1 Thessalonians series -message 10 – 21 June 2020 – 1 Thessalonians 5v1-11

This is the next message recorded during the closure of churches in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. The title of this message is “Be ready.” What does that look like? One thing this passage doesn’t speak about is speculation about the time and debating theories about the millennium. Instead, it has a lot of practical things to say to us.

The video is below, followed by the notes that were sent to members who have no access to the internet.

Introduction

Last week, in chapter 4, we looked at the way we face death – the death of believing loved-ones and also our own. If we die in Christ before He comes, our spirits will be with the Lord and then, when He comes, our bodies will be raised. If we are believers and still alive when He comes, we will be transformed and we will meet Him in the air and we all forever be with the Lord.

But how should that affect us now? Is it some far off thing that we only think about as we get close to death?

Is it something we just sit around waiting for doing nothing, like we would wait for a bus?

No! We are called to live ready. How?

I) Avoid speculation (v1-2)

v1: “times and seasons” – the signs of the end and the timing of the Lord’s return. He doesn’t need to write to them about the timing of the Lord’s coming because… they are “aware” (v2) – they have been taught the truth – that…

The “day of the Lord” (v2) – the day of His coming (2 Peter 3:10) will “come like a thief” – it will appear at a time that we do not expect. So, we need to be ready (Matt 24:43-44).

They knew this (v2). We need to receive this truth also. So many, especially at the moment, are speculating about the timing of the second coming. The Lord will come suddenly, at a time we don’t expect. So we need to be ready.

II) Avoid finding our security in this world (v3)

People were saying “Peace and security.” Compare Jeremiah 6:14.

In Paul’s time, there was the Roman Peace (Pax Romana) because the Roman Empire kept order and protected it from barbarians. For most people then, security and peace came from Rome. Today also, people expect peace and security to come from earthly things. Some of the discontent that we see today towards governments is because people feel that they have failed to provide “peace and security.”

This worldly peace is false peace. The world around presumes there is no judgement but the language of verse 3 is very powerful. It is a stark reminder to Christians about what they have been saved from and a warning for those who attach themselves to the church but are not believers. We need to take His coming seriously.

Notice the description in v3:

  • “Sudden destruction.” It will “come upon them” without warning and brings complete ruin for eternity.
  • Like “labour pains.” Paul uses this illustration to show the suddenness, intensity and certainty that this destruction will come to those who find their “peace and security” on earth. “They will not escape.” Just as there is no escape from labour pains, so there is no escape from the coming judgement.

The most obvious application of this is that we need to share the gospel. Paul doesn’t address this in chapter 5 because he has spoken in 1v8 about how the word of God has “sounded forth” from them. In chapter 5, he restricts himself to their faith and conduct because that is where they were struggling. They needed to know how to live in the light of the coming of Christ. So do we.

Just one more thing, before we move on. The two illustrations of the thief and the coming of labour pains both underline the suddenness of Christ’s coming. The labour pains highlight something else for us. Although the timing cannot be predicted precisely, the labour pains will come – they are expected. While the world does not expect, the believer expects and is ready. I was told by my grandmother that my mother did hardly anything to get ready for my birth. As Christians we cannot be like that. We do not know the day or the hour but we can be ready.

III) Remember what He has done and who you are (v4-5)

v4: “But…” This is a contrast to the world around. The world is sleepwalking into destruction, but we are different.

“…You are not in darkness” – spiritual darkness. You are not ignorant, part of the world of darkness, separated from God.

You are not in darkness because the Lord has saved you. So, “that day” – the day of the Lord – will not “surprise you.” Although we don’t know the day, His coming will not surprise us.

Why?

V5: “For you are all children of the light.” We have been transformed’ we have been brought out of darkness into light. We are in the domain of righteousness, part of the kingdom of God. Light is the sign of living in the knowledge of God and with His favour.

Also:

“Children of the day” – not only living in the light, but living for the Day, the day of the Lord. For the believer, that Day will be the day of blessing.

Therefore:

We are not of “night/darkness”. We do not belong to the present age and we are not in the “darkness” of rebellion against the Lord. We are saved.

IV) So then: stay awake! (v6-8)

V6: “So then” (as a natural consequence of who we are):

“Let us not sleep.” See Mark 13:35-7. Let us not live in a state of spiritual indifference. Let us not live as if we are unaware of the Lord.

“…as others do…” – or “as the rest”. That is, those that don’t belong to Christ. We have been rescued from there.

Notice again, Paul is making a distinction between the believer and the world. The most important distinction is not ethnicity, nationality or language, age, intelligence or gender, but are you in Christ or in the world? Are you people of the day or of the night?

Instead “keep awake”- be alert, be watchful, be ready.

And:

“be sober” – be free from the control of intoxicants. Metaphorically, this means being self-controlled, not controlled by emotions or desires. Avoiding excess, living balanced lives.

Otherwise (v7), you are just living like the world around, there is no distinction. Because:

v8: “we belong to the day” (lit: “of the day”). It is our being and nature in Christ. We are His, part of His kingdom.

So:

“let us be sober” (repeated from v6). You don’t belong to a world that is driven by want and striving for satisfaction and peace.

This balanced, self-controlled, alert, ready lifestyle is enabled by what we “put on”. This is a variation of the armour of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. The idea is of a soldier who is looking out for the coming of Christ, ready with his armour on.

We “put on” when we live out the things the armour represents:

  • “Faith.” Believing God, taking Him at His word, trusting His Son.
  • “Love.” Love for God and love for His people. Sacrificial love – serving Him and His people.
  • These are like a “breastplate” – they protect our inner being in the spiritual battle of waiting for the Lord.
  • “Hope of salvation.” This solid expectation of deliverance from judgement on the final day, which is like a “helmet” to guard our minds as we wait for His coming.

V) So, because of that hope, remember your destiny… (v9-10)

v9: Firstly, what our destiny is not: “God has not destined you for wrath”. Wrath is God’s settled/just anger against sin, shown in the punishment of sin and sinners. This is why the day of the Lord is so serious for those who do not believe, because it will be the full revelation of God’s wrath. So, we must be thankful.

Secondly, what our destiny is: “to obtain (receive fully) salvation.” We have complete salvation now through Christ alone, but we still experience the struggles of living in this world. Then, the struggles will be over. Now, we experience God’s presence as a foretaste of the full revelation that will be ours when Christ returns. Foretaste will become fulness.

“through” – it is through Christ alone. It is His work that brings salvation, not our own work because (v10) He died for us.

We are assured of this destiny “whether we are awake or asleep” (v10). Paul is returning to the picture of chapter 4 – those who are “asleep” in Christ or those who are “awake” (physically alive) when He returns. Both of these will “live with Him.”

This is the glory of the believers’ final destiny. It is not just heaven; it is heaven with Him. The thief on the cross was not just promised paradise but “with Me in paradise.” The joy of what to come is Christ. He will come for His bride. We will be forever with the Lord.

VI) … and keep encouraging each other (v11)

4:18 also calls us to “encourage one another.” There, the focus was encouraging each other even in the face of death. Here (5:11), the focus is encouraging each other to live in a God-honouring and expectation way until Christ returns. Whether we live or die, we will live with Him.

So, in summary…

Two things to avoid:

  • Speculating about the timing of His coming
  • Finding our security and peace in the world.

Instead:

  • Remember what He has done, who you are and to Whom you belong.
  • Be alert, live out the life He has saved you for, and live ready.
  • Look forward to the final destination. He died that we might live with Him. What precious love!
  • Encourage each other on the way. Just as you are doing… this could be said of us. Brothers and sisters, let’s keep going.

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