Summary: The day of the Lord and the children of Light.
The Apostle has already spoken concerning the status of the Christian dead at the return of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Now he turns his attention to the question of preparedness for the day of the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:1. It would be superfluous for Paul to write to the brethren in Thessalonica about the “times and seasons”, presumably because he had already taught them.
There are two Greek words for time used here:
1. “Chronos” (from which we have the English word ‘chronology’) which speaks here of a marked duration of time, and
2. “Kairos” which speaks here of a destined time.
Jesus had already taught His disciples (using the same two “time” words), ‘it is not yours to know “times and seasons” which the Father placed in His own authority’ (Acts 1:7). This is similar to Jesus’ comment about ‘that day and the hour’ (cf. Mark 13:32).
1 Thessalonians 5:2. The Thessalonian Christians already “accurately know that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” This is not the first time in this book that the Apostle has reminded the Thessalonians what they already know. Throughout Scripture “the day of the Lord” is bad news for unbelievers, but good news for believers (cf. John 3:19-21).
1 Thessalonians 5:3. The suddenness of ‘the day of the Lord’ is demonstrated in the fact that people will have the words “Peace and security” on their lips when ‘there is no peace’ for them (cf. Jeremiah 6:14)! Upon such will come “sudden destruction.” There are echoes here of what Jesus said about the coming of the Son of man being like the days of Noah (cf. Matthew 24:37-39).
This suddenness is further illustrated by the inevitability of a heavily pregnant woman going into labour. There is “no escape” from it.
1 Thessalonians 5:4. “But you (all), brethren, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief.” If we are in the light, we need not fear that day.
The word translated “overtake” is the same word as is translated ‘come (suddenly) upon’ in Jesus’ warning: ‘Walk while you (all) have the light, lest darkness “come upon” you’ (cf. John 12:35).
1 Thessalonians 5:5. “All” is emphasised at the beginning of this verse. “Sons” is repeated twice: “All you (all) are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” As “sons” of the new “day” (which dawned with Christ), who we are in Christ Jesus has nothing to do with “darkness”!
1 Thessalonians 5:6. Speaking metaphorically, Paul warns that we should not “sleep” like others, but should “watch and be sober.” This is a call to wakeful watchfulness.
1 Thessalonians 5:7. Sleep and drunkenness are reasons why people might not be ready for the return of Jesus. These are normally night-time activities, associated with darkness. The metaphor is pointing us towards a kind of spiritual stupor which comes over those who are unready.
‘Take heed to yourselves,’ warns Jesus, ‘lest at any time your hearts be weighed down with overindulgence, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and (so) that day come upon you unexpectedly” (cf. Luke 21:34).
1 Thessalonians 5:8. “But we being of the day should be sober” - exercising self-control - “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” This is not the first time that the triad of ‘faith, love and hope’ has appeared in this letter (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). Here they are seen as part of the spiritual armour of the Christian (cf. Isaiah 59:17; Ephesians 6:14-17).
1 Thessalonians 5:9. “For God did not appoint us to wrath” (cf. Romans 8:1), “but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. John 3:17). Our future salvation is based in God’s purposes.
1 Thessalonians 5:10. Our Lord Jesus Christ “died for us” [died as a substitute for us (cf. Mark 10:45), taking upon Himself the penalty of our sins (cf. Romans 6:23) that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21)]. Our future life is only made possible through Christ’s death - “that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (Cf. Romans 14:8-9).
1 Thessalonians 5:11. “Wherefore encourage one another and build up one another, even as you (all) are doing.”