2 Timothy 1:12, 18; 4:8
We do not usually connect finding mercy with “that day,” i.e., the day of the Lord; what does 2 Timothy 1:18 mean?
We are accustomed to connect with the closing days of this present age two distinct movements of our Lord and Saviour—the rapture of the Church, and His appearing to this world, when He shall set up His kingdom; and this is not in itself altogether wrong. But if we hold these great truths rigidly, as isolated actions, having no bearing upon one another, we are certain to find ourselves at a loss to understand passages of Scripture in which saints are viewed with relation to these two events.
For instance, we expect our Lord to come into the air and remove us from this world unnoticed by those who are left behind, and then to appear with Him at His manifestation to the world (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Col. 3:4) when He will come in judgment (2 Thess. 1:7-11). We shall be with Him in heaven when the judgments prefatory to His appearing shall be poured out upon the earth. I refer to the opening of the seals, the sounding of the trumpets, and the emptying of the vials upon the earth (Rev. 5-18). We have not been appointed to wrath (2 Thess. 5:9), and therefore like Enoch we are translated before the judgments are let loose upon this rebellious scene.
But the Corinthians were awaiting the revelation of Christ; that is, His appearing to the world. And Peter writing to the dispersion reminds them of the grace that is to be brought to them at the revelation (1 Peter 1:13). And Timothy was to keep the commandment spotless until the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:14). This is puzzling to some who divorce the rapture of the Church from the appearing.
In John 6 we have the Lord saying four times to the Jews, regarding those that should believe on Him, “I will raise him up at the last day”; that is, the last day of this present age, which introduces the Messianic age, or reign of Christ. But we look for the resurrection of such at the rapture of the Church, and not at His appearing. I have thought that this might be explained by the fact that at the revelation of our Lord, when He appears to the world, those who have died between the rapture of the Church and His appearing are then raised (Rev. 20:4-6), and that this completes the first resurrection, and then is fulfilled the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-57), and I am confirmed in this thought by the quotation, which is from Isaiah 25:8-9, for there it clearly refers to the presence of Christ, and millennial blessing.
Paul also speaks of the ability of the Lord to keep that which he had committed to Him against that day, clearly the day of the Lord. His desire for Onesiphorus was that he might find mercy of the Lord in that day. His confidence was that the Lord would give to him, and to all who love His appearing, a crown of righteousness in that day. James exhorts saints to be patient unto the coming (presence) of the Lord (Jas. 5:7). Peter says that, however ignorantly scoffers might deride the hope of believers, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10).
I gather from all this that the short period from the translation of the Church to heaven until the appearing of the Lord with the Church in glory is one in nature and character, and that in the mind of the Spirit the various events are grouped together as forming but one dispensation of God, any one of which can be taken up and made to apply to the state and circumstance of His people upon earth at any time. Even the removal of the Church from this scene may be viewed as the beginning of God’s dealings with the earth, for whatever the failure of the Church may be, it is the greatest light ever found upon earth, short of the presence of the Lord Himself. Besides, its removal is only preparatory to the letting loose of the judgments that will increase in intensity until the last and most terrible judgment of all, the revelation of the Lord with the angels of His might in flaming fire. Therefore this whole period may be spoken of as “The last day”—“That day”—“The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” for the beginning of “That day” is the removal of the Church from the earth.
Therefore we are looking for the appearing of the glory of the great God our Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13). And therefore, though we know that the profession of Christ upon earth has become so corrupt that judgment must first begin at it, we look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (1 Peter 4:17; Jude 21). The desire of Paul for Onesiphorus was that he might find mercy of the Lord in “that day” (2 Tim. 1:16-18). The mercy would be shown in his translation to heaven at the very earliest glimmer of the morning of that day. Where that which has been set up on earth as a witness for a rejected Christ has become unfaithful and corrupt, the faithful can only look for mercy from the Lord in view of the judgment of that with which he is connected.
There is great danger in making too great a separation between what we speak of as the rapture of the Church and the appearing of our Lord in glory. In one way it is all one coming of our Lord. When He rises from the right hand of God His objective is the earth and the kingdom. But when He comes into the air He calls us up to meet Him, and the point where He meets His saints is the point where He reveals Himself to the world in His majesty and power. I do not see that that point is ever surrendered. We have a fairly good illustration of the rapture and the appearing in Paul’s journey to Rome. When he was on his way to that city the brethren met him at Appii Forum and Tres Tabernæ, and with them He went on to Rome. And therefore do we look for His appearing, for on His journey to earth we shall meet Him in the air, and eventually come the rest of the way with mm, for when He shall appear we shall appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4).
If we see things in the way in which they are presented in the Word of God we shall see nothing but infinite perfection, and we shall be able to admire the beauty and grandeur of God’s Revelation.