The very special nature of the Sabbath Day has been shown already. It is God’s own special day, a day set apart from the other six days, a day that is holy unto the Lord, and Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath. It is therefore the Lord’s Day, or to use a more frequent title the Day of the Lord.
Concerning the other days of the week, Paul referred to them as “Man’s Day” in 1 Cor.4:3-5 “But for me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you, or by Man’s Day . . . He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of hearts.”
Paul’s statement is most apt to our present enquiry, because we must now look at the subject of the coming judgment scene within the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the seventh day, in other words what is commonly referred to as the Millennium. It is not a brief period of time, but a very lengthy one, and the characteristics of that day have been spelled out very clearly by no less than eight of the Old Testament prophets. The Bible contains 20 references to the expression, “the day of the Lord.” The importance of the subject can hardly be over-emphasised.
The Old Testament prophets may be divided into three groups, depending on the circumstances and timing of their words. The first group, consisting of Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Nahum were used by the Lord to speak to Israel, the northern ten tribes until their carrying away into captivity.
Then comes a 70-year gap before the second group begin prophesying over and against the sins of the southern kingdom of Judah. Unlike the first group, where the prophets stopped their messages almost as soon as Israel was carried away, the second group continued their prophecies right through the Babylonian captivity. These comprise the rest of the prophets with the exception of the third group, namely Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who may be called the prophets of the restoration.
The earliest reference to the Day of the Lord comes in Isaiah. He was the only prophet to speak of this day specifically, and the only one in the first group. Five of those in group two took up the theme, and this was reinforced by Zechariah and Malachi in the third group. With that brief chronological introduction, we are ready to see what the prophets had to say.
Isaiah 2. The chapter opens with a beautiful description of what it will be like, especially for the people of God in the days of the Messiah. “It shall come to pass in the LAST DAYS, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. And many people shall say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lords . . and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (2:2-4)
This conjures up a wonderful picture. Whereas in the present world people, by and large, have no appetite for the things of the Lord, and preachers have a rough time of it trying to bring people to the cross in repentance, in the Millennial Rest there will be a great surge of interest amongst people of all nations. Coupled with this we see a Restraining Hand at work, bringing peace across the world. There will be no more armies, no military academies where the art of warfare is learned. Man, in Man’s Day, has been unable to bring peace to the world, even though the above reference is carved in the entrance to the United Nations building in New York. But what man was incapable of achieving because of his Adamic nature, God will achieve in the day of His power. All this sounds wonderfully exciting, and many of the Lord’s people have caught the vision, and made it their daily prayer for its arrival.
But we also saw that the Lord will “judge among the nations and rebuke many people.” Judging by the condition of the present world, this comes as no surprise. Furthermore, we have to admit that the process of judgment will not be a brief exercise, but will occupy many years. But all the benefits and restraints of God’s reign in the Kingdom are collapsed prophetically into a few sentences. This is a common practice in prophecy, and has been seen in one of its most startling forms in Isa.61:2, quoted by our Lord when He stood up in the synagogue. In Isaiah it reads, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” But when Jesus read from this passage, He stopped at the comma, and sat down, showing that it was the acceptable time just then, but the day of vengeance was still future. In fact the two halves of that sentence are separated in time by at least 2,000 years.
And so we have to allow our minds to temporally expand these brief words of prophecy, to allow the processes to mature in their historical settings. Nevertheless, there has to be a beginning, however small, perhaps no larger than a grain of mustard seed, and this will be a climactic event about which more will be said later.
In the latter portion of Isaiah 2, the prophet takes up the theme of coming judgment in this wise, “For the DAY OF THE LORD shall be upon every one that is arrogant and haughty, and upon every one that is self-satisfied, and he shall be humbled. . . .and the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (2:12-17)
The passage continues by giving a graphic (though figurative) description of the effect this has on arrogant people, who are seen as trying to hide in caves, and throw their idols to moles and bats, “when He arises to shake terribly the earth.” (2:21)
The nature of the Day of the Lord is amplified in chapter 13. Isaiah paints a dark and brooding picture of what it will be like, but we must remember that at the same time people will be thronging to Jerusalem to hear the word of the Lord. The two aspects are at work simultaneously. “Howl ye, for the Day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. All hands shall be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt, and they shall be afraid. . . . Behold, the Day of the Lord comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate, and He shall destroy sinners out of it. . . I will punish the world for evil, and the lawless for their iniquity, and cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” (13:6-11)
Ezekiel was given a word addressed to the more religious people of the land. “Son of man, prophesy against the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing. Say, You have not gone up into the breaches, neither made up the fence for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the DAY OF THE LORD.” (Ezek.13:2-5) This new aspect is something that particularly threatens God’s people today. The religious world has lost its way, and its “prophets” are full of their own interpretations of Scripture, and lead men astray, instead of preparing them for the imminent invasion of divine judgment.
The Lord addresses His own people again through the prophet Joel. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm in my holy mountain . . for the DAY OF THE LORD comes, it is near at hand, a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds and thick darkness, as blackness spread on the mountains.” (Joel 2:1-2) The imagery that follows is that of a devouring swarm of locusts, turning an Edenic land into a desolate wilderness. However, as with all the true prophets of God, such warnings are never sounded without an accompanying cry for response. “Therefore, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness and repents of the evil; who knows if He will change His mind and leave a blessing behind Him?” (Joel 2:12-14)
The prophet then goes on the reveal that it is the time of God’s great judgment scene. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision, for the DAY OF THE LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon shall be darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and earth shall shake, but the Lord will be hope of His people.” (Joel 3:14-16)
And like Isaiah before him, he is glad to receive a more beautiful future scene that depicts the result of God’s judgments. “It shall come to pass in that day [i.e. THE DAY OF THE LORD] that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers shall flow with water, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the Lord to water the Valley of Acacias.” (Joel 3:18)
Amos brought virtually the same message as Joel, referring to the Day of the Lord as a day of darkness. His reference is 5:18-20. Obadiah sees it as a time of judgment, but gives us a new fact to consider. “The DAY OF THE LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, so shall it be done to you, your reward shall return upon your own head. . . . But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness, and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions, and be like a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and they shall kindle and devour the wicked.” (Verse 15) Here at last is an indication of how the Lord brings in His judgment scene. It is not as some imagine, that a raging bull-like God will suddenly appear in the world. No, that would be to demean to character of God. The picture language of the Old Testament was well understood by its readers, but misinterpreted today. The judgment is seen to be triggered and managed by certain worthy members of God’s own household, and as we shall see later, these people are in resurrection.
The first chapter of Zephaniah depicts a scene of judgment very similar to that of his prophetic contemporaries. We might well quote one verse that reinforces the message of mercy. “Seek the Lord, all the meek of the earth, who have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be that you shall be hidden in the DAY OF THE LORD’S anger.” (2:3) This refers back to a word received by Isaiah, “Come my people, enter into your chambers, and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves as it were for a little moment until the indignation be overpast.” (Isa.26:20) An interesting point emerges here, because Zephaniah’s name means “the hidden one of God.” Furthermore, we get the distinct impression that although the Day of the Lord will last for 1,000 years, the heat of God’s anger will be felt in its intensity for only a short while at the start, after which the nations will be brought into control, and as Isaiah said, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa.26:9)
After the captivity in Babylon, the prophet Zechariah brought the message of the Lord’s Day to the returning nation. He spoke about geographical changes in Jerusalem, brought about by a massive earthquake, the result of which was that “Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, half towards the eastern sea, and half towards the western sea; in summer and winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.” (Zech.14:1-9) All the other religions will become a thing of the past. The name of Jesus will be heard, known, and worshipped across the world. Malachi, Zechariah’s contemporary, had the final word – “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful DAY OF THE LORD; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal.4:5-6)
The coming of Elijah is a most important element in the setting up of God’s Kingdom, and the Day of the Lord. We shall have occasion to consider this in more detail later. It will be the start of King’s Fountain.