One of the most popular children's books ever written is by Judith Viorst: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Atheneum, 1972). Alexander is a red-headed tyke whose day starts like this on page 1: "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." It's all downhill from there.

There's a day like that coming in the future. Only it's going to be much, much worse. In fact, it will be the saddest day in human history. There will be no do-overs on that day. Once it happens, history will move at a prophetic pace to the conclusion of God's plan for the world.

However, there is great irony attached to this coming day: Not only will it be the saddest day in history, but the happiest, as well. This single day in the future will divide the whole human race into two camps: saved and unsaved. That day, of course, is the day of the rapture—the day Jesus Christ returns in the clouds to gather His church to Himself before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation on earth.

So you see why the same day will hold differing emotions for the forgiven and the forlorn. Those who participate in the rapture will rejoice as they see their Savior face to face for the first time, while those who are left behind will know only devastation. The word regret captures something important about that day. Alexander, the little guy whose day got off to a bad start, was not having a regretful day. His day was bad because of a chain of events that were frustrating and irritating, but it wasn't a regretful day.

To feel regretful is to know you didn't do something you should have done. Worse is the realization that it's too late to make things right. For us as Christians, it is a reminder that we need to be about our Father's business sharing the good news of the gospel while there is still time. The people left behind on the day of the rapture will be rejected because they failed to heed to the words of Scripture that for 2,000 years have foretold that coming day.

Unlike those who have made false predictions about when Christ will return, I will follow Jesus' lead and make no predictions about when end-time events will be set in motion by the rapture (Matt. 24:36). Following Jesus' lead again, I will say confidently the day is coming (Matt. 24:1-35). What we do between today and that day will determine our actions on the day after He returns.

The Day Itself
The best biblical description of the day, the rapture, is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, but don't search your Bible concordance for the rapture. You won't find it. The English word rapture is taken from the word used in the Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), which is used to translate the Greek word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 for "caught up together." Still with me? In time, the rapture was used to describe the catching up of believers into the air to meet the returning Christ described by Paul in this passage.

Paul wrote these words to comfort the believers in Thessalonica (v. 18). They had been taught that Christ was going to return to earth for His church, but they also knew some of their Christian friends and relatives had died and would not be alive when Christ returned. They wanted to know what would happen to them.

So Paul explained that Jesus is going to return for all true believers, and all (deceased and living) will participate: "And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (vv. 16b-17).

The following day, you do not want to be found on planet Earth, because as the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from Earth along with the church (2 Thes. 2:7), evil will gain the upper hand here through the antichrist—the man of sin (2 Thes. 2:3). For seven years, it will be hell on earth. The only thing of which there will be more of on Earth than rebellion in those days is regret. Many will rue the day they failed to acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord.

Preparing for the Day
If you have planned a dinner party in your home three weeks away, you don't set the date, mail the invitations, and then do nothing. For the next three weeks, the event will be uppermost in your mind: planning the food, cleaning house, deciding on flowers and decorations, planning the evening. In fact, it's fair to say we can judge the degree to which a person anticipates an event by the amount of preparation he or she puts forth. Preparation is the proof of anticipation.

That applies to the day when Christ returns for His church, as well. Because the day is unknown to us, we must live in a state of preparedness. We should live holy and godly lives (2 Pet. 3:11) as we eagerly wait and watch for that day (1 Cor. 1:7), praying (1 Thes. 5:17) and persevering until it arrives (Rev. 3:11-12). Perhaps most of all, we should be prayerfully concerned for those who are not ready for that day.

Will you be full of rejoicing on the day Jesus appears for His church? You can be certain today by committing your heart to Him as Lord and Savior for now and forever!

The Day After This Life
Oh, the unbelievable horror of putting off Christ—the eternal sadness of waiting one day too long! It's akin to the terror of those who delayed boarding the ark in the days of Noah, or those who failed to escape Sodom and Gomorrah when they had the opportunity.

Think of the scoffing thief who died Christless within inches of Christ Himself who was—at that very moment—dying on the adjacent cross for him! Think of the multitudes at the Great White Throne Judgment who frantically will insist their names surely must be written somewhere in the Lamb's Book of Life…but they waited too long.

When We Don't Have the Promise of Tomorrow
The Bible warns that every human being is subject to sudden death. No one has the promise of another day or hour. We never know when we'll be swept into eternity by a car wreck, heart attack, act of violence, natural disaster or freak accident. A few years ago, two Canadians were killed by an airborne black bear that smashed through the windshield of their SUV. The bear had been struck by a car in the oncoming lane, catapulting it like a 440-pound missile into their car.

Thousands of people will die today, and many can't see it coming. They woke up this morning, showered, dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee, and dashed out the door, never dreaming they were leaving their doorstep for the final time.

The Bible teaches that our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle (Job 7:6), like flowers that quickly fade (Job 14:2), and like a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes (James 4:14).

Jesus told the story (Luke 16:19-31) of a rich man who lived in affluence while a beggar named Lazarus lived nearby in squalor. The beggar was ready for eternity. When he died, he was carried away to be with Abraham and the saints of all the ages; when the rich man died, he found himself in Hades. Jesus said, "Being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and…cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue'" (Luke 16:23-24).

However, that wasn't possible, and there he still is today without a whisper of hope. One of the worst things about hell is that one's memory doesn't die. The inhabitants of hell will remember all the opportunities they spurned. They'll remember church services they attended, tracts they did not read, invitations they shrugged off, and Bibles they disregarded.

It's interesting that in Luke 16, the rich man didn't want his brothers joining him. He longed for Lazarus to go to his father's house to warn them "lest they also come to this place of torment" (v. 28).

When I worked on the freight docks during seminary, I met some of the hardest men I've ever known. I tried to witness to them. Sometimes I'd ask them what they thought would happen to them when they died. Often the response was something such as, "Well, I'm going to hell. All my friends will be in hell, and that's where I want to be. We're going to have a great time."

Don't let your mind trick you into believing that lie. The rich man in Luke 16 didn't want his relatives with him. He didn't want his brothers there. Hell is not a place of fellowship. Hell is utter loneliness. How foolish to think so flippantly of one's eternal destiny. How foolish to wait too long to be saved, to wait until the day after.

In his book One Minute After You Die, Erwin Lutzer writes of those who, a minute after death "will be shrouded in darkness, a region of deprivation and unending regret. There, with their memories and feelings fully intact, images of their lives on earth will return to haunt them. They will think back to their friends, family and relatives; they will brood over opportunities they squandered and intuitively know their future is hopeless and unending."

Writing vividly, Lutzer said, "While relatives and friends plan your funeral—deciding on a casket, a burial plot, and who the pallbearers shall be—you will be more alive than you have ever been. You will either see God on His throne surrounded by angels and redeemed humanity, or you will feel an indescribable weight of guilt and abandonment."1

Are you ready to meet Christ? Or are you in danger of waiting a day too long?

We Need to Prepare Today!
A prominent judge was raised in a Christian home by godly parents, but he never professed personal faith in Christ. He married a woman who became a radiant believer. At the time of their marriage, he promised her that he would get saved. She frequently reminded her husband of his promise, only to be put off with, "Sometime I will get saved, not now."

This continued for some time until the wife contracted a serious illness and shortly afterward died. Her final pleadings were for his salvation, but he continued to put off a decision.

One night, the judge had a vivid dream. His whole life came before him as a panorama, scene after scene. He saw himself as an infant in the arms of a godly mother. He saw himself as a child listening to his mother's prayers. He saw himself as a young man, drifting into dark company and bad habits as his mother knelt earnestly in her home, interceding for him. Then he saw his wife and heard her voice pleading with him to be saved. In his dream, he could hear himself saying, "Sometime, not now…sometime, not now…"

Then came a vivid scene of his own death, and he saw himself in the lake of fire. He could hear the shrieks and moaning of lost souls, and he heard the jeering ridicule of demons around him who were snickering, "Sometime I'll get saved. Not now." They roared with laughter and cried: "It is too late now!"

The judge awoke in terror…

I don't know the end of the story. This is a true account of a judge who corresponded with evangelist E.E. Byrum. In his 1903 book What Shall I Do to Be Saved?, Byrum recounted the story, but for some reason he doesn't tell us whether this judge yielded his life to Christ. It's left for us to wonder.2

What about you? Have you yielded your life to Christ, or is your attitude the same as that of the procrastinating judge: "Someday I'll get saved. Not now."

The Bible uses the word now to express the urgency of salvation.

Acts 17:30 says, "God…now commands all men everywhere to repent."

The apostle Paul said, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

The Book of Isaiah says, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…'" (Isa. 1:18).

The account of the great white throne of judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 is one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. It tells of the final judgment of the inhabitants of Earth. The last sentence of the passage is chilling: "Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." No one can read that sentence without realizing that how we live our lives matters.

Almost all Christians have some idea of a future judgment when everyone will stand before God. One of the most common beliefs is that He will evaluate our lives—our good works and our bad—and then, like a high school teacher grading on a curve, He will decide who gets into heaven and who does not. Nothing could be further from the truth. God's program of judgment is far more sophisticated.

A final judgment is coming—of that we can be certain. "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). Few Christians realize there will be not one but two days of judgment—first the judgment seat of Christ and second the great white throne of judgment. Our relationship with Christ will determine which court will try our case.

The judgment for Christians will occur at the first court, the judgment seat of Christ, immediately after the rapture. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). The purpose of this judgment is not to pronounce condemnation. No one judged in this court will be condemned, for all will be followers of Christ who submitted our lives to Him. All our bad deeds will be covered by grace. The purpose of this judgment is for Christ to assess every believer's earthly works to determine rewards for faithfulness.

At the great white throne of judgment, however, unbelievers and Christian pretenders will stand before God. Here they will face the consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This judgment is the final bar of justice in God's plan for the inhabitants of Earth, and there will be no grading on a curve. The accused will be judged by the black-and-white standard of absolute truth.

Warren Wiersbe observed, "The White Throne Judgment will be nothing like our modern court cases. At the White Throne, there will be a Judge but no jury, a prosecution but no defense, a sentence but no appeal. No one will be able to defend himself or accuse God of unrighteousness."3 It will be a judgment of grim finality.

These two judgments bring into focus the two different resurrections mentioned in the Bible. The prophet Daniel wrote, "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2). Jesus said, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29).

I hope you aren't waiting too long to be saved. If you'd like to trust Christ as your Savior now, let me suggest a simple prayer you can offer sincerely to the Lord before you put this magazine: Dear God, right now I confess my sins. I don't want to delay another moment. I now invite Jesus into my heart to be my Savior. Today, I confess Him as my Lord. I claim His promise of eternal life. In Jesus' name, amen.

Let today be for you the day of salvation!

"Almost persuaded" now to believe;
"Almost persuaded" Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
"Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I'll call."

"Almost persuaded," harvest is past!
"Almost persuaded," doom comes at last!
"Almost" cannot avail;
"Almost" is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail,
"Almost"—but lost.
("Almost Persuaded" by Philip Bliss)

1 Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 10.
2 E.E. Byrum, What Must I Do to Be Saved? (Anderson, IN: Gospel Trumpet Company, 1903), 166-179.
3 Warren Wiersbe, Be Victorious: In Christ You Are an Overcomer (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 176.

David Jeremiah is senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, Calif., and founder of Turning Point radio and television ministries. In his new book, Agents of the Apocalypse, you will learn key insights about the last days that will inspire you to have deep conversations about Christ's return with those who do not yet believe.

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