Do you have a prophetic outline in your mind? Will an understanding of the differences that exist concerning the above mentioned days be a help in giving us a prophetic foundation? Can we distinguish between the rapture of the Church and the revelation of the Lord from heaven? Are you surprised at the differences between the Lord’s references to His coming in John 14:1-6 and Matthew 24:1-31? Do you see major differences between Paul’s presentations of the Lord’s coming in the two epistles to the believers in Thessalonica? Look at three days that differ.
The Day of Christ
Read the three references to the Day of Christ in Philippians 1:6, 1:10, and 2:16. When Paul mentions the Day of Christ, he is referring to the Lord’s coming to the air to catch away His people, the Church, and to subsequent events in heaven. This coming is the event that the Lord referred to in John 14:1-6. “And if I go … I will come again and receive you unto Myself.” There are three references to the Lord’s coming in John’s gospel and they all refer to the rapture of the Church! (11:25, 14:1-6, 21:22). We get a more complete picture of the rapture of the Church in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (4:13-18 ESV).
Notice first the reason: “Jesus died and rose again.” This is the great foundation of the teaching that follows. Notice the return: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven.” Then consider the resurrection of those who have died in Christ and the rapture of the living saints: “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive.” See then the reunion: “Caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Other passages teach us that this will be followed by review and reward. So the Day of Christ refers to the Church, to heaven, and to reward.
We want to show now that the Day of the Lord refers to Israel, the nations, the earth, and retribution.
The Day of the Lord
The Day of the Lord is frequently referred to in the Old Testament. While Paul had written about the Day of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, he changed his focus in 5:1-3 and wrote, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1Thes 5:1-3 ESV). In the Day of Christ Paul dealt with delight and in the Day of the Lord with destruction.
Listen also to Jude’s words about the Day of the Lord: “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’” (Jude 1:14-15 ESV). There has been some confusion over the reading of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. We believe it should read as in the NASB, ESV, and JND: “Now we beg you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as [if it were] by us, as that the day of the Lord is present. Let not any one deceive you in any manner, because [it will not be] unless the apostasy have first come, and the man of sin have been revealed, the son of perdition (2Thes 2:1-3 Darby). Notice first Paul’s teaching about the events in the Day of Christ, “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, even our gathering together unto Him.” That is clearly what will happen when He comes for His Church; we will be gathered together unto Him. But these believers in Thessalonica had been told by false teachers that the Day of the Lord was present, and that this accounted for the intense persecution they were suffering. Paul tells them of the necessary precursors of the Day of the Lord. They were clearly not living in the Day of the Lord. That day will be marked by events far more calamitous than the Thessalonians were experiencing. The Day of the Lord includes much more than His appearing when He comes to the earth for it will encompass subsequent events on earth.
It is helpful to note that all the references to the coming of the Lord in the synoptic gospels are references to the Lord’s coming in judgment. The rapture of the Church is not mentioned in these first three gospels.
The Day of God
There is another prophetic day. Peter writes, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Peter 3:11-13 ESV).
The Day of God takes us further ahead and into the eternal state. In the millennium, righteousness will reign. In the eternal Day of God, righteousness will dwell. How should we then behave as these truths hold us? “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2Peter 3:14; ESV).