‘Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.’ — Philippians 2:16
Three times in Philippians, God speaks of ‘the day of Christ’.
First, in Philippians 1:6, it is called ‘the day of Jesus Christ’. There, Paul is expressing his confidence that God will continue to perform the good work he began in them until the day of Jesus Christ. No doubt this is referring to Christ’s return for the saints as He promised in John 14:3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It is the completion of God’s work in us, so it is the day that the believers receive their glorified and incorruptible bodies (Romans 8:29-30; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The connection with the return of Christ and the details in particular of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, connect it with the rapture of the church.
Second, in Philippians 1:10, we find ‘the day of Christ’ mentioned again. In this passage, Paul is praying for the Philippians believers to grow in love, to approve excellent things, and to be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. He goes on to say that he prays that they will be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God. So, again the day of Christ ends the period in which believers are being sanctified and seeking to become more like Christ in practice. It is, therefore, the day when Christ returns and we are with the Lord for all eternity.
Finally, the third time ‘day of Christ’ is mentioned is in Philippians 2:16. There, Paul talks about the day of Christ as a time when he wants to rejoice that his race and his labour have not been in vain. He will be able to rejoice if they continue to work out (live out) their salvation (v.12), do all things without complaining and arguing (v.14), live blameless and harmless lives (v.15), and hold forth the word of life (v.16). So, the sense here is that the day of Christ will be a day of reward for the servant of Christ. It is a time when we stand before God and our works (not our sins) are tried to see what kind they are. This would connect it with ‘the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor 1:7-8) and ‘the day’ in which every man’s work is manifest for what sort it is (1 Cor 3:12-15).
Other passages in the Bible talk about the day of Christ:
- A day when a person’s spirit is saved (1 Cor 5:5).
- A day when Christians rejoice in one another and the work God has done in them (2 Cor 1:14).
- A day that dawns with the ‘day star’ (Jesus) heralding the dawn of a new day, a day that never ends and we are with Him for all eternity.
So, this ‘Day of Christ’ is a day believers:
- Are delivered from their mortal bodies
- Receive their glorified bodies
- Are presented faultless before the Lord
- Receive rewards for the work that we have done
- Dwell with the Lord for all eternity
- Look forward to with anticipation
- Are raptured
The Day of Christ contrasts with the ‘Day of the Lord’ which begins at about the same time but is related to a different group of people. The Day of Christ is related to the church, while the Day of the Lord is related to God’s judgment of unbelievers on this earth (1 Thess 5:1-10). Much more could be said about the Day of the Lord, but it is a day of humbling (Isa 2:11-12), a terrible day of judgment (Joel 2:31) and much more. It covers the entire period of tribulation on this earth, the millennial reign of Christ (Acts 2:16-20), and culminates with the new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:10).
So, believer, the Day of Christ is coming. Let us prepare ourselves. Let us purify ourselves. Let us serve and work for the Lord. Let us live so that we can rejoice in that day in all that God has done in us and through us.