It certainly is, but don’t let the title fool you—we will not be discussing the date of the rapture in this issue, other than to remind the reader that it is imminent, and that it’s the next major prophetic event “on deck” to be fulfilled.
There is continuous debate between those who support the Biblical teaching of a pretribulation rapture (the belief that saved people are caught up to be with Christ before the wrath of God is poured out on unbelieving mankind in the Tribulation Period—Daniel’s seventieth week) and the pre-wrath/mid-tribulation heretics who are eager to take part in at least SOME of Daniel’s seventieth week, if not all of it. (Incidentally, after examining the situation, our position is that we are in favor of some of these individuals going through the Great Tribulation.) In this issue we will discuss one of the arguments in this debate concerning the difference between the “day of the Lord” to which the Old Testament refers numerous times, and “the day of Christ”, which pops up in the New Testament. The argument is simple: if the day of Christ is exactly the same reference and context as the day of the Lord, it helps the mid-trib/pre-wrath fellows out in trying to prove saved people in this age are going into the Tribulation. If the two references are different, the pretribulation position of the Bible-believer is strengthened. What we will discover is that there is actually no room for argument.
Regardless of what anyone believes, references to the “day of the Lord”, and the “day of Christ”, (and other forms of the term) ARE NOT one and the same; they are, like every other word or phrase in the Bible, defined by their context and by comparing scripture with scripture. To pretend they are the same in order to bolster one’s personal theological view is a shining example of private interpretation.
First of all, the terms are spelled differently. “Things that are different are not the same.” God had the choice of using the same term in all of the references, didn't He? And yet He did not. This fact in itself doesn’t “seal the deal,” but it’s true nonetheless.
Now, upon comparing scripture with scripture, we find the references to the “day of Christ/Jesus Christ/Lord Jesus Christ/Lord Jesus” are used interchangeably. In their contexts these references deal EXCLUSIVELY with the rapture of born-again believers, and the judgment seat of Christ (I Cor. 1:8; 5:5; II Cor. 1:14; Php. 1:6, 10; 2:16; II Thess. 2:1, 2). That’s an observable fact that is clear to anyone who can read English, and if it goes against anybody’s theology then to blazes with their theology. The usage of “the day of Christ” is a clear distinction in terminology from the usage of the “day of the Lord,” and to ignore the distinction is quite simply to ignore the inspiration of scripture. “Every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30:5), therefore every word matters. If God made a difference, it was for a reason; He wastes no time or effort, and leaves nothing to random chance or preference when it comes to His words.
The “day of the Lord” has to do with much more than a twenty-four hour, calendar day. It covers an extremely broad period of time (well over a thousand years), and a multitude of events in the Bible. You won’t find most of these by typing in “the day of the Lord” in your Bible program on your computer. There are several different variations God uses when speaking of “the day of the Lord,” such as “in that day,” and “in that time,” and others. Your Bible program is not smart enough to get all the references, and you’ll have an incomplete view of things if you type only one phrase into the search field. (That goes for anything you research on a Bible program.) Some references can only be found by searching the scriptures, and no computer can produce the results that a thorough reading of the Book from Genesis to Revelation produces.
When we read the Bible, paying particular attention to what it says about the day of the Lord, we find that “day” includes:
(1) The FIRST Advent of Christ (Mal. 4:5; Matt. 17:12). The First Advent is included in some passages dealing with the Second Advent “day of the Lord” because if Israel had accepted Christ as their Messiah when He came to them the first time, there would have been very little time between the two advents. In fact, there possibly could have been as little as seven years between Christ’s baptism and His glorious return to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem. That’s why the First and Second Advents seem to run back-to-back in certain Old Testament passages (like Isa. 9:6, 7 for example). Of course, due to Israel’s rejection of Christ, 2000 years of a church age now bridge the gulf between the two advents. This matter requires a significant amount of study to grasp, and deserves a fuller treatment than we are giving it here, but it needs to be mentioned. (See Matt. 11:7-14; Rom. 11.)
(2) The battle of Armageddon (Joel 2, plus a hundred others). This is without a doubt one of the more common connections. Many of the commentators (including Dr. Scofield) are confused by this passage because it is such a fearfully negative view of the Lord Jesus Christ; but it must be kept in mind that when the day of the Lord is described as a day of gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness (Joel 2:2), it’s with regard to how the lost, rebellious world, assembled for battle against their Creator will view “that day.” “The LORD is a man of war” (Exo. 15:3), and it’s a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31)...that is, if you’re on the wrong side of His wrath.
(3) The full and complete restoration of Israel (Isa. 10:20; 11:10; at least a hundred others). Israel became a nation again in 1948, but they have not yet been restored to fellowship with God, nor have they fulfilled their destiny to rule over all other nations on earth under the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The coming day of the Lord will see those two things accomplished.
(4) The setting up of Christ’s earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-9; Isa. 9:6-7).
(5) The 1000 year reign of Christ (Isa. 11; Isa. 35; Isa. 65). This is not an “indefinite period of time” but a literal one thousand years of peace under Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, which will commence on the earth you are standing on in the near future, and NOT in eternity.
(6) The lifting of the curse on the earth (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:11-15). The desert will blossom as the rose, the Lion will eat straw like the ox, and the wolf will take a nap with the sheep as the child plays safely near the snake pit. It’s going to happen no matter how foolish the atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists think it sounds. Tell them to go stare at the moon for a while longer, and stay out of the way of the adults.
(7) The battle of Gog and Magog at the end of the thousand-year-reign of Christ (Eze. 38:14-16; Rev. 20). This is the battle that proves it’s “not all the devil’s fault.” Satan is bound for a thousand years, and unregenerate mankind mounts yet another offensive against Jesus Christ, proving they are driven by moral depravity and a corrupt nature INDEPENDENTLY of Satanic temptation and influence.
(8) The renovation of the earth by fire (II Pet. 3:10; Rev. 20:11), happening just before the Great White Throne judgment, which takes place after the reign of Christ on this earth is through.
Though they are not the same, the day of Christ is connected with the day of the Lord because it is contained within the time period of the day of the Lord. The rapture takes place to signal the end of the church age, but it also heralds the beginning of the age to come—the “time of Jacob’s trouble” we refer to as the Tribulation Period. At this time, born-again believers are “upstairs” facing the Judgment Seat of Christ as the events of the Great Tribulation begin to unfold “downstairs” on earth. So these events are running concurrently, but they are certainly not the same.
When Paul uses the phrase “the day of Christ” (and its variations), two things are accomplished. First, it establishes that Jesus Christ and “the LORD” of the Old Testament are one and the same Person, by substituting Jesus Christ’s name where “the LORD” normally would have appeared. This is a tremendous statement on the Deity of Jesus Christ, when taken in the light of all those Old Testament references. But mainly, and more significantly for the Christian, it specifies the only event born-again believers in the Body of Christ should worry about in connection with the day of the Lord. We’re not told to worry about the day of Christ because we’re going into the tribulation. When speaking of the day of Christ, Paul makes no effort to warn us of natural disasters, or of the threat of damnation in hell, or the threat of the Antichrist, his mark, or his persecution. To the contrary, every time Paul mentions that day, it’s in the context of facing Jesus Christ at our “gathering together unto Him” and being examined for why we lived how we lived (I Cor. 1:8; 5:5; Phil. 1:10; 2:16), who we won to Christ (I Thess. 2:19; II Cor. 1:14), and our faithfulness to Him (Phil. 1:6). The Christian is to live with the Judgment Seat of Christ in view; otherwise he’ll waste his time entangled in the “affairs of THIS life” (II Tim. 2:4), and have nothing of eternal value to show for the time God granted him on this earth, and the commission with which he was charged (II Cor. 5:17-20). We will NOT be judged for our sins at this judgment, as the rest of humanity will be at their judgment (Rev. 20), for our sins were judged at Calvary, where the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus Christ in our place. At the Christian’s judgment, he will be judged for the “sort” of work he did (I Cor. 3:13) and the quality and motivations of his service “in the body” of Christ (II Cor. 5:10), where he is to give God glory, and not take it to himself (I Cor. 6:20).
The mid-trib/pre-wrath fellows have “not a leg to stand on” when it comes to the matter of the day of Christ versus the day of the Lord. They are very clearly two different references to two different groups of events. As we said earlier, this is clear to anyone who is interested in reading and finding out what the Bible says. The man who finds otherwise is simply not looking for what the Bible says, but rather for something he can usurp and use to advance his own agenda or support his own private interpretations and theological fantasies.
Christian, you have no business wasting your time worrying about “prepping” for the tribulation. The day of Christ is at hand for you and me, and we are not warned of the devouring fire that lays waste to God’s enemies in the day of the Lord, but rather the fire in His eyes that will try our works of what sort they are. Our souls are safe from the fire, thanks to Jesus Christ’s payment for our sins on Calvary; but how will it be with you when your works are examined? Will you have some gold, silver, and precious stones that will abide the day of Christ?