The Final Day of the Lord

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Since the "Day of the Lord" references cannot all be taken to mean the same event, Christians can easily become perplexed. How can we tell which Day is meant in any particular passage of Scripture? Does this render our interpretation completely arbitrary? Not at all. As with everything else in Scripture, its precise meaning depends on the context. It always carries the general idea of God coming in judgment and salvation; but its meaning in any single verse must be discerned by examining the larger setting.

Thus we return to the question with which we began this chapter: How can we be certain that any reference to "the Day of the Lord," the "judgment ," or Christ's "coming" is speaking about the end of the world and Christ's Second Coming? Since collapsing-universe terminology is used for the judgment of A.D. 70, and because of the tremendous theological significance of that judgment, some have supposed that all eschatological events must have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the Second Coming took place then. According to this interpretation (which might be called post-everythingism), we are now living in a neverending limbo era, with literally no prophecies left to be fulfilled. The world will just go on and on, and on and on, until . . . ?

Is such an interpretation valid? We should note, at least in passing, that the Church through all the ages has never allowed for such a view. All the creeds have declared the future coming of Christ, the resurrection of all men, and the general judgment to be fundamental, non-negotiable articles of the Christian faith. The closing words of the Athanasian Creed (one of the three universal creeds of the faith) underscore the importance of these truths:

He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give an account of their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

This basic tenet of the Church Universal is solidly based on Scripture. While there have been many "Days of the Lord" in history, the Bible assures us that there is a "Last Day" which is to come, the Final Judgment, when all accounts will be settled and both just and unjust receive their eternal rewards. Each time He used the term, Jesus inseparably connected "the Last Day" with another event:

I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the Last Day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him upon the Last Day (John 6:38-40).

No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the Last Day (John 6:44).

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and / will raise him up on the Last Day (John 6:54).

The Resurrection, therefore, is an event inextricably bound up in the events of the Last Day, the final Day when the judgment of the Spirit in the Cloud will be absolutely comprehensive and complete, when God's final and ultimate verdict is pronounced upon all creation. That is the Day when the dead will be raised: "those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29).

The Resurrection is the interpretive key. Because Jesus connected the Resurrection to the Last Day, we can use it as a "control" in examining eschatological passages. While the Day of the Lord/collapsing universe motif runs throughout the Biblical texts on judgment, the distinguishing mark of the Last Day is that the dead will be raised. The Resurrection of all men is, in the nature of the case, unrepeatable. It is not a continuing motif, but rather a part of the final eschatological event. Therefore, wherever the Bible mentions the Resurrection, it is speaking of the Last Day — the final Judgment, the ultimate Day of the Lord.

Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot as he now is, the passersby jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Saviour on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, "O Death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting?"

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation [27]


We can now begin to draw some very significant overall conclusions from our study so far. As we saw in the previous chapter, the Last Day is a synonym for the Last Judgment, at the end of the world. Moreover, Jesus declared that those who believe in Him will be resurrected at the Last Day (John 6:39-40, 44, 54). This means that Judgment Day is also Resurrection Day; both occur together, at the close of history.

We can add to this what the Apostle Paul tells us about the Resurrection: it will coincide with the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of living believers (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Some have tried to evade the force of this text by suggesting a series of Resurrections - one at the Rapture, another at the Second Coming (perhaps some years later), and at least one more at the consummation of the Kingdom, the end of history (where it belongs). This does not by any means solve the problem, however. For Jesus specifically said that whoever believes in Him will be raised "at the Last Day." That means that all Christians will be resurrected at the Last Day. Again, 1 Thessalonians 4 says that all believers will be raised at the Rapture. Obviously, in terms of these texts, there can be only one Resurrection of believers. And this Resurrection, which coincides with the Rapture, will take place on the Last Day.

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