In America, the phrase “9/11,” does not refer to an ordinary, September date, but a cataclysmic event. On that day, running errands for my husband, I dashed into an auto parts store to find staff and customers clustered by a television, silently watching an unimaginable scene. We stared in silent horror at footage of airplanes flying into the Twin Tower buildings of New York City. The people who perished inside received no warning that September 11, 2001 would be the last day of their lives. American history permanently changed that day along with people’s attitudes about the future safety and stability of our country.
The prophet, Joel, describes another civilization-altering day which he and other Biblical authors call, “The Day of the Lord.” This term refers to a day of God’s judgement, terrifying and calamitous.
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel 2:31
Until I did a serious study of Joel, I presumed that “The Day of the Lord,” occurred one time and referred to the end of days when sinners are judged. That is an incorrect understanding of the phrase. Joel describes a literal locust plague, which is one day that decimated the promised land during his day. He also previews another day which involves the coming Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.
Worse yet, I discovered that the warnings in this chapter are aimed squarely at the people of God, not unbelievers. People who said they knew God stood in danger of losing everything. I think that’s why Joel spent so many words describing this destruction and why God wants us to pay attention to the prophet’s dire predictions today.
The phrase “Day of the Lord,” is used many times in scripture and refers to several different events. According to Baker’s Bible Dictionary of Theology, this term is used to refer to the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 587 B.C. by Jeremiah, (Lam. 2:21) while Isaiah uses the same term to refer to the fall of Babylon herself. (Isaiah 13:13) Other references point to a future event that will be a decisive moment of judgement and salvation none will escape. For today’s believer, the former days with this ominous title, serve as a warning that another is most surely coming, and we must be prepared.
I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Five stayed in a state of preparation, keeping their lamps filled with oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) and enjoyed welcome into the feast of the bridegroom. Five fell asleep, and the bridegroom’s arrival surprised them. After rushing around to find oil for their lamps, they pounded on the door of the banquet hall asking to be let in. The answer? “I don’t know you,” and the doors remained closed.
There are many millions of people on the earth today who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They recognize his soon and coming return and live accordingly, in right standing with God. Many other folks identify as “Christian,” but their spiritual life is not an intimate one with the Father, merely an outward show of rituals and good works. Chances are, if you are reading this post, you fall in the first category, but I’d be willing to bet you know people who fall in the second.
My experience sharing Christ with those who think they are Christians, but do not know Christ personally, is tricky. Clearly, the people of Joel’s day blew his prophecies off and continued life contrary to God’s laws. Your conversations and interactions with these sorts of folks must be handled with the grace and tact of the Holy Spirit.
I cringe when I hear well-meaning believers get into stupid “my church beats yours,” conversations. In America, there are thousands of churches filled with sheep who desire true spirituality in their lives and are tricked into settling for a counterfeit by wicked pastors. Our job is not to rant to them about the darkness but to live and walk in The Light. Jesus said the lost will recognize we belong to him, by the quality of our love. (John 13:35) Helping pseudo-Christians become true seekers and followers of Christ is a love process.
People want to know you care about them as people, not projects. The Day of the Lord is coming soon, where God will quickly separate the wheat from the tares. The Bible warns repeatedly that the day will come suddenly, and that judgement will be decisive. Our challenge as believers is asking God to grant us opportunity and wisdom to let people within our sphere discover that they might be on the wrong side of that equation.
We must choose to invest our lives not just with people who are bold and outspoken about their lost-ness but with those who don’t realize they are. At the same time, our lives should reflect the five virgins ready to meet the bridegroom. Believers walking rightly with God need not fear the coming Day of the Lord. We do need to be certain, though, that we take the great commission personally. God places us in specific neighborhoods, jobs, schools, and such because he knows we will encounter the lost there. He expects us to remember that for them, the Day of the Lord will be worse than 9/11, the attack on Pearl Harbor and D-Day combined.
Remembering those tragic days can help us imagine what awaits those who are not right with God. The same feelings of horror and compassion we feel for the victims of past tragedies should be even stronger towards those who are approaching the end of days, unprepared to meet their Creator. Let those righteous emotions challenge our apathy and give us that push of courage we might need to speak to someone about their eternal soul.
Lamp and Sword
****Resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
Articles and Resources
- A former atheist explains how the lives of believers led him to Christ.
- Interesting information about “The Day of the Lord” from Baker’s Theological Dictionary
Verses for Self-Examination
The Bible is the believer’s gold standard for assessing where we stand in our spiritual growth. Use these verses to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to about areas where God might like to do some work in you.
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22
- The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:8
- Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:24
- Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:25
- Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4