1 Thessalonians 5:1-9
1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
The key in being able to better understand how God's final judgement is going to unfold in these last days, and when it begins, can easily be found by first looking at what the Bible refers to as, 'the day of the Lord.' It is absolutely necessary that we know the meaning of it, what it's consequences on the world are going to be, and what we need to be doing right now in order to prepare ourselves for it so that we don't have to go through it.
Before I began my own research on this subject only a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what it was all about other than knowing that it's going to be a horrible time for anyone unfortunate enough to be here when it comes I knew it was God's judgement on an unbelieving and wicked world but there is so much more to know about it than that. It is my hope and prayer that people take this message seriously and begin making their own preparations so they can avoid it. Jesus Himself described it this way in Matthew 24:21: "For then shall there be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."
In order for me to get a better grasp of what the 'day of the Lord' is, I decided to look up other verses that talk about it and it didn't take long for my eyes to be opened. As soon as I began reading them the scales fell away from my eyes and God showed me exactly what I was looking for. Things just began falling into place for me as far as being able to better understand God's timing regarding certain events which are about to take place. There is no 'secret knowledge' involved in any of what God showed me because it is all found in His written Word.
The following are verses that helped me the most in my study and I want to share them with you. There are many others that also talk about it but I wanted to limit how many I included for the sake of time and space. Here they are:
Isaiah 13:6 - Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
Isaiah 13:9 - Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
Ezekiel 30:3 - For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.
Joel 1:15 - Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
Amos 5:18 - Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.
Obadiah 1:15 - For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
What stands out for me more than anything else is the unmistakable clarity as to who the 'day of the Lord' is intended. It's purpose is to 'destroy the sinners' and it is 'the time of the heathen.' The day of the Lord will be accompanied by 'wrath and fierce' anger. That leaves all of us out who have made our preparations ahead of time for not having to be included in this time of judgement by repenting of our sins and asking Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. We have asked for His forgiveness for all of our many sins and have received the gift of eternal life. There is no longer the danger of having to experience God's wrath:
1 Thessalonians 5:9 - For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Romans 5:1 - "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Peace with God means that He no longer has anything to be angry with us about or to judge us for because Jesus took our punishment upon Himself on the cross.)
2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For he hath made Him to be sin for us: who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Ellicott's Commentary defines the 'day of the Lord' as being "a fixed time for vengeance to be taken upon the heathen." It also defines it as a "general day of judgement for mankind."
Meyer's New Testament Commentary (which also includes some of the Hebrew words) defines it as the "near impending period, when the present order of the world will come to an end, and Christ in His glory will return to earth for the resurrection of the dead, the general judgement, and the completion of the kingdom of God;"
And finally, gotquestions.org, which I have always found to be a good and reliable source of information, defines it this way: "The phrase "day of the Lord" usually identifies events that take place at the end of history and is often closely associated with the phrase "that day." One key to understanding these phrases is to note that they always identify a span of time during which God personally intervenes in history, directly or indirectly, to accomplish some specific aspect of His plan."
To recap: The day of the Lord will cover a span of time, it is intended for all those who never gave their lives to Christ, and will be all inclusive in that it will include all of the various elements (more on these shortly) of God's judgement for the purpose of the destruction of sinners. That sounds pretty horrible, and it is, which is why we need to keep sharing the gospel of love to the people we come into contact with and pray for them!
Now that we have all of this information before us, the question to be asked is, when does it start? That can be found in the following verse:
1 Thessalonians 5:2,3 - 2 "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
There you have it. The Rapture of the Church is what ushers in the 'day of the Lord' and is the first judgement to take place in it and is accompanied by 'sudden destruction' which is actually triggered by the Rapture itself. Think about it, the world will be turned on it's head after the Rapture occurs.
Since we know the Rapture (or the "catching away of the believers") is what ushers in the 'day of the Lord', then that means the Rapture will be the first element of God's judgement that all of those who were left behind will have to deal with, as well as the sudden destruction which goes hand in hand with it. Further, it also means that all of the other elements that make up this time of judgement which are to follow the Rapture, such as the arrival of the Antichrist, the signing of a peace agreement and rebuilding of the third temple, the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl judgements included in the 7 year Tribulation period, and anything else I failed to mention here, have absolutely nothing to do with those of us who are saved because we will be in heaven when they take place. That means the whole debate about whether the Rapture of the Church is a pre/mid/post tribulation event has now become a moot point for us. The 7 year Tribulation period is what makes up the heart of the day of the Lord and as we've learned we will have no part in it. We won't even be around it.
The Tribulation, as most people refer to it as, is also called 'the time of Jacob's trouble' and it is during this 7 year period that God is going to restore His relationship with the Jewish people. It is during this period that they will finally come to believe that Jesus Christ really is their long awaited Messiah. It is not going to be an easy time for either the Jews or the world while all this is going on. God's wrath and anger are going to be poured out like no one has ever seen before and will never be seen again.
Let's take a quick look at Revelation 4:1,2 so that we can bring this to a close:
1 "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne."
What many scholars and teachers have believed all along, is true, that John was allowed to witness and record the actual Rapture event itself. The similarities between these verses in Revelation 4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 are undeniable. I believe that our Rapture experience is going to be the same as what John experienced in his vision and that we are going to see the same things that he saw which is why God had him record it. What John recorded in Revelation 4:1 is what takes place in 1 Thessalonians 5:2. The statement God made to John, "...and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" is to further establish what we've already learned and that is that first comes our departure and then comes judgement.
To sum it all up, I think that the confusion and controversy regarding our blessed hope (Titus 2:13) may be caused by the fact that there is no mention of 'the day of the Lord' in our Rapture discussions. You can't have one without the other. Just focusing on the Rapture event itself has caused so much confusion through the years that it's created major divisions in the Church. God, as we know, isn't the author of confusion so He made clear in His Word exactly how and when it's going to happen.
I think that Isaiah 28:9-13 (google it) applies quite well here but you will need a commentary to really understand it. From Forerunner Commentary; "This is very similar to Jesus' explanation of parables. God says He scatters understanding on any given subject throughout the Bible, and our job is to put it all together and see the amazing truth that results. Therefore, parables cannot be interpreted alone; they rely on the revelation of the rest of Scripture." - Richard T. Ritenbaugh, Parables and Prophecy
It's time to make our preparations for the coming of the 'day of the Lord' and the only way we can do that is to be absolutely certain that our relationship with God is where it needs to be. Simply believing that God exists isn't enough (James 2:19). "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3