The Day of the Lord
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
As we continue our study of the letters to the church at Thessalonica, we come to Chapter five of 1 Thessalonians. Here we find Paul, writing the Thessalonicians about The Day of the Lord.
Jesus Christ both unites and divides. Those who have trusted in Him as Savior are united in Christ. When Jesus returns in the air, we shall be caught up together, never to be separated again.
But Christ is also a divider. Those who reject Him will be separated from the believers. Faith in Jesus not only unites us to other believers; it also separates us spiritually from the rest of the world. There is a difference between believers who are looking for the Lord’s return and the people of the world; it is this theme that Paul developed in this passage.
His purpose was to encourage the believers to live holy lives in the midst of their pagan surroundings. He did this by pointing out four contrasts between the believers and unbelievers.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 reads, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 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. But you, brethren are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
I. Knowledge and Ignorance (verses 1-2)
• Three phrases in these verses need careful consideration.
1. Time and Seasons.
• This phrase is found only three times in the Bible, and refers primarily to God’s plan for Israel.
• God has a definite plan for the nations of the world, and Israel is the key nation.
2. The Day of the Lord.
• In the Bible, the word day can refer to a 24 hour period, or to a longer time during which God accomplished some special purpose.
3. Thief in the Night.
• Jesus used this image in His own teaching.
• It describes the suddenness and the surprise involved in the coming of the Day of the Lord.
• In Revelation 3:3 and 16:15, He used this image to warn believers not to be caught napping.
• Now we can put these three concepts together and discover what Paul wanted to teach the Thessalonicians.
• He has already told them about the coming of Christ for the church.
• He had told them that there would be a period of intense suffering and tribulation on the earth following this Rapture of the church.
• These times and seasons that relate to Israel and the nations do not apply to the church or affect the truth of the Lord’s coming for the church.
• He may come at any time, and this will usher in the Day of the Lord.
• Paul emphasis here was simply that believers were “in the know” while the unbelievers were living in ignorance of God’s plan.
• The suddenness of these events will reveal to the world its ignorance of divine truth.
II. Expectancy and Surprise (verses 3-5)
• The unsaved world will be enjoying a time of false peace and security just before these cataclysmic events occur.
• Note carefully the contrast between “they” and “you” (or “us”) throughout this entire section, “they” referring to the unsaved.
• They will say, “Peace and safety!” but we will say, “Jesus is coming, and judgment is coming!”
• The world is caught by surprise because men will not hear God’s Word or heed God’s warning.
• God warned that the flood was coming, yet only eight people believed and were saved.
• Lot warned his family that the city was about to be destroyed but they would not listen.
• Christians are “sons of light” and therefore are not “in the dark” when it comes to future events.
• Unbelievers ridicule the idea of Christ’s return.
• Paul compared the coming judgment to “labor pains upon a woman with child”
• Even with our modern medical skills, birth pangs are very real and very painful.
• Isaiah explained it this way in Isaiah 13:6-13, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. There all hands will fall limp and every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame. 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. For the stars in heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; then sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed is light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning anger.”
• If that doesn’t get your attention then I don’t know what will.
• But what truth do we learn from what Isaiah and Paul have written?
• The truth that out of the day of the Lord will come the birth of the kingdom.
• Live expectantly.
• This does not mean sitting around doing nothing and waiting for the Lord’s return.
• This is the very attitude that God condemned in Acts 1:10-11.
• There is a difference between being ready to go to heaven and being ready to meet the Lord.
• Anyone who has trusted in Christ for salvation is ready to go to heaven.
• But being ready to meet Jesus at the Judgment Seat is another matter all together.
• Scriptures tell us that not all believers will be happy to see Jesus face to face.
• 1 John 2:28 says, “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.”
• Believers who live in the expectation of the Lord’s return will certainly enjoy a better life than Christians who compromise with the Lord.
III. Soberness and Drunkenness (verses 6-8)
• To be sober minded means to be alert, to live with your eyes open, to be sane and steady.
• To make the contrast more vivid, Paul pictured two groups of people: one group was drunk and asleep, while the other group was awake and alert.
• Danger was coming but the drunken sleepers were unaware of it.
• The alert crowd was ready and unafraid.
• Since we are the “sons of the day” we should not live as those who belong to the darkness.
• In other words, because “the day” is approaching, it is time to wake up, clean up, and dress up.
• The sober minded believer has a calm, sane outlook on life.
• He is not complacent, but neither is he frustrated and afraid.
• He knows he is secure in God’s hands.
• But the unsaved people of the world are not alert.
• They are like drunken men, living in a false paradise and enjoying a false security.
• “Hope of Salvation” does not mean the hope that at last we will be saved.
• A person can know today that he is saved and going to heaven.
• “Hope of salvation” means the hope that salvation gives to us.
• There are actually three tenses to salvation.
1. Past – I have been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin.
2. Present – I am being saved from the power and pollution of sin.
3. Future – I shall be saved from the very presence of sin when Christ returns.
• Paul repeated the word sleep several times in these verses to describe the attitude of the lost world. In these verses in contrast to 4:13-18, sleep does not mean death. It means moral indifference and carelessness about spiritual things.
IV. Salvation and Judgment (verses 9-11)
• Believers do not have to fear judgment because it is not part of God’s appointed plan for us.
• I do not believe that Christians will have to go through the Day of the Lord, the awful period of judgment that God will send upon the world.
• Christians have always gone through tribulation, since is a part of dedicated Christian living.
• But they will not go through the Tribulation that is appointed for the godless world.
• There are several reasons why I believe this:
1. The nature of the church.
• The church is the body of Christ, and He is the Head.
• When he died on the cross, He bore for us all the divine judgment necessary for our salvation.
• He has promised that we shall never taste of any of God’s wrath.
2. The nature of the tribulation
• This is the time when God will judge the Gentile nations (the unsaved) and also purge Israel (the Saved) and prepare her for the coming of her Messiah.
• The “earth dwellers” will taste of God’s wrath and not those whose citizenship is in heaven.
3. The order of events in 2 Thessalonians 2.
• Paul connected the return of Christ with the redemption He purchased for us on the cross.
Many believers have such a comfortable situation here on earth that they rarely think about going to heaven and meeting the Lord. They forget that they must one day stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It helps to hold us up and builds us up when we recall that Jesus is coming again. Are you truly ready for it? Let’s pray, then we will be dismissed.