Salvation and the Day of the LORD

May 30, 2013

Are you saved?

Evangelical Christians are united in the belief that salvation is essential. However, various streams in the church have deviated in articulating what we have been saved from and when that salvation would be evident. Some say we are saved from sin, others say we are saved from sickness, poverty, and lack, and still others say we are saved from hell and unending torment. Yet as Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, and the rest of the New Testament writers present straightforwardly, salvation is about being saved from the future wrath of the day of the LORD (Matthew 3:7; Luke 21:23; Romans 10:9, cf. Joel 2:32; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, cf. Isaiah 2:12,19; 2 Peter 3:10; Romans 2:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2).

The day of the LORD was not just a concept fabricated by the New Testament writers but was spoken about by virtually all of the Old Testament prophets. Since that dreadful day in Eden's garden, the LORD promised to restore all that humanity's fall had torn asunder. Though His patience would afford men time to repent (2 Peter 3:9) before the day He had fixed to renew all things by Jesus (Acts 17:31), humanity would scorn His mercy and the atonement provided in His own Son, "storing up wrath for [themselves] on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)

Because God will restore the heavens and the earth to be a home of righteousness where He alone will be exalted (Isaiah 2:17), His Day of reckoning will be terrible for those who have failed to glorify Him and have served themselves and their own pleasures (Romans 1:21,25; Romans 3:23). This dreadful day of wrath against sin is still yet future and was not mitigated or shelved because of Jesus' first coming (Hebrews 9:28).

In light of these truths, the future Day of the LORD must be the context in which we use words like "gospel", "salvation", "sin", "law", "grace", "punishment", "destruction", and "wrath". To be "saved" is good news indeed, but why? Because for any who put their faith in the grace available through Jesus, their sin has been atoned for and will not condemn them (Romans 8:1) on the day the He comes to destroy unrighteousness and restore the created order.

The Biblical story is so simple, yet confusion is inevitable when we obscure, marginalize, or completely eliminate critical elements from it. To tell someone about salvation without saying what they are actually saved from is like telling someone a story and omitting the portions that explain all of the seemingly baffling details of the tale. Why death? Why sacrifices? Why corruption and evil? Why such a delay since the promise to restore what was lost? With all of the story's details in view, the New Testament constantly exhorts us to live differently because of real events that are coming, not just think differently because we have been freed from sin. Because the day of the LORD is "near" and "at hand" (Joel 2:1; Joel 3:14; Matthew 4:17; Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7), we ought to conduct ourselves in a manner that bears witness of the coming age of righteousness (Romans 13:12-14; 2 Peter 3:11,14; Ephesians 6:13).

Without a complete hope in the future Day of the LORD (1 Peter 1:13), our hearts remain ensnared by the tentacles of this present evil age. To those who say that they dwell securely in peace and are content with their circumstances, Paul says that "sudden destruction will come upon them" (1 Thessalonians 5:3; Hebrews 2:3). Forgetting this has led many to the false conclusion that the Day of the LORD is not coming, that Jesus will never judge (only forgive), and that God's desire is simply to reward the righteous with abundance in this age. The lack of emphasis on the day of the LORD is one of the primary reasons why the prosperity gospel, hyper-grace, and dominionism/"kingdom now" views are being increasingly adopted by many in the Western church.

Until that great Day, let us turn once again to the scriptures with simple faith and pray for perseverance and patience as we bear a longsuffering witness to the wicked and as we eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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