June 25, 2024

The Day of the Lord: Understanding God’s Judgment & Deliverance

By Meredith Lindaman

Reading through your Bible plan, you may unexpectedly stumble upon this passage:

Behold the day of the Lord comes,
Cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
To make the land a desolation
And to destroy its sinners from it (Isaiah 13:9).

Yikes! This certainly doesn’t show up on refrigerator magnets or in viral memes.

The “Day of the Lord” often calls to mind apocalyptic images of violence and desolation (The Walking Dead, anyone?) instead of a glorious eternity. But should it? Is the “Day of the Lord” something to dread—or anticipate?

When is this “Day of the Lord”? And should I be worried about it?

The “Day of the Lord” is shorthand for the revelation of God’s sovereignty through his exercise of judgment and deliverance. It simultaneously describes God’s divine judgment and deliverance.

Does the “Day of the Lord” imply judgment and the wrath of God? Yes. Does the “Day of the Lord” also imply the deliverance and restoration of all creation? The answer is also a resounding “yes”.

Enemies of God should fear the “Day of the Lord”.

But it should not cause fear for the people of God.

The Exodus was Israel’s first “Day of the Lord.”

In the Exodus story, the people of God were suffering violent oppression from Egypt. After 400 years of slavery, God demonstrated His sovereign power by sending plagues and ultimately drowning the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. The waters God used to deliver Israel were the same waters used to judge (and ultimately destroy) Egypt.

And crossing the Red Sea was undoubtedly an act of divine deliverance and judgment. It revealed God’s sovereignty to the world.

Because Israel witnessed this first “Day of the Lord”, they were convinced that God was their ultimate deliverer:

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:30 – 31).

On the shores of the Red Sea, after witnessing God’s divine deliverance, the people praised God, singing and celebrating the judgment of Egypt and their deliverance from oppression (Exodus 15:12 – 13). At least for a season, Israel understood that God’s divine judgment and His deliverance were inseparable.

There is both deliverance and divine judgment.

Fast forward to the time of the minor prophets. Israel is no longer living as the people of God and not honoring Him. Despite living this way, the nation was experiencing a time of prosperity (stable government, power, and wealth), which they saw as evidence of God’s blessing. But it was a false story. At this time, the people of God were oppressing the poor, practicing idolatry, and acting unjustly. In response, God sends his prophet Amos who reveals God’s coming judgment (Amos 5:20). The people ignore his warnings and later experience His divine judgment.

In this prospering season, Israel mistakenly thought the “Day of the Lord” only meant divine deliverance for them (as the people of God) and divine judgment for their enemies.

Israel had forgotten that God’s judgment would fall on anyone not living according to His ways (Micah 6:8).

They did not see the need to live faithfully when God’s deliverance was (in their view) guaranteed. Instead, because of their unfaithfulness, the same divine judgment that crushed Egypt was looming ahead of Israel in the form of exile, or “utter darkness”.

The Day of the Lord is Coming Again

Where is the hope in this? The injustice Israel has done to others shall now be done to them (Obadiah 15). God responds with a promise that the “Day of the Lord” is coming again (Micah 7:15). He comforts His people in their exilic suffering by reminding them of their past victories and pointing them forward to the hope of a future, complete deliverance.

New Testament writers saw Jesus Christ as initiating the fulfillment of this future hope.

In Christ, the “Day of the Lord” had begun, and the Kingdom of God had arrived on earth (Matthew 4:17, 23). With his return, Jesus will deliver the people of God and restore creation to wholeness (Isaiah 61). This second coming will also be a day of judgment for all creation (Matthew 12:36; 1 Peter 4:5). At the final judgment, all the powers of the world will be subject to the sovereignty of God’s power; it is the eternal defeat of evil and death.

This is why Paul longingly speaks of the “Day of the Lord” as the hope for God’s future, eternal deliverance of the people of God (Phil 1:6, Phil. 3:20, 1 Cor. 1:8, 1 Cor. 5:5). As people of God, we wait eagerly (and with hope) for the ultimate judgment because it also means ultimate deliverance (Rom. 8:22-24).

Living in the Now and the Not Yet

Divine judgment and deliverance equally reveal God’s sovereign rule over the cosmos.

Was the “Day of the Lord” a date to be circled on the calendar? Could Israel have looked ahead and counted the days until that ultimate victory? Unfortunately, no. It was more like an era than a specific date on the calendar. Although there were signs of when that era would arrive, there was not an appointed day or time. The same is true for us.

Scripture has always pointed to overlapping eras – the people of Israel experienced a present deliverance (Exodus) but simultaneously looked to a future, complete deliverance (the Messiah). For believers today, the “Day of the Lord” requires us to hold on to a present deliverance and the hope of future victory. It is the “now and not yet” reality of the Christian hope.

We can wait for this day with hope.

Just as you stretch your muscles, there is tension from living in this “now and not yet” era. When stretching, you feel tension as the muscle lengthens beyond its stationary position, but stretching does not destroy the muscle. Instead, it produces a longer, stronger, more flexible muscle—one that can be used in new ways.

The same is true for us as we sit in the present era. As we see the brokenness of our world or experience personal suffering, an ache rises to the surface of our hearts. The tension of longing for a future without such things. This serves to remind us that the ultimate victory has not yet been accomplished.

We celebrate past victories as a reminder of the future victory that awaits us (Psalm 137:4-6).

And yet, we wait with hope for that day as we remind ourselves of past victories. Knowing that the final “Day of the Lord”, the second return of Lord Jesus, brings the final act of divine judgment and deliverance. (Rev. 21). A holy city where God himself will dwell among his people and “death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:3-4).



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