The Day of the Lord

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The Voice of Hope
The Day of the Lord
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The Day of The Lord

I Thessalonians 5:1-11

Change is occurring rapidly in our world. Within the last 30 years, computer technology has revolutionized the way we communicate. The stuff of 20th century science fiction has become today’s reality. Things that we once thought were impossible are now routine. Artificial intelligence, or AI, has far-reaching implications for our future and our personhood.

My grandfather was a student of Biblical prophecy. He loved the Word of God, and he took it literally. But he couldn’t visualize how some of the prophetic things he read in the Scripture would be worked out. Let me illustrate.

Revelation chapter 11 tells us that during the Tribulation, God will have two hand-picked witnesses testify in the city of Jerusalem for 1,260 days, or three and one-half years. These witnesses will be hated by the Antichrist and his followers, and they’ll try to kill them. But God miraculously preserves their lives until their mission is complete. After that, they’ll be killed, and their bodies will lie in the streets three days. Revelation 11:9 says, “And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.”

My grandpa couldn’t see how that was possible, but he believed it. Some of his contemporaries scoffed at the idea; It’s impossible. Today, with our instant, worldwide communication, it’s reality. We are moving toward the climax of human history. I believe we are approaching “The Day of the Lord.”

The Old Testament prophets spoke about the Day of the Lord. They saw it as a day of judgment, a time when God would mete out justice on the wicked, a day when God would judge the excesses of his people Israel and purify a remnant for himself.  But it seems they did not see the time we live in, the church age.

We know, Jesus’ first coming was not for judgment. He did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  His first coming was as the Jewish Messiah. When the Jews rejected Him, the Gospel was given to the Gentiles. His first coming was for the purpose of gathering a bride, the church, Jew, and Gentile, for Himself.

Today, when we talk about this coming day of judgment what do we mean? Some people refer to the catching away of the church as the Day of the Lord. Others say, “no, that’s the Rapture, the Day of the Lord is when Christ comes to judge the earth.” I view these events as two separate happenings, but what’s the difference? Let me just give you one significant difference.

At the Rapture, according to our text and Acts 1:9-11, Jesus will not set foot on the earth; we’ll rise to meet Him. At the Day of the Lord, He will, according to Zechariah 14:4, set His feet upon the Mount of Olives. It is important that we distinguish between these two events so everyone understands what we’re talking about.

In our text from I Thessalonians both of these events are in view, the catching away of the saints and the day of judgment. It seems clear to me that one precedes the other and the order in which they happen is important.

Let’s read I Thessalonians 4:13 to 5:11 keeping in mind what we’ve just talked about. Observe with me three ASPECTS of The Day of the Lord.

The First Aspect is:

The Indication of its Coming            

Paul begins chapter 5 by saying; “I don’t need to write to you about the times and seasons relating to the Day of the Lord.” At the end of chapter four, he gave specific instructions about the return of Christ for the church, what we call the Rapture. So, I conclude, one of the indications of the Day of the Lord is this; Believers must be taken out of the world.

Let’s look at verses 13 to 18. The Believers evidently had some question about what would happen to those who died. Paul reminds them that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  In verse 14 Paul says, “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again.”  The resurrection of Christ is an established fact.  It provides a basis for our belief in the resurrection. Paul says, “those who sleep (have died) in Jesus will God bring with him.”

Then he gives specific details about this event. First, those who are alive when Christ comes for the Church will not precede those who have died. Verse sixteen tells us that the dead in Christ shall rise first and then those who are alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. This catching away will take place with a specific series of actions.

The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, a cry that stirs people to action. And then, the voice of the archangel; I wonder what that will sound like? The final sound recorded here is, the trumpet of God. The call for the church to rise. Hallelujah! I hope you are ready because it could happen today!

Another indication of the coming Day of the Lord is false security. What does verse 3 say? “Men shall say peace and safety, but sudden destruction shall come upon them.” The United Nations was formed in October of 1945 to promote world peace. A new era was being ushered in. Nations would resolve their differences peacefully. Global citizens would be educated to believe in the goodness of their fellow men. All would dwell together in peace and security.

There’s only one problem. Since the formation of the UN, wars have broken out continually. Instead of seeing man’s goodness, his depravity has become increasingly evident. And all is not peace and security. This is one of the indications of the approaching Day of the Lord. Men will be talking about peace and safety when there’s none to be found. That certainly sounds like today, doesn’t it?

The day of the Lord will come. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Paul says it’s like a woman expecting a child. The only unknown is the actual time of the birth. But there are signs, there are indications of when the labor begins and so it is with the day of the Lord.

The Second Aspect is:

The Preparation for its Coming

Paul reminds us that we are not in darkness about the day that’s coming. Let’s observe some preparations that we must make so that day doesn’t come upon us unaware.

We’re not to be caught sleeping. This is a different word than the one used in verse 15 of chapter four where it speaks about the dead. This sleep is voluntary. A sleeping person is not aware of what’s happening around him. He’s relaxed, uninvolved, and unconcerned. We’re cautioned to avoid sleeping in a spiritual sense.

What are some specific ways we can be prepared for the coming day of the Lord? Watch. Here is the idea of being alert, of being fully aware of your surroundings. How do we watch?  First, we need to be students of the Word. And we need to be informed about what’s happening in our world. We need to take what we hear and see and filter it through what the Word says.

There is an unprecedented movement of the Holy Spirit across the world today. Not so much in our western nations, but in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Thousands of people are coming to Christ. At the same time there is evidence of unprecedented activity of the enemy. The rise of militant Islam and Hinduism is a clear indication of the intensifying battle between light and darkness. Our brothers and sisters are targeted because they reject these false religions.

In our western culture, the rise of moral degeneracy and spiritual deception is alarming. Teenagers and children are being duped by predatory adults into mutilating their bodies with false promises that they can change the biological sex they were born with. Woe to those who hold to and publicly defend traditional Judeo-Christian values and lifestyles!

Part of our preparation for the coming day of the Lord is to know what is happening in our world. We must be awake, not sleeping.

And then Paul says, “be sober.” It means to be free from intoxicants, something that takes control of your body or mind. There are intoxicants besides alcohol and drugs. How about power, or money, or possessions or position? People become intoxicated with those too. But we’re to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being intoxicated causes us to lose focus, to lose balance, to be careless. If we live that way the day of the Lord will come as a thief.

This word sober also has the idea of being discreet, of being careful of appearances. Paul says later in this chapter, “abstain from all appearance of evil.” Don’t do anything that gives anyone the impression that you are involved in something evil.

In verse 8 we’re again instructed to be sober. When something is repeated in the Scriptures it is especially important. Then we’re told how to fulfil those instructions. We’re to put on the breastplate of faith and love. The breastplate was an important piece of armor. It protected the vital organs of the torso. We are to put on faith, that’s moral conviction, and love. These two will yield a certain degree of sobriety. They will protect us from making foolish choices.

Then we’re to put on a helmet, something that protects the head. That helmet is the hope of salvation. Hope, in this usage, is not something that is doubtful. This hope is an expectation, a confidence in God and his promises.

In preparation for the day of the Lord we are to be awake, alert to the times we live in. Under the control of the Holy Spirit, we need to maintain our sobriety with faith and love. And we must keep the confidence of our salvation in view, so we’re not caught unaware by the signs that warn us of that coming day.

These are some specific things we should do in preparation for its coming.

The Final Aspect is:

The Consolation of its Coming

Isn’t it comforting to know what our future is? Look at verse 9. Paul says, “for God has not appointed us to wrath.

The judgment the unbelieving world will face is not intended for the follower of Christ. I personally believe the Church will be taken out of the world prior to the Tribulation. I believe this text we’ve been looking at supports that belief; and there are other passages as well. Let me quickly give you two other examples in Scripture.

One is in Genesis 18 where Abraham, in his dialogue with God about the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah, says to God, “that be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”

The other example is Noah. God brought judgment on the unbelieving world, but he made a way of safety for Noah. Noah was warned by God of the coming flood, and he was motivated by reverence for God to build an ark for the saving of his house. The righteous were spared the destruction that was poured out upon the wicked. God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by Christ. We are to be preserved from the fate of the wicked. Praise God!

Then Paul reminds us of the consolation he has already given in chapter four. No believer will be left behind. Whether we live until Jesus comes in the clouds to receive his church, or whether we die before then, we have the assurance that we shall live with Him. As my grandpa looked at the events in his day, he thought the catching away of the church would happen while he was living. Was he wrong to feel that way?  No, it gave an urgency to life, a watchfulness.

 Some people put these events so far in the future it has no impact on their daily living. And you know what happens? They get careless! They lose the discipline of being sober, of being watchful. Paul closes by saying, with all of this in mind, comfort each other, build each other up as you are already doing. So often we talk about things that don’t have any eternal value. When was the last time you mentioned either the Rapture or the second coming of Christ in a conversation to encourage someone? We’re commanded to do that.

Brothers and sisters, the day of the Lord is coming, judgment. We’ve noted the indications, the things the Bible tells us will happen as we approach that time.  We’ve noted the preparations we’re to make, an active pursuit of alertness and sobriety. The strengthening of moral conviction and love for the brotherhood. We’ve noted the comfort and consolation that is ours in the assurance that we will be spared from the wrath to come and dwell in the presence of God the Father.

But those promises do not apply to you unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a relationship with him, then the day of the Lord will overtake you as a thief. Jesus said in John 3;36; “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” 

Today the choice is still yours to make. You can exchange God’s wrath for his mercy. But if you reject that invitation, you must face the consequences. Let me urge you to make sure that you are ready for the Day of the Lord.

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