Main point summary
Stand strong and alert in the sure knowledge of your identity and salvation, and continue encouraging one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning w the times and the seasons, brothers, 1 x you have no need to have anything written to you.
Now having considered the rapture of believers, let's turn our attention to the many and various events and occurrences that are yet to come on God's calendar of judgment. Of course, you don't really need us to remind you of all of this,
(1-3) I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.
For you yourselves are fully aware that y the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
because we taught, and you learned well, that this day of the Lord, this time of judgment, is going to come unannounced and unbidden to a people unprepared.
While people are saying, “There is peace and security,”
Even as people are congratulating themselves on how safe the world is, and how they have nothing at all to worry about,
then z sudden destruction will come upon them a as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
that is the time when calamity will strike them. To use an analogy, think about what a woman delivering a baby experiences--increasing, frequent, and painful pressure. So will this time be for those who have rejected salvation. There won't be any way out for them; the time of opportunity will have passed.
But you b are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
However, you don't have to be concerned about suffering in the same way, brothers! Take heart, because you aren't deluded and you won't be taken by surprise. Your pathway to heaven is lit by floodlights; no walking in the dark for you.
(4-8) But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
For you are all c children 1 of light, children of the day.
Because your Father is Light, your status as children characterized by light is secure.
We are not of the night or of the darkness.
No, we no longer belong to that darkness from which we were delivered; that's not our identity any longer.
So then d let us not sleep, as others do,
For this reason, let's not behave like those who are spiritually anesthetized to the coming judgment, unaware and unconcerned.
but let us e keep awake and f be sober.
Instead, let's be those who keep our eyes peeled, alert and aware of all that is going on around us and all that God has for us to do.
For those who sleep, sleep at night,
When it's night, it's time to sleep, right?
and those who get drunk, g are drunk at night.
When people want the oblivion of intoxication, they tend to seek the darkness for such behavior, don't they?
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober,
But when you look around, you can see that you're standing in the broad daylight of God's kingdom, and you know this isn't the time for groggy thinking or indulgent living. No, let's remain fully alert and in our right minds at all times.
h having put on the breastplate of i faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Like a soldier ready for battle, arm yourself with light. Wear faith in God and love for God like a Kevlar vest over your heart. Strap the sturdy helmet of your steadfast hope in the coming salvation of God over your mind and thoughts.
For God has not destined us for j wrath,
Here is your promise to cling to: Our eternal future does not in any way include experiencing the punishment of God.
(9-11) God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
but k to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Quite the opposite! Through Jesus Christ our Lord we stand fully clothed in grace, possessing a sure salvation from the judgment to come.
l who died for us
He bore the full punishment of our sins already on the cross, absorbing every bit of God's righteous judgment on sin in our place.
so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Because of his sacrificial death on our behalf, we get to live with him forever whether our physical bodies are dead or alive.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
In light of all of this glorious truth, strengthen each other and do all you can to bring hope and courage to your fellow believers,
just as you are doing.
even as we know you already do and will continue to do all the more.
This is the main point of the passage, encouragement of the believers.
Another reason we are to be encouraged is our final destiny: not wrath but salvation!
The believer's identity is cause for great encouragement: we are not going to be judged as those who do not believe will be. (continued in 5a, 5b, 8a)
This is the hope of the gospel, Christ absorbing all of God's wrath in our place.
Observations This passage immediately follows the teaching in 4:13-18 about the rapture of the church, and goes on to describe what comes next, the second coming of the Lord. The purpose is to provide comfort and encouragement (v.11). Just as believers don't need to fear missing the rapture in death (4:17), neither do we need to fear the coming judgment of the Lord on those who reject salvation. "Times and seasons" (v.1) correlate to "the day of the Lord" (v.2) and "that day" (v.4), a time of judgment by God. There will be many events and many times within this final time period of redemptive history. Those who will experience it are the ones not taken up to be with the Lord (4:13-18). The Lord's coming is compared to two things: labor pains (which are increasing, frequent, and painful; and which you know are coming but whose timing you can't predict), and a thief in the night (who causes loss, and always arrives unannounced). The words "sleep" and "awake" are used in two different ways. In v.6 we are not to sleep , but to be awake and sober , meaning to be aware of our eternal destiny and to live in the light of that knowledge. Those who do not believe are asleep in the sense of being spiritually dead. But in v.10 we live with Jesus whether we are awake or asleep , and this shifts back to the way "falling asleep" is used as a metaphor for death in the previous passage (4:13-18), meaning whether we live or die before the Lord's coming, our eternity will be spent with Him. Paul again refers to the triad of faith, hope, and love (v.8), also found in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, as well as 1 Corinthians 13. The passage compares two kinds of people or identities, two ways of living, and two destinies. Two identities/kinds of people: People who are of the night or of the darkness (v.4,5) People who are children of light and of the day (v.5), who belong to the day (v.8) Two ways of living: Living in spiritual darkness, under a delusion, claiming there is "peace and security" when there is sudden destruction (v.3); unprepared and unaware (v.2,3); asleep and drunk (v.7) Living in spiritual light, fully aware of Christ's imminent return (v.2), awake and sober (v.6,8), protected by faith, love, and the hope of salvation (v.8) Two destinies: Destined for wrath (v.9), sudden destruction they will not escape (v.3), living eternally separated from God (v.10) Destined to obtain salvation through Jesus (v.9)--who has already absorbed the full wrath of God in our place, and to live with Him eternally (v.10) A great corollary passage is Romans 13:11-14: " 11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." As with our passage in 1 Thessalonians, Paul commands believers to live out their identity by being alert and by putting on the "armor of light"--including the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation from v.8. Darkness is for sinful living, but we are called to put away all such things and walk properly in the light. Take-aways The commands: "let us not sleep", but "let us keep awake and be sober" (v.6), and again "let us be sober" (v.8) "Encourage one other and build one another up" (v.10) The means to obey: Christ died for us so that we might live with him (v.10); through his death we are made children of light (v.5) We are fully aware, not unprepared for his coming (v.2,4) We are in the light, not hindered from knowing truth, not deluded by false promises (v.5,3) We have the hope of salvation, and are also protected by faith and love (v.8) The motive to obey: It is our destiny to obtain salvation, to live forever with God (v.9,10) The anchors for obedience: Prior teaching (v.1, 2) about the Lord's return This is living out of our true identity as children of light, who belong to the day (v.5,8) The gospel reminds us that this identity comes from the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf (v.9,10) Next steps: I will be joining a Bible study group studying 1 Thessalonians this fall, which is an opportunity to continue building on what I've learned and continuing to apply it to the passages I have not yet studied. I think this will really reinforce the skills I'm working on and give me good opportunities to both share with others and receive their feedback on my studies. Over the winter, I hope to come back here for the next course.