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  • Writer's pictureMichael Filipek

The Two-Fold Nature of the Future Day of the Lord


The two-fold nature of the future Day of the Lord

In the previous article, we examined the Biblical Day of the Lord, understanding that it has both historical applications as well as a future, ultimate fulfillment. This and the next article will both focus on the future, ultimate eschatological (end-times) Day of the Lord.


The next thing we need to recognize about the future Day of the Lord is that it has a two-fold nature – including a period of darkness and judgment as well as a period of light and blessing.


This basic understanding is often overlooked even by good Dispensational scholars, resulting in the inability to accurately and precisely understand much of what scripture communicates to us further ahead in the New Testament.


The darkness/judgment phase will occur first, and will characterize the total nature of the Day of the Lord from the standpoint of God’s enemies. They will not enjoy the subsequent phase that involves light and blessing. This gloomy phase of the Day of the Lord includes what Christians often call the Tribulation (the final seventieth week of the Daniel 9:24-27 prophecy), and culminates with the Second Coming of Christ to issue decisive defeat to His enemies, introducing His earthly kingdom reign. Let’s take a look at several scripture passages that depict this darkness/judgment phase.


Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. -Isaiah 13:9
Blow ye 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 cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains…. -Joel 2:1-2
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? -Amos 5:18-20
The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, -Zephaniah 1:14-15

All of these passages clearly depict the judgment phase, describing it as being a day of wrath, trouble, distress, desolation, darkness, gloominess, woe, clouds, thick darkness, and fierce anger, where even mighty men will cry bitterly. It describes it as a time when God will destroy sinners.


But the subsequent aspect of the Day of the Lord involves a phase of light and the outpouring of God’s blessing under the rule and reign of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This takes place during the Millennial Kingdom. As we will see, it directly follows on the heels of Christ’s return to defeat His enemies, which will conclude the darkness/judgment phase. We will also find that this pattern of the prolonged period of the Day of the Lord takes place in similar fashion to an actual twenty-four-hour day – a period of light that follows a period of darkness.


In all of the eschatological passages we will examine, the Biblical writer first describes the Day of the Lord by that name, foretelling its initial phase of darkness/judgment. The passages then continue on to discuss the light/blessing phase that follows – denoting it’s inclusion in the same prolonged period by using the phrase “in that day”.


In other words, the phrase “in that day” continues the foregoing narrative, and should be understood to refer to its antecedent – the Day of the Lord. So then according to the text, the Day of the Lord does not end with the climax of the darkness/judgment phase. It continues on into the light/blessing phase, as indicated by the continuing usage of the phrase “in that day.” It is not describing a different day, but rather a different phase of the same day (similar to how a phase of daylight follows a phase of darkness in an actual twenty-four-hour day). Let’s now take a look at several scripture passages that clearly depict this.


A passage we just looked at, Joel 2:1-2, depicts the darkness/judgment phase, which continues to be the subject of the remainder of that chapter – although it also discusses elements that likely will follow in the blessing phase (such as the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel). Joel Chapter 3 then refocuses on the culmination of the darkness phase, which involves the gathering of the enemies of God against Jerusalem. It foretells the fierce judgment that will be executed upon them at what we now know is the time of the Second Coming of Christ. But in Verses 16-21 of Chapter 3, we see a clear transition taking place, as Joel then begins to foretell the subsequent Millennial period of great divine blessings that will occur following the judgment phase – with that period still being referred to as “in that day.” Let’s examine this notable shift from darkness/judgment to the positivity of this subsequent light/blessing phase in Verses 16-21 of Joel 3.


The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim. Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion. -Joel 3:16-21

Note: For clarity, we of course recommend that you go back in your own Bibles to fully examine these chapters and note the features we are identifying.


As we can see, after Joel discusses the darkness/judgment phase, the prophetic narrative then shifts to discuss the light/blessing phase, in which events that take place during the Millennial Kingdom are described. Yet, it continues to describe these events with the phrase “in that day,” showing the continuation of the Day of the Lord throughout the Millennium (the light/blessing phase).


Similarly, in Zechariah Chapter 14, after foretelling the darkness/judgment phase when the nations gather for war against Jerusalem, culminating in the Second Coming of Christ to destroy these enemies, Zechariah then begins to detail a subsequent time where the darkness will turn into light. He tells us of a number of great blessings that will be poured out “in that day” as God establishes His reign over the earth in the Millennium. In other words, the first part of “that day” will be darkness, but the latter part will be light – just like an actual twenty-four-hour day.


And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness Unto The Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. -Zechariah 14:6-9, 20

So, like the previous example in Joel, we find this passage in Zechariah first discussing the darkness/judgment phase but then moving on to discuss the light/blessing phase, with both clearly described as being “in that day” (or in the Day of the Lord).


Likewise, the book of Zephaniah starts out by describing the coming darkness/judgment phase of the Day of the Lord (another passage we read earlier). But then, midway through Chapter 3, the focus begins to transition from the judgment of God’s enemies at the end of the darkness/judgment phase to the blessing, regathering, and restoration of Israel during the light/blessing phase – all still being described as “in that day.” Let’s make note of this positive shift beginning here in Verse 11.


In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord. -Zephaniah 3:11-20

And so, from all of these clear scriptural examples that provide us with a detailed prophetic description of the future Day of the Lord, we can readily understand that this period includes first a darkness/judgment phase then followed by a light/blessing phase. Furthermore, it is clear that, just as is true in a literal twenty-four-hour day, the darkness phase will be followed by the light phase. This plain reality has been acknowledged by theologians of various interpretive camps for years. In the Dispensational camp, leading scholars have long noted this two-fold nature and its figurative similarity to a literal day. For example, John Walvoord writes:


In 1 Thessalonians 5 the Day of the Lord is used in the sense of an extended period of time, but having the characteristics of a twenty-four hour day. That is, it is a day which begins at midnight or in the darkness, advancing to dawn and then daylight. It will close again with another period of darkness after daylight has passed. That apparently is the symbolism involved in the Day of the Lord. … The Day of the Lord, according to the Old Testament, is a time of God’s judgment and a time of God’s dealing with the world in its sin. … The Millennium – the whole kingdom reign of Christ on earth – in which Christ personally directs the government of the world, is also included in the Day of the Lord. [1]
The two-fold nature of the future Day of the Lord

Similarly, Renald Showers asserted:


The Day of the Lord in the future will be at least twofold in nature. Just as each day of creation and the Jewish day consisted of two phases – a time of darkness (“evening”) followed by a time of light (“day”) [Gen. 1:4-6] – so the future Day of the Lord will consist of two phases, a period of darkness (judgment) followed by a period of light (divine rule and blessing). [2]

Likewise, Tony Garland notes:


The phrase “Day of the Lord” is uniformly connected with darkness and judgment, whereas the phrases “this day” and “that daydo appear to be associated with the positive era subsequent to the initial dark elements of the day. The two-fold nature of the day is characterized by a time of intense darkness followed by incredible blessings. This dual nature results from both a sequential division (judgment bringing in the Kingdom of God on earth followed by the blessings of the millennial reign of Christ) and a spiritual division (the enemies of God will experience only the judgment whereas the people of God will experience the blessings of the millennial reign). [3]

Many non-Dispensational scholars have also recognized this two-phased construction of the Day of the Lord. For instance, J. Barton Payne noted a period of judgment that is followed by a period of restoration. [4] Likewise, A.B. Davidson stated:


Hence the “Day of the Lord” acquires a double-sided character. It is a day of salvation and judgment, or a day of salvation through judgment … a day of salvation behind this. Sometimes one side is prominent and sometimes another … Sometimes both sides of the Divine manifestation are brought forward, as in Joel. [5]

John A.T. Robinson also admits that this period has both a judgment and a victory component.


In itself, “the Day of the Lord” is a general and comprehensive expression for the consummation of God’s purpose, alike in victory and in judgment. [6]

In addition, we should note that the scriptural teaching about God’s nature is that He is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5, et al.). If this is the case, then it would seem inconsistent to imagine His day (the Day of the Lord) consisting entirely of darkness, and having no periods of light.


Further yet, it is difficult to imagine a future Day of the Lord that does not include His direct rule over the earth – which will only take place during the Millennium (the light/blessing phase). The Millennium is certainly part of the “consummation of God’s purpose,” as noted in the previous quote by Robinson. And as we’ve mentioned a number of times, this understanding aligns perfectly with the typology of an actual twenty-four-hour day, which consists of both dark and light phases.


Thus, we should recognize that the two-fold nature of the future Day of the Lord is neither a new doctrine, nor a fringe, irrational doctrine. Rather, it is a basic insight of a careful and thorough exposition of the Bible – one that is and has been held by Christian scholars across the interpretive spectrum.


 

[1] John Walvoord, “The Day of the Lord,” Jan. 1, 2008, Bible.org. (https://bible.org/seriespage/5-day-lord - Retrieved 3/27/22)

[2] Renald Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord Come! Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 1995, p. 33.

[3] Tony Garland, Revelation Commentary, under “2.13 - Related Passages and Themes,” PreceptAustin.org. (https://www.preceptaustin.org/revelation-intro-parallels (Retrieved 3/21/22)

[4] J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962, p. 464.

[5] A.B. Davidson, “The Theology of the Old Testament,” in International Theological Library, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936, pp. 377-378.

[6] John A.T. Robinson, Jesus and His Coming, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1979, p. 19.


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