The Day of the Lord—When and How Long?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Now, Dave, as you know, last week we discussed the reality of heaven for the believer, and you pointed out that Christ himself was continually turning the focus of His followers from earth to heaven. And this was also echoed by the apostles, Paul and Peter, and Peter wrote—and I would like to go through this verse by verse—this is 2 Peter 3, and we’re going to look at verses 10-13: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Now, Dave, Peter is laying out for us something that’s going to take place, but really, what I want to talk about is his underscoring how we should act, what we should do, where our hearts ought to be.
Dave: Well, if this world is going to vanish, then it doesn’t make too much sense to try to build on this world, does it? And we don’t know when that’s going to happen. In fact, there are other considerations anyway, even before we get to that day. But, Tom, I don’t know to what extent you want to go into this—The Day of the Lord, that’s a topic that’s covered in the Bible in a number of ways, a number of scriptures, Old and New Testaments.
Paul also, in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 says, “The Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” So, it comes at a time when no one is going to expect it. I think it has to come during a time of peace, prosperity—when things look pretty good. In fact, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “When they shall say peace and safety. . . . ” So, the world has to get to the place where men think they’ve solved their problems; they have peace in the Middle East, and so forth. It will be a false peace—we understand that.
So, when would this Day of the Lord begin, because it comes as a thief? It couldn’t be in the great Tribulation, the end of the Tribulation, or the end of the millennium, or whatever. I think it has to be at the Rapture. “It comes,” Christ said, “at such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh,” (that is, to take us to heaven). Of course, the Second Coming—you would know when that was, because even the Antichrist knows, Revelation 19, and he goes out with his armies to do battle against the Lord.
So, I think the Rapture of the church, taking us out of the earth, at a time when no one expects it will happen, when they are quite content. Like Luke 17: “As it was in the days of Noah, in the days of Lot . . . ,” they are buying and selling and building and planting and partying and marrying and so forth—then, He is going to take His Bride away, and I think that begins the Day of the Lord.
Now, it’s not a twenty-four hour period. It goes through the great Tribulation, it goes through the Millennial reign of Christ and He doesn’t say this is at the moment that it begins but he says, “. . . in which the heavens shall pass away.”
Tom: So, this event, “this great noise, the elements shall melt away,” that’s some distance away from the beginning.
Tom: But, as you mentioned . . .
Dave: But it’s still the day of the Lord.
Tom: Right, and Peter is saying, look, that’s the end result so, as you said earlier, why should you put your stock in things that are now, in terms of building and creating some kind of empire or personally developing things?
Dave: There are other reasons of course. We are very contingent beings; our lives are contingent upon many things that we don’t even know. Death is working all over our bodies, so that’s also a powerful persuader. Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, says it’s better to go to a funeral than to a feast, because the funeral is the end of all life, marks the end of someone’s life, and that will cause us to think.
Tom: It has a sobering effect. He’s not saying death is better than joy and celebrations.
Dave: It’s like Moses said in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” The psalmist also says, “They name their fields after themselves, and their enterprises, as though they will live forever, as though their name living on means something.” On the other hand, the Scriptures do say that we should lay up—the fathers should lay up for their children. We have to consider that we could be living on and on, our heirs, and so forth, and try to make some provision for them.
But the fact that really pulls the rug out from under all of this life is the Rapture. See, even if you got cancer, you could change to a high fiber diet, get some radiation or chemotherapy, and hopefully hang on a little longer. But when the Rapture occurs, that’s it! We don’t know when that would be. It could be any moment! And this is why Christ had His disciples focus on heaven. In fact, we are not of this world; He has called us out of this world. So, this world that now is, is “held in store,” Peter tells us earlier, to be destroyed by fire, like the world that once was was destroyed by water. That again tells us this was not a local flood.
Tom: Right. Dave, in view of what you are saying in your book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, particularly chapters 26 and 27, where we’re sort of referring to chapter 27 in this program—but you take various movements in the professing church to task for, “All but obscuring the traditional hope of heaven . . . ” and, for example, you mention those who want to “take over the world for Christ,” or the Positive Confession movement, or Christian activism. Explain how they’re working against what you say is the—what? Well, what we believe God’s Word says is where our heart ought to be and the focus that we ought to have.
Dave: Well, Jesus continually turned His—as you said earlier in the program—turned the attention of His disciples from earth to heaven. He said, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, thieves break in and steal, but lay up treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”
Now, that’s not easy to illustrate, and you stop me if I already told this story of the lady that died and went to heaven, you remember? And Saint Peter is showing her around, and she comes to what looks like the Beverly Hills of heaven, if there were such a thing—such a fabulous mansion, and she says, “Well, who is that for?”
Peter says, “That’s your maid, Jenny.”
And then she comes, if there is such a thing, to the slums of heaven, and there is this little shack there that is so pitiful she can’t resist asking, “Well, who does that belong to?”
Peter says, “That’s yours.”
This was a very wealthy lady on earth. She says, “Well, how could that be?”
Peter says, “Well, we can only build with the material you sent up here.”
So, I think this is what Jesus is saying. “Lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust doth not corrupt.” How do we do that? Well, we do that through winning souls for Christ, through our steadfastness in the faith and serving others. But we put an awful lot of emphasis upon this earth in some of the Christian ministries. Positive Confession—“you give a thousand dollars to my ministry, and you’ll get a hundred thousand, hundredfold, in return,” they say.
I don’t know why they don’t give their money away, and then they would get the hundredfold return, but most people don’t have a mailing list, so they can’t make appeals to it and so forth.
Tom: You can see what the emphasis is here—it’s on you and the now, and getting your own, right here.
Dave: Well, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, men like this—Frederick Price and so forth—they even say that God has called them to preach the gospel of prosperity, gospel of success, and so forth. By “success” they mean earthly success—just the same kind of success that the unsaved are looking for in this earth. That is not what the Bible teaches. But, it gets people focusing on this earth, upon wealth. John Avanzini is a specialist on TBN, telling people how to get more money and more money . . .
Tom: And then corrupting the Scriptures, saying that Jesus had all the wealth that He needed; look at the clothes He wore—seamless garments . . .
Dave: He had but one robe that He slept in on the ground the night before His crucifixion.
So, they are turning their emphasis upon building up treasure on this earth, which is the opposite of what Jesus said. Or then, we have the Kingdom Dominion people . . .
Tom: Reconstructionists . . .
Dave: Well, the Reconstructionists would fit in there as well. They have changed the Great Commission from “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”—that is, to call people to heavenly citizenship, call them out of this earth, turning their focus away from this world to heaven, to build up treasure in heaven. But first of all you have to be a citizen in heaven. You have to be born again through faith in Christ. But instead of bringing people to faith in Christ, they’re wanting to “Christianize,” they call it, “Christianize” America. People in America will realize (this would be Gary North, Gary DeMar, people like this). . . .
Tom: Even R. C. Sproul, for example?
Dave: Yeah, when people see that when you follow Christian principles, biblical principles, your business works better, your family works better—so then even unsaved people can realize if they would follow these biblical principles that they would have better lives on this earth, and so forth.
Well, you’re just leading people to hell, I’m sorry! Because if you get someone who is content, and who thinks he is following biblical principles, and that God is blessing him in this, but he hasn’t received Christ as his Savior, he has not been convicted of his sin, he has not repented of his sins, and realized that he is under the judgment of God, and that Christ came to pay the penalty for his sins—I’m not saying that these people don’t preach that at times, but when you put the emphasis upon social improvement, voting our politicians—we are going to get good, godly, Christian politicians in there, and it will turn America into a Christian country—I’m not trying to be critical of them, but I’ve seen this emphasis for the last twenty years, and they have been trying to do this, trying to do this, and we got Reagan as a Christian president, and so forth, and we’ve had Christians in his cabinet, and on we have gone. And now we have great hopes with George Bush. But that . . .
Tom: The emphasis is on morality, as though morality were a step toward salvation.
Dave: In fact, morality can turn people away from the truth, because the more moral you get them to be, the more ethically they are living, then, why do they need Christ?
So, if you could get the whole United States to be as godly as Nicodemus was—he fasted twice a week, he prayed seven times a day, he tried to follow the Law. He would put anybody to shame today—most everyone anyway—but he was still on his way to hell. And Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”
Now, the problem is, when we get involved in social action—and again, some people are not going to like what I say. I am entitled to my opinion. I am not opposed to trying to improve this world in standing against slavery. We’ve seen this in the past in England. There were Christians who changed from child labor and so forth. There were great social benefits to this, but that was not, in fact, their emphasis.
Tom: No, that’s a by-product. That’s the way the emphasis has to go.
Dave: Exactly. That was a by-product of people coming to Christ. But now, we’re getting all involved in, well, family values, traditional values, and “if we could just get people back to traditional values,” and so forth. No, we need to get back to the Bible!
Tom: Right. So, we’ll turn to someone like Sun Myung Moon, who has an organization that’s “family oriented.” What a delusion that is!
Dave: And yet, leading evangelicals cooperated with him in that. So, the point is, we need to recognize this life is very short at the longest. We need to realize that we are sinners—that this world is under God’s judgment. It is going to be destroyed, and whether we live to see that, which we won’t, our lives are very short, and the Rapture could occur at any moment, and we need to call people to change their emphasis from this world to heaven.
Tom: Dave, I want to shift gears here just a little bit. I’ll read a statement from your book. “It is because there is so little appreciation of what the New Testament teaches that heaven—and hell, as well—seem so nebulous and of such doubtful importance alongside the great plans we have for changing the world for Christ.”
I want to talk about heaven, right now. And, we have lots of listeners, I’m sure, who are not familiar, maybe, with the Bible and so on. So, their view of heaven may be like something—for example, Family Circus in the Sunday comic strips. You always see someone on a cloud, playing a harp, kind of floating around there all day, and that may be a view of heaven that a lot of people have. Now, here’s my question. Why do you look forward to heaven? What’s the attraction for you that would get our listeners . . . or at least give them an insight that’s different?
Dave: Well, I’ve never seen that comic strip, so I don’t—but maybe that’s why [chuckling].
Tom: No, but you know the concept.
Dave: Right. Well, first of all, I’m a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. He died on the cross for my sins. He speaks of—and having put my faith and trust in Him, believed in Him, I’m a member of His body, the church, and I didn’t join some church somewhere, but I’m joined to Christ and united with the Father through Christ.
Now, if you really love someone, and if the church is the Bride, the Bride ought to be longing to be with the Bridegroom. Now, there is a conflict, Tom, because I have unsaved loved ones, friends, that I would like to see come to Christ, so we’re torn. But the Scripture says, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.” We want Christ to come. I don’t want to die to go to heaven. They have a song that they sing: “One glad day I’ll fly away,” or something like that. “Some day, by and by, when I die, I’ll fly away to heaven.” Well, that’s not my hope. I remember my father saying his hope was not the undertaker but the upper-taker. Of course, the undertaker got him.
Tom: But Dave, I want to keep going here, because I want to know, what’s your attraction? The first thing you said is: the person of Jesus Christ, to be with Him forever. But there are people out there who are saying, “Well, heaven sounds better than hell; it sounds like a better deal,” but what is the deal? What draws you, Dave—your heart and your focus?
Dave: “Where Jesus is, ’tis heaven there,” the scripture says. I want to be with my Lord. I would like to fall at His feet and thank Him, as I try to do in prayer, but to thank Him for dying for me. The Scripture says, 1 John 3: “When we see him, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” To get rid of this body—not just the pain, but of problems, of sin, of temptation, to leave this world—my hope is not in this world, to make this world a paradise. All the gadgets that we have, and so forth, the good life . . .
I remember the two men walking by a cemetery and they saw a Cadillac being lowered into the grave, all shiny and so forth, and the one guy said, “What’s that?” The other one said, “Well, that’s JP. He just got a TV and a bar and everything in his Cadillac, and he wanted to be buried in it.” The other guy says, “Man, that’s what I call really livin’!”
Well, that’s the “really living” of this life. It does not compare with heaven at all.
Tom: Dave, the examples that we have from the world are that we’re just going to be floating around with nothing to do—we’ll just be worshiping God as though that were . . . in the world sense, that sounds like boring stuff.
Dave: Yeah, and Paul said, “O, that I might know him.” David, the psalmist said, “O, that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life [this is Psalm 27] to behold the beauty of the Lord, to inquire in his temple.”
To be in His presence, to know Him, to have the revelation of God, of who Jesus Christ really is—Tom, there is nothing that could compare with that. There is a veil between us now. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I will know even as I am known.” I mean, to know, to know the secret of this universe, to know God! And, it’s in 2 Corinthians 3, he says, “We all with open faces, beholding as in a glass [like in a mirror], the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” The more we get to know Him, Paul said, “I just lay everything aside, everything in this life—I count it but rubbish that I might win Christ, and I might be found in him, that I might attain unto this.” Not that it was by his works, but that he would really be worthy in the way he lives, and so forth, in knowing Christ. So, Tom, there’s nothing greater than that.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, sometimes I think—I don’t think about it enough, heaven. I know that, but when I do—I think of some things that relate here, or that happen here, that will relate to heaven. For example, I love the fellowship of believers, but sometimes there are problems, as you know. But there, there will be no problems! We quoted Peter, “Wherein dwelleth righteousness.” So there will be absolute
Righteousness! All the joy that we have here, we can’t even imagine how much more incredible it’s going to be! If we’re functioning for the Lord here, and that’s like a taste of heaven when we know we are doing His will, how much better is it going to be for all eternity with Him?