Summary: The first four verses of chapter 5 are among the most distinctive and weighty verses in the epistle, and they contain the heart of Paul’s message to believers wherever he preached.
Lesson 17: For the Day of the Lord Will Come as a Thief in the Night (1Th 5:1-4)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 (NIV)
1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
The first four verses of chapter 5 are among the most distinctive and weighty verses in the epistle, and they contain the heart of Paul’s message to believers wherever he preached. They contain words of exhortation and cautions concerning the ideal walk of believers on earth as they anxiously anticipate the return of Jesus. All believers should be prepared, waiting and watching, because His coming to earth is imminent; but we are not to be idle. We are to be “models” of what we will become when He comes for us and meets us in the air!
Verses 1 and 2 indicate that in the church at Thessalonica Paul had often taught the doctrine of the second coming. He taught that the believer will not enter into that awful night of the Great Tribulation Period, which has been labeled the DAY OF THE LORD. That Day of the Lord begins with night because that is God’s way of marking time. He begins that way in Genesis where it says that the evening and the morning were the first day. God begins at night and then moves to light. So the Great Tribulation leads into the glorious millennial reign of Christ when the Sun of Righteous will arise with healing in His wings.
The Day of the Lord is an expression we need to examine and that is today’s lesson.
(5:1) Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,
The Greek word for “times” denotes stretches of time, a period of time, or that particular time. In other words, “Brethren, it is not necessary that I write to you concerning the times and dates of the Lord’s return. When I was with you I fully instructed you concerning the Lord’s return for His own, and you already know as much as can be known.” Perhaps Paul wondered with a tinge of impatience, “How many times do I have to tell you?” Besides, when he says, “about times and dates we do not need to write to you,” he already knew that Christians would have nothing to do with it?believers will be gone at that time.
Today we might call Paul a “Second Coming” preacher.” He followed the same line of teaching that Jesus followed when He was on earth. Jesus told His disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). In Mark 13:32 Jesus said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” According to these clear, understandable statements from the Word of God, such knowledge is not for us?and certainly we are not to indulge in idle speculation concerning the precise time when the Lord will come. Date-setters are false prophets, and we should pay no attention to any man who sets a date when the Lord will return for His own. When you consider these verses, it seems to be disobedient to Jesus to set dates and construct timetables for the Second Coming.
I was told about a cartoon showing a scraggly man holding a sign that says, “The World is about to end.” Onlookers hear him as he looks at his wristwatch, saying, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six . . .” The message of Scripture is to always be ready, and then the date of His coming won’t matter very much.
(5:2) for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Paul believed in thoroughly instilling the fundamentals of the faith into the hearts and minds of those to whom he preached. The word “very well” in the statement “for you know very well” can be translated “precisely,” or “accurately.” It could be that the Thessalonian believers had sent Paul a message saying, “We would like to know more precisely, we would like to be taught more accurately, concerning the “times and dates” when the day of the Lord will be.”
“The Day of the Lord” is a very ancient expression, for it was already known in the time of Amos, who mentioned it for the express purpose of refuting erroneous ideas about it which were current at that time (Amos 5:18-20). The idea was therefore older than his day, and perhaps considerably older. The point that Amos made was that the day would be one of “judgment” on all people. The Israelites could expect to be punished then for their sins, just as they expected that other people would be punished. This is one of a number of places where concepts used of Yahweh in the Old Testament were applied to Christ in the New, a revealing insight into the ways the first Christians viewed their Savior. The thought of final judgment carries over into the New Testament understanding of the Day, and one way of referring to it is to call it “the day of judgment” (2 peter 2:9). In line with this is its designation as “the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5). By contrast it may be thought of as “the Day of Redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Thus we find “the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), “the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), “the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5), and “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). It may be simply “that day” (2 Thess. 1:10), or “the last day” (John 6:39-40), or “the great Day” (Jude 6).