The Bible refers to the ‘day of the Lord’ as the ‘day of his coming’, when he will visibly establish his Kingdom on earth. But there seems to be some ambiguity about which day the Bible refers to as the ‘day of the Lord’. Could it be the 1) day of Christ’s secret coming in the air to receive his Bride at Rapture (1 Thesslonians 4:15-17) or the 2) day of his second coming in the clouds when all men will see him (Matthew 24:30) or the 3) day when God creates a new earth and new heaven and the Holy City, the new Jerusalem comes out of heaven and God makes his dwelling with men? ( Revelation 21:1-3 ) Most passages seem to allude to the second coming of Christ while others seem to allude to the period of the tribulation as a whole. However, there are certain events that must precede the day of the Lord and that would help us to ‘find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of God was pointing’ ( 1 Peter 1 :11), ‘as men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’. ( 2 Peter 1:20)
The prophecy by Joel is an ideal text to start with, because he clearly predicted the events that would precede the day of the Lord, most notably the predictions about the sun, moon and stars, which we can consider as the most prominent harbinger that would herald his coming : ‘I will show wonders in the heavens and on earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’ ( Joel 2:31) ‘For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem and the earth and sky will tremble.’ ( Joel 3:14-16) This was prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah too, when he said : ‘See, the day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger … The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.’ (Isaiah 13:9-10) ‘The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem …’ (Isaiah 24:23) All this is in agreement with what Jesus taught would precede that day: ‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’ ( Luke 21:25-27) And John, while writing down the Revelation of Jesus, wrote: ‘I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black … the whole moon turned blood red … the stars in the sky fell to earth … the sky receded like a scroll … every mountain and island was removed from its place … for the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?’ ( Revelation 6:12-17) All the above references allude to the second coming of Christ and not to his secret coming in the air to receive his bride because that is likened to the ‘thief in the night’ ( 1 Thesslonians 5:2, Revelation 3:3) and that day obviously wouldn’t be preceded by anything significant that would herald his coming.
The other events that would happen on this day, at the second coming of Christ, further distinguishes this day from any other : ‘On that day , when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her ( The battle of Armageddon – Revelation 16:12-16), I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations … On that day I will strike every horse with panic and every rider with madness … On that day the Lord will shield those who live in Jerusalem … On that day I will set out to destroy the nations that attack Jerusalem … I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on the one they pierced … On that day the weeping will be great … On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity … On that day, I will banish the names of all idols from the land and they will be remembered no more …’ (Zechariah 12:3 – 13:2) ‘A day of the Lord is coming when … I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it … Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives will be split into two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south … Then the Lord your God will come and all the holy ones with him. On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be an unique day without daytime or nighttime – a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea (Dead sea) and half to the western sea (Mediterranean sea) … The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord and his name the only name.’ (Zechariah 14:1-9) ‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine and the hills will flow with milk and all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house and will water the valley of acasias’ ( Joel 3: 18) ‘In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon and they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days ( at the end of the 1000 years)’. ( Isaiah 24:21-22, Revelation 20:7-15) All the above references further alludes to the second coming of Christ and not to the end of the ages when the first heaven and first earth will pass away giving way to the new heaven and new earth.
However, certain passages makes no distinction between these three days because the focus was on holy living and not eschatology. For instance, Peter wrote: ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people we ought to be ? We ought to live godly lives as we wait eagerly for the day of God to come. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.’ ( 2Peter 3:11-13) Amen.
Other references you can read: Isaiah 2:11-21, Zephaniah 1:14 -18, Malachi 4:1-3