The Day of Jesus Christ
When the Bible mentions a ‘day’, it does not always refer to a literal, 24-hour day, but sometimes it refers to a period. Still, such a time period may end on a literal, 24-hour day. The New Testament refers many times to the ‘day of Jesus Christ’ or variations thereof. Clear references are found in 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; and 2:16. What can be gleaned from these direct references?
The Corinthians are exhorted to ‘wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor 1:7b-8; cf. 3:3; ESV). In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that ‘on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you’ (2 Cor 1:14). In one of his ‘prison letters’, the apostle Paul encourages the Philippians for it is certain that ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 1:6). ‘[A]pprove what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ’ (Phil 1:10). Moreover, hold ‘fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain’ (Phil 2:16).
Tenses of Salvation
Salvation has three ‘tenses’, namely justification, sanctification and glorification. When a person trusts Jesus Christ as his or her Saviour, that person is immediately justified. From that moment onwards until that believer’s death or the rapture, whichever comes first, the believer is progressively sanctified. At the rapture, all Church Age believers will be glorified, receiving their glorified bodies.
The ‘day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ seems to describe the completion of salvation (in all three tenses) for Church Age believers, the body of Christ. This will happen at the rapture.
Once the direct references to the ‘day of Jesus Christ’ is understood and a description proffered, it is easier to spot indirect references and allusions to the ‘day of Jesus Christ’. For example, Church Age believers must live in expectation for ‘the day is at hand’ (Rom 13:12), that ‘day’ when we will be raptured, receive glorified bodies, and our works be tested (1 Cor 3:13; 15:51; Phil 3:11, 21; 1 Thes 4:16-17; 2 Tim 1:12, 18; 4:8).
Rapture and Rewards
The work that the Lord Jesus Christ began in the lives of Church Age saints will be brought to completion on the day of Christ (cf. Phil 1:6). When the rapture occurs, Church Age believers will appear before the Lord Jesus at the bema-seat judgment (cf. Rom 14:10; 1 Cor 3:9-15; 2 Cor 5:10). Importantly, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Still, Church age saints must all ‘appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body’ (2 Cor 5:10). The Lord will reward each Church Age believer according to their works while in the body — but importantly, it is possible to forfeit rewards which could otherwise have been received (cf. 1 Cor 3:12-13). The Lord will judge the believer’s motives and whether works were built on the foundation, which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15). The apostle Paul wants believers to have works that Christ will reward in ‘that day’ (cf. 2 Cor 1:14; Phil 2:16).
This promise is precious: ‘He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:6; NASB).