1 Thessalonians Sermon Series
Standing Firm: Foundational Doctrine For New Believers
Standing Firm in “The Day of the Lord”
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
A college professor had the mysterious habit of removing a tennis ball from his jacket pocket as he walked into the lecture hall each morning. He would set it on the corner of the podium. After giving the lecture for the day, he would once again pick up the tennis ball, place it into his jacket pocket and leave the room.
No one ever understood why he did this, until one day a student fell asleep during the lecture. The professor didn’t miss a word of his lecture while he walked over to the podium, picked up the tennis ball and threw it, hitting the sleeping student squarely on the top of the head.
The next day, the professor walked into the room, reached into his jacket, removed a baseball… No one ever fell asleep in his class the rest of the semester!
No Need For Times and Dates (v. 1-2)
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
The phrase “times and the seasons” is a saying that essentially means “when” – So Paul is saying, “Now when the day of the Lord happens . . .” you already know all you need to know, it will come like a thief in the night.” It’s also important to note that the phrase designates the same event that is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Christ’s return.
(v. 2) “you yourselves are fully aware” – This phrase lets us know that they have already received instruction on Christ’s return. During the three weeks before Paul, Silas, and Timothy had to leave, Jesus’ return was foundational to the lessons that they taught them. Paul didn’t know how long that he would be there, but surely, he expected to be there more than three weeks.
Remember, they had to leave because Acts 17:4-5 tells us that “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.” If I were to ask you, what are the foundational principles that someone needs to navigate life in the Christian faith, what are those foundational lessons?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 emphasizes what will happen to those who have already placed their faith in Christ (dead in Christ will rise first, then those still living will be caught up into the air, they will all be together), and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 is how the same event will appear from the perspective of those that have not placed their faith in Christ.
The concept of a day of judgement is found throughout the entire Bible as far back as Amos (5:18), “Thus we find ‘the day of God (2 Peter 3:12), ‘the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 1:6), ‘the day of Lord Jesus’ (1 Cor. 1:8). It may be simply ‘that day’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10), or ‘the last day’ (John 6:39), or ‘the great day (Jude 6).” And from all of these verses we see two things 1) it is coming, there is a certainty to it and 2) it will be quick and unexpected.
So what does Jesus’ coming back and gathering the church (dead in Christ and the raptured believers) have to do with the Day of the Lord? “The point is that just as the translation of the church is the end the day of grace it also marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
In other words, one event seems to do two things: it serves as the closing of one day and the beginning of the other.” The name itself “The Day of the Lord” tells us that it’s His day, the days where mankind had a choice and rebellion against God are over.
In spite of Mark 13:32-33 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake.1 For you do not know when the time will come.” Many over the years have tried to guess when Jesus would return and have made predictions, and even whole religions and cults have developed as a result of their predictions. The point of all the verses that point to Christ’s return are not clues so you can predict it, but warnings to be ready now.
The World Promises Peace and Safety (v. 3)
3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
The phrase pax et securitas was a popular slogan used by the Romans. They promised peace and security to those that submitted to their rule and military power, “it was seen as Rome’s gift to those it conquered, virtually equivalent to an offer of deliverance or “salvation” from turmoil and danger.”
Ezekiel 13:10 “Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace . . .” The world will always offer a counterfeit security to what Christ offers through his death on the cross.
This promise of salvation from any coming danger was an illusion; Paul does not want the church to be fooled. Only our relationship with Christ will deliver us from the judgement that accompanies Christ’s return.
Moffatt says the lost world will be saying to itself, as “‘when all’s well’ and ‘all is safe’ are on the lips of men’” They will never see it coming and will be completely taken by surprise.
The pregnant woman in other places is used to illustrate pain, but here it is indicating that when the time has come, the baby must come forth. The day of the Lord with its’ accompanying destruction can-not be escaped.
Be Alert and Have Self-Control (vv. 4-8)
4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
The picture that Paul gives us is as a thief moving around in the dark, then suddenly the lights are turned on, or the sun peaks over the horizon at dawn, and the thief is exposed. Believers are warned here to pay attention and to be ready.
Alertness and self-control is contrasted with drunkenness and darkness. As believers we must remain disciplined to remain sober, this is contrasted with the drunkenness. You can’t be alert and aware of what is going on, if you are drunk.
This passage has a parallel in Matthew 24:42-44 “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
(v. 4) “children of light, children of the day” – in Semitic languages generally to be a “son” of something is to have the characteristics of that thing or person. Believers as children of light or day, have the characteristics of the light or the day. Jesus’ followers have moved from the activities that are done at night (stealing, drinking, drunkenness), to activities that are done in the light (having sober judgement, being alert).
The imagery of light and darkness deals with knowledge and the acting on that knowledge. If you don’t know Jesus then you stumble around in darkness and do things that bring wrath upon you. While Christians know Jesus, therefore that knowledge allows then to freely walk around in the light of day – they do not need to fear this day, only to be ready for when it arrives.
“Christians are characterized by light. Therefore, we can have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness.”
(v. 8) “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” – Paul uses the example of a soldier’s armor in other places, but here he gives only two pieces and they are defensive. If we understand Paul’s use of the soldier as a sentry or guard, who stands watch – then he would need to be sober to be of any use.
“His great concern is, will they be living such lives of faith, courage, love, sobriety, and service that Christ’s advent will be an occasion not of fear, but of joy? Will they be awake or asleep? Will they be well-trained soldiers at attention, breast-plated, helmeted, sword in hand and wits about them, ready to obey instantly the words of command, to will they be unarmed and sprawling asleep in the barracks?” (similar to Christ’ command to the disciples in Mark 13:33).
Paul is warning the Christian to be protected against the surprise of Christ’s return. We must be found doing what Christians are called to do, faith, love, and hope. Paul again gives the three essentials of Christianity, faith, love, and hope – and typically ends with the one he wants us to focus on, which is “the hope of salvation.” We currently experience our salvation through Christ, but it is also a hope – something we fully acquire in the future.
The pieces of armor are given to us by God, but we must take the action of, “having put on” and it is given in the aorist tense (a one-time completed act), meaning because you have already put on faith, love, and hope – while you are wearing these things you are protected against the surprise.
“What Paul desires is that the readers, instead of being filled with vain curiosity or getting all excited, shall be prepared.” The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”, and the foundational philosophy behind the organization is that if you give boys a certain skill set you can prepare them for just about any situation they may encounter in life, and teach them to ask the right questions to figure it out.
There are “preppers” who stock pile food and supplies in the event of a future catastrophe or zombie apocalypse. For the Christian, we can feel at ease in being prepared for Christ’s return by putting on “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”. We don’t sit around and stare into the sky waiting for His return, we are actively following the teachings and commands that He has given us until He returns.
The problem comes when you stop living in faith, expressing love, and lose hope of salvation that the danger comes. The Thessalonians, and every believer, have nothing to fear from the Coming Day of the Lord, but should inspire us to live according to our calling.
Therefore, you can be a believer and metaphorically sleep, meaning, “to live as if there will never be a judgement-day. Jesus gives this same idea in Matthew 25:3,8 “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, . . . And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’”
“let us keep awake and be sober” does not mean that you will be able to predict Christ’s return, or see it before others do, it means that if you are spiritually awake and alert, then your life will not be wasted doing things that you will be ashamed of when Christ returns, you will be found faithfully doing what you are supposed to be doing. How do I know, what I am supposed to be doing – read the instructions (Bible).
Salvation Not Wrath (vv. 9-11)
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
God has a purpose and plan for our lives, we need to be alert and sober so that we don’t miss that calling. Paul reminds us that our ultimate destiny is not one of wrath, “For God has not destined us for wrath,” instead we will obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
All other religions that have ever existed tells you what actions you need to take in order to go to heaven, be a god, whatever. If you want to be saved, then do these things – be good, go to church, learn this secret handshake, etc.
Christianity, is the only religion that tells you what God has already done, so that you may be saved. Our salvation is obtained, “through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us,” Jesus did what was required in order for a person to be saved. He then offers this salvation as a gift, to those who place their faith in Him as that only means of salvation.
The church father Irenaeus said, “He became what we are not, in order that we might become what he is.” Christ lived a sinless life, so that through a relationship with him we right become righteous. So it’s salvation, but from what? What are we being saved from? We are being saved from God’s wrath.
The final eruption of Mount St. Helens in May of 1980 was not a sudden event. For two months prior to the massive blast—the most deadly and destructive in American history—earthquakes and volcanic activity signaled a major event was underway. Authorities had plenty of time to sound the alarm and warn those living nearby of the looming danger. Yet despite the seriousness of the threat, some people chose to disregard the warnings.
Probably the best known of those who refused to evacuate was Harry Randall Truman. The eighty-three year old man was the owner and caretaker at the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake. He had survived the sinking of his troop ship by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland during World War I, and he was not about to leave just because scientists thought there was danger. Truman told reporters, “I don’t have any idea whether it will blow. But I don’t believe it to the point that I’m going to pack up.” On May 18, 1980, Truman and his lodge were buried beneath 150 feet of mud and debris from the volcanic eruption. His body was never found.
 Acts 1:7
 Michael Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1998) 166.
 Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984) 152.
 Similar list given by FF Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Waco, Texas; Word Books, 1982) 109.
 John F. Walvoord, The Thessalonian Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dunham Publication, 1968) 81.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists,
 “Leith Samuel remarks, ‘if there is one thing certain about the timing of the Lord’s return it is this, that we cannot be certain of the timing’ . . . ‘you know perfectly well that no one knows.’” Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing House, 1984) 96.
 Holmes, 167.
 Morris, 153.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Commentary, Volume 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1978) 282.
 The prophet Isaiah also used the imagery armor in Isaiah 59:17 ff. Paul may have borrowed this concept to make his point.
 Morris, 156.
 In explaining why some pieces of armor are mentioned and others are not, “In Ephesians 6:10 ff. the soldier’s armor was for conflict with evil. Here it is for guard duty as they awaited the Lord’s return.” Clifton Allen, Gen. Ed., Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1971) 283.
 Gaebelein, 284. See also AT Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, 35. & Clifton Allen, Gen. Ed., Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1971) 283.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1955) 308.
 See notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:1,2
 Arnold E. Airhart, Beacon Bible Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Vol. 9 (Kansas City, Missouri; Beacon Hoill Press, 1965) 490.
 William Henriksen, The New Testament Commentary, Exposition of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1987) 123.
 David Williams, New International Biblical Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendricksen Publishers, 1992) 91.