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What is the "Day of the Lord"?

Many believe that the Day of the Lord is a time of darkness in which the Lord unleashes his vengeance upon the earth.  This view is correct as evidenced by Isaiah 13.


Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.  (Isa 13:6)


However, the Day of the Lord includes not only God's vengeance at the Second Coming but also the Lord's millennial reign during his kingdom.


Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.

And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.  (Zec 14:1, 9)


It is further clear that the Day of the Lord, which begins with the Second Coming and lasts through Christ's 1000 year reign on the earth, also includes the dissolving of the current heavens and earth.


But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  (2Pe 3:10)


It is thus clear that the Day of the Lord is not a single event or even a series of related events occurring closely in time but a number of different events that play out over more than 1000 years.  The scriptural definition of the Day of the Lord is not simply God's judgment at the Second Coming or Christ's millennial reign but all events that transpire when the Lord is present.  According to Zephaniah, it is the presence of the Lord that makes the Day of the Lord what it is.


Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.  (Zep 1:7)


The fact that the Day of the Lord is fundamentally the presence of the Lord leads to a number of significant conclusions.  First, the Day of the Lord does not begin on earth until the Lord's Second Coming.  Many hold that the Day of the Lord includes the entire tribulation, but that is not the implication of the following verses:


And I will shew 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 great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  (Joel 2:30-31, Matt 21:29-30)


From the perspective of those on the earth, the Day of the Lord does not and cannot begin until the Lord's physical return to the earth at the end of the tribulation at his Second Coming.


Second, the Day of the Lord must begin in the heavens before it begins on the earth.  Revelation 12 makes it clear that the heavens are cleansed before Christ returns to the earth.


And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.  (Rev 12:7-9, 12)


Since Christ must physically pass through the heavens to return to the earth, it is only natural that the Day of the Lord must begin in the heavens prior to his descent to the earth.


For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.  (Isa 34:5)


Once one understands that the Day of the Lord is a reference to Christ's presence, it is natural to wonder what Paul refers to when he uses the following terms: the day of Christ, the day of Jesus Christ, the day of the Lord Jesus, and the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since these phrases are found only in Paul's epistles, some have concluded that these terms are simply a reference to the Rapture.  However, the Day of Christ cannot refer solely to the Rapture given what Paul says in 2Thessalonians 2.


Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.  (2Th 2:1-2)


If the Day of Christ is simply the Rapture, then there would be no reason for the Thessalonians to fear the coming of the Day of Christ.  What the Day of Christ refers to is not simply the Rapture but the revealing of the Lord's presence to the body of Christ.


Since the body of Christ is not appointed to wrath (1Thess 5:9, Rom 5:9), its Day of Christ must of necessity be different from the wrath that characterizes the beginning of the Day of the Lord.  Instead, the day of Christ is a reference to the Rapture, the judgment seat of Christ, and the subsequent events that transpire in the heavenly places as God reconciles the heavens to himself.


In both the prophecy and the mystery programs, it is clear that a man's earthly life is a walk of faith while he will operate by sight in his eternal destination where the Lord is present.


            Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  (Heb 11:1, 2Cor 5:6-8)


The prophecy and mystery programs each have their own event that transforms faith into sight.  For the prophetic program, that event is the physical, visible return of Christ to the earth.  Once the Second Coming occurs, saints in the prophecy program will not walk by faith but by sight.  For the mystery program, when the body of Christ meets the Lord in the air at the Rapture, it will then walk by sight not faith.  Thus, the day of Christ is the visible, physical revelation of Jesus Christ to the body of Christ just as the Day of the Lord was the comparable revelation to the kingdom church.


With this understanding, 2Thessalonians poses no difficulty.


That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2Thess 2:2-3)


The specific phrases used in reference to the day of Christ are "at hand" and "shall not come."  The day of Christ is never "at hand" for the body of Christ because it is never physically close.  1Thessalonians 4 makes clear that the body of Christ is caught up into the heavenly places at the Rapture.  Thus, in the visible, physical, spatial sense, the day of Christ is never "at hand" for the body of Christ while it is on the earth.  The immediately following verse makes clear that the subject that is being addressed is where the Lord's presence is manifest.


In short, both the Day of the Lord and the day of Christ refer to the Lord's presence to bring to culmination his purposes for the earth and the heavens.


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