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Looking for the Day of the Lord

Day of Christ


by Dennis Pollock

It is tragic that the idea of looking for the Lord's return has been mocked, even in the church. But it is more than tragic; it is nearly incomprehensible. The only possible explanations for this are either Biblical illiteracy or else incredible bias that blinds people to the many, many Scriptural admonitions for us to watch for Christ's appearing. It is not dissimilar to those peculiar believers who insist that a loving God would never allow His children to suffer. Of course simply living in the real world should demolish such a theory immediately, but aside from that one wonders what Bible they could possibly be reading. If scores of Bible passages and the entire book of Job cannot convince them of the error of their theology, I suppose nothing would.

So it is with the reality, the relevancy, and the legitimacy of the doctrine of the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To believe the Bible is to believe that our world has not seen the last of Jesus of Nazareth. At one point in history He will return in glory and take His bride, the church, to be with Him in heaven. This is our glorious hope; this is the great event for which we are commanded to eagerly watch.

But ridiculing and dismissing the return of Jesus is nothing new. In fact it began as early as the days of the apostles. Peter takes up this issue in his second epistle, writing:

"…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:3,4)

The mocking skeptics gleefully dismiss the promise of the return of Jesus, attempting to prove their unbelieving assertions simply by the fact that it has not happened yet. "All things continue as they were…" Mockers of God's word and His promises are in fact much older than the days of the apostles however. In describing the blessed man who meditates on the word of God day and night, David declares that such a man does not "sit in the seat of the scornful." Today the seat of the scornful is filled with loud, coarse critics. They mock the virgin birth of Jesus, ridicule the parting of the Red Sea in the days of Moses, and readily dismiss what they consider the preposterous notion that Jonah could have been swallowed by a whale (actually the Bible says "big fish"). God creating Adam from the dust of the ground, Balaam talking to his donkey, the flood of Noah, the manna that fed Israel in the wilderness, Jesus walking on the water, Elijah being fed by ravens, Elisha healing Naaman's leprosy… you name the miracle and they are prepared to either deny it outright or suggest some far-fetched natural explanation that is more bizarre than the miracle itself!

Peter's response to the mockers

But it is the return of our Lord Jesus Christ that receives the loudest, the greatest, the most vociferous, and the most universal ridicule of all. Peter's first response to the skeptics is to remind them of the flood of Noah's days: "For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water" (2 Peter 3:5,6). What does this have to do with anything? Why bring up this history lesson about Noah and the flood?

Lawyers are always looking for precedents. Realizing that judges and juries will have a tough time supporting a ruling that has never occurred before, they carefully comb through law books and case histories to find examples of other cases in which judges and juries ruled and pronounced in favor of defendants in similar circumstances. What the apostle is doing here is establishing a precedent. Since it is so difficult for men to accept an experience that has never occurred in their own history or the history of the world, he reminds them that there has been a divine destruction once before that wiped out nearly all life on earth.

God has done it before and Peter declares He will do it again: "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:7). Peter makes a parallel between the destruction of the earth with water in Noah's day, and the destruction of the present world by fire in the Day of the Lord. God has promised never to destroy the earth with a flood. But this next worldwide destruction will be through fire. It is interesting that Peter uses the idea of being "reserved for fire." Our earth has a reservation, an appointment with a fiery end. Just as the condemned criminal sits and waits for years on death row until all appeals are exhausted and his time of execution arrives, so our world awaits its own demise by inferno – a not so insignificant element of that time known as "the Day of the Lord."

Peter gives us some details about this coming cataclysm: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). This mind boggling explosion will produce the loudest noise ever heard and the most intense heat ever released. The very atmosphere will be set ablaze as our world and all that it contains will come to a fiery end. Nothing will be able to withstand its fury – not the most fireproof buildings, not the polar icecaps, not the oceans themselves. The mountains will melt like hot wax, the oceans will be obliterated  in a gigantic hiss, and every trace, every reminder, every evidence that man ever walked this planet shall be eradicated.

Earth ablazeWe are tempted to wonder why. And while Peter doesn't give us the answer, we can find a hint by a phrase he uses when he writes, "the earth and its works will be burned up." In the book of Numbers God declares that the spilling of innocent blood both pollutes and defiles the earth. When you consider just how much innocent blood has been shed in the history of our planet, the quantity must be absolutely colossal. Oceans and oceans of blood have been spilled on nearly every acre on our planet – the blood of young ladies and old men, shopkeepers whose lives were cut short by murderous thieves and teenage girls who came to their end at the hands of sexually perverse men, old men beaten to death by gangs just for the fun of it, and millions of unborn babies slain upon the altar of convenience. And when our holy Creator looks upon this planet, not one drop of that blood remains hidden from His piercing gaze. He sees it all, and in His time He will consume it all in the furnace of His wrath.

Point of Theology

I need to make a theological point here. What we are looking at is not the rapture of the church. Contrary to common misperceptions, the rapture does not represent the end of the world. After Christ comes for His church there are still many events that must occur. The antichrist must arise and inaugurate a one-world government under his own authority. And even after he finally meets his end, Jesus must come and reign on the earth for the thousand year period spoken of in Revelation 20. The dead must be judged at that great "white throne judgment." Only after all this does John write, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away" (Revelation 21:1). This "passing away" of the first earth is precisely what Peter is referring to in these passages.

So why does Peter refer to this as "the Day of the Lord?" All of these events: the rapture of the church, the terrible tribulation period the world must endure, the second coming of Christ to rule on earth, the millennial reign of Christ, and the final judgment of all people represent the Day of the Lord. This is distinctly different from the Day of Christ to which Paul refers in his epistles, which almost always speaks of the return of Jesus as a bridegroom coming for His people – what we know as the rapture of the church. Peter's "Day of the Lord" is a series of events that wind up the earth's history; Paul's "Day of Christ" is a single day in which the church is snatched from the earth.

Getting back to Peter, some may consider this revelation of the coming destruction of our earth as irrelevant and of very little practical use for the Christian. It might make for some interesting speculative discussions around the fireplace on a cold winter evening when there isn't much to do, but busy, active Christians surely must have more important things to think about.

Peter would disagree. He ties the fearful and awesome end of the world to very practical, very pragmatic responsibilities of believers in this present time, writing.

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God… (2 Peter 3:11,12)

As we look toward this event, it should affect our behavior. Meditating upon just how serious God is about sin, and just how determined He is to blot out every trace of it, even to the slightest reminder, our behavior should be affected in a very positive way. Since all of this will happen, "what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" says Jesus' right hand apostle.

Looking, looking, looking

Within the space of three verses he uses the idea of looking for the Day of the Lord three separate times:

  1. ... looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God… (2 Peter 3:12)
  2. … we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
  3. ... looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless… (2 Peter 3:14)

It seems perhaps strange that God wants us to reflect upon so great a cataclysmic event as the end of the world, and feels that it should be of great benefit to us. Yet the word of God makes it clear that by meditating on the end of the world, it should affect the way we treat our spouse, raise our children, behave at our workplace, and relate to the opposite sex. As we look forward to these things, it should create a desire in our hearts to live at peace and without moral stains on our souls. To put it simply: thinking about the return of Christ and the end of the world is like the vegetables your momma used to tell you to eat: it is good for you!

When the dust has cleared every vestige of sin shall be burned out of the fabric of our universe, and we shall live and reign with Jesus, the crucified and resurrected One, forever. There shall be a new earth upon which we shall live, as the psalmist declared long ago: "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalm 37:11).

Some people live with their faces turned backward, longing for the good old days. Others look to the side, easily distracted with silly little games and expensive toys that are of no eternal significance. But God wants His people to live with their gaze fully forward, reflecting upon the great truths of the return of Jesus Christ, the last days of our world, and the new heavens and earth that shall be our eternal home. Yes, there is much to do here and now, but as C. S. Lewis put it: "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next."

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.


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