The Christian’s Hope, Part 12

In this week’s message titled, WATCH AND BE SOBER (1 Thes. 5:1-6), we shifted our focus from the moment in time that Jesus raptures (i.e. snatches) His bride/the church off the planet (1 Thes. 4:17, 1 Cor. 15:51-52; Eph. 3:5, 9-10; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7, etc.) to the days that would immediately follow…

God’s words, “But concerning,” shows a change of subject from the church’s removal and glorification to “the day of the Lord” (1 Thes. 5:1-2, etc.). “The day of the Lord” (AKA “the time of Jabob’s trouble”) is the subject of much Bible prophesy with nearly all the Old Testament prophets addressing it directly- and it is for Israel (Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-15, etc.). While there have been days of the Lord in the past, Jesus and the Bible shows us the greatest and final “day of the Lord” when holy God begins to pour out His wrath on the unbelieving world lies ahead of our planet in a period of time Christ calls the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21-22; Luke 21:35; see the book of Revelation chapters 6 through 19, etc.).

Just like Jesus’ First Coming was a period of time (i.e. from His virgin birth- Immanual- to the day He ascended into heaven bodily), His Second Coming/the day of the Lord will also encompass a period of time (beginning with the rapture of the church, followed by the seven-year tribulation period before Jesus physically returns to earth to establish His millennial kingdom- Dan. 9:22-27; Mark 13:20; Zech. 14:4; Rev. 19:11-21, etc.). At the conclusion of that time, God will keep His promises to the nation Israel saving her by grace through faith because He is faithful to His Word (Gen. 15:1-21; Rom. 11:25-29; Jer. 31:35-37; Zech. 13:8; 12:10; 14:9; Dan. 12:1; Heb. 6:13-18; Ps. 89:3, 34-37, etc.).

The statement, “times and seasons” is used only on two other occasions in the Bible- both to refer to Israel like it is here (i.e. 1 Thes. 5:1; Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). In Daniel chapter 2 it is referring to Israel as it is under the domination of non-Jewish nations (“the times of the Gentiles”) possessing no Davidic King (Dan. 2:19-46- see also Daniel chapter 7; Luke 21:24), and in the Acts account it is Jesus responding to the disciples’ question about when God would “RESTORE THE KINGDOM TO ISRAEL”? (Acts 1:6). Jesus did not say He would not fulfill the kingdom promise to the nation Israel, but that it was “not for [them] to know TIMES OR SEASONS which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7; Mark 13:32, etc.). God will keep His promises to Israel- but the kingdom was “not yet” (Heb. 2:5-8, Rom. 16:20; Amos 9:11-15; Ezek. 48:35; Isa 9:6-7; 11:1-9, etc.). “Times” here refers to some chronological periods that will precede Jesus’ Second Coming to earth related to the great tribulation, and “seasons” likewise are certain significant events that will happen during that time before Jesus’ return to earth (e.g. Rev. 8:7-9:21, etc.). The church, in contrast, requires no event to occur before it is removed because Jesus’ return for us is imminent- meaning it will happen without warning and can occur at any moment (1 Thes. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52, etc.).

God’s explanation here in verse 3 of who will face “the Day of the Lord” is crucial for Christians to understand. It is for ‘They… them… they…” (1 Thes. 5:2-3). Paul does not include himself here with this group as he did with the church in 1 Thes. 4:15 and 17, nor does he include the church at Thessalonica or us with this group. The church is gone:“

  • the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when THEY say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon THEM, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And THEY shall not escape” (1 Thes. 5:2b-3).

This is also true for the church in the most detailed exposition of the day of the Lord in Revelation chapters 6 through 18. The church is not there on earth, and Jesus’ bride remains gone until she returns with Him in Revelation chapter 19.

“For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’” most likely refers to the false peace “Antichrist” will set up at the start of the tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:1-3; 1 John 2:18; 2 Thes. 2:2-4, 9, etc.). After the removal of the church, Scripture shows us the world as a whole will be under “strong delusion” and “believe the lie,” but then “sudden destruction” will come upon them “as a thief in the night” (1 Thes. 5:2-3; 2 Thes. 2:11; Dan. 9:27, etc.). Just like labor pains overtake a woman who has gone into full-blown labor, there will be no “escape” in that time for people who live then from the destruction that will come upon the planet (Rev. 15:1; 16:1-3; Luke 21:35, etc.). Jesus declares only His return for Israel (i.e. “the elect”) will prevent all humanity from being annihilated (Matt. 24:21-22; Mark 13:19-20; Rom. 11:28-29; Matt. 25:31-46, Zech. 13:8; Joel 3:14-16, etc.).

“But you, brethren,” God focuses back on His bride- the church now (1 Thes. 5:4). We “are not in darkness so that this Day should overtake [us] as a thief” (1 Thes. 5:4). We, who are saved by grace through faith, should not be surprised by the events that are coming because God has told us about them beforehand (Isa. 45:21-22; 2 Pet. 3:3-4; Rev. 1:3; 19:10; 22:17, etc.). We “are all sons [and daughters] of the light and sons [and daughters] of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness” (1 Thes. 5:5). That is, we are God’s children; He has purchased us with His blood. We are part of His kingdom, and that is where we are heading by grace through faith… It is certain (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:6; Rom. 6:11; Eph. 1:13-14, etc.). Therefore, we SHOULD “NOT SLEEP, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thes. 5:6).

The word “sleep” here is not the same Greek word used for sleep three times in 1 Thes. 4:13-15 that means physical death. Here it is katheúdō, and it means to not be alert- to be sleepwalking! It means to yield to sin (where it remains unconfessed) and to be indifferent to spiritual things. A sleepwalking Christian can have the rapture overtake him or her like a thief (1 John 2:28; 1 Cor. 3:15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10, etc.). Christians instead are to “watch,” like a watchman would look on the horizon for his king’s return, and we are to be “sober” (1 Thes. 5:6). That is, we are to live self-controlled, or really Spirit-controlled lives- denying ourselves as Christ’s disciples when necessary to follow Him (1 Thes. 5:6; Jude 21; Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:17, 22-23; 1 John 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:11-13, etc.). To do this, we need to remember it is not us, but God in us that does this as we die to self and let Him live through us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 12:1-2, etc.).