1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Don’t live in your pyjamas!
There are two questions that most people ask at some point – for some it might be a passing thought while for others they may be all consuming – and the questions are these.
What happens after death?
What will happen at the end of the world?
Both of these questions were bothering the Thessalonian Christians. The first one we dealt with last time. They were concerned about the Christians who had died and Paul assures them and us that just as God raised Jesus from the dead so too will he raise back to life those who died in Christ when Jesus returns. How can we know that Jesus will come back? Because he died and rose again. God said that the Messiah would come and die and rise again and he did – THERFORE we can be confident that he will come again AND we can be confident that what he said about the dead rising will also come true!
In 4:13-18 Paul dealt with bereavement and the Christian dead – it is right and proper to grieve for the dead but for the Christian it is not a hopeless grief because Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
He now addresses himself more directly to the subject of those who will be living at Christ’s return and with the issue of Judgement – ‘the day of the Lord’
THE DAY OF THE LORD.
What does this mean? There are many things to be said about what exactly this means – BUT the basic general meaning is to the Day of Judgement. Not 24 hours but the time when God will call all people to account.
In the OT the prophets frequently referred to the Day of the Lord:-
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
……. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light —
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (NIV)
Joel 2:31 31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
This is what Paul is referring to when he talks about ‘the Day of the Lord’.
The question is therefore, “How can sinful people be ready to face God on that Day?”
In the light of this the Thessalonians were concerned and rightly so. But is seems from Paul’s reply that they asked the wrong question.
- 1. THE WRONG QUESTION.
“When will Jesus return?”
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
There have always been those who speculate about the end of the world – in our time [even this year] we have seen those dates come and go. As we approach a new millennium these speculations have increased.
Was the Thessalonian Christians’ interest in this simply idle curiosity? I think not. They wanted to know so that they could make suitable preparations. It would be much easier to prepare for Christ’s coming, they imagined, if the knew when he would arrive.
Paul’s response to their question is to reaffirm what Jesus taught his disciples – they too wanted to know when –
Mark 13:4 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” (NIV)
BUT Jesus’ reply was
Mark 13:32 32 “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)
Later Jesus told the Apostles just before his ascension that it was not their business to know Acts 1:7 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (NIV)
Paul uses two illustrations to emphasise certain aspects of Jesus’ return.
- Like a thief in the night
- Like the labour pains of a pregnant woman
Both emphasise suddenness –
Suddenly the Day of the Lord will come like a thief.
Suddenly destruction and judgement will come like the labour pains.
ILLUS.: The thing about a thief is that he doesn’t usually send you a postcard with the date and time he intends to burglar your house. There is no advanced warning – he does make an appointment.
ILLUS.: When a baby comes – it is usually NOT at a very convenient time – Andrew and Vicki both arrived at about 2:00 am – When Stephen came I has to abandon a game of squash and rush Janet through rush hour traffic in Johannesburg and Stephen was born 30 minutes after we got there.
While both illustrate the suddenness there is also an obvious difference between them. The thief is sudden and unexpected whereas the labours pain, once pregnancy has begun, is expected – indeed it is inevitable!
Like the thief in the night Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected and there will be no warning!
Like the labour pains Christ’s coming will be sudden and unavoidable and there will be no escape from the coming judgement!
Paul tells the Thessalonians that they cannot know when Christ will come. Asking for dates and times is asking the wrong question!
What then is the right question that both they and we should ask?
- 2. THE RIGHT QUESTION.
“How can I be ready for his coming?”
1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (NIV)
There is no need for us to be anxious about Christ’s coming! There is no need for us to be taken by surprise – it may be sudden but it is not unexpected for those who are waiting for it.
The reason why burglars surprise us is that they come unexpectedly in the middle of the night when we are asleep. There is nothing we can do about when a burglar comes but there is something we can do about being asleep!
Related to Christ’s coming the implications are clear – there is nothing we can do about the Dates and times BUT there is much we can do about being awake and alert. – But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief
What does Paul have in mind regarding day and night and light and darkness?
Burglars surprise people because they come in the dark – when people are asleep – or when they have drunk too much, usually at night.
Darkness, sleep and drunkenness are 3 reasons why people are unprepared for a burglar – if only they were more considerate and come in the day we might be more prepared!
If they came in the day it would be light – we would likely be wide awake – we would be unlikely to be drunk but rather sober and alert
How does this apply spiritually?
Thinking about the spiritual – Will Jesus come in the day or at night? The answer is both!! It depends who you are.
For the unbelievers he will come in the night because they belong to the night and live in spiritual darkness.
Not so for the believer – 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness …. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
What does this day and night / light and darkness represent?
The Bible divides history into two eras / ages. The present Age and the Age to Come.
In the OT [the present, dark, evil Age] they were awaiting the coming of Messiah who would usher in a new era. When Messiah came a new day would come / a light would shine.
Jesus was that long awaited Messiah – with his coming came the dawn of a new age –
Luke 1:78-79 78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (NIV)
1 John 2:8 8 ….; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (NIV)
We live between the two Comings of Jesus – Those who belong to Christ have already begun to live in the Age to Come. Eternal life in Christ doesn’t begin when a Christian dies or when Jesus returns. It begins at the moment of conversion when a sinner repents and trusts Christ for salvation.
Hebrews 6:5 5 who [Christians] have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, (NIV)
Colossians 1:13 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (NIV)
Only when Jesus return in all his glory will the present overlap of the two ages end and Christians will enjoy the fullness of the Age to Come.
THEREFORE at Christ’s return whether we are ready or not will depend upon whether or not we are in the darkness or the Light – those in the light will not be taken by surprise.
The question each one has to ask in relation to this passage is “Am I in the light or the dark – do I belong to Christ or not?
ILLUS.: Imagine you have a wonderful family friend, Harry, who has been travelling abroad. On a particular day in the summer he is return for a visit. The family goes to bed early you draw the curtains and you sleep well – too well!
In the morning the sun rises early and it is a glorious day BUT you know nothing because you are still fast asleep and the curtains are drawn.
Your young daughter however is awake early and she throws back the curtains – the sun floods into her room – she is up and washed and dressed – there is a knock at the door – there’s Harry. She is ready to welcome him – she is not taken by surprised – she is awake, alert and in the light!!!
You however are still in a groggy state of confusion, still asleep and still in the dark.
Spiritually speaking – do you belong to the day or the night? Are you in the Light or the Darkness.
Has the light of Jesus Christ shone into your heart?
Are you still sleep walking your way through life – living in your Pyjamas!!
As Christians we are to be alert and living life appropriately equipped – 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (NIV)
We are to be Christian soldier appropriately dressed in the breastplate of faith and love and wearing the helmet of the hope of salvation – spiritually awake / self-controlled / disciplined – recognising that we belong to the Kingdom of Light. Dressed for the battle of life, alert that our commander-in-chief may return at any point and we don’t want to be caught still in our pyjamas!!
- 3. The Sure Foundation of our Hope.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (NIV)
We are able to be in the light / alert / equipped for life NOT by our own efforts but because of who God is and what Christ has done.
It is not God’s purpose that his people should suffer his anger and judgement which our sins deserve BUT he gives us salvation as a free gift to rescue us from that judgement by giving us forgiveness.
Christ died for us so that, …. we may live together with him
He died so that we might live – not just live any kind of life but life with HIM.
He died our death so that we might live his life!!
Our future hope as Christians is not founded upon our efforts – not upon the shaking feeble foundations of our strivings or feelings BUT rather upon the sure foundation of God’s appointing and upon Christ’s death for us so that we might live!
1 Thessalonians 5:11 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV)
We live in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity! There has been no war in Western Europe for half a century – the economy is strong.
People are saying “Peace and safety” YET we know that many are fearful and uncertain about the future.
More families are breaking up – more teenage girls are getting pregnant – more drugs are being taken – more people are dabbling in occultish practices – people are more afraid to go out on the streets at night than before – there is turmoil in people’s lives because of broken relationship / broken hearts …
—- there isn’t “Peace and Safety” in spite of a strong economy and lack of military conflict in our land!
Peace is not in Political stability – Peace is in knowing God through Jesus Christ!
Safety is not in the hands of Police Forces and Armies – it is in Christ!
Our future is secure only in Him.
So whether it is our concern for those who have died / or whether it our concern about the future the answer “Look up! Christ is coming again!”
Are you awake? Are you alert? Are you in the Light? Do you know Jesus?
Don’t live in your Pyjamas!!
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
DON’T LIVE IN YOUR PYJAMAS!
1. THE WRONG QUESTION.
“When will Jesus return?”
Thief at night
· No warning
· No escape
2. THE RIGHT QUESTION.
“How can I be ready for his coming?”
NOT Ready! Ready!
- 3. THE SURE FOUNDATION OF OUR HOPE.
God has appointed his people:…
NOT for wrath … BUT for salvation
Jesus died our death so that we could live his life!