THE DAY OF THE LORD
Matt. 24:6-8; Matt. 24:29-31
“You will hear of wars and reports of wars. See that you are not disturbed; for these things must happen; for the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
“Immediately after the affliction of these days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then there will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth will lament, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and much glory. And he will send his angels with a great trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one boundary of heaven to the other.”
We have already seen that an essential part of the Jewish thought of the future was the Day of the Lord that day when God was going to intervene directly in history, and when the present age, with all its incurable evil, would begin to be transformed into the age to come.
Very naturally the New Testament writers to a very great extent identified the Second Coming of Jesus and the Day of the Lord; and they took over all the imagery which had to do with the Day of the Lord and applied them to the Second Coming. None of these pictures is to be taken literally; they are pictures, and they are visions; they are attempts to put the indescribable into human words and to find some kind of picture for happenings for which human language has no picture.
But from all these pictures there emerge certain great truths.
(i) They tell us that God has not abandoned the world; for all its wickedness, the world is still the scene in which God’s purpose is being worked out. It is not abandonment that God contemplates; it is intervention.
(ii) They tell us that even a very crescendo of evil must not discourage us. An essential part of the Jewish picture of the Day of the Lord is that a complete breakdown of all moral standards and an apparent complete disintegration of the world must precede it. But, for all that, this is not the prelude to destruction; it is the prelude to recreation.
(iii) They tell us that both judgment and a new creation are certain. They tell us that God contemplates the world both in justice and in mercy; and that God’s plan is not the obliteration of the world, but the creation of a world which is nearer to his heart’s desire.
The value of these pictures is not in their details, which at best are only symbolic and which use the only pictures which the minds of men could conceive, but in the eternal truth which they conserve; and the basic truth in them is that, whatever the world is like, God has not abandoned it.
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