1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11  


 

In this section, Paul continues the subject of the coming of Jesus described in chapter 4:13-17. He has stated with certainty that Jesus will return and gather all believers to Himself, whether they have previously died or whether they are alive at the time. He next deals with the timing of that event. Jesus taught that we would know the SEASON for His return (Matthew 24:32-34), but that no one can know the day or hour (Mat. 24:36).

Thus, the image of a thief in the night lends itself to the unexpectedness factor for the second coming. But unexpectedness is not a bad thing if someone is prepared. So Paul will teach that Jesus' coming will be unexpected to those who are not prepared, but a source of great comfort to those who are prepared by maintaining fellowship with God.

Verse one

1. Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren:

A. Times: the word is chronos which refers to the chronological progression of time. It occurs in the plural, and refers here to the events of history and the prophetic chronological progression of God's plan for the human race; that is, WHEN they will occur.

B. epochs: this word is kairos and is also in the plural. It refers to the events of history from the standpoint of their FACTUAL occurrence; that is, WHAT will occur. Neither of these words refers to dispensations in this context, but simply to the issues of WHAT will happen and WHEN will it happen.

C. The WHAT and WHEN of what Paul is writing about is the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the saints that he just mentioned in 4:13-17.

2. you have no need of anything to be written to you.

A. no need: this is the verb, echo plus the negative, and the noun chreia. They have no need to be given anymore information because they have already been taught. They have the oral traditions of what Jesus taught, and perhaps the Books of Matthew and Mark, as well as what the apostles and prophets had taught as they visited the churches.

B. This is always compared with what Jesus told the disciples just before His ascent to heaven 40 days after His resurrection.
They asked Him, "Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6)?

They were referring to the fulfillment of the promise given through the Old Testament prophets, which is probably best represented at Isaiah 9:6-7.

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of {His} government
or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and
righteousness From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this."

They were of course anxious for the fulfillment of this "national" promise, but were unaware of the specific events and chronological details of God's plan. The answer that Jesus gave them needs to be harmonized from Luke 24 and Acts 1.

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things (Lk. 24:44-48).

(However) it is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).

When they asked the question, they were unaware of How God's plan was going to progress in the future. They had not understood what Jesus taught about the temporary displacement of Israel as the evangelistic agent (Matthew 21:33-45; 23:29-39). They had missed the relevance of His promise concerning a second coming, and they had missed the import of His saving work on the cross and the urgency of proclaiming the message to the world. All of this was clarified once again, however, as Jesus traced through the Old Testament for them and "opened their minds to understand the Scripture" (Luke 24:45).

The statement, "it is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority," refers to RIGHT NOW as He is talking to them. Jesus did not say that the disciples "WOULD not know" the times or the epochs. He said, "it is not for you to know..."

The word "know," is ginosko in the aorist active infinitive, which views the action of the verb as a "point of time" action rather than a continuous action such as "not for you to be knowing." There are two ways to view this "point of time."

1. Not for you to know at any point of time (ever) - - -
2. Not for you to know at (this) point of time right now.

Before His resurrection, Jesus taught about the end time events and especially about his return to gather His own unto Himself.
Matthew 24:9-44

Verse 15 - when you see the abomination of desolation
Verse 21 - then there shall be great tribulation
Verse 24 - false prophets with great signs and wonders
Verse 25 - behold I have told you in advance.
Verse 29 - but immediately after the tribulation of those days
Verse 30 - signs in the sun, moon and stars

1. the sign of the son of man will appear
2. see the son of man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.

Verse 31 - He will send forth His angels to gather the elect.
Verse 32 - the parable of the trees - Luke 21:29
Verse 33 - EVEN SO YOU TOO, WHEN YOU SEE ALL THESE THINGS, RECOGNIZE THAT IT IS NEAR, RIGHT AT THE DOOR.

Verse 34 - this generation (the one that sees the signs) will not pass away until all these things take place.

Verse 36 - but of the DAY and HOUR, no one knows . . BUT - He just gave them the times and seasons!!

Why then the question from the disciples in Acts 1:7?

1. Because they forgot practically everything He taught them.
2. That is why He promised the coming of the Holy Spirit as a teaching "exhorter" (comforter) who would "BRING TO THEIR REMEMBRANCE, all that I said to you." John 14:26 And - "He will proclaim to you the things to come." John 16:13

At Acts 1:7, immediately after saying, "it is not for you to know .

. ." He then says in verse 8, "BUT, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . ."

The Holy Spirit is given to provide "witnessing power" as is clearly stated here. However, as Jesus taught just before His crucifixion, the Spirit would also remind them about what had been taught before.

This then resulted in the teachings of the apostles and prophets to whom "the mystery of Christ . . . has now been revealed by the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:4-5), which resulted in the oral and written revelation that the Thessalonians had access to, and the written revelation that we have access to today in the New Testament.

Verse 2

1. For you yourselves know full well: the verb, know, is oida, which is a perfect active indicative that functions like a present tense because it refers to previously learned information that is presently in the mind as accepted truth.

2. The word, full well, is the adverb, akribōs, which means accurately. In other words, the information they have been taught is accurate and they do not need any amplification. Paul however, is going to develop the subject anyway for two reasons.

A. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to provide the church with the information it needs to be oriented to the times and the seasons.

B. In order to exhort the readers to consistent faithfulness so that they will be prepared for any and all extingencies in life, whether they are to be alive in that final generation or not.
Although, when he writes 2 Thessalonians, he writes with the mind set that the persecution pressures they are going through could very well escalate into the final persecution by the man of lawlessness as he indicates in his second letter (2 Thes. 1:6-10).

In this first letter as well, he recognizes the possibility of these believers being alive at the time that Jesus returns (1 Thes. 3:11-13).

3. that the day of the Lord: This is the first of only 5 times that the term, day of the Lord, is used in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians was written in c. 55 AD; 2 Thessalonians was written in c. 56 AD; Acts in c. 62 AD; 1 Corinthians in c. 58 AD; and 2 Peter in c. 68 AD.

Our frame of reference for the term, then, must be based on immediate context as well as Old Testament context. Chronologically, the first oral reference that we have is Acts 2:20, which quotes Joel 2:31.

Acts 2:20, "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the lord shall come."

Joel 2:31 describes signs in the sun, moon and stars that will precede the arrival of the day of the Lord. Jesus describes the same "triple" signs as preceding His second coming when He teaches, "But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky . . . and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:29-31).

It is therefore certain that the day of the Lord refers to the time period that is initiated when Jesus returns; an event that will come like a thief, just like Jesus Himself taught, "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think" (Mat. 24:43-44).

Paul's use of the term here at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, must take us back then, to that most significant future event for the church, which has been its "blessed hope" since the church began, and which Paul described in the verses immediately preceding verse 5:2 (1 Thes. 4:13-17).

Unless there is some other factor that identifies the day of the Lord, we should associate it with the event that Paul just mentioned, which is the coming of the Lord to gather His people together to meet him in the sky.

Furthermore, at 2 Thessalonians 1:6 through 2:2, Paul does the very same thing, but more specifically. After describing the coming of the Lord to bring relief to the church in verses 1:6-10, he then writes CONCERNING "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him," that they should not be shaken by thinking that "the day of the Lord has come." This effectively identifies the day of the Lord with the previously mentioned "coming" and "gathering," just as he had done in his first letter.

The next factor in identifying the day of the Lord is to recognize that Peter's reference to it at 2 Peter 3:10, that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief," is a direct parallel to what Paul writes here at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, that the day will come "just like a thief in the night." This then effectively identifies Peter's "day of the Lord" with the same "coming" and "gathering" that Paul's letters have done, and with what Jesus had taught at Matthew 24:43-44.

The day of the Lord then, is the event or period of time that begins when Jesus returns and gathers dead and living believers to Himself as is described at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. At Titus 2:13, it is called the "blessed (happy) hope EVEN the appearing of the glory of the great God and (the glory) of our Savior Jesus Christ." And when it occurs, it will catch the unbelievers of the world off guard for they will be living relatively "carefree" lives as they adopt to the economic and religious system of the world ruler known as "the man of lawlessness," (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and "the beast" (Revelation 13:1-10).

A more formal definition is:

The term Day of the Lord, refers to a period of time that begins at the return of Jesus in the clouds of the sky (Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29-30) at some unknown time (Matthew 24:44) after the midpoint of Daniel's 70th week (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), AT LEAST 5 months before the end of the week (Rev. 9:5). It is announced through the signs in the sun, moon and stars (Joel 2:30-31; Mat. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-17), which is portrayed at the 6th seal. The day is characterized by God's judgment upon the unbelieving world and the kingdom of the beast via the trumpet and bowl judgments of the book of The Revelation in preparation for the Messiah's 1000-year reign upon the earth.

 

4. will come like a thief in the night: This communicates the idea of unexpectedness AND un-preparedness. They really go hand in hand.

The one who is prepared is expectant and the one who is expecting, is prepared. Those who are caught up in the economic and religious system of the beast during the tribulation, will not be concerned about any "second coming" of Jesus. Indeed, as Peter writes, "in the last days mockers will come with {their} mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming" (2 Peter 3:3-4)?

And as Paul describes the influence of this "man of lawlessness" at 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, "the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false."

The thief image, then, refers to what Jesus taught concerning the Imminency factor of His second coming. However, the Imminency factor is restricted to a particular "season" of human history and is not to be understood as imminent prior to that season.

Jesus taught that His second coming would come within a recognizable "season," but not at any known day or hour. He said, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree (and all the trees, Luke 21:29): when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, {right} at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:32-26).

The "all these things" that he mentioned identifies the SEASON in which He will return. It is the SEASON identified earlier in verses 9-29 as the great tribulation, which will be characterized by a great persecution against the church.

But it is also a season characterized by relative peace and security for those who adopt beast worship, which will be practically the entire world (Rev. 13:4-8). In fact, it is likely that about 3/4 of the earth will be living under the umbrella of the beast's economic policies (Revelation 6:8). The beast's system for economic stability (buying and selling) will provide resources to maintain a contented lifestyle for those who are living within the system. For those who do not, there will be food shortages (famine), and because of those shortages, there will be plagues and intrusion of wild animals into civilization, not to mention the killing of one another (sword) in order to try to acquire resources. The death from these things, symbolized by the 4th seal, affects only 1/4 of the earth. I suggest that this indicates that at least 3/4 of the earth will be part of the beast's system, while the remaining 1/4 undergoes great hardship because of beast's control of vital resources. This is further suggested by the language used at Revelation 13:3-4, 8.

"And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;
and they worshipped the dragon . . . and they worshipped the beast . . .
and all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names
have not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life."

The term, "whole earth" is certainly hyperbole, to indicate a vast majority of the earth's population.
We know that EVERYONE does not worship the beast because there will be many believers living on
the earth before the Lord's return, and many converts after His return. The implementation of the beast's economic system will take time to complete, but the computer age will facilitate his success and the magnify the extent of his geographical control.

Jesus taught concerning the "contented" life style of these beast worshippers as recorded at Matthew 24:37-39.

"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.
For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking,
they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day
that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood
came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

There is an implication of peace and security from Revelation 13:17.

"and {he provides} that no one should be able to buy or to sell,
except the one who has the mark, {either} the name of the beast
or the number of his name.

That implication is, that if a person DOES in fact take the mark of the beast, he will then have access to buying and selling, so that he will be living in relative economic security, just like before the flood.

This does not violate the harsh conditions mentioned at Revelation 6:3-8 during the 2nd through 4th seals (which occur during the reign of the beast), for those harsh conditions are upon the ones who do not worship the beast and take the mark. As mentioned earlier, 3/4 of the earth will be free from the famine and plague conditions because they will be living under the umbrella of the beast's reign.

5. While they are saying, "Peace and security!"
Some have suggested that this idea involves only the DESIRE for peace and security, and the HOPE of what they can get through identification with the beast. However, it seems more likely that these people will have been lulled into spiritual SLEEP and a false sense of contentment by the material provisions from the beast. If they are going through great turmoil already (destruction and ruin), and then the day of the Lord arrives, which portends sudden destruction, what is the difference?

Why should they be upset? They are already going through a "hell on earth," so there is no significant contrast between before and after.

And to me, the mere DESIRE for peace and security is not something that is going to have them caught off guard. They are already being ROBBED, what more can a THIEF do?

The term "thief in the night" indicates an unawareness as to the coming of the thief, AND a sense of security. "Time" is not the only issue, but the very idea that the Lord is coming back is something that is not of concern to these people.

Nor are they concerned about the impending judgments that are supposed to occur when He does come back, because they are living in a sphere of deception through both the miracle activities of the beast (2 Thes. 2:9-11; Rev. 13:13), as well as the security of his economic system.

As Peter told us,

"Know this first of all that in the latter days mockers will come with mocking following their own lusts, and saying Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers have died, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Instead, they will be occupied with the peace and safety provided for them through worshiping the beast, which places them within the economic system of the beast and provides the "material security" that allows them to continue with normal life activities as already mentioned at Matthew 24:27-39.

It should be added, that the point of comparison between the Noah and 2nd coming generations, is the unexpectedness that resulted in an indifferent occupation with the normal activities of life. Although the primary focus is not on the lifestyle, but on the unexpectedness, it needs to be recognized that it is in fact, the lifestyle that results in being unprepared and unconcerned about the return of Christ.

It should be further noted that the point of comparison here is not the idea that people (unbelievers) are taken "all away," but simply that judgment comes. At the time of the flood, the judgment was the water taking them all away. At the time of the day of the Lord, the judgment will be the impending judgments from the trumpets. It is indeed, an over concentration on the idea of "took them all away" that has led many to think that Jesus does not have in view His return to gather the church (the rapture) but instead the gathering out of the wicked just before Jesus sets up His kingdom. However, the subject is, the gathering of His "elect" in a supernatural manner, and there is only one time when that happens - at the beginning of the Day of the Lord via the rapture of the church.

6. then destruction will come upon them suddenly: The "sudden destruction" that Paul speaks of refers to the Day of the Lord judgments which will be poured out on the world very shortly after Jesus removes His people from the earth through the rapture. We do not know how long the delay is for the 144,000 Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah (Revelation 7:1-8), but immediately after that "sealing" is accomplished, the 7th seal is broken, and the 7 trumpets that constitute a throwing of God's fire of justice to the earth begin to sound.

At 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8, this "sudden destruction" is identified as "repay with affliction" and "dealing out retribution."

Some claim that it is to be ON THE VERY DAY of the return of the Lord, that the judgments begin to come. They base this on Luke 17:29-30, which reads, "but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed."

However, I do not think that "the same day" factor is intended to communicate that IMMEDIATELY there will be judgment. Rather, it communicates the FINALITY of the event. The day of the Lord BEGINS immediately after the rapture, and there is no escape, that is, there is no more opportunity to be part of the rapture (to get into the ark or to get out of Sodom). But there is no necessity for actual judgment to be poured out on the same day.

It has also been suggested that this "same day" factor is necessary because it destroys the pretrib view of Imminency . However, Imminency has already been adequately countered by the Olivet Discourse without forcing a "same day" time factor into the second coming event.

There is no reason for us to insist that the actual judgment begins on the very day of Christ's return. It is enough to recognize that the TIME of judgment begins on that very day, and no one will escape except those who will trust in Christ.

7. like birth pangs upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape:
This image is used to express the SUDDENNESS idea. Yes, even though a woman knows when the time is getting close (because there are beginning birth pains), there is never any predicting, and the final birth pains can start without warning, other than the breaking of the water. So also, the day of the Lord will be immediately preceded by the signs in the sun, moon and stars, and the shaking of the heavens and earth. This "breaking of the water" will announce the arrival of the Lord, but it will be too late to escape.

8. and they shall not escape:
Only those who have trusted in Christ prior to those signs will be removed from the earth. All the others will remain behind to feel the direct or indirect effects of the trumpet and bowl judgments.

In order to escape the effects of God's "initial" wrath through the trumpets and his "final" wrath through the bowls, one must trust in Christ as Savior, for "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13). And there will be converts during this time (Joel 2:33; Obadiah 17; Zechariah 14:16; Isaiah 60:14; Romans 12:26-27).

 

THE DAY OF THE LORD

Here, the arrival of the day of the Lord is equated with "sudden destruction." Notice this idea as it is found in several Old Testament passages.

Isa. 13:6-16 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Verse 9, Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it.

Joel 1:15 - 2:11 (v. 18-20) Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Obad. 15-18 "For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.

Zeph. 1:14 - 2:3 Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.

Mal. 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.

This comparison establishes consistency in what the bible teaches about the day of the Lord. We can with certainly recognize that it is a time of judgment that is initiated upon the earth at the time that Jesus, the Messiah comes back.

Verse 4, "but you brethren are not in darkness that the day should overtake YOU like a thief.
This statement establishes that church age believers will indeed, be present on the earth at the time that the day of the Lord arrives. There is no room for a pretrib rapture when we recognize that there is only ONE second coming, that it is the coming of the Lord in GLORY, and that it occurs immediately before the day of the Lord.

The term "in darkness" refers to the status of the unbeliever who resides in spiritual darkness (John 8:12; 12:36, 46; Acts 26:14-18).

The one who has trusted in Christ as Savior, has been transferred out of darkness and placed into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:12-13). Accordingly, those who used to be DARKNESS are now LIGHT "in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8), and are designated as "sons of light" (John 12:36).

This is a POSITIONAL STATUS, and not a functional issue. The functional issue is seen at verse 6-8, and states that the believer, who is NOW LIGHT in the Lord, should live that way while he is here on earth. If he fails to "walk in the light" as he actually EXISTS in the light, then he will be walking in spiritual darkness and he will be blinded to spiritual truth (1 John 2:9-11).

Since the believer is IN THE LIGHT, the arrival of the day of the Lord will not come upon him as a thief to do harm. The believer can indeed be unprepared and un-expectant of the Lord's return and be living instead for earthly pleasures, "carousing and drunkenness and the cares of this life," as Jesus described it (Luke 21:34). If this is the case, then that believer will be caught off guard when the Lord returns; in fact, that day will spring upon him like a trap, and it will in fact, come like a thief. That believer will not lose his salvation, nor be left behind, but he will experience some serious shame and sorrow at that time as John explains, "And now little children, abide in Him (walk in the light), so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (1 John 2:28).

Jesus expressed this warning as recorded at Luke 21:34-36.

"Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with carousing and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

The idea of "strength to escape" refers to endurance during the specific time of tribulation which will begin at the midpoint of the 70th week.

The phrase, "to stand before the Son of Man," refers to "not shrinking away from Him in shame at His appearing," as we saw at 1 John 2:28.

The emphasis, in view of the amplification in the New Testament, is that the believer can stand before the Son either (1) IN FELLOWSHIP with God (abiding in Him) and have initial great joy (Jude verse 24) and confidence (1 John 2:28); or (2) OUT OF FELLOWSHIP with God and experience great shame and remorse.

Here, Paul echoes the same warning, but first prefaces it with the assurance of salvation in verses 4-5, "for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness."

Instead of defending the doctrine of salvation security at this point, I will assume its validity and interpret the passage accordingly. Obviously, if someone thinks that the believer can lose his salvation, then the warnings here and elsewhere reflect that idea, and the believer should be extra diligent, lest he be left behind at the rapture, and be in danger of going to the lake of fire.

However, Paul is clearly giving these believers assurance of their spiritual relationship (sons) and status (not of darkness) as a motivation to keep them focused on spiritual service and their testimonial impact to others; and that they not be afraid of being left behind, as is reflected in Paul's 2nd letter to them (2 Thes. 2:1-2).

Verse 6 Exhortation to faithfulness

1. So then: ara oun, in the Greek. Either one of these little words would communicate the idea of "therefore," but both together places great emphasis on what Paul is writing. He is telling them that BECAUSE they are SONS OF LIGHT, they should act like it; they should live like it. This is urgent because only the light bearer can make a positive impact for Christ. But in an end-times context, it is urgent because of the potential for being unprepared and caught off guard. This will not only result in the believer's personal shame in the presence of Christ, but it will also mean that he has failed to represent Christ to others and prepare them for the arrival of the day of the Lord.

It is in view of this that the writer of Hebrews writes at Hebrews 10:25, "and to a much greater degree as YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING."

Thus, there is plenty of indication that we can indeed, KNOW the times and the epochs; the chronological progression of God's plan, and the specific season for the return of Jesus.

Jesus made it perfectly clear.
And Paul make it perfectly clear.

The bible speaks of two types of preparation for this arrival of the Day of the Lord.

SALVATION PREPARATION: This refers to those who have trusted in Christ as savior and thus are secure in the family of God. Paul refers to them at 1 Thessalonians 5:4,

"But you brethren are not IN darkness,
that the day should overtake you like a thief."

In other words, because of their "positional" union with Christ, they are IN THE LIGHT (Ephesians 5:8) and are called at verse 5, "sons of light and of day." Accordingly, when the "day" arrives, it will not be "sudden destruction" for those who are believers in Jesus.

However, if the believer is not "walking in the light" then he will be "caught off guard" when Jesus returns and will experience initial "shame" and remorse before Him at His presence. Thus, the need for -

EXPERIENTIAL PREPARATION: This refers to being "in fellowship" with God; Being a believer who is actively pursuing the things of God; who is "walking in the light" as a growing and productive believer and has no sin in his life. This is called "abiding in Him" by John. Thus we have the warning given to us by John at 1 John 2:24-29.

"And now, little children, abide in Him,
so that when He appears, we may have confidence
and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming."

At 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11, Paul continues by exhorting the believers to "reflect" their "positional" union with Christ "IN THE LIGHT" by living the Christian life not as those who are "asleep" and in darkness.

The exhortation through all the New Testament is that the believer should be living like a child of God and not like a child of the darkness. This of course, takes growth and consistent volitional decisions to apply the word of God to every area of your life. However, if the believer fails to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" he will fail to experience the true joy and peace of the Christian life as well as fail to serve God as a faithful ambassador for Christ. In such a condition, that believer will be "walking in darkness," not abiding in Him, and will be unprepared for the events of the tribulation and the arrival of Jesus.

2. Let us not sleep as others do: Sleep, refers to spiritual apathy and ignorance. Even though the believer has been once and for all delivered from the kingdom of darkness, he can revert to living in darkness by losing his focus on spiritual value. He can fail to grow in the first place (1 Peter 2:1-2; Luke 8:14), or he can fall from his previous growth (Hebrews 5:11-14). In either case, the various pleasures of life or worries of life can distract the believer from fulfilling his Christian ambassadorship as a faithful child.

The "others" refers to the unbelievers who are citizens of darkness; they are OF NIGHT AND OF DARKNESS (verse 5), and will be unprepared for the great deception that will come upon them. As long as there is life, there is hope for the unbeliever to trust in Christ as Savior, that is, until such time as anyone takes the mark of the beast. AT that time, his decision constitutes a final hardness of heart that is irreversible. Thus, according to Revelation 14:9-11, anyone who has the mark of the beast, will spend eternity in the lake of fire.

3. but let us be alert: The verb here is gregoreo as a present active subjunctive that functions as a hortatory exhortation for all Christians to join with Paul in being aware of the moral and spiritual environment in which he lives. It means to STAY AWAKE, and in that manner, be alert to what is going on around you. This involves proper preparation through spiritual growth; that is, learning about the character and plan of God so that our character will begin to be changed into an imitation of Christ. This is the exhortation of Peter at 2 Peter 3:15 in reference to the same potential for being of the generation that sees the arrival of Jesus at the day of the Lord.

4. and sober: This verb is nepho in the same form, and refers to being non-intoxicated. However, the focus here is not on PHYSICAL drunkenness, but spiritual drunkenness. What is physical drunkenness? It is when the body is under the influence of an incapacitating agent, so that there is no balance or clarity in the physical senses. Spiritual drunkenness is when the sin nature controls the soul and incapacitates the function of our spiritual senses so that instead, selfishness and pleasure lusts dominate the life. The command basically exhorts us to be BALANCED and UNDER CONTROL. This refers to the APPLICATION of what we have learned so that God will be glorified in everything we do and of course, we will be ready to face the Lord without shame and sorrow when He appears (1 John 2:28).

Paul gives this same exhortation at Romans 13:11-14, where once again, he writes in anticipation of the end-times scenario beginning during the lifetime the readers.

And this {do,} knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you
to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we
believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us
therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of
light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and
drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife
and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision
for the flesh in regard to {its} lusts.

 

Verse 7

1. For: The explanatory GAR, explains the characteristic lifestyle of the unbeliever that the believer can imitate if he does not maintain his proper focus on God.

2. The night represents the realm of darkness, and speaks of the blindness in which these people operate. John uses the term, darkness, at 1 John 2:11 and says that he who walks in darkness "does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes."

Paul uses "night" here because he is focusing on these two particular images, sleeping and drunkenness. At Romans 13:12, he relates night to the deeds of darkness, which we should put away from our lives.

Physical sleeping, of course, is normally done at night; and spiritual sleeping means to be walking in darkness.
Physical drunkenness is likewise usually done at night; and spiritual drunkenness is to allow darkness viewpoint to control the soul.

 

Verse 8

1. But since we are of day: Again, this is a reference to the believer's positional status IN CHRIST, having been transferred from darkness into light (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:12-13) as seen at verse 5.

2. let us be sober: repeat of the verb to emphasize the experiential reflection of our positional status. Again, SINCE we are IN CHRIST, we should live like it. Since we are a child of God, we should act like one.

3. having put on: this is the verb enduo as an aorist middle participle.

The use of this aorist participle precedes the action of the main verb (be sober) and indicates what is required in order to fulfill that exhortation to be balanced. The believer needs to PUT ON something. That means that he needs to LEARN the various issues of FAITH LIVING and LOVE in order to be faithful and successful as an imitator of God (Eph. 5:1-2).

4. the breastplate of faith and love: Paul uses the illustration of ARMOR once again as he did at Ephesians 6:14-17 to teach about spiritual defense. His application of the various pieces of armor is not consistent, because he is speaking IN PRINCIPLE rather than trying to establish an "across-the-board" analogy. At Ephesians Paul used the BREASTPLATE to portray the believer's experiential righteousness, and the SHIELD to portray the function of faith. Here, he uses the BREASTPLATE to portray the faith and love. The difference is not really that great. The breastplate is a defensive piece, and both faith and love have a defensive side to them. In the context before us, DEFENSE is what is really in view because of the danger of being deceived into a non-Christian lifestyle prior to the arrival of Jesus. FAITH, as Ephesians 6:16 indicates, functions as a shield to ward off the human and satanic viewpoint that can so easily encumber the believer. Love is the proactive attitude that seeks the benefit of others by putting into practice the standards of divine righteousness as revealed in the word of God. This too is defensive in that it protects us from expressions of sin (Romans 14:10). Love counters the self-centeredness of the sin nature and keeps us focused on our purpose for remaining here on earth, which is to glorify God through imitation (Eph. 5:1-2).

Once again, at Romans 13:14, this entire CHARACTER PACKAGE is summed up by the command, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make plans with the flesh (the sin nature) for its lusts," (BFT).

5. and as a helmet, the hope of salvation:

A. The word hope, is elpis and speaks of the confidence that the believer has toward God because of God's character.

B. The helmet protects the head which symbolizes the self-consciousness of the soul or the ego, where reasoning and free will are located.

C. Head protection then speaks of preserving a positive mental attitude.

D. The greatest motivation for offense in the spiritual conflict is the attitude of salvation security.

E. This gives the believer assurance and confidence concerning his spiritual status, provision in time and his future.

F. It enables him to look beyond his problems and failures, so that he does not get discouraged and give up. But he knows that God still holds on to him and that keeps us looking to Him for help.

G. Confidence of salvation is not a license to sin, but freedom to serve.

 

Verse 9

1. For: the explanatory GAR goes back to the just mentioned confidence of salvation and explains the basis for that confidence. The reason we can have confidence about our salvation is because God has not appointed us to wrath, but for the possession of salvation. Thus, we can be assured that no matter what happens in our life - whether we are a Christian success or failure; whether we die or remain alive - we shall live together with Him.

2. God has not destined us: this should not be translated as "destined."
It is the verb, tithemi, which means to put, place or appoint. It occurs as an aorist middle indicative, which refers to a past completed action on the part of God. That past action is a removal out from under the indictment of divine justice and wrath, and a placement into the status of possessing everlasting life.

3. for wrath: The wrath of God is the expression of the divine consciousness (ego) that expresses disapproval whenever His standards are violated. God is justified in being angry because His righteousness is perfect, and unrighteousness is harmful to both the person who expresses it and others. Because God's righteousness is perfect, He is not only just in expressing anger, but He is also just in judging it, as well as obligated to judge it.

Throughout the New Testament wrath and judgment are consistently contrasted with salvation and the possession of everlasting life.

The wrath of God ABIDES on the unbeliever which results in being judged. That judgment is the present indictment of God upon the unbeliever ("has been judged already," John 3:18) and will ultimately result in the perpetuation of spiritual death ("shall not see life," John 3:36) into an everlasting condition of RUIN (2 Thes. 1:9) or destruction (perishing, John 3:36; 1 Cor. 1:18) in the lake of fire (Rev. 14:10-11; 20:15).

Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is (spiritual) death. This is the natural result of unrighteousness, rather than something that God DOES. Wrath and judgment, on the other hand, are expressions that come DIRECTLY from God's perfect character.

God's character is also perfect love, which always wants what is best for His creatures. Therefore, God is "not willing for any to perish" (2 Peter 3:9) but "desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4). Accordingly God's love provided the Savior (Romans 5:8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; Gal. 2:20), so that "whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

The one who trusts in Christ as Savior is delivered (SAVED) from THE WRATH of God (Romans 5:6-11). That is what it means to be "saved."

It means to be delivered from the expression of God's consciousness and justice, because the object of that expression (sin) has been removed through "redemption, the forgiveness of our sins" (Eph. 1:7).

Earlier in this letter at verse 1:10, Paul made a similar statement. He wrote of these believers that they were waiting for "His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."

Some interpret this as a reference to the wrath of God that will come to the unbelievers on the earth after the return of Jesus. Although the return of Jesus and the rapture of living believers effectively removes them from the administration of the wrath from God that comes at the day of the Lord, I cannot see that this is what Paul has in mind. The frame of reference from all of his writings and from the teachings of Jesus is that WRATH refers to ETERNAL wrath and not temporal wrath. There is nothing that would make this refer to temporal wrath except the UNSTATED fact that one of the actual results of being removed from the earth before the day of the Lord, is that those who are thus removed will indeed, NOT be present while God's wrath is being poured out. There is no other place where any stated intent to be delivered from the temporal expression of God's wrath can be found, that would justify an application of that understanding here.

Furthermore, the removal of living believers from the earth prior to the day of the Lord, is a moot point considering that any converts after the rapture will still be on the earth while God's wrath is being poured out on the unbelievers. Some of those judgments are ecological in nature, and will certainly affect ALL people either directly or indirectly, and whether they are believers or unbelievers. Believers of course will be given Divine provision for handling these conditions, just as all throughout history, God has provided what His people need to endure both natural and persecution hardship. The removal of the church prior to the day of the Lord is not so that they will be gone when the wrath comes, for that is not required by any Biblical principle, it is not so stated anywhere as occurring for that reason, and it is not consistent with the fact that many new believers will be on the earth during that time.

The removal (rapture) of Christians prior to the day-of-the-Lord judgments is a dispensational issue. The church will have finished its divine purpose to help prepare Israel to be restored as God's evangelistic agent (Matthew 10:16-23; 24:14; Daniel 11:35) and be taken away. The immediate conversion of 144,000 Jews to function as BONDSERVANTS of God refocuses on Israel as the evangelistic agent as God begins to fulfill the final stage of His plan for them, which will extend into Messiah's earthly kingdom (Daniel 9:24; Hosea 5:14-6:3; Romans 11:25-27).

The term, "Prewrath rapture," is functional as it distinguishes the timing of the rapture from the other views, and is accurate in that it certainly does involve a removal of the church before God's wrath is poured out. However, there is no scriptural indication that I can see, which indicates that the PURPOSE of the rapture at this time is to remove the church from wrath.

I think that the insight of many that the church will be raptured at the 6th seal, which will occur somewhere between the midpoint and the end of the 70th week of Daniel, is accurate, but the purpose is NOT deliverance from wrath, but rather the return to Israel as God's evangelistic agent.

The dispensational focus of the pretrib view is accurate concerning this issue, but that view has locked itself into a dispensational rigidity that fails to recognize the transitional element between dispensations. For that reason, the pretrib view fails to accommodate an overlap between the church and the 70th week of Daniel, and is thus forced to rationalize clear definition and chronological factors presented in the Scriptures.

4. but for the possession of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ:

The Greek has the preposition, eis (unto or for), plus the noun, peripoiesis, which means either the ACT of obtaining or possessing something; or the CONDITION of possessing something. Since our salvation is both a present and a future idea, we can see in this noun, both the CONDITION of what we have RIGHT NOW, and the certainty of what we WILL POSSESS in the future.

There are a few places where "saved" (salvation) refers to deliverance from the experiential effects of sin (James 1:21), and even sometimes, physical deliverance (Mat. 8:25) but most of the time, it refers to deliverance from the wages of sin which is BOTH the natural result of our sin and the judgment that comes from God's wrath, which perpetuates spiritual death into eternity in the lake of fire. The contrast that we find here is between SALVATION (everlasting life) and WRATH (everlasting death).

After stating that we should arm ourselves with the helmet of the confidence of salvation, Paul then explains the basis for that piece of armor, which is the fact that God has not appointed US (believers in Christ) to His wrath toward sin, but INSTEAD, he has appointed us to the possession of DELIVERANCE (salvation) from that expression of wrath. The basis for that salvation from wrath on sin is the fact that Jesus died for the sins of man, so that whoever trusts in Him receives forgiveness of sins and deliverance (salvation) from spiritual death. To confirm that this is what he has in mind, Paul reminds the readers that Jesus died for US so that we would live together with Him.

Verse 10

1. who died for us: This is the aorist active participle of apothnesko, which indicates a past completed action of experiencing spiritual death (Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Rom. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:6; Mark 10:45) that was accomplished when all the sins of the world were place upon Jesus and judged by God the Father (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 9:28).

2. so that: This is a purpose clause indicated by hina plus the subjunctive of the verb. It indicates that the purpose for Christ's death for sin is that there WOULD BE a spiritual result. NOT that there MIGHT be a spiritual result, but that there actually WILL BE a spiritual result, which is identified as, "WE SHALL live together with Him." This clause does not explain the result or purpose of the return of Jesus to gather together His elect, although that is, indeed, when all believers will receive a resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:50-53; Philip. 3:21; 1 Thes. 4:13-17). Paul's intent is to explain the BASIS for our salvation and the basis for receiving resurrection in the future. That BASIS is the fact that Jesus died for us.

3. whether we are awake or asleep: These two words have both a physical and a spiritual meaning, so it is difficult to determine with certainty, exactly what Paul has in mind.

At 1 Thes. 4:13, "those who are asleep," refers to physical death. Sleep refers to the inactivity of the physical body, not the soul. It is the body that "sleeps" at physical death and the soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; Philip. 1:23).

However, sleep, in the immediate context of verses 6-7 refers to the condition and function of spiritual blindness and indifference. As we have seen, the believer is exhorted to not be sleeping, but instead be alert and balanced (verse 6). If this is what Paul has in mind, then this passage is a certain proof of the doctrine of salvation security, for it would teach that no matter what "experiential" condition the believer is in, he would still be guaranteed to "live together with Him."

However, if PHYSICAL life and death are in view, then all it is doing is confirming what Paul taught in the previous chapter, that both "those who are asleep (physically dead)" and "those who remain (alive)" will be gathered together for a meeting with Him in the air (1 Thes. 4:13-17).

The proximity of this promise to verses 6-7 is compelling to me so that I must conclude that it refers to a functional "sleep" where the believer would be out of fellowship with God and walking in darkness.

4. we shall live together with Him: Living together with Him is the possession and experience of everlasting life, which begins at the very moment of trust in Christ, as is stated at 1 John 5:11-12, "God HAS GIVEN to us everlasting life . . . He who has the Son, HAS THE LIFE." It has then, both a present and a future focus. The present focus is stated by Jesus at John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son, HAS everlasting life."

The future focus of living WITH Him is first promised at John 14:1-3, "I am coming again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you will be also."

And then in the prayer of Jesus in the garden at John 17:24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am."

Paul teaches this at Romans 6:8, "Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," and relates it to resurrection at verse 5 when he writes, "For since we have become united together in the likeness of His death, we shall certainly also be (in the likeness) of His resurrection."

At Colossians 3:4, Paul writes, "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

And then of course, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we "shall be caught up together . . . for a meeting with the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord."

Paul confirms it again at 2 Timothy 2:11 when he declares, "since we died with Him, we shall also live with Him."

This expectation of the church is seen in what Jesus taught at Luke 21:28,

"But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

When the "signs" for the return of Jesus begin to take place, those of the church who are "expectantly waiting" for Him should take courage and look to the sky in anticipation of their redemption and of being gathered together with Him.

This "redemption" refers to the completion of God's salvation plan for those who put their trust in Jesus. That completion is the "redemption of the body" which is when the church will receive a resurrection body exactly like Christ's. Philippians 3:21

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our (physical) body of humiliation into conformity with the body of His (resurrection) glory."

It is called the "redemption of the body" at Romans 8:23.

"And not only this, but also we ourselves Who have the first fruits of the Spirit even we ourselves, groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for (the) adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."

Paul tells us that this "redemption of the body" or transformation of the body, will take place at a point in time when there will exist in the church, both those who have died (fallen asleep) and those who are still alive, and yet it will happen to both groups at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep (die) but we shall all be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable (ie, resurrection body like at Phil. 3:21) and we (our bodies) shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The promise is clearly stated. The question is whether it is talking about "functional" conditions or life and death conditions. Those who reject the doctrine of salvation security, will probably tend to go back to the chapter four context. For me, as I mentioned above, the immediate context of verse 6 is too compelling to dismiss. The exhortation is to the believer that he be prepared, but whether one is prepared or not, that believer will still go to live with Christ at the rapture. This is exactly the issue that John presents for us at 1 John 2:28, where he clarifies that the concern is the MANNER in which we appear before Jesus at His coming, NOT the fact.

This should serve as motivation (encouragement, verse 11) for growth and service, and not a license to live in sin. Some will heed the exhortation and be a stable witness to that end-times generation; some will not heed the exhortation and will continue to live in sin, for as Jesus said, "the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). But BOTH will be taken to the Lord at the rapture - the former will meet the Lord with great shame and embarrassment (1 John 2:28), and the latter will meet the Lord in confidence, and as Jude writes, "with great joy" (verse 24).

Accordingly, Paul instructs US to encourage each other and cultivate each other's spiritual growth in the next verse.

Verse 11

1. Therefore encourage one another: The verb is parakaleo as a present active imperative, and it means to motivate to action. In this case, the encouragement or motivation is to not be "sleeping" but to be diligent in watchfulness and control. In other words to maintain a consciousness of the political, social and religious environment of your periphery and to maintain consistent fellowship with God by avoiding sin or at the least, confessing sin quickly.

2. and build up one another: The verb here is oikodomeo, also as a present active imperative. This verb is consistently used to refer to the acquisition of doctrinal knowledge that builds up the soul's content and through that, its character stability.

3. just as you also are doing: Paul is careful to not suggest that they have been negligent in the past, but he simply wants to stress the urgency of proper preparation in view of the present persecutions and the possibility of it escalating into the "end-times" time frame.

The second half of the chapter gives some final guidelines in many areas of normal Christian living.

 
 

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İRon Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's consent.

 

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