“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”[Luke 21:27-28]
When fully grasped, the Day of the LORD is the most sobering, heart-wrenching reality. Divine judgment. Righteous Anger. Fire and blood and thick clouds of smoke. Distress all around. When the powers of the heavens are shaken and all the nations on the earth will mourn and tremble at His presence. For it is the day most terrifying for those who refuse to believe and obey the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet what is sheer horror to a wicked world will be the most beautiful sight ever beheld by the children of God.
For the saints of the Most High, the Day of the LORD is the long-awaited day of deliverance! It is the Day we meet our Maker — face-to-face — and we will stand in awe of Him who comes from heaven in all His power and great glory.
And then at that moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall become like Him, sons of God, and we shall know Him truly as we are truly known. It is the Day that all of God’s children from all time will be gathered together to marvel in His presence and rest in His everlasting love.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”[1 John 3:2]
For believers, the Day of the LORD is our ultimate salvation, our final redemption, our day of destiny, our triumph of victory, our joy complete, our entrance into eternity. For those in Christ Jesus, the Day of the LORD is the greatest Day in history. When all things are made new!
Don’t miss the qualifier. This reality is only for true believers in Jesus Christ. For only those in a personal relationship with the Father through faith in the Son will be delivered in the end.
Since this literally is of eternal importance, I should clarify what is meant by belief or saving faith. This is the essence of how men must respond to the gospel.
Saving faith is relentless trust in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ — the Son of God — who died on the cross for our sin, was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, which results in the following realities …
- Redeemed by Jesus — set free from the penalty of sin and death — by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who became our substitute for sin and paid our ransom at the price of His own life.
- Regenerated by the Holy Spirit — enter spiritual union with the Lord Jesus and receive the divine nature as a new creation in Christ.
- Reconciled to God — all enmity with God is removed as the Prince of Peace now rules and reigns in our hearts, restoring us into a relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Only the just shall live by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And for the justified in Christ — the redeemed — the Day of the LORD will be the most glorious day imaginable.
Now let’s dive a little deeper.
You Will Suffer Tribulation
Jesus Christ made many promises to His followers. One recurring promise was that as long as we remained in this present age, we will have tribulation and the world will hate us for His name’s sake [John 15:18-21, 16:33].
From the very beginning, God’s people have been well acquainted with sorrow, suffering, and persecution. Jesus reminds us of “all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah” [Matthew 23:35]. Jesus also encourages us in the joy we find when we identify with Him through persecution.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[Matthew 5:10-12]
Consider the testimony of the Old Testament. The children of Israel suffered relentlessly and eventually were exiled for being identified as Yahweh’s own portion. From Lot to Job to Joseph to David to Elijah to Jeremiah to Daniel …. the list goes on and on.
Then consider John the Baptist and the Apostles, nearly all of whom died a martyr’s death for the sake of the gospel. The entire testimony of church history is one of persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ, and to this day Christians and Jews remain the most persecuted people groups in the world. That’s not to mention Jesus Himself, who is the supreme example of the righteous suffering at the hands of evil.
A countless number of God’s people — both known and unknown — historically have suffered for their faith.
The author of Hebrews provides one of the most sobering reminders of the cost to follow Jesus Christ and to identify with His name.
“Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”[Hebrews 11:36-40]
There is a reality for all the saints who belong to God and who have both lived and died in faith. God’s people have yet to receive what has been fully promised, which is a far better country — a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells forever.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” [Hebrews 11:16].
That is why the Day of the LORD is so significant for all believers of all time. It is the Day we will finally receive resurrected bodies, inherit the earth, receive our reward as heirs to the kingdom, and dwell eternally in the presence of our God.
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”[Matthew 24:21-22]
I confess that I used to be confused about the difference between God’s wrath and the great tribulation. While there is a unique distinction between the two, they are not mutually exclusive.
When I say the great tribulation, I am speaking of a defined period of approximately 3.5 years (1260 days or 42 months) that culminates with the final measure God’s wrath on the Day of the LORD. I do believe there is legitimate Biblical support for a 3.5 year great tribulation, while I personally am not convinced that we can clearly define any future 7-year period [see Daniel 9:25-27], unless it is derived from it’s obvious connection to the fact that 3.5 years is the midpoint of 7-years.
Tribulation is a generic word that can refer to any and include every form of distress, trouble, calamity, judgment, persecution, pressure, wrath etc… Tribulation can involve a full spectrum of troubles, from internal and external to physical and emotional to personal and universal. So if that is the case, then tribulation does not always directly involve divine judgment, but it most certainly cannot exclude the wrath of God.
In other words, God’s wrath is the epitome of tribulation. God’s wrath would be the worst part of any “tribulation,” and therefore must be the height of the great tribulation, as the worst time in human history.
And that is precisely what the Scriptures bear. The Day of the LORD is the culmination of God’s wrath at His coming, yet the great tribulation also will include progressive acts of divine judgment and demonstrations of God’s wrath [see the Seal, trumpet, bowl judgments etc..] that represent the agonizing labor pains that precede the return of Christ.
That is precisely what makes the great tribulation so great! It will be that unique time in history that will never again be equaled in magnitude and mass destruction. That is because it will be the culmination and combination of man’s wickedness and violence, worldly upheaval, natural disaster, demonic evil, satanic wrath, divine judgment — all climaxing with the righteous indignation and final outpouring of God’s wrath.
That is why Jesus says that if God doesn’t put an end to the great tribulation — then no human being would survive. All flesh would be lost. But for the sake of the elect — people of faith — God will bring everything to an end.
The end of the great tribulation will be that moment when the dust clears and the trumpets stop and sun breaks through the darkest clouds and the earth stops shaking and the roaring oceans are stilled and the enemies of God have been defeated and the battle is over and the whole world will stand in total silence — in awe of the King who has returned from heaven to claim His kingdom and sit down on His glorious throne on the mountain of Zion.
That is how God brings an end to the great tribulation. And that is why the Day of the LORD is the great Day of our deliverance.
God is Able to Protect His People
The next obvious conclusion is that there will be a unique generation of believers on the earth during this most perilous time that will endure to the end and so be delivered. Some are confused about this, especially in light of alternative views like the pre-tribulation rapture.
But the testimony of God’s word is crystal clear. God’s elect, His children — the church of the living God — will be on the earth during the great tribulation and must endure many hardships, including captivity, persecution, satanic wrath, and even death. But God only directs His wrath on the ungodly and the wicked, never the righteous.
Plus, lest we forget, when Christ comes we will be changed in an instant and be like Him, glorified, and therefore we will have received our resurrected bodies. At that point, we cannot die. We cannot get hurt. We cannot experience pain. So as Jesus unleashes His wrath on the nations and pours out his fire upon the earth on that Day — it won’t affect us. We will be untouchable!
God has proven Himself quite capable of both protecting His own while at the same time concentrating His wrath on His enemies. He did this with the Hebrews in Egypt, with Noah and flood, Lot in Sodom, the remnant during the Babylonian invasion, Daniel in the lion’s den etc … God’s track record is not about removing us from as much as it is seeing us through tribulation.
“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.”[Isaiah 26:20]
“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.”[Zephaniah 2:3]
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”[Luke 21:36]
“I am not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.”[John 17:15]
When We Finally Find Relief and Rest
The Day of the LORD will be our great Day of Deliverance, when Christ shall come to save His people.
The Apostle Paul provides one of the most descriptive accounts of this future Day of Deliverance in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. Notice how he connects our day of final relief and rest from tribulation with the Day of the LORD.
- “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering …” [2 Thes. 1:5] — God’s people who endure suffering for His name are worthy of the coming kingdom.
- “Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when …” [2 Thes. 1:6-7] — God has promised to repay with tribulation those who cause us tribulation and to grant us our final relief when?
- WHEN … “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus …” [2 Thes. 1:7-8] — God tells us exactly when we can expect ultimate relief and final redemption. When Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire to inflict vengeance.
- WHEN … “He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed …” [2 Thes. 1:10]
The Day of the LORD. The Day of Deliverance for all God’s people.
Next time I will examine the relationship between ethnic/national Israel and the remnant of the faithful in last days.