Verse 17. "For the great day of his wrath" - The decisive and manifest time in which he will execute judgment on the oppressors of his people.
"Who shall be able to stand?" - No might can prevail against the might of God. All these things may literally apply to the final destruction of Jerusalem, and to the revolution which took place in the Roman empire under Constantine the Great. Some apply them to the day of judgment; but they do not seem to have that awful event in view. These two events were the greatest that have ever taken place in the world, from the flood to the eighteenth century of the Christian era; and may well justify the strong figurative language used above.
Through I do not pretend to say that my remarks on this chapter point out its true signification, yet I find others have applied it in the same way. Dr. Dodd observes that the fall of Babylon, Idumea, Judah, Egypt, and Jerusalem, has been described by the prophets in language equally pompous, figurative, and strong. See Isa. xiii. 10; xxxiv. 4, concerning Babylon and Idumea; Jer. iv. 23, 24, concerning Judah; Ezek. xxxii. 7, concerning Egypt; Joel ii. 10, 31, concerning Jerusalem; and our Lord himself, Matt. xxiv. 29, concerning the same city. "Now," says he, "it is certain that the fall of any of these cities or kingdoms was not of greater concern or consequence to the world, nor more deserving to be described in pompous figures, than the fall of the pagan Roman empire, when the great lights of the heathen world, the sun, moon, and stars, the powers civil and ecclesiastical, were all eclipsed and obscured, the heathen emperors and Caesars were slain, the heathen priests and augurs were extirpated, the heathen officers and magistrates were removed, the temples were demolished, and their revenues were devoted to better uses. It is customary with the prophets, after they have described a thing in the most symbolical and figurative manner, to represent the same again in plainer language; and the same method is observed here, ver. 15-17: And the kings of the earth, &c. That is, Maximin, Galerius, Maxentius, Licinius, &c., with all their adherents and followers, were so routed and dispersed that they hid themselves in dens, &c.; expressions used to denote the utmost terror and confusion. This is, therefore, a triumph of Christ over his heathen enemies, and a triumph after a severe persecution; so that the time and all the circumstances, as well as the series and order of the prophecy, agree perfectly with this interpretation. Galerius, Maximin, and Licinius, made even a public confession of their guilt, recalled their decrees and edicts against the Christians, and acknowledged the just judgments of God and of Christ in their own destruction." See Newton, Lowman, &c., and Dr. Dodd on this chapter, with the works of several more recent authors.