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What is the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5)?

great and dreadful day

As Malachi closes out the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures, he records God’s announcement that He will “send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5). This day of the Lord is a time that will be both “great” and “dreadful” or “awesome” (ESV) or “terrible” (NASB).

Earlier in the same prophecy, the Lord had affirmed that He would send His messenger to prepare His path, and then He would appear in His temple (Malachi 3:1). The coming of that messenger announcing the arrival of the Messiah happened just over four hundred years later. John the Baptist was the messenger, and the Lord Jesus appeared in the temple. Now we await the fulfillment of the rest of Malachi’s prophecy, when the great and dreadful day of the Lord will take place.

The coming of the day of the Lord is announced by Isaiah as destruction from the Almighty (Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:15). It will cause everyone to be terrified (Isaiah 13:7). The day of the Lord will be cruel and a day of fury and burning anger (Isaiah 13:8). It will be a time when the lights in the heavens will be greatly disturbed (Isaiah 13:10), and the world will be visited with judgment (Isaiah 13:11). The day of the Lord will be a day of clouds (Ezekiel 30:3), darkness (Amos 5:18, 20), and gloom, like nothing that has ever happened before nor will happen after that day (Joel 2:2). The day of the Lord will be a great and awesome day that no one can endure (Joel 2:11). The day of the Lord will be accompanied by great wonders in the sky and on earth, and, before that day arrives, God will darken the sun and the moon (Joel 2:31). It will be a day of justice, in which fair judgment will be meted out to nations (Obadiah 1:15). Even in those awesome and terrifying times, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32). The day of the Lord is near, and it will come quickly when it is time (Zephaniah 1:7, 14).

Based on the various references to the day of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is evident that the day of the Lord will be a time of judgment that includes the time of Jacob’s trouble or distress (Jeremiah 30:4–7); it is the seventieth “seven” of the prophetic calendar God gave to Daniel (Daniel 9:24–27); and it is the great tribulation that Jesus predicted (Matthew 24:21). After the judgments of the tribulation, Jesus will return to earth to finish the judgment and establish His kingdom (Revelation 19—20).

In the day of the Lord, the Lord of Hosts will have a day of reckoning. All will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted (Isaiah 2:12, 17). In that day His beauty and glory will be evident to all (Isaiah 4:2). In that day the remnant of Israel will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 10:20). In that day, there will be giving of thanks and making His deeds known among the nations (Isaiah 12:4). The day of the Lord will be the culmination of His judgment and the establishment of His rule on earth. As Ezekiel records fifteen times, “they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:10; 28:22–26; 29:9–21; 30:25–26; 33:29; 34:27; 35:15; 36:38; 39:28).

Even as we learn of the justice and judgments of the Lord accompanying the great and dreadful day of the Lord, we also see His incredible grace and mercy, as all who believe in Him have eternal life (John 6:47) and will not see condemnation (Romans 8:1). Nothing can separate God’s redeemed from His love (Romans 8:38–39).

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Questions about Malachi

What is the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5)?
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This page last updated: June 28, 2023