The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

After King Solomon died, Israel fell into chaos. Solomon’s son took the throne and tried to rule with an iron fist, prompting one of King Solomon’s army officers to revolt that resulted in a country divided. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel formed the northern partition, referred to as ‘Israel;’ and the remaining two tribes formed the southern kingdom of Judah.

Both Israel and Judah reverted to paganism. Israel suffers through eight corrupt and pagan kings and Judah is having their own problems as well. Despite having a few good kings, their own corrupt kings lead Judah to pagan worship as well.

God made a promise to King David that the Messiah would be a descendant of his lineage and that His kingdom would last forever. Well, that lineage was part of the kingdom of Judah. To keep His promise, God was going to have to intervene in a big way, to keep Judah from self-destruction.

So, in approximately 835 B.C., God decides to get their attention by sending a plague of locusts that decimates Judah’s crops. Famine and drought follow. Is God being cruel? No! He’s keeping the promise that He made to His children 600 years prior:

“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes…that all these curses will come upon you…Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land.” Dt. 28:15 & 42. NKJV

Thankfully, God never runs out of love. He sends His prophet (‘one who speaks for God’) Joel to wayward Judah, to try to convince the people to return to Him. Joel begins by telling Judah to remember God’s discipline (the plague of locusts) and tell it to their children as well. Then, he reveals God’s instructions for returning to Him:

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Joel 1:14 NASB

In other words, the answer to their (and everyone else’s) problems lies in returning to God. Next, Joel presses home the dire seriousness of their present situation:

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all of the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand; a day of darkness and gloominess… Joel 2:1, 2. NKJV

Joel has delivered a two-fold prophecy: the immediate warning regards a future invasion by the Babylonians, should the people of Judah persist in their disobedience; the second part describes the ‘day of the LORD,’ which occurs at the end of time.

The disobedience God is referring to here is not about the sin traps we fall into throughout life, those that through His mercies, are forgiven (through the blood of Jesus) when we confess and repent. No, God is referring to purposeful, unrepentant sin, which always leads to death.

God (Love) is eternal. However, the time for making the decision to connect or re-connect with God is finite. We must reach out for God before we die. Seeing as how we cannot know exactly when that time will come, we can’t put off for another minute establishing or re-establishing our connection.

For that day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? Joel 2:11 NKJV

Great and terrible. The day of the LORD will be great for those who love God, but terrible for those who don’t. This is not an exercise of divine capricious cruelty. God laid out these rules to us over three thousand years ago. Yet because of God’s great love for all the people, He continues to reach out for them, even if they have walked away from Him:

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12, 13. ESV

The Hebrews used to tear their clothes in times of anguish and sorrow because it symbolized having a broken heart. Here, God is asking them to get into a real experience of sorrowful repentance so that He can lavish His love and mercy upon them. To motivate them, He paints a picture of their potential restoration:

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied; and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25, 26. NKJV

God wants to ensure that His children are covered with HIs love, grace and mercy – now and forever. And even though it is we who bring the locusts into our lives, God wants to help us clean them out of it, to deliver us into His love:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28 NASB

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Joel 2:31, 32. NKJV

“…the heavens and the earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people…” Joel 3:16. NKJV

Wow! When we approach the end of time, every child of God will be filled with the Holy Spirit. This process actually began to happen shortly after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, on the Day of Pentecost. The exciting thing to see, is that it is still progressing – empowering the recipients to both enter the kingdom of God and to advance it.

We also see that God is going to reshape the earth and the universe it sits in into something so wondrous that we cannot yet comprehend it.

It will be a chaotic time, frightening and final for those who turned their backs on God; but for those whose hearts are bent towards Him, it will be the beginning of heaven…

Goodnight and God bless.

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The Second Coming of Christ: 1 and 2 Thessalonians

In our last post, Paul Takes Another Trip, we followed the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. At the end of his trip, Paul stayed eighteen months in the church of Corinth. It was at that time, (~ 50 A.D.) that Paul wrote the letters [with a little help from Silas (also called Silvanus) a prophet and elder of the church in Jerusalem) and Timothy – a Christian acolyte whom Paul was mentoring] that would become the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul writes the first letter in response to a report from Timothy; Timothy said that there was confusion in the church of Thessalonica. The congregants were afraid that if they died before Jesus’ return, they would lose their salvation. The church was also concerned about secular persecution that they were experiencing in their region.

Paul begins by commending the church for their exemplary walk in Christ: For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you; in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 1 Thess. 2:19 NASB

He also reminisces fondly of his prior ministry there, and speaks to his own method of preaching – one that sets a good example for all of us:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thess. 2:4 NKJV

Paul is telling us that it is only God’s approval of our behavior that ultimately counts; and that approval only comes when we speak the truth (God’s word) and live by it.

He continues by telling the church that he had sent Timothy to them previously, to strengthen them in their faith, so that they may face their trials and tribulations with courage. Then he reminds them of their calling: For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 1 Thess. 3:3 ESV

(Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him. We are the ‘peculiar people’ in the world who have chosen to walk the narrow path – the only path that leads to an eternity of complete love. It’s the path where we walk in love):

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thess. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Paul then reminds them of when he had previously taught them how to walk on that path:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these things…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man, but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thess. 4:3 – 8. ESV

Now, Paul gives them a few more pointers from God for staying on the love path:

Be at peace among yourselves…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess. 5:13 – 22. ESV

Paul then addresses the main event – bringing clarity to their confusion over the return of Jesus Christ:

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest who have no hope [beyond the grave].

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death]. 1 Thess. 4:13 – 15. AMP

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

How cool is that? God is letting us know that we don’t need to worry about the followers of Christ who die before He returns – because they will be the first ones that Jesus will rally to Him. Those who are still living when He returns, get to become airborne to join the eternal throng.

Jesus’ ‘second coming,’ the ‘day of the Lord’ will be wondrous for the followers of Christ, but it will be decidedly disastrous for those who have chosen not to:

…the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and Safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains…and they will not escape.

But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith, and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thess. 5:2 – 8. NASB

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should be together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:9, 10. NKJV

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thess. 5:24 NKJV

Paul, again with some help from Silas and Timothy, sends off the second letter to the church, shortly after the first, because there was a false teacher in their midst who was circulating a counterfeit letter, supposedly from Paul, that said the day of the Lord had already come and gone.

He begins by encouraging them to endure in the face of persecution. Then he tells them that when Jesus returns, it will be a day that cannot be mistaken for any other:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted…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.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 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 Thess. 1:6 – 10. ESV

Paul is taking about the ‘great sifting.’ That’s the time to be on the side of Jesus.

He then instructs the church not to put any faith into this counterfeit letter in circulation, stressing that indeed the day of the Lord has not come:

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. AMP

What Paul is saying is that there will be unmistakably distinct events that presage the second coming of Christ. One of those will be the revelation of the identity of the lawless one (the Antichrist) – who will be worshiped by most of humanity as he proclaims himself to be God. (This will be revealed in great detail when we visit the last Bible book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.) However, Paul gives us a few teasers now:

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… 2 Thess. 2:7 NKJV (i.e. there is already a force of evil at work in the world.)

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. 2 Thess. 2:8 AMP

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:9 – 12. ESV

Thus, the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself – to be able to work false miracles, bringing him the adulation and worship of a rebellious world. It is then that God will begin the extraction process of those who pandered to themselves – separating them from the children of God. We also see that when Jesus returns, the curtain is coming down for the Antichrist.

Paul then changes focus in his narrative to encourage the church (that would be us) to be steadfast in our faith:

…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught… 2 Thess. 2:13 – 15. NKJV

(God chose you before you took your first breath.)

Finally, the apostle writes his parting remarks:

Yet the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. 2 Thess. 3:3 AMP

…do not weary of doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:13 – 15 NKJV

God is always on your side. When you stick with Him, the devil hasn’t got a chance against you.

We see too that God is always about practicing love. Even if a brother or sister in Christ backslides, you are to distance yourself from them – not to punish them, but in a loving way that encourages their return to the arms of God through Jesus Christ. It’s always about the love.

If we remain at the side of God, ‘the day of the Lord’ is something that we can look forward to with rapt expectation…

Goodnight and God bless.