Last month, we considered Joel 2:17–19, 24–25, in which the Lord promised to restore what was consumed by the locusts. Recall that the swarm of locusts destroyed not only what was needed as food for the people but also the same for the livestock. What is more, without grain or livestock, the people had nothing to offer the Lord in sacrifice. In mercy, God restored what was consumed, pointing to His provision of the greatest sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
The Future Return of Christ
Continuing in the Book of Joel, including this month’s passage, God through the prophet shared what the future will bring—God will pour out His Spirit and there will be impressive and harrowing wonders, all before the return of Christ. On the heels of the locust swarm, the Lord warns of a coming doom, far worse than a swarm of locusts. For those who don’t have forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus, His return will be a day of great sorrow and loss. Joel 2:30–32 describes it:
And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
What Does the Bible Teach regarding the Day of the Lord?
Matthew reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed throughout the world. Matthew 24:14 reads,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
We’re also reminded that we won’t miss it. Several of my students have asked if they could possibly miss the return of Christ, if His coming will be so subtle, and in such a clandestine location, as to miss heaven, like a commuter would miss a bus. Don’t worry. Matthew 24 continues with verse 27:
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Every person in the world, regardless of who he or she is or what he or she is doing, will recognize the return of Christ. In Philippians 2:10, we read,
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
Those who know Christ will bow in love, honor, and joyful anticipation of everlasting peace. Those who don’t know Christ will bow in fear, sorrow, and dread of everlasting contempt.
Only the Father knows when. If someone claims to know the date of the Lord’s return, politely move on. Jesus speaks in Matthew 24:36,
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
Someone might lament, “Why doesn’t Jesus tell us the date, so that we can be ready?” Consider the reality of the sinful nature. If Jesus were to tell us the date, we would be apt to set our minds on other things besides salvation, ignoring the Lord until that time was closer. And if that date is still two hundred or two thousand years in the future, would we be ready if we died suddenly or unexpectedly?
The dead in Christ will rise first. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
What Does the Bible Say about Hell during the Day of the Lord?
God takes no pleasure in condemning people to suffer eternal hell. Hell is a place of unimaginable suffering. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 1:9,
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.
As much as heaven is living in the presence of the Lord for all time, hell—and whatever particular torments it may involve—is eternity without Him. It is a place of profound sorrow. Matthew 13:41–42 describes the task of the angels at the end of the age:
They will gather … all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This weeping and gnashing of teeth will be in reaction not only to physical pain but also to mental and spiritual anguish. One might speculate that Christians who walked away from faith in Christ will suffer especially bitter torment, realizing what he or she had, and what was lost.
Does God Want People to Suffer Eternally?
God takes no pleasure in those who suffer eternal hell. In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul tells us,
[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God paid a dear price in Jesus Christ to redeem the world of sin. He does not delight that anyone would lose the benefits of such a costly offering.
God is faithful to the end. Jesus says in John 6:39,
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.
God has called you to be His child. There is nothing in all existence that can take you from Him. He is faithful and does not grow weary, impatient, or indifferent. His Holy Spirit will hold you in faith until He takes you to heaven.
Find a quick guide to answer questions of heaven and hell.