“The great Day of the Lord is near –– near and coming quickly!”
Zephaniah lived during the reign of Judah’s king Josiah (640-609 BC) –– over 2600 years ago –– and his words were spoked with urgency and power. He referred to a day of reckoning when the nations would face God’s ultimate judgment. His message reminds us of the promise of the New Testament that the “Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). The words of the apostle Paul point us to the future, when Jesus Christ will come again. The Old Testament and the New Testament are tied together by prophecies that the Day of the Lord is near and coming quickly! What can we learn from the prophet Zephaniah that will help us prepare for the ultimate arrival of the Day of the Lord?
A DAY OF GOD’S WRATH
The ancient prophet warned the people that the Day of the Lord would be the outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment. Nations, including Judah (God’s chosen people) would surely suffer punishment because of their sins. Specifically mentioned are the sins of compromise with false religion, violence, deceit, pride, arrogance, apathy and corrupt spiritual leadership. Hear his words: “Listen! That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:14-17). We need to recognize that God is a righteous God whose justice demands punishment for sin.
The day of God’s wrath is a major theme of the New Testament as well. It foretells of the coming Day of Judgment “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). People today who ignore these warnings do so to their own peril.
A DAY OF NO MORE CHANCES
In Zephaniah’s time, even at that late hour the Lord was willing to give sinners another chance to repent, to make things right with God. He did not delight in pouring out His wrath; He loved sinners even while he hated their sins. If Judah and the other nations had turned their hearts back to God, if they had obeyed Him, God would have been willing to show mercy and grace. The last thing the nations should have done was to take God’s grace for granted, ignored His warnings, and deceived themselves into thinking that God would not do what He said He was going do. Nothing upset the Lord more than spiritual apathy and complacency; thinking that “the Lord will do nothing, either good or bad” (Zephaniah 1:12). God said: “On that day I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent.” Only if nations returned to God would the coming Day of the Lord be averted! There was not much time to do that; the Day of the Lord was “near and coming quickly.” When the Day arrived there would be no more chances to repent and be forgiven. It would be too late.
It is because God loves and cares about Christians that He warns us about the coming Day of Judgment. The Scripture says: “God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus is coming soon, but now we have an opportunity to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. Tomorrow may be too late! After death there will be no changing one’s eternal destiny. The fate of the soul is sealed at death (Hebrews 9:27). The question all of us must answer is this: “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4)?
A DAY OF JOYFUL REWARD
Zephaniah promised that devastation and destruction would be everywhere, but among those who humbly and reverently obeyed the Lord there would be peace and reward. What words of comfort and reassurance: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment…. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:14-17). This may be the only time in Scripture that God is spoken of as “singing” with joy. God sings when His people do the right thing! As a mother calms a crying child, He quiets His people with His love.
As the Old Testament Day of the Lord was to be a day of gladness for the true children of God, so in the New Testament, the coming Day of the Lord will be a day of gladness for all who are part of the family of Christ. On the day Jesus returns, He will “be glorified in His holy people and marveled at among those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). God has not appointed obedient believers to suffer wrath, but “to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). He will “bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28). He is coming back to take us to be with Him that we also may be where He is (John 14:3). God assured the ancient Israelites that He would bring them home (Zephaniah 3:20). On the Day of the Lord, Jesus will take us home, where we will be with the Lord forever! Truly, there is no place like home!
What preparations do you need to make for the Day of the Lord? There are things you need to do. Let us help you make those preparations, for the Day of the Lord is near and coming quickly!
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