1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Stephen Caswell © 2000
The Liberation of Europe
The war in the South Pacific lead to many countries being overrun by Japan. After about five years of war the Allies had turned the war around and were closing in on Japan. As they moved through the South Pacific people viewed this in two ways. The Japanese army and those who had sided with them saw this as a Day of Destruction. Whilst the enslaved nations saw this as a Day of Salvation. The determining factor was, " Who's side you were on! "
Paul had just assured the Thessalonians concerning Christ's return for His Bride, the Church. Or what we referred to as, the Rapture. Now Paul instructs them concerning the events that will follow this. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul says he wrote about the rapture to prevent believers from being ignorant about it. Now Paul repeats this and adds that:
I. Unbelievers Are Ignorant
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3: But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
The Fall of Babylon
The king had provided a great feast for a thousand of his lords. He drank and his heart was merry whilst he continued to feast. It was then that he called for the gold and silver cups from the temple in Jerusalem to be brought in that they might drink from them. At this time the hand of God wrote a message on the wall. When nobody could interpret the message Daniel was summoned to give its meaning. Daniel warned Belshazzar that God had judged his kingdom and found it wanting. The king was not concerned about the judgment that had been given. Why wasn't he? Because Babylon had walls that were 350 feet high and 87 feet thick. It had 250 towers on the top of the walls and seemed impregnable. The city was 15 miles square. The Euphrates River also protected it. The king felt safe and secure as he trusted in this stronghold.
But that very night the city was taken and the king slain by the Medes and the Persians. They had diverted the river. The guards had left open the iron gates that led from the river up to the city. The city fell so suddenly that some of the it's inhabitants didn't know that the king had been killed for 3 days. Belshazzar's life was on the edge of disaster and he didn't know it. Similarly today people have the Bible's warning of coming judgment, but ignore it!
a. Ignorant Of The Day
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
Firstly they are ignorant of the day. It will catch them unawares, like it did King Beltshazzer.
Here in verse 3 we notice that Paul has changed the second person you to the third person they. This shows a distinction between the brethren who know and the wicked who don't know. This verse shows the attitude people will have just before the Lord's return. They will be content and think that peace and safety is theirs. They won't even suspect that they are on the brink of disaster. Daniel predicts a great political leader will rise and bring peace and security to the Middle East. The world will hail him as their savior and long awaited messiah. We know him to be the antichrist. When he proclaims world peace the nations will relax, thinking that all is well. And history will repeat itself again. Because the world has rejected the truth they will be unaware of the sudden destruction that is coming upon them.
But this is not something new. Jesus spoke of the lack of concern people will have when He returns. We read this in Matthew 24:37-39: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. The people of Noah's day did not heed the message and carried on with life as normal. God warned the people of Noah's day, and the people of Jerusalem in Jesus' day. But they did not listen. Not only are they ignorant of the day, they are:
b. Ignorant Of Their Destruction
Secondly they are ignorant of their coming destruction. Today God commands people to repent and turn to Christ for salvation. That they might escape the day of judgment. But most don't listen. This day will come as quickly as labor pains for a pregnant mother. It will happen suddenly, without warning. After a woman's labor is finished, a child appears. This is how Christ's kingdom will come. There will be struggle and pain on earth, but when it is over the Lord will appear and set up His Kingdom. The final phrase Paul writes is very sobering. He says and they shall not escape. This verse literally says, " and they will by no means escape. " God's judgment is certain! It's a fact! The Apostle Peter speaks of this judgment. 2 Peter 3:3-7
Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Are you prepared? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Have you let Him wash your sins away, by asking Him into your life? There won't be time when Christ returns, you need to prepare now! The Day of the Lord will bring destruction to the lost. If you haven't already received Him can I urge you to do so tonight! You need to be ready. In this passage Paul emphasises many times that: Believers Are Informed.
II. Believers Are Informed
a. Firstly Believers Are Ready - Or Saved
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 4-5 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
Paul says, you already know about what happens when Lord comes back. He said I don't need to write to you about these thing. So he doesn't reveal anything new to them. He simply reminds them of what they have been told and know perfectly well. He uses the following terms, the times and seasons, the day of the Lord, and as a thief in the night. Paul is confirming their knowledge that this day will certainly come, whilst emphasizing at the same time that no one knows when it will happen.
1. The Times and Seasons
In Acts 1:7 Jesus said, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power. Christ used this term in relation to the nation of Israel. God has set a time clock in motion with regards to human history. Although we don't know the day of Christ's return for His church, the rapture, we do know that these times and seasons will climax with the day of the Lord. This term speaks of the duration of time until this event and also the specific happenings in the event.
2. The Day of the Lord
The Day of the Lord is the period of time immediately before the creation of the new heavens and new earth. It begins with the rapture of the Church proceeding through the great tribulation, the second advent and climaxing at the end of the Millennium. It's conclusion involves the earth being consumed by fire and the great white throne judgment. It is at least 1007 years long.
Thief in the night
This was a term used by Christ several times, both in the gospels and the Book of Revelation. It is always used of the Lord's return in judgment. Christ says this in Matthew 24:43-44: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Paul uses the word, but, to distinguish between the lost he has described in verse 3 and the brethren he refers to again in verses 4-5 with you, we and us. Paul says that this day, (the day of the Lord), will not overtake you as a thief. And this is because they are sons of the light and not of the darkness. They have prepared themselves for the day by coming to Christ. They know this.
In John 3:20-21 Jesus said this: "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."
b. Secondly They Are Righteous. - Or Sober
1 Thess 5:6-8 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
Because believers are sons of light, they should not sleep like others do, but rather be sober and watchful. Christ said this in several of His parables that He would come like a thief. He encouraged believers to be ready and watching for His return. In Luke 12:35-38 we read: " Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; "and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. "And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
We are to anticipate Christ's return and make every effort to be found watching and faithful at His coming. Since we are children of the day, sons of the light, our conduct should be different. The sons of darkness sleep and get drunk. They live for the moment and give no thought to eternity. But we are to be sons of the light living by a different standard. Since Christ is the Light, we who have been born again through His Spirit should also walk in the light. We are looking for a kingdom in which light will be its main quality. So we should live by these standards now. In his letter to the Romans Paul stressed this same thing.
Romans 13:11-14 says this: And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
We have been called to fight for Christ and we need to use the weapons He has provided for us. As children of light we are to put on our armor and stand against the works of darkness. The armor consists here of faith, hope and love. These three characteristics are eternal and Paul has commended the Thessalonians for evidencing them in their lives. But he has also exhorted them to excel further still. Now, Paul encourages them to use these qualities as weapons with which to overcome this wicked world. We are to have faith toward God in our every day living. Love toward our fellow believers, and hope that enables us to keep going through trials along the way.
We should watch and wait for our Lord to come. Our lives ought to be marked by prayer and diligence. We should serve the Lord and fight against evil. Paul emphasized these things in Ephesians 6:18, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Are you doing these things?
c. Thirdly They Are Reserved. - Or Secure
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 says: For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
God has appointed us to obtain salvation and not wrath. The great tribulation that is coming upon the world is not for the church, but for the sons of darkness. The day of great tribulation is a day of wrath sent to chasten Israel and bring them to repentance. God will also punish the wicked. This could not be any clearer since Paul states it both positively and negatively. Firstly he says God did not appoint us to wrath. But then Paul states it positively, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. In Revelation 3:10, John says this: Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
All the way through this passage Paul makes a distinction between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. And now he says that we are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. The word obtain has the idea of being reserved for or to be kept safe. Our salvation is not dependent upon us holding on to it, but rather God is holding on to us. Once we enter into His family we can never be snatched out of it. The reason for this is found in verse 10. God secured our salvation through the death of His Son. Therefore our security is guaranteed, because it doesn't rest upon our actions but Christ's. And this is guaranteed whether we sleep (die) or whether we remain awake (live). God's purpose for His people is that we should live together with Christ who has risen from the grave.
d. Fourthly They Are Reassured - Or Strengthened
1 Thessalonians 5:11 we read: Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Paul closes this section by commanding them to comfort and edify one another. Paul concluded the previous section on the rapture in the same way. Both of these are commands that must be obeyed. But what are we to be comforted by? We are to be comforted by the fact that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones that have gone to be with Christ. We are to be comforted by the fact that we don't have to undergo the wrath of God in the great tribulation. God will remove His people from the earth before the Day of tribulation commences. This is indeed great news. God has appointed us to obtain salvation not wrath!
Not only are we to comfort one another, we must also edify one another. We do this by reminding each other of the tremendous future that lies before us. We do this by prompting each other to live in a way that glorifies God. In Hebrews 10:24-25 Paul says this: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Are you building each other up in the faith? Are you stirring each other up unto love and good works? Do you comfort those who are discouraged with the Blessed Hope of Christ's return? Are you meeting regularly with other believers? Or has your zeal grown cold?
Tonight we have seen how Paul reminded the Thessalonians of God's prophetic program.
I. Unbelievers Are Ignorant
a. Of The Day - Firstly they believe that life will go on as it always has. They don't know God's judgment day is approaching. Are you like this? Are you ignorant of God's coming judgment?
b. Of Their Destruction - They are ignorant of God's coming wrath. The day will come upon them like a thief in the night. They will be eternally lost. Are you ready for the day of the Lord?
II. Believers Are Informed
a. Firstly Believers Are Ready - Or Saved. Only believers are informed about the day. They are ready because they have been saved. Have you received the Savior? He alone can save you!
b. Secondly They Are Righteous - Or Sober. Believers are referred to as Sons of light. The day of the Lord will not overtake them as a thief. Are you living as a Son of light? Are you waging war against evil? Are you living a holy life or have you slipped back into drunkenness and slumber?
c. Thirdly They Are Reserved. - Or Secure. God has not appointed His children unto wrath but to obtain salvation. Are you looking for Christ's return?
d. Fourthly They Are Reassured - Or Strengthened. This news should encourage every child of God. We must encourage each other and build each other up because of these things. Are you encouraging and building up your brethren with this blessed hope? Are you rejoicing?
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.