What is it to you?

By David M. McNabb

God issues a warning, not to the heathen, but to us that desire the day of the Lord.
For us, if we have not prepared ourselves for the Lord, it will be a day of darkness"

Since long before any living believer can remember, we have known the time of our Lord’s return to be drawing near.  Every recent generation has anticipated the possible return of Christ Jesus in their day, and each new day seems to bring with it signs that make His soon coming even more certain.

All of the rhetoric of Christ’s imminent return should have caused us to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.  On the contrary, however, the opposite appears to have occurred, with God’s people falling farther away from the right path, and having less spirituality than the previous generations.

As the Lord said by the mouth of the prophet Amos, “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, … yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.  Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:11-12).  Oh, Israel was about to meet his God alright, but happy days were not what they were about to experience.  Trouble was multiplied unto God’s people, Israel, for hundreds of years from Amos’ days, and culminated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the final scattering of the children of Israel in 70 a.d.

The northern Kingdom of Israel had turned from the Lord and followed after idols, for which God severely punished them and led them into captivity under Assyria.  All of this was done in the sight of the Kingdom of Judah in the south.  Still, Judah did not learn from the mistakes of her sister, but committed the same – and even greater – sins.  (While the sovereign, secular State of Israel was formed in 1948, the righteousness of the Kingdom of God has yet to be seen emanating from her government, which is now nearly 60 years old.)

Modern Christianity has followed Judah’s footsteps, failing to learn from the mistakes of, and punishment endured by, backsliding Israel.  Having failed to learn from history, today’s believers seem destined to repeat it.

Through everything that happens, the Lord cries out to His people, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”  As divorce rates rise among professed Christians to meet or exceed those among unbelievers, the Lord cries, “Seek me and live.”  As unmarried cohabitation becomes commonplace within the churches, the Lord cries, “Seek me and live.”  As Christians set their sights on worldly riches, the Lord cries, “Seek me and live.”  As professing believers seek new ways to build political might, the Lord cries, “Seek me and live.”  Meanwhile, we jump and dance in the pews, shouting “Victory!” and claiming that the Lord wants nothing more than for us to be happy in this present world.

Once again, instead of a people prepared for the Lord, we see a generation that will, as Israel once did, “meet their God.”

We are admonished to await expectantly the return of our Lord and loving Savior Jesus.  We hear many who express their desire to see the day of the Lord, when He shall come again to the earth as King of kings and Lord of Lords.  God’s word speaks much of that day, and much of what He says fails to find its way into the pulpits of America’s church houses.

Because God’s people turn not at His admonition and warning, the message of the day of the Lord morphs from one of great joy to one of equally great doom: not only for the unbeliever, but for the stiff-necked, backsliding children of God.

“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” (Amos 5:18).  Here, God issues a warning, not to the heathen, but to us that desire the day of the Lord.  For us, if we have not prepared ourselves for the Lord, it will be a day of darkness.

Listen to the word of God by Joel the prophet:  “Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is [withheld] from the house of your God. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord, Alas for the day!  For the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.  Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?” (Joel 1:13-16).  “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness …” (Joel 2:1-2a).  According to this prophecy, the day of the Lord was at hand, and the people of the Most High needed to be worried. 

Likewise in the days of Zephaniah, God said, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil. … The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness…”  (Zeph. 1:12-15).

What about those who love the message of prosperity in the days leading up to Christ’s return?  “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land” (Zeph. 1:18). Yet, hope remains, for the Lord tells us what we can do to miss the wrath to come, “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you.  Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:1-3).

What escape is there for those who fail to heed the word of the Lord?  It will be “as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19).  Why?  Is it not because the majority of professing Christians are expecting the great snatching away of the rapture, and have remade God after the imaginations of their heart.  The idea of a just God has been abandoned, in favor of a god more appealing to modern sensibilities.  They fulfill the word of God spoken by Malachi, saying, “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them,” and “Where is the God of judgment?” (Mal. 2:17).

With the three witnesses of Amos, Joel and Zephaniah, God proclaimed His wrath upon the children of disobedience.  Nonetheless, we overlook the context of God’s word concerning the day of the Lord’s wrath, thinking that we will be gone, and that only the unsaved will endure the trouble.

And so, the cries of God’s people proclaiming the Lord’s soon coming are drowned out by their declaration of “peace and safety” via the “rapture of the saints.”  The Apostle Paul was well versed in the prophets of old, and knew of the word of God to His people concerning the time of the end.  He declared unto the church at Thessalonica, “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” (1 Thess. 5:3).  Who are “they” which say peace and safety?  Are they unbelievers?  No, they are professed believers that have failed to heed the word of the Almighty.

Jesus said that, in the last days, the kingdom of heaven would be like ten virgins which “all slumbered and slept.”  With all of the admonition against the backsliders, however, the Scripture describes another, relatively small group of believers who differ from the sleeping beauties.  She is the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31.  While the other virgins’ candles go dark, her candle stays lit (v. 18).  While they sleep on, she rises up while it is still night to provide for her household (v. 15).

It is of these saints that Paul speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.  “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  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. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.  For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thess. 5:1-11).

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:11-14).           

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