What is the difference between the Day of Christ and the Day of the Lord?
A number of references are made in the NT to the Day of Christ or the Day of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul seeking to encourage the Philippian Christians stated in Phil.1:6 "Being confident of this very thing that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." He would go on to exhort them to "approve the things that are excellent that ye might be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ." (v. 10). Later in this same epistle, Paul stated that he hoped they would hold forth the Word of life so that he might rejoice in the day of Christ, so that he would not have run in vain neither labored in vain. (2.16) Likewise, to the Corinthian assembly - an assembly known for it's blatant carnality, he could positively affirm the sanctifying work that the Lord would ultimately accomplish in their lives when he reminded them: "He shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1.8)
In each of these instances and more in the NT, the Day of Christ has only positive connotations for the Christian. It is that period of time in biblical prophecy that will commence the long-awaited for union in heaven of the Church, the Bride of Christ with her Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus. It is the culmination of the "blessed hope" of the believer (Titus 2.13), a hope that has been operative through the centuries (though obscure at times) ever since the days of the Thessalonians who eagerly waited for the Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1.10) It will begin when the Church is raptured from this scene to meet the Lord in the air to ever be with Him (1 Thess. 4.13-17) It will also begin the judgment seat of Christ in which each Christian's life and works will be reviewed and rewarded in accordance with faithfulness to the Lord. Because this judgment is one of evaluation rather than punishment, it will not deal with the issue of salvation, but instead with the issue of service for the Lord - reward for proper motives in ministry and the loss of reward for improper motives. (1 Cor. 3:14-15) The judgment seat of Christ will apparently conclude before the Tribulation period begins since the twenty-four elders in Rev. 4-5 viewed by many as the representative of the Church are described as being in heaven and crowned.
The Day of Christ is contrasted in Scripture with the Day of the Lord - a period of time referred to many times in the OT (Joel 2.11; Zeph. 1.14; Mal. 4.5 etc.) In biblical chronology, the Day of the Lord follows the Day of Christ. Whereas the Day of Christ has particular reference to the blessing of the Church in heaven, the Day of the Lord refers to the time of unparalleled judgment upon Israel and the nations on earth - a time referred to in Scripture as the time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7) and "the great day of His (the Lord's) wrath" (Rev. 6.17). Though the initial period of the Day of the Lord will be horrific -- a seven-year period of intense Tribulation on earth, it will also include the Millennium -- a 1000 year reign of peace and prosperity under the rule of the Prince of Peace. This period of time though peaceful, is included in the Day of the Lord since it will witness the direct intervention and judgment of the Lord in the affairs of man as He rules in righteousness. During this time, He will immediately put down all sin and rebellion in contradistinction to the grace and long-suffering that He demonstrates today as He patiently waits for men and women to repent and turn to Him in faith. The Day of Christ is also contrasted to the Day of God (2 Peter 3.12) a reference to eternity which will occur at the conclusion of the Day of the Lord when the elements will melt with fervent heat in preparation for "new heavens and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness" (v.13)
How am I to live in the light of this teaching about the Day of Christ?
1 John 3.3 reminds us of the practical side of this NT truth: "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." The return of the Lord which begins the Day of Christ should occupy the heart of every believer. Just as Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11.10) so too every Christian should be looking for "that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2.13) As we do, we will become less enamored with the things of this world and focus on what really matters in life - matters such as the salvation of the lost, good works, and personal holiness. Instead of living carelessly as to our Christian responsibilities, we will be abiding in Him and doing "those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3.22). Consequently, we will "have confidence and not be ashamed at His coming" (1 John 2.28). The reality of the truth of His imminent return if adhered to will be a purifying hope in the life of the believer and valuable in conforming us to the image of Christ.
Why can I look forward to the Day of Christ?
One reason to look forward to the Day of Christ is that it will conclude the difficulties and struggles with sin that we have known all too often in our walk with the Lord. The snares and hindrances that have often prevented our full enjoyment of the Lord will forever be put away. There will be a new perspective and a new freedom in our worship of Him. Not only will we be reunited with others who have gone before us -- family and friends in the Lord -- but we will see face to face the One whom we have been serving by faith through the years. At that time, our faith will give way to sight and our joy will be boundless as we begin to understand more fully the way in which He led us in life, including answers to some of the questions we may have had through the years, such as "why" and "how come". The secret things that belong to the Lord (Deut. 29.29) will be made known to us and as the Apostle Paul said "we shall know, even as we are known" (1 Cor 13.12) Certainly, it will be a day of rejoicing!
When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be,
When we all see Jesus,
we sing and shout the victory!