(Please read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. I used the NIV to research these remarks.)
Jesus’ Second Coming motivates us to be prepared.
You may have heard there is a football game today. The winner will take a place among football immortality, the loser scorned. I can tell you that from personal experience, having backed Super Bowl losers eight times.
Still, I don’t suppose the losing team at today’s game with have to bear the scorn that one college football coach suffered at the hands of the alumni after a few losing seasons and a particularly embarrassing loss to their traditional rival. He received a text the next day which read, THE NEXT BUS OUT OF TOWN LEAVES IN AN HOUR. BE UNDER IT!
Obviously, that is not the kind of message we who believe ought to be sending one another. Throwing one another under the bus is behavior best left alone.
God commands us to do just the opposite, to encourage and build each other up. Church families are functional families when we put each other in a greater priority one another than ourselves.
Love is to be the chief motive for this behavior, but in this passage Paul offers another powerful motive. Jesus is coming again. He will appear at any time and He wants to find His people following His commands. Since His coming can happen at any time, we want to be ready NOW.
- Somebody’s going to be surprised. (1-3)
But it wasn’t going to be the Thessalonians. They understood the TIMES and DATES. Paul had confidence that they didn’t “need” a reminder. He knew they were looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus and were preparing for it. The words he chose have particular meaning: TIMES meant indefinite chronological eras, like a king who was currently reigning. When would his reign end? Who knew? DATES to us would refer to appointments on our calendars, but in the Greek, it was “opportune moments.”
Paul was sure the believers in Thessalonica had spiritual maturity to see the signs of the times and take advantage of opportune moments as they occurred. This is the same kind of message expressed in Hebrews 10:25: we are to increase our encouragement of one another as we SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.
The expression THE DAY OF THE LORD references the Second Coming of Jesus. The phrase is primarily found in the Old Testament; it appears just five times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it looks ahead to the Messiah; to His overthrow of God’s enemies, the persecutors of His people, and the establishing of His eternal kingdom on earth. Sound familiar?
The Jews believed there were two TIMES that divided human history. The present, evil age would come to an end when the Messiah appeared and a new, golden age would replace it. This concept carried over into the New Testament writers (understandably; it was written mostly by Jews) who saw Jesus as the Messiah and associated the DAY OF THE LORD with the Second Coming of Jesus. (As – for example – Paul does here.)
Though we’ve been warned, it will happen suddenly. The warning is in advance, but not immediately before. For example, there will be no countdown, like on New Year’s Eve.
Paul uses an image of suddenness that will catch some surprised and unprepared: Jesus’ Second Coming will be like “a thief in the night.” The emphasis here is on suddenness, not on illegality or stealth. His Second Coming will begin the Day of Judgment, the ultimate legal proceeding, judging the entire human race. His Second Coming will not be stealthy, it will be obvious and every person, world-wide, will know who He is and why He has come. Those who are prepared will react with praise. Those who are unprepared will react with horror. We are to wake each morning and live each day as if it were our last because there are two immanent and sudden events: death and the Second Coming.
The other part of the THIEF image is that even though one doesn’t usually know when a thief will come, one can prepare for him in the daylight and in advance. For example, in our time, we can do things to our homes to deter and discourage thievery. From something simple like locking our doors to something complex like a security alarm, we can do stuff to protect ourselves. Americans are expected to spend more than 35 billion dollars on home security in 2017!
This illustrates preparedness without knowing the moment will occur. That is how we think about the Second Coming. We will not be surprised that it happens because we have been preparing for the moment every day of our life.
- Somebody’s going to be prepared.
Paul contrasts those who are prepared with those who are unprepared for the Second Coming.
Prepared (Believers) Unprepared (Unbelievers)
Children o/t Light. Belonging to the Darkness.
– Know & accept the truth. – Reject the truth.
– Do good. – Do evil.
Children of the Day. Belonging to the Night.
– Good reputation, – Bad reputation, based
based on godly char. sinful character.
– Things are seen. – Things are hidden.
Alert. Asleep and drunk.
– Accurate view of self. – Purposely ignorant of self.
– High moral ambition. – Low/no moral ambition.
– Spiritual sensitivity. – Worldly sensitivity.
– Practices self-denial. – Practices self-indulgence.
– Priorities in order. – Disordered priorities.
– Takes responsibility. – Makes excuses.
Those who are prepared exercise their preparations daily. Prepared people put on spiritual armor (8). In our passage, the armor pieces listed are the BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE and the HELMET OF THE HOPE OF SALVATION. See Ephesians 6 for a more complete use of this imagery. Why armor? Because God wants to protect us from the enemy’s attacks and help us to stand on the day of trial.
Prepared people encourage each other in order to build up our shared faith (11). There’s an entire message to be had there!
Finally, let us claim the promises to the prepared. First, GOD DID NOT APPOINT US TO SUFFER WRATH BUT TO RECEIVE SALVATION (v. 9). Second, whether we are AWAKE OR ASLEEP (alive or dead) WE MAY LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM (10). Eternal life is the prize awaiting the prepared.
We don’t all like surprises, do we? They frequently they end up blowing up in the face of the person plotting the surprise. For example, in May of last year, college student McKenna Pilling’s mom wanted to surprise her by breaking into her dorm room and laying on the bed. She got into the room, laid down on the bed and took a selfie. She texted this picture to her daughter with the text, “Guess where I am. Where are you?”
Her daughter tweeted back, “Don’t tell me you are in the wrong dorm room.” It was then that her mother realized she’d broken into the wrong room.
McKenna later wrote, “She came to surprise me from New York City to help clean out my dorm and apparently walked in the wrong dorm. No one was in there so she laid down for five minutes in the wrong bed and decided to send me a picture as a surprise.”
McKenna’s tweet has been retweeted a total of over 13,000 times and favorited over 28,000 times. In this information age, news of our failed surprises can become world-wide news!
As bad as that was, it is a much more serious fail to be caught unprepared for the second coming of Jesus. By accepting Him as Savior and living for Him as Lord can you avoid the worst surprise ever; being unprepared for the Savior’s appearing. There will be worse consequences to that surprise than world-wide embarrassment.