The Day Shall Declare It!

 

Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  I CORINTHIANS 3:13 

  

This verse instructs us in so many marvelous truths, we certainly want to study it in depth and detail.  

First, we must be clear on what ‘the day’ is. This word ‘day’ could be handled as a proper noun and capitalized because there is nothing common about this day for it is the Day of The Lord (also called the Day of God and the Lord’s Day in the Bible). There is a tremendous amount of truth and information regarding this ‘day’ made known throughout the entire Word of God. In the New Testament especially, like the verse above from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, insightful information regarding this approaching Day is revealed. 

 

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. 

Romans 2:16 

 

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching. HEBREWS 10:25 

 

“Because He [God] hath appointed [established] a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness [in just justice] by that man whom He hath ordained [determined]; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead.” ACTS 17:31 

 

This verse is an excerpt from Paul’s teaching while in Athens. (The record of this teaching is in Acts 17.) He briefly stopped there while on the way to the city of Corinth. Before Athens, Paul had been preaching and teaching in both Thessalonica and Berea. All of these visits are a part of Paul’s travels during his second outreach itinerary. After arriving in Corinth, Paul ‘continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them’ (Acts 18:11). During this time in Corinth he wrote the very first two of all his epistles, the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. Here is a notable section in the fifth chapter of the first epistle: 

 

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves  know perfectly [accurately or precisely] that the Day of the Lord so cometh [arrives] as a thief in the  night.  I THESSALONIANS 5:1-2 

 

In both his very first epistle, and in his teaching in Athens, Paul is instructing people in great detail and clarity about the Day of The Lord. This was an important and integral part of what Paul taught in every city. Note that here in chapter five he states that, as a result of that which he had taught them in person, the saints of  Thessalonica had an accurate knowledge and understanding that the Day of The Lord would arrive ‘as a thief in  the night’. They had no need for him to write about these things in detail because he had already taught them  these truths regarding the Day of The Lord while present with them.  

I point this out to compare it with the unclear and often inaccurate understanding about the Day of The Lord  today. Today there is a widely accepted belief that the Bible foretells of a future time called ‘Judgement Day’  (almost never called the Day of The Lord) in which God will judge all men, primarily for retribution of wrongdoing or wrong believing, resulting in a fitting punishment for the wrongdoer.  

Although vague and problematic, there seems to be a universal acknowledgement that in this ‘Judgement Day’ the ‘wrath of God’ will be unleashed toward individuals who were evil or unbelieving. There will also be an accompanying ‘Armageddon’ of apocalyptic destruction. All of these things are in the generally indistinct mixture of that which man has dubbed the ‘Judgment Day’.   

Of course, there is certainly some truth in all of this popular teaching, but how do we separate the truth of God from the speculation of man? In Paul’s epistle, he says that those believers knew ‘perfectly’, or precisely, exactly how the Day of The Lord would arrive. If this exact understanding was available for them then, it must likewise be available for us now.  

What is so crucial about knowing precisely how the Day of The Lord arrives? Because the Scripture's declaration of this arrival provides information about the purposes and accomplishments to be achieved at that time. Only the sound and non-contradictory instruction of God’s Word can give clear, conclusive answers of truth to pertinent questions like these:                                  

 

          What is the great tribulation, and how is it terminated?                                                                  

          Why is there destruction in the Day of The Lord and what causes it?                                             

          What is the so-called ‘wrath’ of God, and to what or to whom is it directed? 

 

Careful and comprehensive study of all Scriptures which instruct on the arrival of the coming Day of God is needful to have a right understanding of its associated truths. Determining the timing of its arrival establishes which events precede the onset of that Day and accordingly, which events and actions are in the Day. One truly  significant, meaningful (and mostly unheralded) thing that will be done then is written about in the verse of our study from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

 

Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by  fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. I CORINTHIANS 3:13  

 

Obviously, if ‘the day shall declare it’ this is something that is a part of that coming Day. What is it that will be declared? The Day will declare “every man’s work”. This phrase is found twice in this one verse and is also  referred to three other times. This repetition requires our attention.  

A better translation of ‘every man’s work’ (in both places) is ‘the work of each person’. The noun ‘work’ has a definite article = the work. ‘Man’ is not in the text. The word ‘every’ is the adjective ‘each’, and therefore the noun ‘one’ or ‘person’ is implied = each one or each person.  

This verse, with its context, is teaching a marvelous reality that will be done in that Day by the Lord God (with  His son Jesus Christ) concerning ‘the work of each person’. Note the similarity of the three descriptive, powerful terms which are used here: manifested, declared, revealed.                                

   The work of each person:  1. Will be made manifest (or become manifested).                         

   The work of each person:   2. Will be declared (or be made evident).

   The work of each person:  3. Will be revealed in fire (‘by fire’ is ‘in fire’ in the text).  

   The fire will:              1. Try (prove by test) the work of each person.                                             

   The test of fire will:   2. Determine what kind (of work) the work is of each person.  

If the work of each person will be manifested, declared, revealed and tried by fire, there must be a tremendous purpose for all of this. This purpose is given in the next verse: ‘If any man's work abide…he shall receive a  reward’. The reward from God to every man is made known throughout all the written Word of God. This section is teaching some astonishing details about the accomplishing of His promise to reward. The subject of ‘the reward’ in this immediate context is introduced in verse eight:

 

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one, and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. I CORINTHIANS 3:8 

 

Look at the love and very personal attention God gives, both now and in that Day, to each and every individual.  The word ‘every’ in verse 8 is the same adjective as in verse 13.  It is ‘each’, which is saying ‘each'  one  individually. Each one is to receive his own reward according to his own labor. What a magnificent God Who, in  His omniscient, limitless way, pays attention to and will remember the labor of each individual so He can appropriately reward each one!  

The record in this third chapter of First Corinthians continues in the instruction of things pertaining to the reward of the Lord to every man. 

 

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. I CORINTHIANS 3:11-15

 

An exceptional figure of speech is utilized here to illustrate the judicial process of determining how individuals will be rewarded in that Day. After stating that each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor, that labor is compared to building upon a foundation. Since each person’s labor is unique and different than any other, the comparison is extended by using different materials to represent the many differences in the kind of work that is done. Some kinds are like gold or silver, some kinds are like wood or straw. Work which is like gold or silver, when tried or tested by fire, will prove to be pure and therefore remain. Work which is like wood or hay, when tested by fire, will be consumed and therefore not remain. This comparison illustrates how the work of each person will either remain and receive a reward, or it will be burned up and suffer the loss of a reward.  

The course of action in determining each man’s reward is some of the judgment to be done in the Day of The Lord. The judgment described here will result in a reward or result in the loss of a reward. (Note that the word ‘reward’ is always singular in the Word of God.) The loss of a reward is not punishment but rather the outcome  of the just and equal justice of God administered to one and all without any partiality or respect of persons. God’s justice is absolutely just and therefore rewards work deserving of a reward, and that work not deserving suffers a loss. This loss is not punishment but is the just and appropriate consequence of God’s perfect justice.  

It seems rather remarkable that the overwhelming sentiment toward God’s judgment in His Day is with the expectation of wrath and punishment, not at all the anticipation of His promised reward. Why is this truth so  ignored or so unknown? If this is not taught then it certainly can not and will not be known.  

The judgment and justice of God is not like that of men. Even though the Day of God will be a time of judgment, this doesn’t mean that He will judge like men would judge or might expect Him to judge. 

 

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts. To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.  PROVERBS 21:2-3

 

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts. PROVERBS 17:3 

 

I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.  JEREMIAH 17:10

 

For the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord  looketh on the heart.  I SAMUEL 16:7B 

 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the  heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your  thoughts. ISAIAH 55:8-9 

 

Why is there the seemingly universal acceptance that God will punish in that day? Part of the answer to this lies in the wording of the text in translations. Most of the answer is in the commonplace narrative that is fundamental in the teaching traditions of Christianity as a whole. When Jesus Christ was confronted by the Sadducees with a doctrinal question about the resurrection of the dead: 

 

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.  Matthew 22:29

 

I mention this record in Matthew only to emphasize how vital it is to go to the Word of God alone, and let the  Scriptures be our only authority for truth. That being said, I don’t believe there will ever be a unity of agreement on this subject. Each one who studies it seems passionately convinced in his or her own understanding. We can  love one another and simply agree to disagree.  

The Word of God clearly states that in the Day of The Lord the work of each person will be declared and proven for the purpose of a reward from God. It seemed contradictory to me that, in the same Day, that same God Who will reward will also release His wrath in order to punish people. I searched the Scriptures to find a solution to my dilemma in understanding these things.  

Answers I found are varied and layered. In order to build together all the pertinent Scripture records requires more of an endeavor than can be pursued here.  But, let’s take on the two most compelling matters of perplexity: punishment and wrath. This will be an abbreviated study, but it is fitting to address these things in closing here, and to keep God and His Word the centerpiece of our focus. 

 

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust (unjust is adikos: an adjective form of dike, just) unto the day of judgment to be punished.  II PETER 2:9 

 

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous (the just = dikaios: an adjective form of dike, just) into life eternal. MATTHEW 25:46 

 

Several particular items here need further study. First, the phrase ‘unto the day of judgment’ has no definite article ‘the’ in the text. It would be better translated, ‘unto judgment’s day’. Next, the words ‘punished’ and ‘punishment’ are the verb and the noun form of the same root word. The verb is the Greek word kolazō and the noun kolasis. The primary meaning of kolazō is ‘to prune’ or ‘to cut off’. The noun kolasis means ‘a pruning’ or ‘a cutting off’. To be pruned or cut off is not punishment. It is simply the appropriate and right action to be applied wherever it is specifically fitting. To do that which is right and appropriate is to administer the just justice of right judgment. 

We have already seen one instance where this just justice will be applied in the Day of The Lord. Earlier we read in I Corinthians 3:15 “if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss.” This loss is a just and proper consequence, not a punishment. This is the ‘cutting off’, kolasis, of the reward.  

In the Day of The Lord the dead are resurrected. The Word of God teaches that there are two resurrections. The  second resurrection occurs a thousand years after the first (Revelation 20:5). The first resurrection is of ‘the just’, the second of ‘the unjust’. God alone makes the judgment here. God searches the hearts, and by His perfectly just judgment determines who is ‘just’ and who is ‘unjust’. The ‘just’ receive a resurrection of ‘life’, the ‘unjust’ receive a resurrection of ‘judgment’.  

The just judgment of God is the foundational bedrock of this Day for it is His Day, the Day of The Lord God.  God is love. God is light. He is the God of mercy, of compassion, of forgiveness. Right justice and right judgment proceed from His nature of love and light. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten son that men might have life everlasting.   

Romans 4:5 says that He is the God Who justifies the ungodly. Would you justify the ungodly? Would you love the world and give your son to be the sacrifice of redemption? Could this God Who loves and justifies also be the God Who, in His Day, raises the dead so that they can be punished? I believe not.  

The Word says that the ‘unjust’ of the second resurrection receive a second death (Revelation 20:14). This is not punishment, it is the just and appropriate action of justice. It is a pruning, kolasis, a cutting off. The word ‘wrath’ is never associated with this judgment of the unjust.  

In the Day of The Lord the only association of God’s so-called wrath (God’s anger) is during the time of the ‘man of sin’. This man is never called ‘Antichrist’ or ‘the Antichrist’ in God’s Word. The evil of his time will be  unlike anything that ever has been or will ever be. God’s anger toward this will be perfectly just and appropriate.  We will have to study the details of this judgment at another time.