1 THESSALONIANS 5, 1-11
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
The Christians in Thessalonica had some questions about some things they had learned from Paul, especially about the end of the world when Jesus comes back. They were worried. I mean you’re talking about where you’re going to spend eternity, the difference between going to Heaven and going to hell. They didn’t want to do something that would jeopardize their eternal life. So, they asked questions. What’s going to happen to the Christians who already died before Jesus came back? Can you give us a hint when that day will come? What happens if we aren’t paying attention when Jesus comes back? Will we miss it?
So, Paul wrote this letter in answer to some of their questions. And this morning we listen in on Paul’s words as he warns all Christians, when Jesus comes back, DON’T BE CAUGHT UNPREPARED!
The first question Paul answers is this, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” No! Paul can’t give them any hints as to when the Lord will come back. They knew that. Jesus told His disciples that no one is going to know when that day will come. And anyone who tries to figure it out, is a fool. That day will come like “a thief in the night.” Thieves don’t advertise when they’re going to strike your house. Neither will Jesus. He will just come back suddenly and unexpectedly.
Paul goes on to say, “While people are saying ‘Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Paul describes people who don’t believe in God, and they figure that all this talk about judgment day, is just a bunch of hogwash. They are rejoicing in what a wonderful life they have. Everything is fantastic. We’re looking forward to all the things that we have planned for next month, and next year.
And then just like that the Lord comes back, the whole world comes to an end, and immediately the Lord is there to judge the world. And they are not going to escape it. They are standing before God who knows their thoughts, who has seen all their activities, and who knows that they are unbelievers. And suddenly they are facing an eternity of pain and suffering in hell.
And then Paul gives us this comfort. “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” That’s not going to happen to you. You won’t be caught off guard, and unprepared. You’re not like them. They are part of darkness. You, are children of light.
Paul says, “So, then, let us not be like the others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” Paul uses a common analogy. People who sleep, usually sleep at night. People who want to go out drinking and carousing, usually do that at night. And so it is with unbelievers, who love the dark, and think they can hide from God. They “sleep,” they get lulled into the attitude that God isn’t real, and nothing’s going to happen to us. Not necessarily do they always get physically drunk but they become so wrapped up in the pleasures of this world, with the pleasures of sin, that their spiritual senses are dulled, that they can’t think about anything that God says, they are too busy enjoying the sins and pleasures of this world.
But again, Paul says, “That’s not you!” Rather we are “alert,” wide awake, and always concentrating on the things of God, and we are “self-controlled,” having our emotions and our spiritual life always in control, that we are always aware of God in our life, and always aware that the Lord can come back anytime. So, we don’t have to worry about that day.
But I don’t know. You hear Paul say, “people are saying peace and safety,” and how often can’t that describe us? We rejoice with the things happening in our life, and with the things of this world. We plan weddings! We plan family vacations! We can’t wait to graduate from college, so we can get good job in a career that we love. We spend a lot of our time planning, working out the details, and thinking about the joys that we have coming up in the future! And where is our mind? We’re not thinking about the Lord coming back. In fact, we may be praying that the Lord doesn’t come back until our special occasion is over. And if Jesus came back right then, we too will be taken by surprise.
Or worse yet, how often can don’t we live like those living in darkness? How many times have we fallen asleep, spiritually, or become drunk spiritually, where our thoughts don’t go along with what would God want me to do, but how can I enjoy this sin? What would happen if the Lord would come back when we’re sinning? What would happen if the Lord came back when I’m just a little upset with God right now, because He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted? I’m not concentrating on God, or the end of the world. I am doing the same things these people of the dark are doing. Do, when the Lord comes back, will I also see “destruction suddenly coming on me and I will not be able to escape”? You see, some of these things can really terrify us. So, what can we do?
Paul answers our concerns. “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Paul tells us, “you belong to the day!” Even if sometimes, we look and act like children of the darkness, Paul says, you are a child of the light. And because of that you have protection for your faith. You have a breastplate of faith and love protecting your heart. You have a helmet of the hope of salvation to protect your head. So, even though we may sometimes, act like children of the night, we are indeed, children of the light.
Paul also tells us, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice Paul doesn’t refer to all the positive things we do to comfort us. He talks about what our God has done. God appointed us to receive salvation. And how does that salvation come to us? Only through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope for heaven, is Jesus, and only Jesus. When we sin, it’s Jesus to whom we go for forgiveness! And when we are troubled because we don’t seem to live up to what a Christian should be, it’s Jesus to whom we turn, to reassure us. It’s not our actions that God looks at, it the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers us that our God sees.
And then Paul gives us this comfort, “He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” The difference between us children of the light, and the children of the dark, is that we know that Jesus died for me! My hope, my confidence is strictly this. Jesus died for me. And when Jesus comes back, and I look into the heavens and see Him coming, I don’t see the judge of all coming to condemn me, I see Jesus, my Savior, coming to take me home. And so, Paul says, because Jesus died for me, when Jesus comes back, whether I am awake and alert looking like a child of the light, or asleep, and distracted looking like a child of the darkness, I will live with my Jesus, because He died for me, and I believe it.
So, how should we live our lives so that we are never caught unprepared for the Lord’s returning? Do we need to give up our jobs, and our family and to up some mountain with eyes focused on the heaves, waiting for the day the Lord comes back? Do, we need to spend all our time in church, or always looking up to the heavens waiting for Him to come back? Or maybe we need to diligently study all the passages that talk about the end times in hopes of finding clues as to when it will happen? No! Paul tells us what we should be doing.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Paul tells them to continue to do the things they have been doing. God still has us in this world because there are things He needs us to do. There are weddings that to be planned! There are family vacations that need to be taken! There are blessings that need to be enjoyed. There are tragedies that need to be endured! There are souls we need to share Jesus with. There are fellow believers that need to be encouraged and strengthened. There are unbelievers who need to witness how a Christian reacts to things in this world. And even if in the process of doing these things, and living your daily life, your mind is not paying attention to the Lord’s coming back, don’t worry, and don’t fret. You are still a child of the light! Jesus died for you. And He has you in His hands. And you will live together with Him in Heaven!
The point is, the end of the world, will catch us by surprise. That’s a given. With all the things happening in our lives, with all the things we’re planning, with all the things we are looking forward to, our mind will be on this world, and on the things that God wants us to do. We won’t be paying attention, and then suddenly just like that, the end will come! Everything in this world stops! And we will be facing the Day of Judgment. Yes, that day will catch us by surprise. But because Jesus died for us, because Jesus has chosen to give us faith, when that day happens, we will never BE CAUGHT UNPREPARED!