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The Day of the Lord is a biblical term and theme used in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. A related expression is the Great Day as in "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come." which appears in both Old and New Testaments. The meaning of the phrases may sometimes refer to temporal events such as the invasion of a foreign army and capture of a city but it may also be related to predicted events in a later age of earth's history including the final judgment and World to Come. The expression may also have an extended meaning in referring to both the first and second comings of Jesus Christ.
It is used first by Amos and subsequently incorporated into prophetic and apocalyptic literature texts of the Bible. It relies on military images to describe the Lord as a "divine warrior" who will conquer his enemies. In certain prophetic texts of the Old Testament, the enemies of the Lord are Israel's enemies and in these visions the day of the Lord brings victory for the people of ancient Israel. Other prophets use the imagery as a warning to Israel or its leaders and for them, the day of the Lord will mean destruction for the biblical nation of Israel. This concept develops throughout Jewish and Christian Scripture into a day of divine, apocalyptic judgment at the end of the world.
In the biblical canon, the earliest, direct use of the phrase is in Isaiah 2: "For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low" (Isaiah 2:12). Another early use of the phrase is in Amos 5:18-20. Wright suggests that the phrase was already a standard one, and Amos' hearers would take it to mean "the day when Yahweh would intervene to put Israel at the head of the nations, irrespective of Israel's faithfulness to Him." Yet Amos declares "Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light" (Amos 5:18, NIV). Because Israel had sinned, God would come in judgement on them. Thus, the day of the Lord is about God chastening his people, whether it be through the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem or a locust plague described in Joel 2:1-11. Yet Joel 2:32 holds a promise that on the Day of the Lord, "everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."
This promise is also picked up in the New Testament, when Joel 2:28-32 is quoted in Acts 2:17-21. The phrase is also used in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 to refer either to the rapture or to the return of Jesus.
The phrase alludes to a judgment for eternal rewards in 2 Corinthians 1:14 where it says "we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus".
The Book of Revelation describes the day of the Lord as an apocalyptic time of God's almighty wrath, which comes upon those who are deemed wicked. The text pictures every man hiding in the rocks of the mountains during a major earthquake to attempt to hide from God's wrath, while celestial phenomena turn the moon blood red and the sun dark.
(NKJV) 2 Peter 3:8-10 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
In general, most Christians believe that the day of the Lord is a reference to a time of catastrophe and judgement for the wicked or a time of glorious renewal and salvation for believers.
Meredith Kline equates the "Day of the Lord" with the "Lord's Day", which is usually taken to refer to the Christian weekly day of rest. Kline argues that the "Lord's Day" mentioned in Revelation 1:10 is not first day of the week, but refers to "the already realized heavenly enthronement of the Lord Jesus."