Michelangelo’s painting The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel focuses on Christ. He is the all-powerful Judge. He draws the saved figures, rejoicing, to Himself, and with His other hand directs that the damned be cast into hell. Though prior medieval paintings on this topic showed social class and rank, Michelangelo painted his characters nude to show that their earthly positions meant nothing to God.
The Day of the Lord, Amos preached, is not necessarily a day to look forward to. The NIV Study Bible defines the Day of the Lord as “The time when God will show himself the victor over the world, vindicating his claims to be the Lord over all the earth.” For sinners, it is an occasion of judgment, punishment, wrath, and justice. The phrase is occasionally used with a short-term future in mind, but always with a larger eschatology behind it.
The Israelites thought the Day of the Lord would only be terrible for other nations, not them. But due to their covenant unfaithfulness and sins including idolatry and hypocrisy (vv. 21–27), this Day would be darkness for them as well— “pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness” (vv. 18–20). Other prophets also pictured the Day in terms of this metaphor. To Joel, it would be “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (2:1–2; see Zeph. 1:14–16). Darkness is a metaphor for suffering, confusion, and despair.
Today’s passage is the earliest use of this prophetic phrase and in part refers to the Assyrian conquest of Israel. Amos was calling the Israelites to repent. In the New Testament, Peter used “Day of the Lord” to refer to Christ’s Second Coming and similarly called the church to live holy lives in light of this certain future (2 Peter 3:9–13).
The Day of the Lord is another reason for us to share our faith. Unsaved sinners all around us are headed for the event pictured in these distressing images. But their fate isn’t inevitable. We’ve been entrusted with good news to share with them! If they call on the name of the Lord, they, too, can be given new life and eternal salvation (Acts 2:21–24).