If you've ever read any of the Old Testament descriptions of the "Day of the Lord" that is coming, you've probably had this thought:
I don't want to be here for that.
And really, a lot of the New Testament descriptions aren't that different. We've cleaned them up real nice, talking about that moment when Jesus comes back and all of the believers are swept up into the sky and welcomed into fluffy clouds before the earth explodes or something, destroying all of the sinners.
But if you actually look, even Jesus says that day is going to be terrifying and that you'd better hope you're not busy when it happens because it's going to take everything you've got. Our nice, cleaned-up version says it all happens in the blink of an eye - here, and then there; alive, and then live forever - but Jesus says you'd better have everything you need with you and not have to turn back to get something. Which means...the day of the Lord is not some mystical blink, but a real day that you're going to have to live through. A journey you're going to have to go on.
A battle you're going to have to fight.
That's what the Scriptures most often portray it as - a great, epic battle. A fight. A war. A lot of fire and swords and bloodshed, a lot of lives laid on the ground. Victory and defeat, and you're there for them both. Darkness and storms and trials and tribulations and famine and wandering and...well, you've read it. You get the point. It's terrifying. Of course you think you don't want to be here for that.
As Christians of a certain era, we wonder how that can possibly be. How can a God of love come back in a day of bloodshed and torment? Why is the "Day of the Lord," which the people of God have always looked forward to, so terrifying? (And yes, even though it's terrifying, they have always looked forward to it. They have even prayed fervently for its coming.) It doesn't mesh with the God-of-good-feelings that we've come to know in our day and age. It doesn't gel with peace and love and forgiveness.
Here's what we have to remember: for the people of God who gave us these visions, this was everyday life. This was what they knew. The people of God spent almost of their lives fighting, moving in on enemy nations and having enemy nations move in on them. Their entire existence was framed in battle and bloodshed, in darkness and storms and siege ramps, in death and famine and wandering. In the same way that we think God is coming back in one big love-fest because we live in a time of peaceful love and good things, the people for whom life was constant war could see God coming only in war, in one final, epic battle that would put the weapons down for good. For good.
So what does that mean? Does that mean the Day of the Lord won't be as bloody, dark, and horrendous as the biblical writers would leave us to believe? That their vision of such a thing was tainted by the lives they lived? Well, if we're going to say that, then we ought to say just as well that the Day of the Lord won't be as loving and peaceful and easy as we would lead ourselves to believe, for our vision, too, is tainted by the lives we live.
Maybe we should just be thankful that the lives we lead are so dramatically far from war and bloodshed that we've lost our frame of reference for such a thing. There's probably some validity in that.
The truth is, I don't know. But when I think about this, I think about how God gives us a vision for things of Him that we can understand because it comes looking like so many of the things that we already know. And I think it's important that we catch God's vision, whatever it is, because He's trying to tell us something.
But we have to be careful because sometimes, we give ourselves visions for things of God based on what we know, and that's not the same thing. It's like I said above - we've all got this cleaned-up vision of an instantaneous love-in, of peace and good vibes and soft, fluffy clouds - and we got that vision because that's the age that we live in, but that's not, and never has been, the vision of God. We gave that one to ourselves. Just look at how it contrasts with Jesus's own words on the matter.
It is best, then, that we pray and ask God to open our eyes, ask God to show us what it is He wants us to see, ask Him to reveal what it is He wants us to know. And the Day of the Lord? It's coming. It's something we ought to be thinking about. Let's pray for God to give us a vision of that day that our eyes can see. And let's take His Word for it...not ours.