“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).
One of the most popular Christian books of the 1970’s was Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth. Since then, there have been a whole host of other popular literature published regarding the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Day of the Lord. One of the most popular in the 1990’s was the Left Behind series by Dr. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
The phrase Day of the Lord refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power, might and glory (Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 1:15; 3:14; I Thessalonians 5:1-2). It is the time of God’s divine intervention and judgment upon the sinful and fallen world.
It was an expression used by OT prophets (as early as the eighth-century bc prophet Amos) to signify a time in which God actively intervenes in history, primarily for judgment. Thus “the day of the Lord” is also called “the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:2).
The Day of the Lord is used in the OT not only to speak of a past judgment (Lamentations 2:22) but also to refer to future judgment (Joel 2:1–11). Ultimately, though, the term refers to climactic future judgment of the world (Joel 3:14–21; Malachi 4:5).
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains that, “Often, prophecy of a near-future event and an end-time prophecy are merged—the immediate judgment being a preview of the final Day of the Lord. The prophecy of Isaiah against Babylon is an example (Isaiah 13:5–10). Jesus combined events described there with other prophecies to explain his second coming (Mark 13:24–37). Another example is Joel’s prophecy of the Day of the Lord (Joel 1:15–2:11). Though the prophet initially spoke of God’s judgment on Israel by a locust plague, that judgment prompted further pronouncements about a final Day of the Lord far beyond Joel’s time (2:14–17, 31). That Day of the Lord extended even beyond the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost predicted by Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:16–21; Revelation 6:12–13). The NT uses the term exclusively to mean the end time.”
“The final Day of the Lord is characterized in the Bible as a day of gloom, darkness, and judgment. Associated with God’s judgment is language depicting changes in nature, especially a darkening of the sun, moon, and stars (Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:31; 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12). Nations will be judged for their rebellion against God’s anointed people and king (Joel 3:19; cf. Psalm 2). Israel is counseled not to be eager for that day, because it will also include judgment on the chosen nation (Amos 5:18–20). But the prophets promise that a believing “remnant” will be saved by looking to the Messiah they once rejected (Joel 2:32; Zechariah 12:10). Following the judgment, the future Day of the Lord will be a time of prosperity, restoration, and blessing for Israel (Joel 3:18–21).”
“The more explicit NT expressions—“the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8), “the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14), and “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10; 2:16)—are more personal and more positive. They point to final events related to Christian believers, who will not experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9). When the Day of the Lord comes, the earth will be renewed and purified through a judgment of fire (2 Peter 3:10–13). In the book of Revelation the final purging seems to come after the Millennium—that is, the 1,000-year reign of Christ (Revelation 21:1).”
Another familiar image associated with the coming Day of the Lord is that it will come like a thief. The idea of a thief (κλέπτης; kleptes) is used with respect to an individual who does not announce his intended arrival. He comes secretly and suddenly, often when he is least expected. Jesus used this simile to communicate how unexpected His arrival would be (Luke 12:39-40). Jesus’ arrival will not only be sudden but also catastrophic.
When Jesus does return, the physical universe will feel the effects. The language Peter used is similar to the Old Testament and of Jesus (Isaiah 34:1-4; 64:1-4; Matthew 24:29-31).
Heavenly bodies could refer to (1) elements which make up the world such as the earth, fire and water; (2) astronomical bodies such as the sun, moon and the stars; or (3) angelic beings who have delegated power over nature. Most scholars favor #2.
It is at this time that the fallen world’s works will be exposed (εὑρεθήσεται; heurethesetai) or found to be what they truly are. It is these works that form the basis of God’s judgment upon unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15).
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “In the catastrophic conflagration at the end of the Millennium, the heavens (the earth’s atmosphere and the starry sky, not God’s abode) will disappear with a roar, which in some way will involve fire (2 Peter 3:7, 12). The elements (stoicheia, either stars or material elements with which the universe is made) will be destroyed by fire (and will melt, v. 12), and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (eurethēsetai). This Greek word could mean that everything will be exposed for what it really is.”
The Day of the Lord is coming. It is sooner than it has ever been. Endeavor to share the gospel with those who are in need of Christ’s righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Soli deo Gloria!