Summary: 7th is series on 1 Thessalonians (7 of 8).
THE DAY OF THE LORD
INTRO: Jesus Christ both unites and divides. Those who have trusted in Him as Saviour 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 the contrasts between believers and unbelievers.
I. KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE (vv. 1-2).
Three phrases in these verses need careful consideration.
1. Times and Seasons. This phrase is found only three times in the Bible (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7), 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 accomplishes some special purpose.
3. Thief in the night. Jesus used this image in His own teaching (Matt. 24:42-43; Luke 12:35-40). It describes the suddenness and the surprise involved in the coming of the Day of the Lord.
In Rev. 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 had 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.
His emphasis here was simply that the 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 (vv. 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 the 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 “travail upon a woman with child” (v.3). Even with our modern medical skills, birth pangs are very real and very painful (see Isa. 13:6-13 and Matt. 24:8).
What truth do Isaiah, Jesus, and Paul teach us? 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 (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. Scriptures tell us that not all believers will be happy to see Jesus (1 John 2:28).
Believers who live in the expectation of the Lord’s return will certainly enjoy a better life that Christians who compromise with the world.
III. SOBERNESS AND DRUNKEN-NESS (vv. 6-8).
To be soberminded 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.