Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
What Happens When A Person Dies Series
It’s Time to Wake Up!
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Introduction: It’s time to wake up! I could be talking to Josh Stinnet and Andee Burnett, but I’m not. Most of you may not haven’t gotten to witness it last week. Josh and Andee showed up for church last week in their prom outfits last week. Take my word for it, Josh actually cleans pretty good. Andee was pretty as a picture as always. The striking thing was they had been up all night at the BGHS prom and then the post prom festivities. Neither had slept all night. The good news was: they made the effort to be at church want to commend them for that! The bad news is they sat in the back row of the balcony with heads back and arms flayed out and slept through my sermon. The really bad news is: they kept everybody else up there awake with their snoring. Just kidding!
Maybe what I’m think about is more like the two hillbilly brothers who got tired of plowing corn behind a mule on their pa’s farm. They headed to the big city to find a job and make their fortune. Neither had been off the farm much. Eventually they ended up a big trucking company who was looking to hire some new truck drivers. “Have you had any driving experience?” the manager asked. “We used to drive pa’s old pickup to town every Saturday to pick up vitals,” Joe explained. Jim chimed in, “I used to haul moonshine for Cousin Zeb before the revenuers blew up his still.” “That’s quite interesting,” the manager responded. “Let me describe a few situations so explain to me what you would do?”
He proceeded to ask Joe and Jim what they would do if they had a flat tire, if they ran out of fuel, and several other common trucking situations. Finally, he asked, “Jim, what you do if you were driving and Joe was asleep in the sleeper compartment. You are pulling a tanker of jet fuel when your rig stalls crossing a railroad track. You try and try to restart the truck. It won’t go. You look up and see a high speed train heading straight for you. What’s the first thing you would do?” Jim doesn’t bat an eye. He immediately responds, “I’d wake up Joe.” “Very good! Andwhy would you wake up Joe?” “Cause Joe ain’t never seen nothin’ like that before.”
It is time to wake up. This world were riding on is headed for something you won’t want to miss. Did you catch the theme of the text I read? The key is verse six, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” It’s not talking about staying awake in church. In fact, the whole idea of being asleep or awake is a word picture for being unprepared or ready for the “day of the Lord”—this world scheduled appointment with its Maker. The passage contrasts those who will ready and those who won’t. Some will be. Some won’t! To drive the point home, the text uses the contrast of being asleep or awake. Which are you? The difference is important! Why does it matter that we are wide awake? The text explains why it’s time for all of us to wake up.
First, it’s time to wake up so you can watch. Those who sleep don’t have a clue about what’s happening around them. If they did, they would try harder to stay awake. Those who are awake understand what’s happening around them. They know what’s at stake.
A. Christ is coming back. This world has an appointment. The Old Testament predicted it. Jesus announced it. The rest of the Bible talks about it again. In fact, that’s the theme of the last chapters of the Bible.
B. A lot of us are skeptical about this kind of talk. We have good reason.
a. Many fanatics have turned us into doubters. date setters; 1843/1988/2000
b. Others doubt because it has been so long. Waiting for a while is easy. Waiting for anything for a long time is hard. 2 Pt 3—slowness=patience/grace
C. Note the warning of our text. Jesus words, “No one knows the day or the hour.” Some conclude that since we don’t know everything, we can’t know anything. That’s not what Jesus said nor what this passage teaches.
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Luke 21:29-31
4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
D. What are some of the signs that should keep us awake: three signs
1. The worsening human condition./People will know more but behave worse
Listen to what the Old Testament prophet Daniel was told. Daniel 12:4 – “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Toward the end, he was told, there would be a virtual explosion of knowledge.
Who can deny we live in such a time? From the Garden of Eden until A.D. 1900, men walked or rode horses just as King David and Julius Caesar did. In the span of a few years, however, mankind invented the automobile, the jet plane, and the space shuttle. You can fly from New York to Paris in 3 hours today. Just think of all the knowledge involved in developing these marvels of modern technology. Those of us who lived before computers, cell phones, and the internet can only stand back in wonder. Clearly all of this had made live easier in lots of ways. But better? Every advance seems to multiply opportunities for the wicked.
Listen to the New Testament. “1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
2. The first is in us/ the second around us--Terrifying changes in the world.
While we know more and more about our world, we feel less and less secure in it. Every day we receive new reminders that despite all of our human powers, we are nothing compared to the mounting forces of nature. It is getting worse.
Climate change appearing to escalate
Natural disasters seeming to worsen
The fear of pandemics HIV/Bird flu
Fear about global terrorism; worry about world-wide economic collapse
Some sleep. Those who are awake know what Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:24-27).
3. The third sign: the continuing place of Israel at the center of the world stage
God has a had a plan. He has been working it for over four thousand years. Israel has been at the center of that plan. Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and its Jewish temple forty years before it happened. “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near” (Lk 21:20). But that’s not all he said. I find especially interesting what he tells about a day even farther in the future. “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24). In other words, a day would come when Jerusalem would once again be under Jewish control. That has already begun to happen in my life time.
In 1917 less than 25000 Jews lived in Palestine. In 1945 more than 500,000 Jews lived in Palestine and in 1948, Israel again became a nation. Today the population is over 5 million. In 1966 and 1967, Israel retook most of Jerusalem. Despite all the attempts and threats of its larger and more powerful neighbors, Israel still stands. It’s time to wake up!
I can find no explanation why a tiny nation (1/8 the size of Missouri) without significant natural resources or great economic power should continue to be such a player in the world. But it is. Who can doubt that all of the tension in the Middle East and the spread of global terrorism around the world is all about Israel? Why? It is not economic. It is not even really political. It is even deeper than religion. It is spiritual. It is time to wake up!
Twenty-four hundred years ago, the prophet Zechariah announced, “This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (Zech. 12:1-3).
Later he adds, “A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:1-3). The Lord will say, “Enough is enough, boys! That’s it. It’s over!”
It is time to wake up! It is time to wake up so you can watch for the signs of the changing season. Our text adds a second reason. It is time to wake up so you can wait. Waiting isn’t just about sitting around and twiddling your thumbs. It is about having your bags packed, your shoes on, and your affairs in order. (vss 4-8).
In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin’s boss catching him sitting at his desk staring out the window. “Why aren’t you working Calvin?” Without much thought Calvin confessed to his boss, “Because I didn’t see you coming.”
Even if we don’t know exactly when, we know our Lord is coming! Our text uses the same word picture Jesus used. He will come like a thief in the night. It is the suddenness not the wickedness of the thief that is highlighted. Thieves succeed because they are unexpected. They don’t send warnings. Most often they strike when people are asleep. The reason is obvious. They also come when folk distracted or away doing other things like partying and drinking. His coming won’t be a pleasant experience for those caught unprepared, sleeping or in a drunken stupor.
This passage is not about staying away from drugs, alcohol, or other substances that numbs your senses! But I can’t think about a better reason. I don’t want to wasted when I need to be waiting and prepared.
Finally, it’s time to wake up so we don’t have to worry. Too many of us are filled with anxiety with such talk. Our text calls us to anticipation. Christ’ return is not about dread. Those who know Christ have nothing to worry about. Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28 (NIV) On this great day of the Lord—
Jesus will be vindicated. Several years ago Johnny Carson had Billy Graham as a guest on the Tonight Show. At one point there was a lull in the conversation and Johnny said, "You know what Billy, I bet if Jesus ever came back to earth, I bet we’d do him in again!" Billy Graham leaned forward in his seat, and said, "In the Bible we read that Jesus predicted that He would return to earth again. But the first time He came in love, the next time, He’ll come in power-no one will DO Him in!" Knowing that He is coming is more important than when He is coming.
Wrong will be righted.
God’s promises will be kept.
Salvation not wrath
With him not cast from him
Verse 11 is a good word: 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Conclusion: It’s time to wake up! Something big is gonna happen. You’ve never seen anything like. And you won’t want to miss up. It’s time to wake up.
C. S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, has a good word on this in another of his works “Mere Christianity”:
“God is going to invade this earth in force, but what is the good of saying you are on his side then when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive, comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing. It will be the time when we discover which side we have really chosen whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”
***Dr. Roger W. Thomas is the preaching minister at First Christian Church, 205 W. Park St., Vandalia, MO 63382 and an adjunct professor of Bible and Preaching at Central Christian College of the Bible, 911 E. Urbandale, Moberly, MO. He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian College (BA) and Lincoln Christian Seminary (MA, MDiv), and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).