Israelites of Old Testament times looked for the day when God would intervene in the affairs of the world, righting the wrongs and establishing his just rule on the earth. They called this divine intervention the day of the Lord (Isa 2:12-19; 13:6,9; Zeph 1:14-16; Zech 14:9).

Earlier ‘days of the Lord’

Although the day of the Lord was usually considered to be something terrifying, Israelites often looked forward to it. The reason for this was that they believed that God would punish Israel’s enemies and bring in Israel’s golden age (Jer 46:10; Zeph 3:16-20). They failed to realize, however, that in that day God would punish all sinners, Israelites included, and save all the faithful, regardless of national or social status (Joel 2:30-32; Amos 5:18; Mal 3:1-4; 4:1-3). Any catastrophic judgment, such as a flood, earthquake, locust plague, famine or war, could be called a day of the Lord (Joel 1:15-16; 2:1-2,11). But such a catastrophe was only a forerunner (and at the same time a guarantee) of the great and final day of the Lord (Joel 2:30-32; 3:14-18). Jesus Christ’s first coming was, in a sense, a day of the Lord, for through Christ God intervened in the affairs of the world to conquer Satan, deal with sin and proclaim his kingdom (Matt 3:11-12; 4:14-17; Acts 2:16-21; see KINGDOM OF GOD). The ‘last days’ had begun (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18). They will reach their climax when Christ returns at the end of the age to purge the world of sin and bring his kingdom to its victorious completion (Isa 2:2-4; Matt 24:29-31; 25:31-32; 2 Peter 3:3-4,10).

The final great ‘day of the Lord’

Christ’s people have always suffered persecution, but before the final great day of the Lord that persecution will become more severe (Matt 24:5-14; John 16:33; 2 Thess 1:5-12; see PERSECUTION). The spirit of antichrist, which has always been in the world, will express itself in a final great rebellion against God. There will be all sorts of pressures, both subtle and open, to force Christians to abandon their faith in Christ (Matt 24:15-24; 2 Thess 2:1-7; 1 John 2:18; see ANTICHRIST). In a series of devastating judgments, God will pour out his wrath upon a rebellious world (2 Thess 1:8; Rev 6:17; 14:9-11; 16:2). God will not pour out his wrath upon his own people; on the contrary he will protect them from it (Rev 7:1-3; 9:4; cf. Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). But the rebels, instead of turning to God in repentance, will hate him and persecute his people even more (Rev 9:18,20-21; 11:7-10; 12:17; 16:9,21). The persecution will be so bitter that, for the sake of his people, God will shorten the day of his wrath. Although some believers will be killed for their faith in Christ, as far as God is concerned not one will be lost (Rev 6:9-11; 12:11-12; 20:4; cf. Matt 24:22; Luke 21:16-18). Christ’s return will be a day of judgment that will result in a separation between the wicked and the righteous. For one it will be a day of wrath, for the other a day of salvation (Matt 24:36-41; 25:32,46; Luke 21:27-28; Acts 24:15; Rom 2:5; Phil 1:6,10; 1 Thess 4:16-18; 2 Thess 1:5-8; Rev 22:12-15; see JUDGMENT; RESURRECTION). In every era the circumstances of Christians vary from nation to nation. Christians in any place at any time could belong to the last generation of humanity as we know it. Therefore, the Bible urges Christians of all nations and eras to be alert and ready at all times for the onset of the final day of the Lord and the return of Christ (Matt 24:42-44; Mark 13:32-37; 1 Thess 5:2-6; 2 Peter 3:10-12). However, no one knows when the end of the age will come, and Christians should not behave foolishly by thinking the world is about to come to an end (Matt 24:36; 2 Thess 2:1-2; 3:11-12). They must carry on with life normally, making long-term plans where necessary, yet remembering that God may intervene at any time (Luke 19:11-27; Acts 1:6-8; 1 Cor 15:5-7; Phil 1:9-10; 1 Thess 5:6,11,14).

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