May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. – 2 Timothy 1:18
There is a day coming that is so severe the Bible often refers to it simply as “that day.” It is so expected and so known, no other descriptors are necessary. “It will be a day of death and judgment,” as Matthew Henry says, “an awful day.” In the verse above, Paul is remembering the good work of Onesiphorus and blesses him by saying, “may he find mercy on that day.” On that day, the only way anyone will stand if we receive mercy because it is a day of justice and we are all guilty. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. On that day, the best Christians, even the apostles and prophets themselves, will need mercy.
Notice in this verse who we will need mercy from. We will need mercy “from the Lord.” It will be a day of his vengeance, and the Lord himself will carry it out. On that day, the Lord will repay humanity for its sins; every time we scorned his law, belittled his name, and saw our honor as more precious than his. If you want a good test of how prone we are to do this, think about the last time someone spoke a word of disgrace against your name, and think about the how it filled you with rage. Then remember what Thomas Manton said, “but we can hear God’s name dishonored and not be moved about it.” Even as believers, we are often poisoned with self-love, which far outweighs our love for God. On that day, the infinite God, who will not be mocked, will pour out his infinite justice on finite creatures.
We must be saved from God, but it is also God who does the saving. This truth is why the verse says, “the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord.” It is the Lord himself, who grants mercy. God is righteous, just, and must punish sin. He will not deny himself, but he has made a way to satisfy the wrath of those who will put their trust in him. On the cross, we see the wrath of God propitiated for those who will come to him in faith. When the triune God saw the problem of sin in his people, he took it upon himself to provide the needed mercy.
The cross of Jesus Christ is an act of perfect divine justice, and at the same time, it is an act of perfect divine mercy. If you hope to find mercy on that day, you must seek it in Jesus Christ now. Come to the throne of perfect righteousness, and you will find mercy. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). However, if we do not accept Jesus and the wrath he poured out on the cross, we will be left to face the just penalty for our sins ourselves on that day. It is by looking to the cross that we see most clearly that God is faithful to fulfill his merciful promises and his threats. Which ones we will experience depends entirely upon what we do with Jesus Christ.