THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Chapter 5:1-11, Concerning the Day Of The Lord

J. Deering, AncientPath.net


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1 THESSALONIANS[1]

Chapter 5, Verses 1-11, "Concerning the Day of The Lord"

Chapter 5, Verses 13-18, "Concerning Duties"

Chapter 5, Verses 25-28, "Conclusion


 

Chapter 5, Verses 1-11, "Concerning the Day of The Lord"

 

The Thessalonian believers were concerned not only about the fate of loved ones who died before the return of Jesus Christ but also they wanted to know something about when the event would occur. When Paul, and his companions, had asked Jesus He told them that He could not give them any new light on the question (Mark 13:3-4). Paul, in the book of Acts (1:7), asked them to wait patiently and work hard in the meantime. Paul now tries to show his readers that certain things about the coming of the Lord are more important than whether they would be alive when it occurred.

 


 

The Meaning of the Day of the Lord
5:1 But now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. 5:2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night.

 

Many passages speak of the day of the Lord, or "that day" in many other passages (Isa. 2:12; 4; 13:9-11; Joel 1:15 ff; Amos 5:18; Zeph 1:14-16; 3:14 ff). A study of these and other passages will show that the Day of the Lord is a time of specific judgment and blessing. It is a time when God deals with the Nation of Israel and the world in judgment for its sin; a period of great tribulation on earth (The Tribulation, the Seventieth Week of Daniel), but it is also a time of blessing when the earth shall enjoy the personal reign of Christ during the millennium. A time of wrath and judgment on the wicked, followed by the era of peace when Christ will rule over the earth.

 

In this passage Paul is only discussing its coming. Note that the first word in this passage is "but," indicating a contrast. The preceding subject was the rapture of the living and the resurrection of the dead in Christ, which was a mystery to these new testament believers (not taught in the O. T.). This "Day of the Lord" should have been known by them very well. But its coming could have been confusing for them. Paul states that the characteristics of the "Day of the Lord" would be as a thief would come in the night. The main characteristic would be its unexpectedness (not that He is coming as a thief) - many would be unaware and unprepared for His coming not knowing that it can happen at any time and it will not be announced beforehand. This was a clear warning to them to be knowledgeable and to be expectant of this event.


 

The Method of the Day of the Lord

5:3 But when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.

 

The verse is introduced with a contrast between "you, my brothers and sisters," and "they." This is an obvious contrast between the believer and the unbeliever. At first glance we could come to the conclusion that Paul is saying that there are those believers who watch and those who don't, but in later verses (5:5) Paul makes reference to those who are in the light and those who are in the darkness. He uses this language elsewhere and it is uses as a separation of believers (you) and the rest of the world (They).

 

He indicates the condition of the unbelieving world is one of being unconscious of the plan of God. For them there is no expected penalty for their disobedience to God. Why should they be looking for destruction because of their disobedience when they have not God and therefore have no reason to either know or understand that which awaits their unbelief. Ignorance is not bliss. They say "there is peace and security," but as the songwriter says about the believer, only they are "safe and secure from all alarms."[2]

 

"Then sudden destruction," or "Then suddenly destruction" comes upon them. We're still contrasting the believer and the unbeliever and the attention is upon the unbeliever. Suddenly, without warning... Well, if we follow the simile those who are pregnant[3] are expecting the pains, but they do come without warning. There is no little light that comes on five minutes before the pains begin. Just because the world knows not God, does not mean that they are unaware of much of His just demands upon them and their lives. There are no atheists, only those who report that there is no god. His word makes it very clear that all are knowledgeable and without excuse just by His acts of creation (His wrath is expected – but it will come without warning).


 

The last clause in this verse settles the issue of the power of God "in that Day," the Day of the Lord, "They will surely not escape." Luke says, "But be on your guard so that your (Luke is speaking to the unsaved hearts Jews and Greeks here) are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth".[4]


 

NOTE: Some clarification on Paul's use of the word "Rapture."

The Scriptures present SIX raptures. Four have already taken place. Two are still to come.

 

The Four Raptures that have already taken place:

1 – Enoch – Taken up from Earth to Heaven without experiencing death

 

2 - Elijah – Taken up from Earth to Heaven without experiencing death

(Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5; 2 Kings 2:1, 11)

 

3 - When the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 12:5)

 

4 - When Paul referred to the rapture of a man (probably Paul himself) to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

 

(Paul used the same verb there, translated caught up, as is used in Revelation 12:5 for the Lord's ascension and in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 for the church's Rapture)

 

5 - The other future rapture will occur when the two witnesses of the future Tribulation period ascend to heaven after God has resurrected them from death (Revelation 11:3; 11-12).

 

6 - The future foretold event in the Bible, the coming of Christ to take His bride, the church.

 

Most theologians call this "the Rapture" - from the Latin verb rapto, which means to seize and carry off - because 1 Thessalonians 4:17 states that the church will be "caught up" to meet the Lord in the air. Other theologians have called this event "the Translation," taking that name from the Latin word translatio meaning transporting or transferring because Christ will transport the church from one location to another at that time.



 

A Description of the Rapture of the Church

Three key New Testament passages deal with the Rapture of the church: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. When taken together, the three present the following description:

 

1.  Christ will descend with a shout and blast of a trumpet from the Father's house in heaven to the air above the earth (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). When these church saints died, their souls left their bodies and went to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).

2.  The souls of dead church saints will descend from heaven with Christ at this coming (1 Thessalonians 4:14). When these church saints died, their souls left their bodies and went to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).
3.  The bodies of dead church saints will be raised as immortal, incorruptible bodies and will be reunited with their returning souls (1 Corinthians 15:42-44; 52-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16).
4.  The bodies of church saints who have not died before this coming of Christ will be changed instantly into immortal, incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
5.  Both the resurrected and changed church saints will be caught up together to meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17; John 14:3).
6.  The church saints will return with Christ to His Father's house in heaven to dwell with Him in living accommodations He has prepared there for them (John 14:2-3).

 

The Scriptures indicate the Rapture of the church will take place suddenly, not as a process stretched out over an extended period of time. As mentioned, "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means to "snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly." At that time the bodies of church saints will be changed "in a moment" (an amount of time so brief it cannot be cut or divided), "in the twinkling of an eye" (the extremely short time it takes to cast a glance with the eyes) [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].

 

At the end of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul presented a significant result of the church's being raptured from the earth. Not only will we resurrected and changed church saints be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, but "so shall we ever be with the Lord." We will never be separated from Him again. Wherever Christ goes, we will go. We will be with Him always, at all times. The word translated "ever" in Paul's declaration indicates this.

This result of the Rapture corresponds with the Lord's declared purpose for coming again to receive church saints to Himself: "that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3; cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:10).[5]

 

My side note... It may not yet be obvious to you, but with the removal of the believers from the face of the earth - so also the Holy Spirit who indwells us returns to heaven as well. The resulting absence of the Holy Spirit (the restrainer) removes all righteousness from the planet (with the exception of those in whom God specifically places His holy spirit for the purposes of the Tribulation which follows this rapture).

 


 

NOTE: Some clarification on Paul's use of "The Day of the Lord," and "That Day."

 

Throughout the Old and New Testament there is reference to these two terms. The New Testament adds a "The Day of Jesus Christ." In many references both condemnation (destruction) and blessing are mentioned. Much of the focus of the period of time is upon the Nation of Israel and is often called "the purging of Israel." This refers to the removal of unbelief among the Jewish people. In other places it is clear that this is not just a local event but a world inclusive event with its focus upon the Nation of Israel.

 

Paul's thrust in our text is that this "Day" is coming. He also discloses that believers will be raptured (taken up to heaven) and united with Him previous to "This Day." Thus the wrath of God and then His blessing upon the world and the Nation of Israel is not a concern for the worry of believers - but is a matter for our information. Paul does not want believers ignorant concerning His eternal plan for His Jewish people - but it is apart from His eternal plan for those in the "Church Age," ("Christians," Christ through the Rapture of the Church).

 

On the next page is a simple TimeLine for New Testament Prophetic Events.

The Day of the Lord would begin with the Rapture (end of the Church Age) and end with the end of the Millennium (the beginning of Eternity). Scholars see this time ("That Day") as broken down into three periods of emphasis. The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus would be termed "The Day of Christ," but only in terms of its relationship to the whole "Day." The same with "The Day of the Lord," with its emphasis upon the Wrath and Blessing of the transition of the Tribulation to the Millennium, and finally "The Day of God," with its emphasis upon the White Throne Judgments and the entering into Eternity for believers. It should be remembered that while there are these differentiating terms with their emphasis upon different segments of time or events - they all refer to the Wrath and Blessing of the works of God on behalf of the Nation of Israel from the end of the Rapture to the Eternal state, and thusly all fall under the general terms of "That Day" and "The Day of the Lord."


 

5:4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day(That Day) to overtake you like a thief would. 5:5 For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness.

 

Verse 4 reminds us that there is a "great divide" between believers, "Children of the Light" and unbelievers "Children of the Darkness." It would be good to remember Jesus' telling of the "Rich man and the poor man" who died and went to Abraham's bosom. There was a great divide between those who believed God and those who did not. The difference between belief and unbelief is no small matter - it is a great "gulf."

 

Paul, calling the Thessalonians his brothers and sisters, tells them that because of their Faith in Christ they are not children of "the darkness" but children of "the light."

 

It is very important that we understand those who have their faith in Christ are forever changed and have their whole existence removed from "darkness" and placed into "the light." With our act of faith we change from being "children of disobedience," to "children of obedience." This is an act of God, a proclamation. It is outside our immediate experience. In doctrinal terms it is called our "Standing." In the mind of God we become something entirely new from what we were before. We become "His," and we are no longer creatures of this world.

 

Now, when we sin and are disobedient we do so as His Children. We no longer can become "children of disobedience." We will never be them again. When we sin it is a matter of fellowship, not of salvation. So when Paul writes about "Children of disobedience," or "Children of the Darkness," he is always speaking of those who refuse to place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. They are disobedient in the only matter that makes any difference - they refuse to believe. It makes the difference between Heaven and Hell.


 

(Children of the light VS the “rest”)

5:6 So then we must not sleep as the rest, but must stay alert and sober.

 

So then... since we are now changed into "Children of the Light," we should not be sleeping "in the light." We should be staying "alert and sober." We should be wide awake in the things of Christ, wide awake in our expectation of His return for us - and then His return for the "purging of Israel" (the Tribulation). That is His next great step in history and we should be alert and waiting for it expectantly.

 

Sober carries with it two meanings. The first relates to being responsible, upright, diligent, and attentive. We'll see in the next few verses the second meaning as an illustration of the opposite of responsible, upright, diligent, and attentive - the drunkard who attempts to escape the responsibilities, pressures and pain of life through drink. But it would be wise to remember to put the emphasis upon the problem. These unbelievers are living as unbelievers live, not responsible, not upright, not diligent, and not attentive... (as if drunk) to the things of God. Rightly understood, the verses are not making a statement about drunkenness but about the similarity of drunkenness to the whole life of the unbeliever. Certainly the vast majority of unbelievers are not drunks - but God's definition of the unbeliever is as a drunk, avoiding the ultimate responsibility of life - the reception of Jesus Christ as Savior.


 

5:7 For those who sleep, sleep at night and those who get drunk are drunk at night.

 

The unbeliever is characterized as sleeping at night or getting drunk at night. Clearly, as we said before, the vast majority of unbelievers act everyday just like normal, they even sleep at night when it is dark - but there are some unbelievers who act like drunkards. The point is that they are unbelievers - some normal, some escaping in drunkenness (or as if by being drunk). They are all in the darkness, sleeping or drunk. Either case - they represent the life of the unbeliever, not responsible, not upright, not diligent, and not attentive to the things of God through unbelief.


 

5:8 But since we are of the day, then we (Children of Light) must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation. 5:9 For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 5:10 He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.

 

BUT - contrasting the unbeliever in the previous verses with who we are In Christ.

 

SINCE - not "if" we are of the day, that has been settled at the Cross for the believer. Since we are of the day (of the light, children of the day, children of the light) proclaimed such by God upon our Faith in Jesus Christ...

 

THEN - indicates a result of the "but - since" statement

 

We-Must-Stay-Sober (all one word in the Greek, literally "let us be sober.") - again, reflecting upon the metaphor of the drunk, we - Children of the Light, are to be "sober," BY PUTTING ON … FAITH AND LOVE!

 

Just as in Verse 6, there is the double meaning of the word "sober." There is the imagery of the drunk and their way of life and there is the dictionary definition of the word (responsible, upright, diligent, and attentive).

 

Educators tell us that there are two basic ways for information (data) to be communicated. Through the ears, and through the eyes. The other senses can be involved as well, but for educational purposes we stress these two. Paul follows that example often. He tells us a truth and then gives us a word picture to ensure that we "get the point" of his information. Jesus used parables - again the truth and a picture. Paul says here - look at this picture of those who are drunk, now listen to these words - but don't confuse the message with the picture.

 

It would do no good to enforce sobriety (non use of alcohol) if the person did not become responsible, upright, diligent, and attentive.

 

Paul then gives us his definition for the one who must stay sober. He uses a military soldier for his word picture here. He will further develop this picture in the next nine to 10 years and he will present it in a fuller form in his epistle to the Ephesians (Chapter 6).

 

First comes the breastplate of faith and love. Even today the military and police training facilities teach "aim at the center of the mass of the body," the center of the chest. Almost all the vital organs are in the chest cavity. As a Christian "soldier" we must protect our vital lives through the protection of FAITH and LOVE. None of the evil one's piercing arrows can get through such a remarkable shield. When you are In-Christ you are protected with this shield - IF you "put on" faith and love. How can that be? First, we must remember that it is our faith that has saved us; it is our faith that has moved us from being "at risk" (like an unbeliever) to being fully protected and secure as a Son of God, adopted by God the Father because of your faith and love for His Son. Then, second, the requirement for self protection is Love. If you truly love your enemy - he can't hurt you. If you truly love them - they may be able to take your life, but they cannot take away your relationship to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. It was Job that said, "though He slay me, yet will I will trust Him."[6]

 

We must also remember that context is NOT saying that because you are children of light – you will be protected from the wiles of the enemy. You are eternally saved by your faith, but not guaranteed protection from the evil one’s actions in your daily walk. However, the daily exercise of Faith and Love can help protect you from falling into his grip.

 

Then secondly Paul speaks of putting on "a helmet, our hope for salvation." It is with our heads that we "hope," so we look to a helmet for our protection, and that helmet is hope.

 

Don't we have salvation, certainly, let me tell you a story. Years ago J. Stuart Briscoe told the story of two students. The first was an honors student. When asked if he was going to graduate, he said, "Oh, I hope so." The second student (much like myself) had serious concerns about being able to even hold an average that could pass as good enough to graduate. When asked if he was going to graduate, he said, "Oh, I hope so." What was the difference between these two "hopes?" The second is nearly "hopeless!" The first was a statement of faith. He was going to graduate no matter what. His graduation was assured; it was as if he already had his diploma. That's the kind of faith that Paul speaks of. He says, "I am In Christ," the hope of my salvation. He does not hope to be saved, but it is Christ that is His hope. It is Christ that is both the author - and the finisher of our faith.

 


[1] All Scriptures from: The NET Bible, Bible.org

[2] "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," Elisha A. Hoffman and Anthony J. Showalter, from the 1943 movie "The Human Comedy." Based upon Deuteronomy 33:27

[3] Birth Pains used in scripture: cf. Isa. 13:6-8; 37:3; Hos. 13:13; Mic. 4:9; Mk 13:8

[4] Luke 21:34-35

[5] Showers, Renald, Introduction, "Maranatha Our Lord, Come!" Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 2007

[6] Job: 13:15 KJV


2013-02-20