Union Chapel Baptist Church



The Day of the Lord

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1Thessalonians 5:1-11

IV. Exhortation to the Thessalonians (4:1-5:22)

B. Exhortation Regarding Eschatological Needs (4:13-5:11)

Paul now changes his subject to The Day of The Lord. What is this?

The Day of The Lord is a special time of divine visitation mentioned often in both the Old and the New Testaments. It is a time when God brings judgment upon the earth.

“Paul’s discussion of the broad Day of the Lord in the opening part of 1 Thessalonians 5 involved the introduction of a new and, therefore, different subject from the events of at the end of chapter four. Three things indicate this change of subjects.

First, Paul began verse 1 with a significant combination of two Greek words back to back (peri de). In every other instance, when Paul placed this combination at the beginning of a statement, it was to introduce a new subject.

Second, the second word in this combination, de, even by itself has the essential significance of introducing a new subject.

Third, the Thessalonians already had a “perfect” (accurate) knowledge concerning the broad Day of the Lord before Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians to them (v. 2), but by contrast they were ignorant concerning the “catching away,” the Rapture of the church (4:13-18). It is apparent that when he was with them prior to writing this letter, he had given them exact instructions concerning the Day of the Lord but had not taught them about the Resurrection and meeting with the Lord in the air of chapter 4. The implication is that this “caught up” event was not part of the events of the Day of the Lord.

All three factors indicate the same thing: the broad Day of the Lord is a different subject from the Rapture of the church. This difference is significant for four reasons.

First, it indicates that the broad Day of the Lord will not include the Rapture of the church.

Second, the broad Day will include the Second Coming of Christ; but, since it will not include the Rapture, the Rapture must be a separate event from the Second Coming. Thus, the Rapture must take place at a time different from the Second Coming of Christ which happens immediately after the Great Tribulation.

Third, since the Rapture will not be part of the Day of the Lord, there must be a period of time between the Rapture and the beginning of the broad Day.

Fourth, since the Rapture will not be part of the Day of the Lord, it will not be the starting point of the broad Day.” (Above discussion copied from: Renald Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, p. 59.)

So now let’s look at what the text says about this Day of The Lord.

a. Brethren (you) 5:1-2

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

The first thing we note is that Paul, in the few brief weeks he was with the Thessalonian Believers, had already taught them about the coming Day of the Lord. They had no need for anything to be added in the letter in regards to details and descriptions of the Day of the Lord. They already knew the imminent nature of this Day. It will come upon the world like a thief in the night. As thieves do not send word of their impending break-in into our homes, neither will there be word sent from Heaven of God’s impending break-in into the course of this world. There will be no notices given. It will just happen at God’s appointed time. No prior notification.

This is something those Believers were aware of. Paul wrote that the Brethren, you, have been instructed in this truth.

But we also need to note that Paul wrote that they knew it was pointless to try to determine when the Day of the Lord would begin. Paul was telling them they knew not to try to set dates. In regards to the “times and the epochs” they had already been instructed that trying to predetermine its coming was a pointless act.

b. They (them) 5:3

However, notice the contrast in verse 3. We have moved to a different group: they / them.

While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

First, we can note that Believers are not the subject here. Not only is there a contrast in pronouns between Brethren / you and those who are designated they / them, but the group referred to as they and them are in complete ignorance. The events of the Day of the Lord will burst upon them suddenly as birth pangs come upon a pregnant woman.

And it will be a time when this group is doubly unprepared for this event because they believe themselves secure in their “Peace and safety!” Who is this group?

It is natural to conclude this group is made up of the vast numbers of humanity who are not Brethren. They are those who have not placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior and who are alive on the earth at the moment the Day of the Lord begins.

They believe themselves to be secure in their lives. This vast number of people were described so well by David in Psalm 10:3-11. Listen to his description:

For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; Your judgments are on high, out of his sight; As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them. He says to himself, “I will not be moved; Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity.” His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the hiding places he kills the innocent; His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate. He lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his lair; He lurks to catch the afflicted; He catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net. He crouches, he bows down, And the unfortunate fall by his mighty ones. He says to himself, “God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.”

This is a people who completely ignore God. They have no sense of God’s condemnation of sin. They feel themselves secure in their “Peace and safety!” They have no concept of their deadly condition of living under the wrath of God.

It is upon this group that the Day of the Lord will suddenly burst upon them with God’s mighty destructive power. And none of them will escape. There will be no escapees of the unsaved from the destruction of the Day of the Lord.

This suddenness means, of course, that none of the judgments of Revelation 6-18 will have occurred. Otherwise, there would be frightful warning that the Day of the Lord was about to begin. This implies that the Day of the Lord includes all of the judgments given in Revelation 6-18. In other words, the entire seven years of destruction and distress given in those13 chapters is all part of the Day of the Lord and is preceded by the events of 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Rapture.

c. Brethren (you) 5:4-5a

So notice that at verse 4 Paul switches back to writing about the Brethren / you.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day.

It is interesting that the Old Testament prophet Joel described the Day of the Lord as “A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness.” Joel 2:2

The prophet Zephaniah described it in this way in 1:14-15:

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness,

For the world, it will usher in the darkest days of human history since the Fall. Even the destruction of the Flood happened fairly quickly and simply involved death. What is described in Revelation is not just death, but vast prolonged suffering leading to death, and even death is sometimes kept from them in their suffering.

But guess what? We are not children of darkness. We, as the Brethren, the Children of God, are not in darkness. We are all sons of light and sons of day.

Paul described our condition in Colossians 1:12-14 when he wrote:

… giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We have been rescued from the domain of darkness. That is what the rest of the world exists in: the domain of darkness. We have been transferred from that dark kingdom into the kingdom of His beloved Son. And Who is this beloved Son? In John 8:12 John recorded “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.””

Being in the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son is being in the Kingdom of the Light of the World. This is why we are all sons of light and sons of day. Because of this, that great and terrible Day of the Lord will not overtake us as it will the unbelievers of this world. We need never fear its coming because it will not overtake us. That Day is not for us Believers.

d. We (us) 5b-6

At this point, Paul began to include himself in the discussion. He worte:

We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

Paul, along with all other Brethren, all other Believers, is not of night nor of darkness. Paul is also a son of light. So Paul began to include himself. As he is included in being a son of the light, he also included himself in the instructions he gave in light of that truth.

Because we are all sons of light and of the day, we should not sleep as others do. What does that mean?

The word translated “sleep” is not the same word used in 1Thessalonians 4:13-15. This word tends to be used of those who are in a deep sleep. For example, in Matthew 8:24 when Jesus was fast asleep in the boat, not even wakened by the horrible storm. It was the word Jesus used in the parable of the wheat and the tares when the workers slept while the enemy sowed tares in the field in Matthew 13:25. Because it has the idea of a deep sleep unaware of things around, it is used metaphorically of being spiritually asleep, i.e., secure and unconcerned in sin, or indolent and careless in the performance of duty. This is the type of sleep the world is in. They are spiritually unaware and unconcerned about their true spiritual state.

We Believers, since we are sons of light, living with the light of Christ in our hearts, should never be people who are spiritually insensitive. That should never be us.

Instead, we should be alert and sober. “Alert” simply means awake. This is being spiritually awake. Awake to the darkness surrounding us in this world. We should be people who are not spiritually insensitive but ones who are very cognizant of the darkness of this world, this culture.

“Sober” is a word meaning to be sober–minded, watchful, circumspect. It is the opposite of being drunk. We are being instructed to not be spiritually insensitive but rather very spiritually aware of this world in which we live and its spiritual darkness. The Apostle Peter used both these words, in reverse order, when he wrote in 1Peter 5:8:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Satan wants to destroy us. We need to be spiritually aware of his devices through maintaining our spiritual wits about us and being very much on our guard against the wickedness of this world.

e. Those 5:7

Then Paul, in verse 7, goes back to considering the lost as a contrast to the Brethren. He wrote:

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.

This spiritual insensitiveness and spiritual dullness is typical of those who live in spiritual darkness, the spiritual night. They love the dark and shun the light. This is why John wrote of Jesus in John 1:4-5:

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Darkness is the condition in which this world exists and, because of this, they shun the light. They dull their senses with drink. They love the spiritual darkness and dullness in which they live. That is the condition of the lost, those who live in the kingdom of darkness.

f. We (us) 5:8-10

In contrast to them, Paul wrote of all of us Believers in the next three verses.

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

Since we are of the day, we should not be like the lost. Rather, we should not be spiritually dull but spiritually watchful, spiritually circumspect.

How do we maintain this soberness, this watchfulness?

We do this by protecting our emotions and our mind.

We protect our emotions by putting on the breastplate of faith and love. When we are struggling it is easy for our emotions to take us down. When we focus on the hurts, the pain, the struggles, we can plunge into an abyss of self-pity and destructive thoughts. We can begin to doubt God and His love for us. We can become angry with God and our faith can become shipwrecked on the rocks of tribulations.

To protect our emotions, our hearts, we need to have on our breastplate of faith and love. Paul is not real specific on whose faith and whose love. He is most likely thinking of our own faith, our trust in God. This faith is a faith that transcends the tribulations, the trials. This trust that protects our emotions is a trust that focuses on God. As Job said: Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15). This is a faith that does not depend on the circumstances. How do we maintain such a faith?

By also focusing on God’s love. Paul wrote, in 2Corinthians 5:14-15:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

We need to be controlled by the love of Christ. We need to hold on to the truth that we are loved by our God and our Savior. Faith and love will protect our emotions as we live among a people in darkness.

Not only our emotions need protecting, but our minds as well. What protects our minds, our thinking, is the holding on to the hope we have in salvation. This hope is what Paul wrote about in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18. Words applicable only to those who believe that Jesus died and rose again. Words that only apply to those who are saved.

No matter what this world throws at us. No matter how we are attacked. We have a sure hope in Jesus. As Jesus said:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

That is our hope. If we focus our thinking on the future we will have with Jesus and all the other Brethren, it will protect our thinking and help us not to adopt the thinking of this world. If we keep ourselves always aware that one day we will be with Jesus and stand before Him, it will help us not to adopt the spiritually dull views of our world.

And we have this hope because God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wrath is coming to this world. That wrath lands on this world and its inhabitants when the Day of the Lord begins. But we are not destined to suffer the wrath of God. Instead, we are destined to be delivered through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are destined to obtain salvation through Jesus. This is speaking of ultimate salvation; deliverance from this world and transformation into the image of Jesus. This is the deliverance Paul wrote about in the last six verse of chapter 4. We know this as the Rapture, the transforming us and taking us out of this sinful, dark world to spend eternity in the presence of our precious Lord and Savior.

And we can take this as a guarantee because Jesus died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. The wonderfulness of this promise is not conditional for Believers. We will be delivered from God’s wrath because Jesus took God’s wrath upon Himself there on the cross. Because He did, whether we are spiritually watchful or whether we become insensitive to spiritual things, blending into the darkness of this world, either way we will live together with Him. As Paul wrote before, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Our future with Jesus does not depend on how we live our lives here on this earth. Our future with Jesus only depends on the sacrifice of of our Savior. We should live in watchfulness, but whether we do or not we will escape God’s wrath because Jesus took it upon Himself.

g. Conclusion 5:11

In light of that truth, Paul gave two commands to us in verse 11.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

“Encourage” is the verb form of of the Holy Spirit’s title in John 14:16. It means to come to the side of someone to give them aid or help and, thus encouragement. We are to come alongside of each other in our struggles in this dark world to give each other help. To give each other encouragement. To help lift each other’s spirits in the battle.

And then we are to build up one another. “Build up” means exactly what it says. We are to make each other stronger buildings. Buildings? Well. We are the Temple of God. We are described as parts of a building and, individually, temples of the Holy Spirit. So the building metaphor is appropriate. And in the struggle, we can become damaged buildings, rundown structures not fit to house the Spirit of God.

So, as we are in the struggle, we need to protect our emotions and our thinking. But it is not always easy to do. So when we are struggling spiritually, we need others to come alongside of us and give us aid. Then help us to be a stronger dwelling for God. We need to encourage each other and build each other up.

Paul wrote that they were doing this, but they needed to keep doing it. The struggle only ends when we are no longer here.

We are not destined for wrath, but the world is.

We need to reject the darkness and spiritual dullness of their thinking and keep our hopes and hearts focused on our Savior and His salvation.

Then we need to encourage each other and build each other up, until the Lord returns for us and we, all together, are transformed and taken from the earth to be with Jesus, that where He is, there we shall be also.

Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.

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