There are parallel tracks running at any given time – one in the supernatural / spiritual realm (the “third heaven”), and one in the natural / physical realm (the “first and second heavens”). In end times prophecy, we see views from both perspectives.
I believe that the Day of Christ is the heavenly track while the Day of the Lord runs its course on earth. The Day of Christ is the day of redemption of the saints, when the “age of grace” is complete and the true body of Christ is called up to join Jesus in glory. I believe its’ start may be indicated by this event:
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25 ESV
Once the fullness of the Gentiles has come in to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood (different than the “times of the Gentiles”, which aren’t completed until the 2nd Coming of Christ), God will begin His process to regraft Israel back into the original Olive Tree through the 70th week of Daniel – and so all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
Let’s examine the passages of scripture anticipating the Day of Christ:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you 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 Corinthians 1:4-8 ESV)
For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. (2 Corinthians 1:13-14 ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10 ESV)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding 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 labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 ESV)
While the judgments of the Day of the Lord are being carried out on earth, what is happening in the heavenly track on the “Day of Christ”?
First, I believe we will rejoice at our salvation:
We will stand before the Lamb and before God on His throne, waving palm branches, and shouting “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10 ESV)
Second, we will likely watch a great spiritual battle:
At the time of our salvation, I believe that the war between Michael and his angels and Satan and his demons will erupt. I am guessing that this quite likely will be occurring even as we are going up in the rapture. We will rejoice in his defeat!
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! (Revelation 12:7-12 ESV)
Third, the judgment (BEMA) seat of Christ will commence:
For we 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, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12 ESV)
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV)
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8 ESV)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 ESV) (Also Rev 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. ESV)
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4 ESV)
Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12 ESV)
Crowns that can be earned by believers:
- Crown of Life – For those who suffer persecution for His sake (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10)
- Crown of Righteousness – For those who loved His appearing, who eagerly await for Him to come (2 Timothy 4:8)
- Crown Incorruptible – For those who press on steadfastly in the faith (1 Corinthians 9:25)
- Crown of Glory – For those who feed the flock (1 Peter 5:4)
- Crown of Rejoicing – For those who win souls (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
The judgment seat of Christ is for Christians to give an account of our lives before Christ. It does not determine salvation – that matter is settled and we are already in heaven. Our sins are erased (Romans 8:1). What we will see is if the things we did while on earth had any eternal value. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 I think likely applies to us! We are stewards of what God has given us, and we will give an accounting of how we performed in that regard. Did we put our treasures in the eternal bank of heaven, or did we invest them in the temporal?
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. (1 John 2:28 ESV)
Besides the crowns we can earn, the Bible is silent on what our other rewards might be. While our righteousness isn’t something that we earn, but is imputed to us through the cross of Christ, Revelation 19:8 does suggest that our righteous deeds somehow clothe us in some way:
“…it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (ESV)
One of the more impactful statements I have read is by Dr. Lehman Strauss: “Has it ever occurred to you… that at the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?”
Our life in this world prepares us for our life in the next. We should yearn to hear these blessed words from our Master:
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
Jesus tells us in Luke to pray that we are worthy and have the strength to stand before the Son of Man and escape all the things that are going to come upon the earth (Luke 21:36). We do this by being AWAKE spiritually (being born again, sealed by the Holy Spirit). We are worthy not because of anything we do, but by being clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. The deeds we do for God while on earth earn us rewards and standing in heaven – where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.
You will be a part of one “Great Day”, and they both begin with the rapture of the church. Which “Day” you are a part of is up to you!
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
Are There Different Degrees of Reward in Heaven? (Cold Case Christianity)
How Can We Store Up Treasures in Heaven? (Gotquestions)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!