When I get home from work in the afternoon, I can tell by my children’s reaction to my entrance how they behaved that day. Some days, I walk through the door and am surrounded by kids who are thankful to see me. Other days, the sound of the doorknob turning sends children flying up to their rooms, hoping I won’t come up and ask the dreaded question, “How was your day?” My return home either means a fun rest of the afternoon or a difficult conversation about their behavior.
The Bible paints the “day of the Lord” with brushstrokes that depend on the audience. Zephaniah, writing in the days before the Babylonian captivity, portrayed the day of the Lord as a day of wrath and fury. He said, “The great day of the LORD is near, near and rapidly approaching” (1:14). Then he laid out what people can expect on that “great day”:
“That day is a terrible day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and total darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities, and against the high corner towers” (vv.15–16).
Zephaniah spoke the “word of the LORD” (v.1), declaring that the day of the Lord would usher in terrible wrath and distress. The great city’s walls and defenses would be no match for God, who would lay waste to those cities. A trumpet blast would declare His appearance for battle against those who had rebelled against Him.
Peter strikes a different tone when he speaks of the Lord’s return. He pictures it as a day his readers ought to look forward to. He reminds them that the Lord’s delay is not because He forgot His promise, but because He is giving more people more time to repent and believe. They are called to wait patiently for His return, understanding it will happen “like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). On that day, the “elements will burn and be dissolved,” but “we wait for a new heavens and a new earth” (v.10,13).
The day of the Lord will be a day that is both great and terrible. The dam holding back the wrath of God will break, and all who have escaped justice will no longer be able to hide. Yet, for those who are in Christ, the flood of God’s wrath has already been poured out on Him. We no longer have to look at the Lord’s return with fear, trembling at His coming, as those who have no hope. The day of the Lord holds great promise for us. We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where we will reign with Christ in glorified bodies. Because of the new life we have in Christ, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Written by Scott Slayton