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Day of the Lord

Holman Bible Dictionary

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The time when God reveals His sovereignty over human powers and human existence. The day of the Lord rests on the Hebrew term, yom , “day,” the fifth most frequent noun used in the Old Testament and one used with a variety of meanings: time of daylight from sunrise to sunset (Genesis 1:14; Genesis 3:8; Genesis 8:22; Amos 5:8 ); 24 -hour period (Genesis 1:5; Numbers 7:12 ,Numbers 7:12,7:18; Haggai 1:15 ); a general expression for “time” without specific limits (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 102:3; Isaiah 7:17 ); the period of a specific event (Isaiah 9:3; Jeremiah 32:31; Ezekiel 1:28 ). The “day of the Lord” then does not give a precise time period. It may mean either the daylight hours, the 24-hour day, or a general time period, perhaps characterized by a special event. Zechariah 14:7 even points to a time when all time is daylight, night with its darkness having vanished.

“Day of the Lord” does not in itself designate the time perspective of the event, whether it is past, present, or future. Lamentations 2:2 can speak of the “day of the Lord's anger” in past tense, describing the fall of Jerusalem. Joel 1:15 could describe a present disaster as the “day of the Lord.”

The Old Testament prophets used a term familiar to their audience, a term by which the audience expected light and salvation (Amos 5:18 ), but the prophets painted it as a day of darkness and judgment (Isaiah 2:10-22; Isaiah 13:6 ,Isaiah 13:6,13:9; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-11 ,Joel 2:1-11,2:31; Joel 3:14-15; Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:7-8 ,Zephaniah 1:7-8,1:14-18; Malachi 4:5 ). The Old Testament language of the day of the Lord is thus aimed at warning sinners among God's people of the danger of trust in traditional religion without commitment to God and to His way of life. It is language that could be aimed at judging Israel or that could be used to promise deliverance from evil enemies (Isaiah 13:6 ,Isaiah 13:6,13:9; Ezekiel 30:3; Obadiah 1:15 ). The day of the Lord is thus a point in time in which God displays His sovereign initiative to reveal His control of history, of time, of His people, and of all people.

New Testament writers took up the Old Testament expression to point to Christ's final victory and the final judgment of sinners. In so doing, they used several different expressions: “day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ,Philippians 1:6,1:10 ), “day of our Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 5:5 ); “day of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:2 ); “day of Christ” (Philippians 2:16 ); “day of judgment” (1 John 4:17 ); “the day” (1 Thessalonians 5:4 ); “that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 ); “day of wrath” (Romans 2:5 ).

People who take a dispensational perspective on Scripture often seek to interpret each of the terms differently, so that the “day of Christ” is a day of blessing equated with the rapture, whereas the day of God is an inclusive term for all the events of end time (2 Peter 3:12 ). See Dispensations. In this view the day of the Lord includes the great tribulation, the following judgment on the nations, and the time of worldwide blessing under the rule of the Messiah.

Many Bible students who do not take a dispensational viewpoint interpret the several expressions in the New Testament to refer to one major event: the end time when Christ returns for the final judgment and establishes His eternal kingdom.

Whichever interpretation one makes of specific details, the day of the Lord points to the promise that God's eternal sovereignty over all creation and all nations will one day become crystal clear to all creatures.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Day of the Lord'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​d/day-of-the-lord.html. 1991.
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