Forerunner, July 2000

This past month those of us in the United States observed "Father's Day" as a good way of giving and showing honor to our dads. Though honoring our fathers should be an ongoing practice, there is nothing wrong in giving dads their own special day of honor. This holiday, as practiced in America, is not rooted in paganism and fits well within the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12). Many Christian fathers have enjoyed receiving notes of appreciation, hugs, a special breakfast and even gifts from their children on this special Sunday.

Americans celebrate Mother's Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day, and other nations observe commemorative days as well. The Bible also speaks of special days. We observe seven holy days each year, several of which are called "days": Day of Pentecost, Day of Atonement, and the Last Great Day. Every seventh day we keep the Sabbath, the day of rest.

We call both the secular and religious days by descriptive names. Memorial Day remembers the sacrifices of America's armed forces, and Labor Day, America's workforce. The Day of Atonement highlights the atoning work of Christ. The day of rest speaks of both physical rest and the spiritual rest of God, His glorious and soon-coming Kingdom.

When we say "Father's Day," we mean the day when a child's father is the focus of praise, appreciation and memories. Like the Sabbath day, we need to consider this beyond our physical fathers, for we have a spiritual Father in heaven, who is worthy of even greater honor, praise and thanks. A day is coming—and not too far away—that will be the ultimate Father's Day.

"The Day of the Lord"

Another biblical day will precede this ultimate Father's Day. The Bible speaks of a time called "the Lord's day" or "the day of Lord." Today is not the Lord's Day, but will occur when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begins the final sequence of events in human affairs. The "Day of the Lord" is when the world's focus is on Jesus Christ and His work. It is His day.

With God, a day is as a thousand years (II Peter 3:8). The Lord's day apparently begins one year before He touches down on the Mount of Olives and technically continues until the end of the Millennium, Jesus' 1,000-year reign on the earth. It makes a very interesting study to look up "day of" in an exhaustive concordance, especially from Isaiah to Revelation, and see how this period is described: as the "day of Christ," "day of salvation," "day of trouble," "day of clouds and gloominess," etc.

What is the purpose of "the day of the Lord"? Ironically, it is to help everyone come to know God the Father. In John 20:17, after Jesus' resurrection, He announces His immediate task is to ascend to "My father and your father." Until that time, Jews understood God as a Father allegorically rather than as a reality. To them, God was the "great and awesome [dreadful or terrible, KJV]" God (Daniel 9:4; Nehemiah 1:5; 9:32). Jesus explodes a bombshell of new insight when He teaches His disciples to pray, "Our Father in heaven. . . ."

We take this truth for granted, not realizing that until this time, God was considered unapproachable, represented as behind the veil in the Temple. No one could pass through that veil except the High Priest, and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The high priest represents an intermediary between man and God. Today, Jesus is the only Mediator (II Timothy 2:5). We can address our heavenly Father directly because of Christ's sacrificial work in our behalf. Jesus came to die for our sins and, by doing so, introduce us to a Father we had not known. His work is to bring people to a real God and father of all.

Even today, few people realize God wants to be a real father, with real children, as part of a real family. Not allegorically, not by analogy, He wants a relationship between Himself and real children. Life is about relationships and the lessons and character we develop as we interact within them. The ultimate relationship is the one God our Father is developing and forming with His Family—us, the converted individuals in His church.

Perhaps we have had less than ideal experiences of what a father should be like. Perhaps our upbringing lacked the love and support a father can bring to the family. Maybe we even have problems putting the words "father" and "love" in the same sentence! Do not despair! We are beginning to establish a totally new father-child relationship as God intends it to be.

Jesus, our Elder Brother, is the key to that relationship; He makes that bond possible. He came to reveal the Father and lead us to Him. The only way to our heavenly Father is through Him (Acts 4:12)—there is no other way. He is the one and only door to salvation (John 10:1, 7). Trying to enter by any other way marks that person as a thief and a robber. He and He alone is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]" (John 14:6). Through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, we have access to the Father (Ephesians 3:8). When Jesus died on Calvary, the veil, representing His body, ripped in two, giving us access to the Father (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-22).

Jesus' work is to call and develop a group of believers, but believers in what? He defines His work for us as, "that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). When we believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Savior and King, letting Him live His life in us, we become at one with God in heaven and start to form the Father-child relationship He intends.

In His Image

Why must we come to know our Father in heaven? He wants a family of ultimately billions of converted sons and daughters, all created in His image, all looking like Him in character. We already have His general likeness, His appearance, but being transformed into His "image" takes a lot longer. Image deals with what a person is, not just how he looks—with character, not appearance.

Jesus is so much like His Father that Paul writes that He is the "express image" of God in heaven (Hebrews 1:2-4; see Colossians 1:15), meaning an exact replica. Jesus says, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He walks like the Father, talks like the Father, lives and acts like the Father. While on earth as a human, His goal was to be just like His Father. Why? Because that is what loving sons who respect their fathers do! They resemble their fathers in appearance, speech, lifestyle and especially character.

Being in the image of His Father, Jesus did nothing of Himself. He did not come speaking His own words or pursuing His own agenda. He was not here to "do His own thing." Instead, He sought to please His Father, speak His words, and fulfill His agenda (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). In a word, Jesus was in perfect subjection to His Father.

He set the pattern for all subsequent children of God to follow. Romans 8:29 says that we will "be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Likewise, we must also do the will of the Father, just as He did, to be considered one of His brothers or sisters (Matthew 12:50). This is a lifelong process. God is the Master Potter, shaping and fashioning us so that at the time of the resurrection, just as surely "as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (I Corinthians 15:49). We will be renewed "according to the image of Him who created [us]" (Colossians 3:10).

Ultimately, those in the Family of God should be able to say, with Christ, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." We are a long way from that now, but by the grace of God, He has called us to look like, act like, live like and be like the Father (I John 2:6)—to be recognizable as His children! If we are not, perhaps someone else is our "father" (John 8:42-44).

Billions Called Later

God has begun the process of forming a Family with the few elect He is working with now. Very few have been called to that opportunity in this present age. Billions of other people, however, have never known God or even had an opportunity to know Him. These billions will have their turn after Jesus returns and reigns. At the end of Christ's millennial rule, God will resurrect them and open the Book of Life and the Bible to them (Revelation 20:11-12). Why? God wants to bring as many of them into His Family as will accept the invitation.

All this occurs during the Day of Christ or "the day of the Lord." It is His day, the time when the focus is on Him as He works to bring all humanity and all creation into subjection to Himself. Every knee will first bow to the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11). The "day of the Lord" will continue until He turns over the reins of His Kingdom and the subjection of all things to the Father.

The Father will not reside on earth until it is purified of all sin and evil. All the enemies of God must either surrender and be converted or be eliminated before He comes to earth. Paul explains it clearly in I Corinthians 15:22-28:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

Peter fills in a few details describing what happens at the end of the millennial reign:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (II Peter 3:10-13)

Jesus will reign until all enemies have been put down, even the last enemy, death. Those who refuse to submit will perish forever in the universal conflagration at the end. God wants no reminder, no record, no trace of the rebellion that began with Helel and his angels all the way to the last sinner who has to die in the Lake of Fire. Apparently, this earth, this universe as we know it, will have to go. The faithful will witness another re-creation.

The Father's Day

All will now be converted, spirit sons and daughters of God. A new era—the ultimate Father's Day—begins! This will be the Day of the Father, when all the children of God see, live with and grow with our Father on earth! What an emotional, powerful, moving time that "Father's Day" will be!

In Revelation 21:1-5, John describes his vision of this glorious day after Jesus' thousand-year reign:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

Paul describes what we will undoubtedly all do. We will follow our Elder Brother Jesus Christ in honoring the Father: "Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:28).

We can imagine Jesus leading all His brothers and sisters in kneeling and bowing before the great, awesome, and loving Father, presenting to Him all that is. He will present a universe cleansed of sin and of any trace of a reminder of sin. Every living person will be in total surrender to God's way, living obedient lives in the grace of God.

Our Father in turn gives us the New Jerusalem and a new and bright future, about which we can only dream. God's Word says little about what happens after the Father descends to dwell with us on the earth. We can conclude, however, that so begins the real Father's Day, when the focus is on Him and what He has planned for His children. It is His day, His time.

And what a time He will have, enjoying His many billions of sons and daughters, all in His image and character! They will all live the way He teaches in His Word. It is a remarkable sight to watch a loving father with a large group of His grown children. The love and joy and satisfaction will be amplified many fold during God the Father's Day.

God will then tell us His plans for us. We will think of honoring Him, and He will think of bestowing blessings on us. He is the ultimate giver. We can only guess, though, what He will give us. His Word says that we cannot begin to even imagine what He has in store for us: "But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9). Whatever it is, He will do far beyond whatever we think He will do (Ephesians 3:20). Only this do we know for certain: "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

God hasten the ultimate Father's Day, when our Father in heaven intimately reveals His plans, His hopes and His dreams for His Family of beloved children!