The Day of God

2 Pet. 3:12.---' Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God.'

'The day of God!' What is meant by this striking expression? Can it be intended to mean that God has left the present time to itself; that He has retreated into a distant future, where He will claim rights and exert a jurisdiction that do not now belong to Him? Certainly this notion cannot be entertained together with any worthy idea of the Almighty and the Ever-living. All days most assuredly are His who, being Eternal, is the Lord of time. Each hour, each minute, as it passes, is passed beneath His eye. It is passed in His encompassing Presence, for whom time, with its sequence of artificial or natural measurements, cannot exist.

Such a phrase must describe, not God's absolute relation to any one moment of time, but our human way of looking at it. By the 'day of God' is meant a day which will not merely be His, as all days are, but will be felt to be so; a day in which His true relation to time and life, which, in the case of the majority of men, is only dimly perceived, will be unreservedly acknowledged; a day which will belong to Him, because, in the thoughts of every reasonable creature of His hand, whether for weal or for woe, He will have no rival. That the 'day of God' means, first of all, a day in which God will take the first place in the thoughts of men seems to result from an examination of the language of the Bible.

In the Old Testament, this word 'day,' meaning not seldom a season or epoch, is constantly joined to some word denoting an event, or idea, or characteristic with which the particular time referred to was associated in the minds of men in general or of the sacred writer. Thus the Psalmist speaks of 'the day of temptation,' 'the day of his trouble,' 'the day of God's power,' 'the days of God's wrath'; and Isaiah, of the 'day of visitation,' 'the day of God's fierce anger,' 'the day of grief and desperate sorrow'; and Jeremiah, of 'the day of evil,' 'the day of affliction,' 'the day of calamity.' These several periods, thus described, are sometimes present, sometimes not distantly future; and sometimes they point on to a very remote time, of which the present or the near future is a pledge or an anticipation. Or, again, some city or nation is named which has had a tragic history, and its day means the epoch of its suffering or ruin; and thus Isaiah speaks of 'the day of Midian,' and Ezekiel of 'the day of Egypt,' and Hosea of 'the day of Jezreel,' and one of the later Psalmists of 'the day of Jerusalem.' That which is common to all the phrases is the prominence in men's thoughts of the subject, whether it be a race, or a city, or a vicissitude; and thus we see how words which are at first sight so strange and embarrassing as 'the day of the Lord' might come to be used. The reference is to the time when the Lord is to take precedence of all else in the thoughts of men.

The phrase occurs again and again in the Hebrew prophets, and, as far as the Old testament is concerned, it is peculiar to them. Sometimes, indeed, they speak of 'the day of the Lord's anger,' 'the day of the Lord's sacrifice,' 'the day of the Lord's vengeance,' but more frequently, as in Isaiah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi, of 'the day of the Lord,' or more fully, 'the day of the Lord God of hosts.' By this expression, too, they often refer to very various events: sometimes to some near exhibition of God's power in the history of Israel or of the adjacent peoples; sometimes to a far-off occurrence, general and comprehensive in its scope, of which the nearer events are premonitory shadows. And thus the phrase passes into the hands of, and is, so to say, baptized by, the apostles, who fix its meaning in view of that fuller revelation of the world beyond the grave which was laid open to them by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul prays that the Corinthians may be 'blameless in the day of the Lord'; he trusts that God, who has begun a good work in his spiritual children at Philippi, 'will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ'; he hopes that, through the discipline of the Church exercised on the incestuous Corinthian, his 'spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord'; he warns the Thessalonians that 'the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night.' The expression is made at home in the New Testament, and it now has a clearly defined meaning; it points to a day beyond the limits of what we call time, when God will be first in the thoughts of all men.

It means, secondly, a time when all human things will be rated at their true value; when man's life, and all that belongs to it, will be seen in the light of the Infinite and the Eternal, and therefore in its relative insignificance. 'The day of God' thus implies a contrast and a catastrophe. This is the idea of 'the day of the Lord' which Isaiah describes. Isaiah was living in a generation for which this present life was well-nigh its all. Each feature of its civilization, each personal decoration, each possession, each dignity, each exercise of power, was inexpressibly dear to the men of that time. The trees and hills Of Lebanon and Bashan furnish the imagery which clothes the burning words that predict the coming revelation of human insignificance. 'The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.'

Most men who have lived until middle life have experienced something that will enable them to understand this. They have gone on for years, without any shock to the even tenor of existence; and, insensibly, this visible world has become their all, or nearly so. Its striking scenes, its great personages, its objects of ambition, may easily so occupy the mind as to shut the unseen out from view. A spirit of slumber or stupefaction, such as St. Paul, appealing to prophecy, says took possession of them. They have fallen under the empire of Nature and of the bodily senses; and everything belonging to this world is seen in exaggerated proportions because they have lost sight of a higher. Now, a state of mind like this is abruptly broken in upon by a great trouble; by a loss of income, or loss of reputation, the death of a loved one, or the ruin of health. Each of these may be a staggering blow to a man in certain circumstances; and one effect of such a shock may be to convince him that his former way of looking at life was a mistaken one. He has made too much of it, in detail and as a whole. He has attributed to it an importance and stability which is not borne out by experience; and he wakes up to see that there is another world beyond it, compared with which it is poor and worthless indeed. This is for him a 'day of the Lord'; and, in the light of it, he learns that 'all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth: but the word of our god shall stand for ever.'

It means, once more, the day of a Universal Judgment. Such a day would be the day of God, if only because His moral attributes would be conspicuously displayed and satisfied. Thus our Lord says, 'Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.' Thus St. Peter says that unjust men are reserved 'unto the day of judgment to be punished.' Thus St. John is anxious that good Christians should have boldness in the Day of Judgment. And this character of the day is more fully explained when St. Paul tells the Romans that it is a 'day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.'

Certainly, God is always judging us. Moment by moment we live beneath His all seeing eye; and he registers each act and word and thought, each movement of passion, each truancy of will, each struggle, by His grace, to live for Him, each victory 'over the craft and subtlety of the devil or man.' Moment by moment He is 'a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' He discerns; and as He discerns, He judges; He judges as we think, and feel, and speak, and act. And this life, too, is largely made up of the rewards which he inflicts. His 'judgments are already in all the world,' although it may be hard to say which sufferings in our lives or in the lives of others have been certainly penal, and which of them remedial or intended to educate for a higher life. But it is to Him, as our present Judge, that we pray with the Psalmist, 'Judge me, O Lord, according to thy righteousness'; or, 'Judge me, O Lord, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts'; or, 'Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.'

God is always on the throne of judgment; but this does not prove that no time is coming when He will judge as never before. The predicted Day of Judgment will differ from the continuous judgment of the Divine Mind in two respects---in its method, and in its finality. It will be carried out, that Last Judgment, by the Man Christ Jesus in Person. 'For,' as the Judge Himself has told us, 'the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.' And so, as St. Paul taught the Athenians, God 'hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.' And, accordingly, 'we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.' And then 'every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.' Yes, Lord Jesus, 'we believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.'

'Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.' That is an account of the way in which a Christian should live. Does this description apply to us? Is our present relation of faith and love to our Lord Jesus Christ of such a character that we can look forward with humble confidence to being accepted in Him? Or are we whirling on through the advancing years of this brief life towards that tremendous future; closing our eyes as the flash of premonitory lightning breaks ever and anon from the heavens; stopping our ears to the roll of the distant thunders of the coming storm?

In Christ, timothy. maranatha