understand the meanings of this prophetic “day”—the Bible explains it clearly to those who believe the true teachings of Jesus Christ!
There is a vital prophetic milestone in your Bible, recorded in more than 30 prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. It is central to our understanding of the troubled times immediately before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, yet the vast majority of professing Christians have misunderstood it completely.
This mysterious event is called the Day of the Lord, and it will affect everyone on planet Earth. It will be a time of war, disease, famine, and widespread death—on a scale unlike anything our world has yet seen. And yet, as devastating as the Day of the Lord will be, it will be a sign that the greatest event in world history, the return of Jesus Christ, is near.
So, what exactly is the Day of the Lord? How has it been misunderstood? And how will it affect you and your loved ones? A careful study of your Bible and its prophecies reveals the amazing truth.
Near the end of the first century AD, the Apostle John wrote a detailed and complex book of prophecy. Some Bibles label it “The Revelation of Saint John the Divine,” but in fact, it is not John’s revelation—it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1).
In the first chapter of his book, John writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10). This simple statement has been the source of great confusion. Typical readers—professing Christians who attend their worship services on Sundays—may assume that John was mentioning that day of the week.
But this is a great misunderstanding. We know from John’s own writings that when he meant to talk about Sunday, he called it the “first day of the week,” as he did in his own gospel (John 20:1, 19). John knew that Jesus called Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath, of course, is the seventh day of the week. Rather than referring to a day of the week, by “Lord’s Day” John was describing the theme of his whole book of Revelation—a time known as the prophetic Day of the Lord, which will culminate in Jesus Christ’s return as King of kings and Lord of lords!
When we read through the exciting and terrible events of Revelation, we may wonder, How can all of this happen in a day? Indeed, the word day here does not mean a 24-hour period, one revolution of our planet on its axis. It is used in the sense of a longer period of time, like an age or era.
So, how long will this prophesied “day” of the Lord last? Many Bible students are familiar with the prophetic principle of a year for a day. After Joshua’s twelve spies searched out the Promised Land and ten came back with false reports, God told the Israelites, “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection” (Numbers 14:34).
Another example of this day-for-a-year principle is found in the book of Isaiah. We read that “it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8). Yes, the book of Revelation has as its theme the Day of the Lord, an event-packed year during which God will pour out judgment on the rebellious peoples of planet Earth!
Beginning with the Great Tribulation, dramatic events will come to pass on the earth. The Apostle John depicts them in Revelation as the unveiling of seven mysterious seals. In his vision, John “saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it” (Revelation 5:2–3).
Of course, only Jesus Christ was worthy to open the scroll and reveal its seven seals. The first four of those seals are often described as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which we read about in Matthew 24, where the same sequence of end-time events is described through Jesus’ prophetic words spoken on the Mount of Olives.
The first seal represents false christs and false religions claiming to be Christ’s (Revelation 6:2). The second seal reveals a horseman on a red horse, with the power to take peace away from the earth (v. 4). The third seal presents a rider on a black horse, representing worldwide famine (vv. 5–6). The fourth seal reveals a rider on a pale horse, named Death and Hades. As the four horsemen ride, they are poised to kill a fourth of the world’s population (v. 8).
Then 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 is described 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 foretells that another major persecution of saints will occur in the end time.
When Jesus opens the sixth seal, He reveals the heavenly signs that will shock people all around the earth: “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).
Almighty God will get the attention of rebellious humans through violent earthquakes and shocking heavenly signs. The Creator God tells us, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hebrews 12:26).
These cosmic disturbances and earthquakes introduce the day of judgment on all nations. Jesus Christ will judge the nations during the Day of the Lord, the time when Almighty God will intervene powerfully in world affairs as never before. He will deliver judgment on rebellious nations, and He will even let those nations actively attempt to destroy one another in world conflict before they gather to oppose the returning Jesus Christ. The seventh seal of Revelation reveals the year-long Day of the Lord—the seven trumpet plagues and the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16–17).
The Old Testament prophet Joel has a warning 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).
John’s vision was announced with a trumpet, and Joel here describes the sound of a trumpet announcing the Day of the Lord. He warns us of a time of terrible destruction, unique in all of history—in modern terms we might call it a “scorched earth policy,” as everything will be left desolate. “A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:3).
Joel also gives us his description of the same heavenly signs John reveals in the book of Revelation: “And I will show 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 coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30–31). In the coming Day of the Lord, our world will see incredible disruptions in the heavens, as well as devastation of the earth’s surface. “The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The Lord gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:10–11).
Notice that God calls this His army! Almighty God will intervene in human affairs in a dramatic way. Major wars—world war, in fact—will bring incredible suffering to humanity while God pours out His judgment on the nations.
And not only will there be destruction from military weapons; there will also be incredible ecological devastation! When God brings punishments upon rebellious nations during the coming Day of the Lord, He’ll call upon those nations to humble themselves and repent! A few individuals will, but many will continue in their hardened rebellion against God and His word.
Dear reader, you do not need to wait until then to repent. As conditions worsen on the world scene, leading to the intense year-long suffering of the Day of the Lord, each of us needs to pray fervently and cry out to God. We need to be sure that we are on God’s side! God’s most faithful people who are alive when this happens will be protected, kept safe (Revelation 12:14–17). Those will be the people who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). Will you be one of those people?
We have seen that the Day of the Lord is an intense year of end-time prophecy being fulfilled. But where does it fit in the overall time frame of end-time prophecy? We need to recognize that there are three major periods of time described at the end of this present age. They are, in order, the Great Tribulation, the heavenly signs, and the Day of the Lord.
What does Scripture tell us about these times? Jesus spoke of the coming climax of this age: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21–22).
This unique time in all history, the Great Tribulation, is also called the time of Jacob’s trouble: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7). As regular readers of Tomorrow’s World know, Jacob—whose name was later changed to Israel—became the patriarch of the twelve tribes of Israel. These include not only the tribe of Judah, today’s Jewish people, but also the tribes that became known as the ten “lost” tribes, which today are found primarily in northwestern Europe and among the English-speaking peoples of the United States and the British-descended nations. Joel’s prophecy is a prophecy for all of modern-day Israel!
After the Great Tribulation, the world will see the “heavenly signs” we have previously described. Notice how Jesus described this time: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29).
Following the heavenly signs, the Day of the Lord is the third time period in this sequence, the year immediately preceding Jesus’ return to planet Earth. Joel describes the sequence as follows: “And I will show 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 coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30–31).
Revelation describes seven “trumpet plagues” being unleashed during the Day of the Lord, the year-long period pictured by the seventh seal. John describes its beginning: “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).
Each of these trumpets will announce a plague or judgment delivered to the rebellious peoples of the earth! As we read through Revelation 8, we see that as the first four angels sound their trumpets there will be great ecological devastation all over the earth. There will be earthquakes; vast areas of vegetation will be burned up; a third of all sea life will die; water sources will be poisoned; and the heavens will be darkened.
The final 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).
The first woe—the fifth trumpet plague—is described in Revelation 9 as the fifth angel sounds a trumpet announcing a five-month-long military campaign. The second woe—the sixth trumpet plague—pictures an intense military counterattack: “One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things. Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:12–14). At this key moment of history, a 200-million man army will proceed to the west across the Euphrates River—and will destroy an entire third of the earth’s population! This phase of the end-time World War III will kill literally billions of human beings. As Jesus said, unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved—if not for God’s intervention, all life on earth would be destroyed.
Finally, we read of the seventh trumpet. For Christians, the sounding of the seventh trumpet is good news, because it announces the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and the return of Jesus Christ. We all need to be preparing for that time! We read, “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). This is the good news we all look forward to hearing—the moment when faithful Christians of this present age will be raised from the dead and born into God’s Family as His literal sons and daughters, assisting the returned Christ in ruling planet Earth during the prophesied Millennium (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
But that is not all. While Christians rejoice at the return of their Savior, the prophesied King of kings, we must remember that this seventh trumpet is also the announcement of the third woe. For those who continue to fight against the returned Christ, terrible judgment still awaits, as the seventh trumpet also announces the seven last plagues, described in Revelation 16. They include plagues of painful sores on those who have worshiped the beast power and its image. They include even more poisonous rivers and seas, to the extent that “every living creature in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3). The sun will become still hotter, resulting in extreme heat waves that torment those who will not repent of their sins!
Then will come a final, climactic battle between the forces of rebellion and the returned Jesus Christ. In northern Israel, on the plain of Jezreel, will be gathered massive military power and might. These armies will come together to fight against the Commander of Heaven’s armies, Jesus Christ.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11–16).
When Christ returns to this earth, He will conquer all His enemies, including the nations and their powerful armies that fight against Him at His coming. The Day of the Lord will bring God’s judgment on the nations and set the world stage for Jesus Christ’s return. So our Lord Himself commands us, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
In one sense, the Day of the Lord is, as we’ve seen, the year preceding the return of Christ. But in another sense, it continues through the Millennium and on to eternity. It is a time of woe for God’s enemies, but a time of joy for His people.
God in His great love for us has revealed the future to His servants. John writes the following in your Bible’s final chapter:
Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:6–7).
We must be alert to the Day of the Lord, a sobering time that will bring judgment on the nations and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Beyond that lies tomorrow’s world, a wonderful time with beauty, prosperity, and restoration under the rulership of the King of kings. May God speed that day!