Part Two of Three
The Day of the Lord: When, How and Why?
Part Two – God Saves Israel
“For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution,
to uphold Zion's cause.” (Isaiah 34:8)
In Part One of this series we discovered that the Day of the Lord begins when God suddenly shakes the earth after the opening of the sixth Seal of Revelation. Now we must figure out exactly why God decides to strike the earth with such a devastating judgment. The answer, once again, can be discovered by examining the words of the Old Testament prophets concerning this long-expected apocalyptic Day.
Anger, Wrath, and Divine Protection
According to Isaiah 34:8, the purpose of the Day of the Lord is “to uphold Zion’s cause.” The divine purpose of the Day of the Lord is also revealed by the prophet Joel:
“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; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” (Joel 3:14-16)
Joel writes that the Day of the Lord will be a time when the Lord will “roar from Zion” and “thunder from Jerusalem” and that He will be a “refuge” and a “stronghold” for His people Israel. God will protect the faithful of Israel during the Day of the Lord, which other prophets describe as a day of judgment that is the result of God’s anger and wrath:
“See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it… Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.” (Isaiah 13:9,13)
“Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD's wrath comes upon you. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.” (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
But what could possibly arouse God’s anger to such an extent that He would reach out and shake the entire earth? This question is very clearly answered by the prophet Ezekiel:
“This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezekiel 38:18-20)
The passage that you have just read is part of Ezekiel’s description of the events that provoke God’s anger and wrath, causing Him to strike out in judgment against the nations of the world in defense of His people Israel. This text is a description of the beginning of the great and terrible Day of the Lord and it is the very same event that is described in the sixth Seal judgment of Revelation 6:12-17. The parallels are clear and unmistakable and they become even more obvious when compared with the descriptions of the beginning of the Day of the Lord that are provided by Jesus and Paul. We will now examine five of these parallels.
1. Peace and Safety
Paul writes that “people” will be saying “peace and safety” prior to the Day of the Lord, and Jesus speaks of a similar attitude with people “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” just before “that day” comes (Matthew 24:38). In another passage Jesus warns believers to resist the temptations of “dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life” (Luke 21:34) which also implies an apparently peaceful setting leading up to the Day of the Lord.
When we turn to Ezekiel we find that Israel is living in “safety” (38:8 and 38:14), and Israel is described as a “peaceful and unsuspecting people” (38:11). Furthermore, in an enigmatic reference, we are told that God will also strike “those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the LORD” (39:6).
Author and Bible scholar Doug Berner has specialized in the study of Ezekiel 38-39 and in his article “A False Sense of Security” (see www.thesilenceisbroken.us) he focuses on the meaning of the word “safety” (betach) in Ezekiel’s context. He concludes that Israel can be more properly described as “dwelling carelessly under a false sense of security” rather than existing in “an actual condition of safety.” Once again this compares favorably with Paul’s description of the attitude of unbelievers prior to the Day of the Lord. They will be saying “peace and safety” but then “destruction will come on them suddenly… and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
2. Sudden Destruction
The references above also point to the fact that the Day of the Lord, from all perspectives, will come suddenly and with great destruction. The initial “destruction” of the beginning of the Day of the Lord is described in Ezekiel 38:20, “The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.” From Ezekiel’s description it seems as if the mountains and rocks will answer the plea voiced by the people of the earth as a result of the sixth Seal: “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 6:16).
Jesus compares the destruction of the Day of the Lord with the destruction of the flood of Noah, which destroyed all of the unbelievers. It is true that not all unbelievers will be destroyed at the beginning of the Day of the Lord, but this does not mean that the comparison does not apply. The destruction of the Day of the Lord will come in stages and at the final stage, prior to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, the wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will be invited into the Kingdom. In the end, as far as unbelievers are concerned, the Day of the Lord will deliver the same final and absolute result as Noah’s flood.
3. A Global Earthquake
The Old Testament prophets are clear that the Day of the Lord will begin with the shaking of the earth, and we have already shown how this event is also described in Revelation as the sixth Seal judgment. If we look closer we can see exactly how this shaking of the earth begins. Recall how the events of the sixth Seal are first described:
“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake…” (Revelation 6:12).
Apparently the seismic activity of the Day of the Lord begins as a local earthquake. Ezekiel reveals exactly where this initial earthquake occurs when he writes, “In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel” (38:19). In Ezekiel’s description, as in Revelation, this earthquake expands so that all the people on the face of the earth “tremble” at the presence of God (38:20). Joel offers words to the same effect in his description of the Day of the Lord. He says that “The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble” (3:16).
From all of these descriptions we can deduce that perhaps Jerusalem, God’s holy city, will be the exact epicenter of this great global earthquake. The tremors will first be felt in Israel, but then they will radiate outwards, gathering in momentum and intensity until the shaking of the earth affects the entire globe!
4. The Wrath of God
Virtually all of the texts that describe the beginning of the Day of the Lord explain that it is the result of the wrath of God. This is true in Ezekiel, who writes of God’s “zeal” and “fiery wrath” that manifests as the initial earthquake in Israel, and references to “wrath” are also found in the statements from mankind after the earth is shaken:
“…hide us from… the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come…” (Revelation 6:16-17)
The Apostle Paul also mentions wrath in connection with the beginning of the Day of the Lord,
“…you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness… For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-5,9)
5. The Fear of Man
The final parallel that we will examine, that unites all of these separate descriptions of the beginning of the Day of the Lord, concerns humanity’s fearful response to God’s actions:
Isaiah 2:19, “Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.”
Isaiah 13:6-8, “Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.”
Ezekiel 38:20, “The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence.”
Luke 21:25-26 “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.”
Revelation 6:14-17, “The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
The Destruction of the Magog Alliance
What we have discovered so far is that the Day of the Lord begins because of the threat against Israel that comes from the Magog Alliance of Ezekiel 38-39. Yet the very first judgment that comes from God is not directed specifically at the armies of the invasion, or against their home countries, but is a shaking of the earth directed against the entire world!
It seems that there is a brief interlude between the shaking of the earth and the subsequent judgment that is directed specifically against the Magog Alliance. The destruction of the invaders is described in Ezekiel and, once again, there is a parallel description in the book of Revelation:
“I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man's sword will be against his brother. I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 38:21-23)
“The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7)
If the first Trumpet judgment of Revelation is indeed directed at the armies and nations of the Magog Alliance then affected areas would include the Middle East, Turkey, parts of western Asia, parts of Africa, and perhaps all of Russia. The total of these regions, in addition to the undefined area of the “coastlands” mentioned in Ezekiel 39:6, would, according to Revelation 8:7, add up to one third of the land area of the earth.
Once more we find that there are at least two passages from the prophet Isaiah that help us to better understand the Magog invasion that leads to God’s intervention on behalf of Israel and the judgments of the Day of the Lord. The first of these passages begins with a promise from God,
“O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” (Isaiah 30:19)
God promises that He will rescue Israel when they cry for help, and then Isaiah describes how Israel’s rescuer will appear:
“See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire. His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray… The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.” (Isaiah 30:27-28,30)
There are so many elements within this passage that connect with what we have learned so far that it is hard to decide where to begin. The appearance of the “Name of the Lord” here in the Old Testament can only be a mysterious reference to the Messiah, the second member of the Godhead, who is the ultimate savior of Israel. Also, the Day of the Lord is obviously in mind here because of the references to “anger,” “wrath,” and “destruction.” But next we should note the order of events:
─First the nations are shaken, which lines up with our understanding of how the Day of the Lord begins, and how God’s wrath first manifests in Ezekiel 38:19-20.
─Then the “peoples” are led astray by God placing a bit in their jaws. The allusion to Ezekiel 38:3-4 here is certainly remarkable, which states, “I am against you, O Gog… I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army…” We know that the Magog Alliance includes many nations so the reference to “peoples” (plural) that are “led astray” in Isaiah’s description makes sense.
─Finally, Isaiah says that the world will see God’s “arm coming down” in a judgment of “consuming fire, cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.” This connects directly with the judgment that destroys the Magog invasion as described in Ezekiel and in the first Trumpet of Revelation. The “arm coming down” equates with “poured down” or “hurled down”; the “consuming fire” equates with the “burning sulfur” and the “fire” that destroys a third of the earth; the “cloudburst and thunderstorm” equates with the “torrents of rain” described by Ezekiel; and Isaiah’s reference to “hail” also appears in both Ezekiel and Revelation.
In Ezekiel we are given the impression that God’s wrath is only stirred after the Magog Alliance has begun its invasion of Israel: “This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused…” (38:18). Yet at the same time we read that it is actually God who pulls Gog into the conflict, almost as if it is against his will! Furthermore, we find that the first judgment described in Ezekiel 38:19-20 is not directed specifically at the invaders, but against the entire world. How can we make sense of this confusing scenario? We should back up a bit and examine a verse that makes it clear who first devises the plan for this group of nations to attack Israel:
“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. You will say, ‘I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people--all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.’” (Isaiah 38:10-12)
From this text it is clear that the plan to invade and destroy Israel is initially conceived in the dark heart of Gog, the leader of the land of Magog. God does not tempt Gog into devising the scheme, but it is God who ensures that the invasion takes place at the time of His own choosing. That is why God pulls the invaders by the jaws, as described by both Ezekiel and Isaiah.
The scenario that I believe should be considered is that perhaps the shaking of the earth takes place first, and then the invasion begins in the immediate aftermath. Is it possible that Israel’s enemies will view the shaking of the earth as a gift from Allah, creating a tempting opportunity to attack Israel? An event involving the shifting of the earth’s poles would certainly cripple Israel’s defenses, as well as the power of the U.S. Military that is Israel’s most powerful protector in the region. Both countries are highly dependent on orbiting satellites and fixed points of latitude and longitude for communication, navigation, and the targeting of weapons, and after a polar shift all of these technologies would be completely useless.
Indeed, this is the order of events that is given in Isaiah 30:27-30: first the shaking of the earth, then the divine act of leading the nations astray by the jaws, and finally the destruction of those invaders meted out by Israel’s divine Savior. When we look in Revelation at what happens after the sixth Seal (global earthquake) and just before the first Trumpet (destruction of the Magog Alliance) we see that there is a curious interlude that is relevant to our investigation:
“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 8:1)
Is it possible that the Magog invasion of Israel begins after the shaking of the earth during this brief period of silence? The other prophecy from Isaiah that may help us answer this question is Isaiah 18.
“Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers. All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it. This is what the LORD says to me: "I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter.” (Isaiah 18:1-6)
I am not the first Bible scholar to see allusions to Ezekiel 38-39 within this text. Cush is a member of the Magog Alliance, and it could be that Isaiah is describing the formation of this Alliance when envoys from Cush travel to the land described as strange, aggressive and powerful (Russia?). In any case, the result of this diplomatic activity seems to be the raising of a banner on the mountains, which may be a description of the Magog invasion that comes “against the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:2). God’s response to this activity, which parallels the strange “silence in heaven” of Revelation 8:1, is to “remain quiet” from His “dwelling place.” However, it is apparent that God’s silence does not last long, because the end result of the invading army is compared to grapes that are reaped at the harvest. The final description of the invaders’ fate in Isaiah 18:6 compares almost exactly with the description that can be read in Ezekiel 39:17-20.
The Aftermath of the Invasion
Now that we have discovered exactly “Why?” the Day of the Lord begins we will turn our attention to the task of connecting the Magog invasion with the timeline of the 70th Week of Daniel. We are looking for evidence of a specific seven-year period and, fortunately for us, the prophet Ezekiel provides just such a reference within his description of the aftermath of the invasion. Notice as well the first verse of this passage, which should eliminate any doubt that Ezekiel 38-39 describes the beginning of the great and terrible Day of the Lord:
“It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign LORD. This is the day I have spoken of. Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up--the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 39:8-10)
The appearance of this seven-year period in the aftermath of the Magog invasion should make it perfectly clear that the beginning of the Day of the Lord precedes the signing of the 70th Week covenant. It is simply absurd to think that the Day of the Lord could begin sometime after the 70th Week has already begun, because this would mean that these captured weapons are burned for fuel after the earth has been miraculously renovated and the Messianic Kingdom of peace and prosperity has begun. In fact, Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 both state that any weapons that enter into the Millennial Kingdom will not be used as fuel, but will instead be turned into agricultural equipment!
This common-sense chronological conclusion is also arrived at by author Doug Berner in his authoritative study on the Magog invasion, The Silence Is Broken!, recently published in the summer of 2006. Berner analyzes Ezekiel 38-39 from virtually every conceivable perspective and he agrees that the Day of the Lord begins as a result of God’s desire to protect His people Israel. Furthermore, he also concludes that the 70th Week covenant of Daniel 9:27 cannot be connected with the first Seal of Revelation, and can only be signed sometime after the first Trumpet judgment of Revelation in the aftermath of the destruction of the Magog Alliance.
We have now provided conclusive answers for the “When, How and Why?” of the Day of the Lord. It will begin within the sixth Seal of Revelation sometime before the signing of the 70th Week Covenant; it will begin with the catastrophic shaking of the earth; and it will begin because of God’s desire to protect Israel from her enemies.
The next and final article of this series will focus on the relationship between the Church and the Day of the Lord. Isaiah 30:30 says that “The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice” at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 connects the “trumpet call of God” with the resurrection and rapture of the Church. The next article will take a fresh look at this glorious event, confirm its relationship to the Day of the Lord, and find its proper place in the book of Revelation.
Peter D. Goodgame
Editor – www.redmoonrising.com
Author – Red Moon Rising: The Rapture and the Timeline of the Apocalypse
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