Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD [is] at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests, Zephaniah 1,7.
Where are we on the timeline when the day of the Lord comes? The timeline is an imaginary line in time that stretches from creation to the second coming of Christ. To find out where on the timeline we are in a given case, we must put this in the context of a known event. Creation is such a well-known event, and we can put our finger on the line to say that creation took place here. The same is for example the Great Flood, the birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the Reformation and the entrance to the end times. We can put specific dates on all of these events. Creation happened 4004 years before what we call common era (BCE) Jesus was born in year 4 BCE and died in year 31 common era (CE). The Reformation began in 1517 CE, and the end time began in 1844 CE.
We know for sure when the end time began. We also know for sure that God will seal his faithful people in the end times, but we do not know the time for this (what year). However, we can read up on what events which will precede the sealing, and with the help of the Bible we can find out what events this are. We can therefore find out quite accurately between which events on the timeline we are, and thereby where on the timeline we are today. We believe that the end time began in 1844, when Jesus went from the Holy to the Most Holy in the heavenly temple. We are in time after this point on the timeline, and before the sealing that will take place after the fourth trumpet but before the fifth trumpet sounds.
The fifth trumpet: The plague of the locusts; And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him* was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads, Revelation 9,1-4.* Him is the star that fell from heaven to earth.
The day of the Lord is the last point on our timeline, ending the timekeeping of the earth as we know it today. When that happens, no one knows, not even God’s angels. What is certain, however, is that it may not be long before it happens, because all the signs given through the Bible that have not been fulfilled before, are being fulfilled before our eyes. We can just open the window to the world and see what happens to our planet. This is exactly what Isaiah describes in his book: Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished, (Isaiah 51,6). This verse refers to several other verses that tell of end-time events, including Isaiah 24,19; 24,20; 54,10; Joel 3,21; Mt 24,35.
The parallel between the time of Jesus and our time.
The parallel between the time before Jesus ‘birth, His first coming, and the time we live in now just before Jesus’ return, His second coming, is striking. When Jesus was born, the scribes and Pharisees had every opportunity to see that Jesus’ birth was imminent, but they were only concerned with their own and did not care about what they could read in the prophecies, because they preferred to live in darkness. Only a few shepherds guarding their sheep was thinking about the Messiah who was to be born. It was these shepherds the angels revealed themselves to in the fields outside Bethlehem. In our day, almost all Christian leaders of today, our times scribes and Pharisees, are concerned with anything else but the second coming of Christ. They are more concerned with the ecumenical co-operation which is about finding a least common multiple for theirs faith and liberalizing the church so that as many people as possible can find their place there without placing burdens on people, (read: to base their faith on the Bible). We hear a clear echo from 1 Thessalonians 5,3: 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. However, there is a small remnant today, like the shepherds in the field, who really care about studying the prophecies, and this small remnant has been given the light of life and will continue to be given the light of life, and the truth of our time will become fully revealed to them.
Ellen G. White says in Alpha and Omega the following: This wonderful story from Bethlehem contains an important teaching. It rebukes our unbelief, our pride, our complacency. It warns us to be vigilant so that with our sinful indifference we do not overlook the signs of the times and are unaware of our visiting hours.
What is going to happen?
Let us consider some of the signs given to us in the Bible, and consider what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 24 about the last days and the events that will come. After Jesus and the disciples left the temple and went up on the Mount of Olives, Jesus tells his disciples that the proud city and the magnificent temple will be completely destroyed. It is clear from the question to the disciples that they see both the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the second coming of Christ as one and the same event – the end of the world.
Jesus first speaks of general end-time signs in verses 3-14. These have the function of having God’s people prepare every day from the time the prophecy was given until He comes again for His return. This is a general prophecy about the signs of the times and the end of this age, verses 3-14: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these [are] the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. These are signs that tell us that we are heading for the end times and were as valid before the destruction of Jerusalem as they are today.
Then follows what will happen during the great tribulation in verses 21-28: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here [is] Christ, or there; believe [it] not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, [he is] in the secret chambers; believe [it] not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Most of this part is fulfilled, but the most important thing, Jesus’ return, we are still waiting for.
There are a total of three tribulation periods mentioned in the Bible, 1) the tribulation in the time just before and during the fall of Jerusalem, 2) the great tribulation we have here in verses 21-28 that fell during the 1260 years which is referred to as a time and times and a dividing of time, 42 months and 1260 days (see Daniel 7,25; Revelation 11,2; 11,3; 12,6; 12,14; 13,5), and 3) the tribulation that will come in the absolute end time, just before Jesus returns, (Daniel 12,1). The great tribulation in these verses thus concerns the period of 1260 years, from 538 to 1798, when the Roman Church ruled with unlimited power for most of the period. There are no exact numbers of those who had to pay with their lives during this period, and the number varies, but we can assume that there are millions of people, some say 50 million and others say as many as 100 million, or close to 1/3 of Europe’s estimated total population in this period. This leads to the signs that will appear in the heavens before Jesus’ return and which are described in verse 29: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
What events are foretold in verse 29? Verse 29 has its parallel verse in Revelation 6,12-14 which we find under the sixth seal: I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
As I said, earthquakes are a general sign, not a special end time sign, but when Revelation 6 mentions a great earthquake along with the other three end-time signs that Jesus gives us in Matthew 24, there is reason to see if this is not relevant. If we look at historical events, we find the following:
A great earthquake. On November 1, 1755, Lisbon in Portugal was hit by a major earthquake that could be felt in great parts of the world, north to Norway, west to North America, south to far south in Africa and far east into Russia. This earthquake must have been many times stronger than the earthquake that hit the Pacific Ocean on December 2 in 2004, when Australia moved 25 cm from the epicentre. The sun darkened. At 10:00 on the morning of May 19, 1780, the day became as dark as the darkest night. One could not see their own hands without light.
The moon did not give light. The night that followed, the night of May 20, 1780, the moon turned red as blood. These were two supernatural events. Under no circumstances could there have been a normal solar eclipse this day when there was a full moon the following night. There is also no evidence to say that there was a lunar eclipse this particular night.
The stars fell from the sky. On November 13, 1833, a meteorite storm was experienced without counterpart. There were so many meteorites that night became light as day. Usually the meteorites come from one place and go to another place, (for example from east to west), but this night it was different. Although it seemed that all the meteorites came from one point in the sky, they disappeared in all directions.
On the one hand, verse 29 does not mention earthquakes, but as mentioned earlier, earthquakes are a general sign, not something that is specifically linked to the end times. We find earthquakes mentioned in Matthew 24.7. On the other hand, it is mentioned that the forces of the sky will be shaken in addition to the stars shall fall from heaven. If we look at the parallel verses in Revelation 6,12-14, it also says here that the forces of the sky will be shaken, and even though John uses words other than Matthew, the meaning is the same. John describes it this way: And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together. There is therefore reason to believe that verse 29 is partially fulfilled, and that only the last event is missing, that the forces of the sky will be shaken. This only happens at Jesus’ return.
Let’s go to verses 32-35. We return to verses 30 and 31 after this. These four verses, 32-35, tell us that the Son of Man will not return until all signs are fulfilled. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer [is] nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, [even] at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
In verse 34 we find the expression this genus. This is an expression we will have to look at a little later. Did Jesus mean that those who lived with Jesus would be the last generation on earth? The Greek word used here is genea´, and it translates with a generation; by implication an age (the period or the persons):- age, generation, nation, time. When one has chosen to use generation, it may be related to our use and understanding of the word. Many in Norway can trace their generation 1000 – 1200 years back in time, all the way back to the Viking Age (793 – 1066 AD), so the time period for generation does not necessarily mean a short time. We must also put this together with the fact that when Jesus used the term this generation, it can also refer to the type of people that he in Matthew 23 calls both hypocrites, serpents and generation of vipers, i.e. those who oppose the truth by distorting the way to God with human commands as the Pharisees and scribes did in Jesus’ day. In any case, I do not think Jesus meant that the generation living with Him should be the last generation, because much of this prophecy is still waiting to be fulfilled.
What do these verses tell us? Jesus here uses the parable of the fig tree to explain to his disciples that he will not return until all the signs prophesied have been fulfilled. Jesus uses this parable because we humans can interpret such signs as the fig tree. When the leaves spring out on the branches, we know that summer is near. Therefore, we should also know that Jesus’ return is near when all the signs He has given us are fulfilled, such as:
1) The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple…
2) General signs that apply from the time of Jesus’ death to His return: seductions of false prophets and people who stand up and call themselves Christ … wars and rumours of wars – nations against nations – nation against nation … famines … pestilence … earthquakes … tribulations … iniquity … love shall wax cold …
3) Special signs that apply explicitly to the latter days: the sun will be darkened … the moon will not give her light … the stars will fall heaven …
All these signs are fulfilled, and we can see with our own eyes that this is right. There are therefore only two elements missing that must be fulfilled for our Saviour to return, and that is that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world … and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken.
When all this has happened, then the Son of Man will return.
When all that has been prophesied has been fulfilled, the Son of Man will return, verses 30-31. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Sometime after these signs are fulfilled, the Son of Man will return. We have a guarantee for this through the prophecies that have been fulfilled. When Jesus returns, he will gather his faithful ones and take them to heaven. Jesus’ return is described as follows in verse 30: … and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. This is mentioned three times in the Bible. The first time is in Daniel 7,13 where it says: … [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him … Further in Matthew 26,64 (and in Mark 14.62) which is about the trial against Jesus, where Jesus says: … Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. And of course here in Matthew 24,30. The sign of the Son of Man is obviously His coming on the clouds of heaven.
What is the day of the Lord?
If you ask any Christian what the day of the Lord is, you will most likely get the answer that it is Sunday, this because the Sabbath has been changed by people after Jesus’ death. God says through the prophet Daniel that the little horn, which is identified as the papacy, will try to change God’s law by changing times and law = the Sabbath, (because it is only in the Sabbath commandment that time and law are connected): And he* he shall speak [great] words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time, Daniel 7,25. * He refers to the little horn in verse 8, which is explained as the papacy.
The Bible itself is aware that the Sabbath has never been changed, and it explains the Lord’s day in two different ways. The phrase the day of the Lord or the holy day of the Lord occurs a total of 23 times in the Bible. 22 times as the day of the Lord and one time as the holy day of the Lord. In the Old Testament the day of the Lord is used 18 times and the holy day of the Lord one time, in the New Testament the day of the Lord is used 4 times. In the Old Testament, the term is associated with doomsday or end time 18 times, and 3 times in the New Testament. One time in the Old Testament the term is directly related to the Sabbath (Isaiah 58,13), while one time in the New Testament (Revelation 1,10) no other explanation is given than that it is the day of the Lord, (the Lord´s day). I therefore choose to look at the expression The day of the Lord (the Lord’s day) as both the literal interpretation of the Sabbath, and as the day of judgment. Other explanations of the term the day of the Lord are not given by the Bible.
The one way the day of the Lord is described is that it is the day of judgment, also in the broadest sense, and the other way the day of the Lord is described is that it is the Sabbath, and then it is called the holy day of the Lord. Let us look at Isaiah 58,13-14. It says: If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it]. As we see here, it will follow great blessings to call the holy day of the Lord a delight and to keep God’s day of rest holy.
Here are some of the verses that deal with the day of the Lord, and that place the day of the Lord in the end time, as a day of judgment in the broadest sense: Isaiah 13,6; Ezekiel 13,5; 30,3; Joel 1,15; 2,1; 2,11; 3,4; 3,19; Amos 5,16; 5,18; 5,20; Obadiah 1,15; Zephaniah 1,1; 1,7; 1,14; Zechariah 14,1; Malachi 4,1; 4,5; Acts 2,20; 1 Thessalonians 5,1-2; 2 Peter 3,10.
Already the prophet Joel who worked between 835 and 805 BC said that the day of the Lord is near (Joel 1,15). So did Isaiah, who lived 700 years before Christ (Isaiah 13,6), and we are still waiting for the day of the Lord. Could it be that we are wrong on this day? In our days we equate the second coming of Jesus with the day of the Lord, yet many will claim that the day of the Lord was the day Jesus rose from the dead. But that is not true, because both Paul and Peter write to the Christian congregations 20 years (1 Thessalonians) and 45 years (2 Peter) after Jesus’ death that the day of the Lord will come. They thus refer to the day of the Lord as a future event. In addition to this, at least the prophecy in Isaiah 13,6 is a so-called double prophecy, a prophecy that will be fulfilled twice in history. The context of Isaiah 13 tells us that the first fulfilment was upon the city of Babylon. When we are dealing with double prophecies, they will always stand as a type and a antitype, therefore the second fulfilment must apply to the symbolic city of Babylon in the end times, the fallen church.
As Adventists, we look forward to Jesus’ second coming. We look forward to the day He will return and redeem those whom He calls His. We believe that this day is the day when the faithful will be rewarded by God, receive the crown of victory, join Jesus in Heaven and live forever with our God, Creator and Saviour. However, Jesus’ return is explained in many different ways in the Bible, and it is not always easy to see the deliverance and joy of the Saviour’s return. Just look at what some of the prophets say in the Old Testament:
Isaiah says: Howl ye; for the day of the LORD [is] at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty … and 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 mentions the battle in the day of the LORD … and that the day of the Lordwill be a cloudy day
Joel says: alas for the day! … and let all the inhabitants of the land tremble … and asks Who can abide it
Amos says: wailing shall be in all streets … and Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord
All the prophets are in agreement, and all the texts in these verses tell of destruction, and there is even a woe over those who long for the day of the Lord. Therefore, it does not seem that the day of the Lord is a day we should look forward to. It seems rather that we should fear this day, but still we Adventists look forward to this day with expectations, hope and joy. Why is it like that?
In order to understand what the Bible says, we must always read the context, and in the case of Isaiah 13, we must read from chapter 12 verse 1 to chapter 14 verse 2. As for the two verses in Isaiah 13,6.9, we must begin with chapter 12, which is entitled Thanksgiving for God´s salvation. Here the prophet speaks of praising the Lord. Twice Isaiah says in that day, which has a clear link to the day of the Lord: And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me, (12,1). And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted, (12,4). This applies to the inhabitants of Zion (12,6). Zion is the mountain where we find Jerusalem, and where Abraham was to sacrifice the son of promise, Isaac. Zion is thus a picture of God’s people.
In the following section, (chapter 13) the prophet follows up with Oracle about the doom of Babylon where it is mentioned that the day of the Lord will come as a destruction (13,6) and that the Lord will lay the land desolate … … and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it (verse 9) and ends by saying that the days she gets shall not be prolonged (13,22). In chapter 14,1-2, the prophet shifts focus again, and the headline here is Mercy on Jacob. Here Isaiah tells that the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and again He will choose Israel (14,1). Just as Zion is a picture of God’s people in chapter 12, so is Jacob a picture of God’s people in chapter 14.
Now it must be said that this whole passage contains a double prophecy. In other words, it will be fulfilled twice. The first fulfilment was the real Babylon, the great and magnificent city of Nebuchadnezzar. In our days the ancient city of Babylon is just a heap of ruins, no people live there, and the desert people do not even pitch their tents within the city limits. Isaiah 13,19-20 is fulfilled to the letter. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
The first fulfilment of the prophecy is also a type of the coming judgment. This is typology, and we are consequently talking about type and antitype. As it was with ancient Babylon in ancient times, so it will be with the Babylon of our day. Babylon of our day will be desolate at the return of Jesus, while the faithful people who cling to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will sing of joy because the Holy One of Israel is in their midst, and the Lord will have mercy on them.
The meaning of the word Babylon dates back to the time the Tower of Babel was built. It was Nimrod who founded Babylon (Genesis 10,8,10), and they built a tower to escape a new flood, and to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11,4). This was against God’s will and His covenant with Noah: And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This [is] the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that [is] with you, for perpetual generations; I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth, Genesis 9,11-13.
Because humans opposed God and the covenant he made with Noah, he confused their language so that they could not finish building the Tower of Babel. This is why the city was called Babel, which means confusion. Babel also means another way to God. Seen through the eyes of God, there is a complete confusion in the fallen church. In a figurative way, the different denominations no longer speak the same language, as was the case with those who built the Tower of Babel. Just as it happened in Babel when the unity of the city disintegrated when they no longer spoke the same language, so too the unity of the fallen ecumenical church will disintegrate when we come to the absolute end time because there is a true tangle of doctrines that diverge in all directions. Despite the fact that the papacy is pushing to unite all denominations in the ecumenical movement and unite all denominations in a minimum common multiple in terms of beliefs, they will stick together when we reach a certain point in the end times, (see Revelation 16,18-19).
It may be easier to understand Malachi’s prophecy: For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do [this], saith the LORD of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgments, Malachi 4,1-4.
Malaki tells in clear words what will happen. Here, too, there are two groups of people, as has been the case since the days of Cain and Abel (Set). There have been two ways of worshiping God since Cain and Abel lived, (Genesis 4,3-4). Abel offered a sacrifice which he had done nothing to bring forth, while Cain brought a sacrifice of the work of his hands. Abel showed very clear that he needed Jesus’ help to be justified, while Cain tried to justify himself by the work of his hands. Since then, there have always been some who have sought justification through their faith – which is the biblical way of doing it, and then there are those who have sought to justify themselves by their deeds.
In Genesis 6,1-2, for the first time, God separates people in this way. Those born in the line of Cain are called the daughters of men, while those born in the line of Seth are called the sons of God. (Seth had the same faith and conviction as Abel.) Cain’s line certainly believes they are sincere in their faith, and that they serve the Lord in the right way, but they bring forth fruit of the work of their hands. The line of Set brings to the Lord the sacrifice the Lord has prescribed through the Bible, a blameless lamb. In this context, then, Cain’s daughters will be those who are called arrogant and who live in wickedness, they will be like straw and the day that comes will set them on fire. The sons of God (Seth’s line), on the other hand, are those who fear the name of God, and for them shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, (Malachi 4,2).
Paul and Peter say that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.
Both 1 Thessalonians 5,2 and 2 Peter 3,10 describe the day of the Lord so that it will come like a thief at night. In other words, it should come as a surprise to almost all people. When no one expects it, it will suddenly come upon humanity. But there are some who want to be prepared, and they are the ones that Malachi 4,2 says fear Gods name.
Twice in the Book of Revelation, Jesus also uses this as a picture of what His return will be like: Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee, (3,3). Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed [is] he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame, (16,15).
It is important for us that we take this to the heart. We have been given the prophecies to know what to look for in signs, and we have been helped to interpret these signs. We therefore have no excuses when the day comes if we have not prepared. Also in Luke 12,40 we find a verse where Jesus emphasizes the importance of watching and studying the scriptures in order to be ready on the day Jesus returns: Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
On the day of the Lord Jesus will separate the people into two groups, and He calls these groups sheep and goats in Matthew 25,32. The sheep are the saved, while the goats are the wicked. For the wicked there is no longer salvation to be found. Therefore, they have every reason to fear the day of the Lord, for it will put an end to their wicked lives, and they will face judgement. For the saved, on the other hand, the day of the Lord will be a day of rejoicing, when they shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
It is with good reason that Jesus encourages us to prepare for the great day that we know is coming, and it is closer than many people like to think. But it is not enough just to learn to interpret the signs of the times. It is an important part of the preparations, but there is another part of the preparations that is not as easy to do. This is what Jesus mentions in Matthew 25,31-46. This is a parable called the Son of man, who will judge the peoples. What does Jesus want to tell us with this parable?
In this parable, Jesus puts it all into a judgment perspective. He is very clear that there will be a judgment in connection with his second coming. This judgment divides humanity into two groups, which here are called the sheep and the goats, as we saw above. Jesus also makes it very clear that even though salvation is free, and that we can do nothing to deserve it, it costs everything. God has put us in the world to take care of each other and help everyone who suffers in one way or another. We cannot force anyone to accept our help, but we are obliged to offer it, because it is the deeds we do that we are to be judged by. Jesus says it like this:
I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me:
I was sick, and ye visited me:
I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
It is certainly certain that we will show our next care in the form of food, drink, clothing and the like, but it is not certain that it is only physical food, drink and clothing that is in question. I think we must also put it in a spiritual context, we must preach the gospel, and in that way give our fellow human beings the opportunity to be in harmony with God. There are probably many who are hungry and thirsty to hear the word of God, and who feel alienated from the world. And there are many who, because of their way of life, can be said to be naked, sick, and in prison, who need to hear what Jesus can do for them, just see what Jesus himself says about this in Luke 4,18-19: The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Our task in this regard is to show them the way to Christ. What Christ is saying here is a quote from Isaiah 61,1-2. That Jesus omits the last sentence in his quote is understandable. The first time Jesus came to earth was to bring salvation to all people. It is only when He comes for the second time that the last sentence is relevant, for then Christ will judge both the living and the dead. Isaiah 61,1-2 reads as follows: The spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.
Also in Isaiah 42,5-7 we find a similar prophecy that was given about 2700 years ago: Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, [and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
To be fully prepared, we see that not only can we read the signs of the times, but we must also sacrifice ourselves at work to bring the word of salvation to our neighbour. It helps little to see that the time is near if we do not help those in need, both physical need, and not least spiritual need.
What will the day of the Lord be like?
Many talk of a secret return, with a secret rapture of the Christians. It is especially within the charismatic and Pentecostal charismatic denominations that we find this doctrine called dispensationalism. Dispensationalism, roughly speaking, is about dividing human history into seven periods. It is Robert Bellarmine, cardinal and Jesuit (1542 – 1621), who is behind this model of interpretation. According to this interpretation, during the Millennium, which they count as the seventh period, which follows the secret rapture, the Jews will receive the gospel. In short, the doctrine is that God has two special peoples, Israel and the church, and that the church has therefore not replaced Israel in God’s program and believes that the promises given to the Jews in Old Testament times will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom that will find place here on earth. In other words, this interpretation makes God, who is a God of order, a God of disorder by first having one people, Israel, and after Jesus’ death on the cross, God has the church as his people, and then sometime in the future to have Israel as its people again. But then only after the secret rapture of the church
It is true that the Bible speaks of a period of a thousand years, but that is something completely different from a millennial kingdom. As a curiosity, I can mention that the last who dreamed of creating a millennial kingdom was Adolf Hitler. The belief in a millennial kingdom where Christians will reign in heaven with Jesus, while those who had not received Christ, the non-Christians still live in the best prosperity on earth is nothing but dispensational. It is simply believed that the millennial kingdom is the time when the Jewish theocracy with the temple, the sacrificial system and the Mosaic Law is restored, and the Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s future political triumph over the Gentiles are literally and physically fulfilled. The funny thing is that many Pentecostal charismatic churches interpret Revelation and the book of Daniel on the basis of the dispensational principle, despite the fact that this is contrary to their view of tongues (the gifts of the Holy Spirit). But does it agree with what the Bible says?
I think we should base Jesus’ words on how we should understand His second coming. Jesus says in Matthew 24,27.31 the following: For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be …//… And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15,52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed …//… and in 1 Thessalonians 4,16: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: How then can anyone choose to believe that there will be a secret return? As we can read in these verses, Jesus’ return will be both visible and audible.
This is what happens in the fallen church in our time. All the ancient pagan religions have in one way or another gained a foothold in the church and been given a ‘Christian wrapping’. Those who are behind this are false prophets and false christs, and this is exactly what Jesus warns us throughout chapter 24. We are warned against false prophets and false christs and false teachings. In Revelation we are warned against becoming like the congregation in Pergamon, where many adhered to the teachings of ´Balaam´* and the teachings of the Nicolaitans (2,14-15). We are also warned against the woman ´Jesabel´* in the letter to Tyatira who seduces God’s servants to eat meat sacrificed to idols and live in adultery (2,20). In the letter to Laodicea we are warned against being lukewarm Christians (3,15-16).
* Balaam and Jezebel are not the biblical figures, but these two are used as a type of the condition that prevails in the church today.
The Jesuit-inspired dispensationalism, which was created to stem the Reformation, has truly fulfilled its purpose, to stop the Reformation Luther started. Dispensationalism has gained ground in mostly all denominations, and it does not seem that they care much about Jesus’ warnings, but throw themselves on false doctrines, perhaps because they itch in the ear. Jesus himself is absolutely clear on this point. His return will be of the spectacular kind, there is no hush, hush, and secrecy at His return. Everyone will both hear it and see it, and just as we see the lightning flashing across the sky, so we will also see the Lord as he returns accompanied by the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God.
Let us therefore prepare ourselves in every conceivable way so that we may be present when God fulfils some of the most exciting and wonderful prophecies of our time, so that we may allow our God and Creator to enable us to solve the tasks that He want us to perform. The Holy Spirit wants to equip us with the gifts of the Spirit, and God the Father will contribute with this: And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call, Joel 3,1-5.
Therefore, let us keep awake, studying the signs of the times properly by letting the Bible interpret itself. Dissociate yourself from the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans and expose Jezebel’s fornication and idolatry. Let us put ourselves completely in the hands of Jesus and let Him shape us and equip us so that while we wait for Jesus’ return we can go out into all the world and show the honest seekers the way to Christ.