1 Thessalonians 5 (ESV)
No man knows when God’s call will come for him and there are certain things that cannot be left until the last moment. It is too late to prepare for an examination when the examination paper is before you. It is too late to make the house secure when the storm has burst. When Queen Mary of Orange was dying, her chaplain wished to read to her. She answered, “I have not left this matter till this hour.” It was similar with an old Scotsman to whom someone offered comforting sayings near the end. The old man’s reply was, “Ah thatched ma hoose when the weather was warm.” If a call comes suddenly, it need not find us unprepared. The man who has lived all his life with Christ is never unprepared to enter his nearer presence.
The Day of the Lord
In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 the apostle Paul is discussing the theological doctrine of eschatology, the doctrine of last things. This all centers around the phrase, “The day of the Lord,” found in verse 2. So we must have an understanding of the biblical meaning of the phrase, “the day of the Lord.” Here we get into deep and dearly held beliefs about the end times — churches have split over these things! — none of which I am going to address in this blog. All I will say to you, readers, is that I think “the day of the Lord” is a period of time in which many major events are going to take place — the second coming of Christ, for example, and the battle of Armageddon, the final defeat of Satan, the judgment at the great white throne, the establishing of a new heaven and new earth. Paul tells us to be alert, to be prepared, and to be comforted, for the Lord’s promise is sure!
1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
John Trapp (1601-1669) on as labor pains upon a pregnant woman: “1. Certainly; 2. Suddenly; 3. Irresistibly, inevitably.”
4But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
In some respect, the coming of Jesus will be a surprise for everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But for Christians who know the times and the seasons, it will not be a complete surprise. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but some live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, who live as they are all sons of light and sons of the day, these are ready for the return of Jesus.
But if we are in darkness – perhaps caught up in some of the sin Paul warned against previously in this letter – then we are not ready and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus.
6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Paul used the images of a soldier’s armor to illustrate the idea of watchfulness. A soldier is a good example of someone who must watch and be sober, and he is equipped to do that with his armor.
When one compares this description of spiritual armor with that found in Ephesians 6, there is not an exact correlation. This indicates that Paul saw the idea of spiritual armor as a helpful picture, not something rigid in its particular details.
Faith and love are represented by the breastplate because the breastplate covers the vital organs. No soldier would ever go to battle without his breastplate, and no Christian is equipped to live the Christian life without faith and love.
The hope of salvation is represented as a helmet, because the helmet protects the head, which is just as essential as the breastplate. Hope isn’t used in the sense of wishful thinking, but in the sense of a confident expectation of God’s hand in the future.
9For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Romans 14:8 (NIV)
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
From Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, HERE is “In Paradisum.” Composed in 1888, and sung here by La Chapelle Royale under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe.
- In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.
- May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.
11Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Final Instructions and Benediction
12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This verse gives us three marks of a genuine Church.
(i) It is a happy Church. There is in it that atmosphere of joy which makes its members feel that they are bathed in sunshine. True Christianity is an exhilarating and not a depressing thing.
(ii) It is a praying Church. Maybe our Church’s prayers would be more effective if we remembered that “they pray best together who also pray alone.”
(iii) It is a thankful Church. There is always something for which to give thanks; even on the darkest day there are blessings to count.
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
Scripture also tells us not to resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:21),
not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30),
and not to insult the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:29).
20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good.
22Abstain from every form of evil.
23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
25 Brothers, pray for us.
There is a place where thou canst touch the eyes
Of blinded men to instant, perfect sight;
There is a place where thou canst say, “Arise”
To dying captives, bound in chains of night;
There is a place where thou canst reach the store
Of hoarded gold and free it for the Lord;
There is a place–upon some distant shore–
Where thou canst send the worker and the Word.
Where is that secret place–dost thou ask, “Where?”
O soul, it is the secret place of prayer!
26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
27I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.