We are beginning the last chapter of this epistle, the first NT book written. We will see once again the prevalence of hope, as it appears in every chapter. Here we see it amongst faith and love, the classic Pauline trifecta. We do not merely hear mention of our hope though, we are motivated by it to live as one whose hope is secure.
Sidebar, brought to you by the Apostle Peter, he says it so well we really not try to say it another way:
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!2 Peter 3:14-18
1 Thessalonians 5 begins with a Pauline phrase: “now as to (fill in the blank) you have no need of anything to be written to you.” Almost exactly how he spoke of love in 4:9.
Yet we know, the real desperate need we all have of hearing the truth, and continuing in the truth. So Paul will remind them, in verses 2-8 that we look at today, of the truths about Jesus’ return that will help them, motivate them, and sustain them.
You yourselves know full well that…
“The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” How do they know? Jesus explained it; and the apostle’s faithful teaching included all that Jesus had taught. They knew full well, because this was important for new believers. Paul did not save this for well seasoned believers, or for churches that he revisited. This was part of the original teaching brought at the founding of all the churches.
They knew it would come like a thief from Jesus, so let us look at Matthew 24-25 before continuing on. Everything taught in 1 Thessalonians 5 was referenced in Jesus’ teaching–how He comes like a thief, how it will be as quick as lightning, how they ought to be found faithfully serving (i.e. awake, not asleep–more on this later). Re-reading these chapters often is a blessing to our souls!
Verse two, day of the Lord, reminiscent of OT usage of this saying; and the day includes destruction of God’s enemies. The day of the LORD is not a fearful thing for us, as we await our hope–but it will prove to be for those upon whom “the wrath of God abides.” (see John 3:36)
…being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts…Ephesians 4:18
False Peace, Nothing New
Vs three Paul instructs the church that there will be those who claim “peace and safety!” yet “destruction will come upon them…” Every generation has false teachers pointing us toward false peace, transitory safety.
Turn to Jeremiah 6:14, Ez 13:10–false prophets were always bringing such news. There will always be false prophets, claiming to speak in Jesus’ name, bringing hope that is groundless, that is rooted in our own wishes, seeming to solve our fears.
If we abide in His words, we will be His disciples, and be free from such entanglements! John 8:31ff
This is why prosperity gospel, liberation gospel, and other false gospels gain traction. This is why the Bible Project can tell us the wrath of God and hell are human constructs; this is why our generation thinks that instead of paying for our sins on His cross, Jesus’ only initiative was to begin the renewing of creation. We sometimes seek out what we want to hear, rather than abiding in His Word (John 8!). Jesus claimed to bring not peace but a sword:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.Matthew 10:34-36
Jesus ushered in a time when Light and Darkness would be more visibly at war than previously. The peace and flourishing we long for are found in Christ, and we will enjoy the fulness in heaven–here we have the first fruits, we have His peace in the midst of tribulation. (John 14-16)
But “you brethren are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.” The day will rob a lot of people from their false dreams and false peace and false security. They day will be marked by awe and joy and triumph for us! We will go out to meet Him whilst others shrink back and are forced to bow to the King. (see Colossians 1:11). We will be among those who marvel at His coming! (2 These. 1:10)
Symbolic of knowledge, goodness, beauty and glory; whereas darkness symbolizes those who deny the truth (Romans 1) suppress the truth, walk around in lies and approve of evil. Light brings freedom, whereas darkness is slavery–to appetites, to lusts and desires that have grown to control us, to fear of death, to sin and the power of sin…
Day of the Lord, Light, hence deliverance and rejoicing and blessedness for us, His people. Muse upon Amos 5:8, 18; Romans 13:11. We are delivered from the darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of His beloved Son! (Col. 1)
Verse six: therefore! One of the few imperatives in this short epistle. Let us not sleep! Let us be alert and sober. Sober–sound mind, cf 1 Peter 1:13 & 4:7. To sleep would be to give up fighting the good fight, to lay down and give in to fear and laziness. We are called to active obedience until Christ returns, as stewards of the manifold grace of God. To sleep would be to deny His power, to give up groaning with Him (see Romans 8).
Rather than let our minds be adversely affected by focusing on circumstances–which leads to anxiety and other bodily reactions, we set our minds on His grace; on things of the Spirit (Romans 8), on Christ who is seated above (Col. 3).
Repeated in verse 8: let us be sober, since we are of the day. This is who we are. We are of the day, we are children of Light, let us walk as such! (Ephesians 5:6-14)
The First NT Mention of Armor
Having put on the breastplate of faith and love Somewhat related to Ephesians 6, but of course this epistle is written first; and so he recycles the metaphor because we really are at war, we really must fight the good fight and seek to stand fast. Here, breastplate of faith and love, there of righteousness. If we combine these ideas, what does that make you imagine? Faith, Love, Righteousness–these are all gifts given to us in Christ. In Christ, in union with Christ!
This is also related to the armor of light mentioned in Romans 13:11-14. We can see that as we are at war, this armor protects us from temptation. And, may go back to Isaiah 59:17; our Warrior King has given us His armor. Not like David who could not fit into Saul’s armor; this is the true armor that fits all God’s people.
And as the helmet, the hope of salvation. We are saved, and are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Ours is the hope of the coming Day, the advent of our Savior, who will take us home. In the meantime, we adorn our armor, we do not sleep, we walk with Him, together.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash