While the Day of the Lord is spoken of in other books of the Bible, Revelation contains the most extensive explanation of this time of God’s intervention.
The major theme of the book of Revelation—the Day of the Lord—is introduced in the very beginning of this final book of the Bible. John, who recorded what he saw in vision, begins by explaining whose revelation it was (it was the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God the Father gave Him, Revelation 1:1), who he was sending the message to (initially, seven churches in Asia, verse 4) and where he was (the island of Patmos, verse 9) when he received the vision.
After these brief introductory comments, John immediately explains, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). Some mistakenly assume this meant John received this vision under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on a Sunday—the day of the week on which some wrongly assume Christ was resurrected from the grave. (To discover what day the Bible clearly shows that Jesus was resurrected on, see the article “Sign of Jonah.”)
A careful study of Old Testament prophecies and what follows in the book of Revelation reveals that John was not trying to indicate on which day of the week he received the vision. Instead, he was referring to a time often spoken of by the Old Testament prophets—a time when God will intervene in world affairs to bring punishment to mankind for disobedience to His laws and to offer salvation to all who will repent of their sins.
Setting for the Day of the Lord
After giving messages to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2 and 3) and providing a glimpse of God’s throne in heaven (Revelation 4), John then proceeded to write about seven seals. These seals include seven trumpet blasts and seven last plagues. The seals represent progressive steps or events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ and what will happen after He returns.
The first four seals are described as horsemen riding throughout the earth to instigate false religious teaching, war, famine and pestilence. These figurative representations are commonly referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While these events have been happening since the time of Christ, they will intensify during the time before Christ’s return.
At this point, John saw in vision the mighty men of the earth trying to hide from “the wrath of the Lamb” because “the great day of His wrath has come” (Revelation 6:16-17). The wrath of God, which begins with the seventh seal, is part of the Day of the Lord and marks the start of this momentous time. The Day of the Lord then continues after the wrath of God has been fulfilled.
While many scriptures describe the Day of the Lord as God’s wrath, we should note that the “Lord’s Day” (as John’s vision is described in Revelation 1:10) includes more than just God’s wrath. It also includes the wonderful time referred to in Revelation 21 and 22. We thus see that the primary subject of the book of Revelation—the Day of the Lord or age of God’s intervention—is presented as a period of time beginning shortly prior to Christ’s return and then continuing forever. We find this same message included in the warnings about the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament prophets. After God brings judgment on the nations, He will restore the earth to prosperity and peace.
Old Testament prophecies
As previously mentioned, several Old Testament writers while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had already announced the coming Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 13:6-13, 9; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1, Joel 2:11, Joel 2:31; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7-8, 14; Zechariah 14:1). Based upon these scriptures and the direct teachings of Jesus, Peter likewise spoke and wrote about the Day of the Lord (Acts 2:20; 2 Peter 3:10).
God’s Word makes it clear that this will begin as a time of punishment for rebellious humans. Isaiah referred to it as “the day of the LORD’s vengeance” (Isaiah 34:8). Describing this dreadful time, the prophet also wrote, “For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies” (verse 2).
Beginning with the seventh seal, the book of Revelation reveals the specific steps of punishment that God will bring upon mankind as part of the Day of the Lord. These punishments are included in the seven trumpets and seven last plagues.
Why God will punish humanity
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them free will. God gave them the opportunity to choose how they would live. Of course, God continues to give us and all humanity this same freedom to choose what we will do. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s instruction not to eat of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Sadly, we humans have all followed Adam and Eve’s tragic example of disobedience to God. As Paul wrote, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and thus deserve death (Romans 6:23).
Even though God has permitted humans to live as they choose—which has been and continues to be almost entirely in opposition to His instructions—God is going to eventually intervene by sending Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom here on earth. When God’s government is established, He will expect everyone to obey His laws and instructions (Isaiah 30:21; Zechariah 14:16-17).
Unfortunately, human nature is such that the majority of mankind is going to be deceived into fighting against Christ when He returns (Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 17:12-14). And then, as Christ delivers punishment after punishment, humans are still going to refuse to repent (Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11, Revelation 16:21).
Noting this hardened resistance to God, Paul wrote: “For the wrath of God [part of the Day of the Lord] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). It is going to take a series of punishments from God to get through to humans that they must repent of their evil deeds and live as God commands.
Good news about the Day of the Lord
As the “day” or time of man’s blatant rebellion against God’s laws comes to an end and the Day of the Lord unfolds, humans are going to learn that obeying God’s instructions is the best way to live. Thoroughly humbled and chastened from having experienced the wrath of God, humans will finally be willing to listen to the great Creator God and repent of their sins.
After the wrath of God has concluded, conditions on earth will change. This ongoing part of the Day of the Lord will include the binding of Satan for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3)—an event that will make it easier for those who remain to choose God’s way of life.
Satan the devil is an invisible spirit being who is largely responsible for religious confusion and mankind’s rebellion against God. Although humans make their own choices, the Bible explains that this evil being “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). With Satan bound, it will be easier for people to understand God’s laws and see the benefits of obeying Him.
The 1,000-year period during which Satan will be bound is commonly called the Millennium. With Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the earth will be abundantly productive and peaceful. Wars will rapidly become nonexistent. Should disputes occur, Christ will judge with perfect judgment. Everyone will have the opportunity to learn and choose God’s way of life, which will lead to a better physical life and eventually life eternal. People will be taught to get along and respect each other. (One of God’s annual festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures this wonderful age.)
Where will you be during the wrath of God?
The book of Revelation reveals that some faithful people will be “sealed” for protection during the wrath of God that unfolds during the early part of the Day of the Lord (Revelation 7:2-3; Revelation 9:4). Similarly, the church in Philadelphia was told: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
The faithful people of God are always described as ones who keep God’s commandments. The vision given to John identifies these people who persevere as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The final chapter of the Bible adds: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14).
Sadly, most people today do not keep all of God’s commandments. The Fourth Commandment—the one that says we are to remember to keep the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday)—is ignored by many who claim to be Christians.
Even though Christ plainly said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), many reject what He said. The truth is, Christ didn’t revoke the Fourth Commandment, and He didn’t change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. To learn more about these clear commands of God, see the articles in the section “The 10 Commandments and God’s Way of Life.”