Zephaniah, Part II: Day Of The Lord

Before we get to chapter two of Zephaniah, I wanted to spend a bit of time on the theme of the 'Day of the Lord' as it is used in the last part of the first chapter of Zephaniah. When the Lord utters his voice about the Day of the Lord we must keep in mind that there have been many Day's of the Lord. The OT prophets spoke of the day of the Lord as it related to the punishment of Israel for her sins and in most instances, it was related to the fall of Israel to the King of Babylon in 586BC. But the deluge can very much be considered a day of the Lord as well, though the prophecies of Noah were not recorded for us is such a way as they made the official cannon of scripture. In short, there is no single 'day of the Lord' as when it comes to Old Testament Prophecy. In brief, the Day of the Lord is a day when God brings in judgment upon those who have rebelled against him, refused to repent and went on doing evil. In essence it is the day of the Lord's wrath and anger. What is the result of the day of the Lord in the Old Testament sense? We can get a sense of it from the book of Lamentations.

How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger! The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
(Lam 2:1-5)

The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied. Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD'S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.
(Lam 2:21-22)

But I think we should take a look at the purpose of these 'doom and gloom' prophecies for we Christians who live in the very last days. Yes, they can be gloomy but they are so for a reason. Men have done great evil and God, if he is just, must recompense. But God's righteousness is not man's righteousness. He has a much higher standard that fallen men have. God does not just give justice to the highest bidder or those who can bribe the Judge the most. He does not show favoritism based on race or economic standing. But he does pay particular attention to the poor, the helpless and those who lack the resources to corrupt the justice system and watches most carefully how the rich treat them. His anger is particularly aimed at those who have power and abuse it, especially against the poor and defenseless.

But I think we need to understand the day of the Lord as being a day when a key phase in God's ultimate purpose with mankind is being fulfilled. This is particularly true in the final Day of the Lord when the Messiah returns. You see, we need to understand the whole program God has put in place. I mean the whole plan that God revealed to us for the redemption and damnation of the human race, the creation of which was one of God's deepest regrets. So when we hear the phrase Day of the Lord we must try and understand it in terms of God's short term and long term purposes. In the days of the old Prophets like Zephaniah, it was to redeem Israel. But Israel had sinned and done very great evil in God's eyes. This God was compelled to judge and recompense Israel for that was the only way she would receive correction. The Prophets message did not work. God had to get 'personal and painful' with the people, and that brothers he did.

I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
(Lam 3:1-8)

Dear readers, with most people, they are hard headed. They don't listen and are not going to listen to God or his workmen. Only the pangs of pain and the screams of suffering will make them reconsider their ways and this is why God had to do what he did back in the days of Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Sin had reached a point where he could no longer wink at or ignore it, he had to judge it.

So what is God's plan? I mean really? Is it to make the world and the people in it better? No, at least not in the way most would understand it. Is it to just let the world lapse into total evil and then destroy it? No. God's plan can be encapsulated like this. God has a plan to let mankind and his character reveal itself to all creation. The results of sin must be seen for what it is. But God put an alternative plan in place to redeem all men who acknowledge and repent of the evil of their doings. We call these people who decide to take the alternative path, the Church or in eschatological words, the Bride of Christ. So when we hear the phrase day of the Lord we must do our best in NT terms to understand just what God's purpose is. It is two fold.

1. It is to judge the world for its sin and evil
2. It is to redeem the Israel of God, the Bride of Christ/Church (called out ones) of the most high.
In many ways we can see the purpose of the Day of the Lord in Christ's words at his first advent, just before the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early Christians. It is the Spirit of God who is to show us of things to come.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
(Joh 16:8-13)

The idea of the Day of the Lord is not some day of some hate-filled, vengeful God who is just itching to destroy the earth and burn man up. Rather it is the painstaking culmination of millennia of striving with fallen men to get them to be reconciled with their creator and to a much lesser degree with each other; to turn from evil, selfishness, fear and doubt and to love the good, be giving, to have courage and faith.

Why do we have wars? Fear is one big reason. The fear of what others will do to us. In America this fear has taken transformed itself into a national paranoia. Now the nation up-ends whole nations that never attacked us. Why? Fear. Fear and greed.  Irrational fear that says 'Kill them before they even think about killing us'. It has no faith. This kind of fear always eventually leads to some kind of sin. If it is the fear of hunger it leads to theft, it is the fear of attack, it leads to war, if it is the fear of truth it will lead to lies. Fear is often the first step on the road to sin. Faith is the first step on the road back to God.

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, \
shall he find faith on the earth? (Luk 18:8b)

I can remember just as the US did its Ukraine evil, I was talking with a National Security official about the crap they had just started. He talked about the need to 'tie up the Bear' (Russia) and destroy the Post Soviet-collapse Russian state with coups, assassinations, Nazi's and terrorists (he did not say specifically that but I read between the lines) . I could not believe what I was hearing. But I smelled the fear and heard the hatred in this person's voice. He did not care one whit for God, the needs of others, the fate of millions of Russians. No, he just wanted to feed his fear and hate demons and the only way to do that was with the blood of others.

Gone was rational thought; gone was any thought of cooperation, which had been working quite well with Russia. Gone was any other thought other than expand the US empire onto Russia's borders and even into Russia itself, steal Russia's oil and basically make Russia a huge US gas station whereby America could control Europe's oil markets and (this was part of the plan too) set Russian against Russian in a long running civil war that would destroy and depopulate Russia of the Slavic races. As this person was speaking, I could almost smell the brimstone steaming over the telephone receiver. What did this irrational fear and hate get us? Many dead, Nazi's in power and a policy of utter failure. Russia has its faults, many of them but the glorification of sodomy and national apostasy are not among them, unlike America.

After the Day of the Lord, the empire of fear and violence will be replaced with one of faith and peace. God is going to change the fundamental principles on which the world works when he brings in his kingdom. But in order to do that he must replace and remove those men who refuse to be changed by the Gospel of love. Those who fan the flames of fear will have their fears come to fruition. Those who utter lies will eat the bread of delusions.

I also will choose their delusions,
and will bring their fears upon them;
because when I called, none did answer;
when I spake, they did not hear:
but they did evil before mine eyes,
and chose that in which I delighted not.

(Isa 66:4)

The ultimate Day of the Lord (the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ) has this two fold purpose then. To redeem the elect as well as remove and judge the unrepentant damned.

But we as Christians must know and understand some things. God has put these prophecies in our Bibles for a reason. God has given us a rough timeline of events to look for before the Day of the Lord. Why did he do that? He did it because the days leading up to Christ's coming would be days of enormous deception. One of the reasons that God gave us these prophecies so that we would not be deceived. The Day of the Lord has to be looked at in light of the entirety of what God's plan for mankind since the beginning. It was and is to restore all things after the fall to God's immutable character - damnation for the evil, salvation for the just. In short, it is to redeem mankind of his sins and remake the world. It is also to totally defeat the works of the devil. The ultimate purpose of the Day of the Lord must be understood before we can really understand why it is such a dark day for the world. I did not say for the saints for they (we) are not of this world and shall not suffer in the punishment thereof. Again Isiah lays this out perfectly in just two versus.

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
(Isa 13:11-12)

This is one of the key purposes of the Day of the Lord. God is going to get rid of mankind whom he made and now regrets having done so. But God's love for man and his deep sense of justice would not let him just destroy all of us outright. No, he is giving us all a fantastic chance to not only be saved, but to be called a Son of God! This is a very, very high honor and it makes his joint heirs with Christ! So for mankind the choice is not just heaven and hell, but a very high place in God's kingdom or damnation with all the fallen angels who caused all of this trouble and evil to begin with.

So for the Day of the Lord for us Christians is one that we look towards as it is the day of our redemption.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
(1Th 5:1-6)

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1Co 1:8-9)

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
(2Pe 3:10-13)

Many critics have always said that the early apostle's were wrong in that they thought that Christ would come in their times. Yes, it is inferred in many places that they seemed to be under the impression that the day of the Lord was at hand. But Paul despite what others say, never really said that. Here is what he said.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
(2Th 2:1-4)
No. Paul did not see the Day of the Lord coming right away. He made it plain that there were many things that had to happen first. In fact, I will lay this out as well to you. Christ said this about the Day of the Lord that I think is most striking in its direct simplicity that everyone misses.

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
(Luk 12:40)

When doing any good basic Bible study one must always do ones very best to note:

1. Who is talking
2. Who they are talking to
3. The time and situation around the conversation
Who is talking in this verse? Christ. Who is he talking to? His disciples. When was he talking to them. In the first century AD.

How many do you think believed that Christ would wait two Biblical days to revive Israel to her land (two thousand years - Hosea 6:2 cf. 2Pet 2:8). Or that Christ would not return for two Biblical days. "the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

How did Christ put his return?

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
(Act 1:6-7)

Again, Peter also makes plain that the day of the Lord may not come as soon as many thought.

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
(2Pe 3:8-9)

In closing let me say this. I look at the Day of the Lord as kind of a spiritual 'D' day. A day that God has fixed that no man can know. Like D day in WWII, the allies kept the actual day of the invasion secret. The Nazi's did not know the day or the invasion point. They only knew that an invasion was coming.

We as part of the Lord's army know a few details but only a few, like the soldiers of WWII they did not know the day of battle, they only knew that it was coming and that when it came, they would be in the thick of it.

Brothers, the Day of the Lord for us though is a day of great redemption. We shall be redeemed and changed in the span of a second or two and given bodies that shall never see death. But the fate of lost man is one that can be described as horror that will go on forever and ever as the Lord makes an eternal example of those who rebel against the most high.


Mark S. Watson