I didn’t preach the last two Sundays. Last week, our friend Andrae Robinson was here from 2nd Mile Ministries in Jacksonville; the week before we were on our way to New Orleans for our mission trip. Thanks to Pastor Lucas and Pastor Tim for handling the preaching responsibilities.
When we were last in Thessalonians, we looked at the coming of the Lord. Remember the Word says that the Lord Himself will descend with a shout and the dead in Christ will rise. There is great hope in those verses and Paul encourages believers to comfort one another with these words. Paul continues the theme, but with a different angle.
If you can get your Bible, I encourage you to read 1 Thes. 5:1-11 where we’ll get the text for this message.
The first thing Paul covers is that as Christians, we need to anticipate His coming. Paul spoke of how the Lord would return. This was not new to the Thessalonians, but there was confusion about the dead in Christ and those alive in Christ. Paul cleared up that confusion for them because they apparently did not know the events that would lead to the Lord’s coming, but they knew that He was coming. There were things that the Thessalonians didn’t need to know and there were things that they knew. They did not know the times or epochs and they didn’t need to know. Times is the Greek word chronos which means an extended time. This is where we get the word chronometer or watch. Epochs is the Greek word kairos which means a definite period of time. Another way to think of times and epochs is to think of it as the measurement of time and the characteristic of the times.
In Acts 1:7 Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” They didn’t have a need to know. God knows when to send Jesus back. I think the time is a mystery because God knows how we are. We have a tendency to wait until the last minute to do things. It doesn’t matter if it’s homework, exercise, that diet we need to start, or salvation. So when is the Lord coming? It’s not a bad question, right? Don’t we want to know if people are coming to our house so we can prepare. We make reservations at restaurants or hotels to guarantee our place. We can’t do that for the day of the Lord.
Paul says they, “Know full well that the day of the Lord will come.” This was part of his teaching so they are familiar with that aspect of doctrine. Full well” gives us the idea of a complete and accurate understanding of this concept. The Lord will come back, “Like a thief in the night.”A burglary takes place every 8 seconds in the U.S., but when thieves come, they don’t announce their visit. The idea is there will be no warning, no time for action. We need to be ready, take preventive measures. We know Christ is coming back because God’s Word teaches it.
Check out the shift in v. 3. Paul had been using the pronoun you referring to the Thessalonians – believers in Jesus, Christ followers. V. 3 contains the pronoun “they” indicating that Paul is now talking about those that do not know Christ. Unbelievers will be surprised by the Lord’s coming. They will be caught off guard, they won’t be ready, but Christians should be ready at all times. “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” Unbelievers have a false sense of security. They’ll proclaim peace and safety yet destruction will come upon them suddenly. Destruction will come just as surely as labor will begin with a pregnant woman. It is inevitable. The destruction will be like that of Katrina. The people of New Orleans did not see Katrina coming. From the people we talked while we there, they told me they thought, “It’s just another warning.” There will be no escape. This will be time of indescribable wrath.
More contrast in v. 4. The idea is that the coming of the Lord will not take Christians by surprise. This verse gives the allusion to the way a thief or robber accomplishes his purpose. He comes in the night, when men are asleep. This is the way Paul says the Lord will come to the wicked. They are like those who are asleep when the thief comes to their house. But it’s not like this with Christians. In relation to the coming of the day of the Lord, they are like people who are awake when the robber comes. They can see the robber coming and prepare for it so it won’t take them by surprise.
We need to anticipate the coming of the Lord and Paul provides some important instructions. Paul gives us two commands in v. 6. “Be alert.” Matthew 25:13 says, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Since we don’t know the date or time of the Lord’s return, we need to be ready at all times. Paul uses a lot of contrast in these verses doesn’t he? Here he says, “Let us not sleep as others do.” This word for sleep here can mean moral indifference. Sleep is the opposite of alertness. We need to be alert to the severity of our time. People disregarding the things of God. Including Christians that are more interested in the things of the world rather than the things that affect eternity.
“Be sober.” This command gives us the idea that we need to be watchful. “For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.” (1 Thes. 5:7) Again the contrast is that those that sleep will not be prepared, whether it’s for the thief that comes or for the Lord’s return. This verse also completes the allusion that Paul has been speaking of. Remember back in the day? People worked during the day and all the stores closed at 5ish. It was the nighttime that people got involved in things that could be considered not so productive. Isaiah 5:11 says it this way: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them.”
The reason Christians need not fear the coming of the Lord is found in vs. 8-10. We’re of the day. We’ve put on the breastplate of love and faith. We wear the helmet of salvation. We’re not destined for wrath but for salvation through Christ. It’s a reminder of the Gospel. The Thessalonians that Paul is talking to have experienced this. Jesus died on our behalf so we wouldn’t have to. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Jesus died so that we might live. Our life is directly connected to His death. He, “died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” Jesus died our death so that we could live His life. The ultimate reason we should be bold and not faint-hearted is not because we are children of the day, but because the hope of our salvation is planted on the solid rock of God’s will and on the death of Jesus Christ.
Paul concludes by saying, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” There is great encouragement for Christians.
Do you have boldness in Christ to share His love? Are you encouraging one another?