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Let me ask you a very important question. Do not be too quick to answer, or just give the expected answer. Do you believe that Jesus is coming again?
The honest answer to this question is crucial to our lesson today. There are many who would intellectually answer yes (because they are familiar with what the Bible teaches) but who really do not believe it will ever happen. This is manifest in their life choices.
- And there are those who have been so convinced of Jesus’ imminent return on a certain day that they sold all of their possessions and completely disengaged themselves from this world’s activities. (Some are certain Jesus is returning as soon as May 21st – just 3 short weeks away.)
- What does the Bible teach about the coming of Jesus, and how do we prepare of it?
- We continue in our yearlong study of the Christian soldier as described in Eph. 6. Our theme verse for May is Ephesians 6:15 – and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; We will take a closer look at the meaning of this command over the next few weeks.
- Our lesson today focuses on what I consider to be the heart of this admonition to the spiritual soldier. Preparation – We must be prepared.
- The expectant coming of Christ is THE event that you and I most need to be prepared for. Are you prepared for Jesus’ coming?
I. The Day of the Lord – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 5 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. In these words Paul provides 3 important perspectives on the coming of Christ.
- The certainty and nature of Christ’s return – What God has told us about it, and therefore what these Christians knew for sure.
- The unbeliever’s perspective and outcome. Those who do not believe He is coming will be unprepared, and thus will not escape the integral judgment of that day.
- The believer’s perspective: Even though the believer does not know when, he is ready. He is not in the dark about what is going to happen.
A. “The day of the Lord will come..” (v. 1-2) Paul proclaims an absolute certainty in these statements: He had previously made known to the Thessalonian church that Christ was coming again (“For you yourselves know perfectly” NAS – full well”). This language seems to indicate a least two things in context:
- The future coming of Christ was an undisputed conviction among them. They were fully convinced.
- Paul had previously revealed all that they needed to know about Jesus’ coming. There was no future revelation or prediction that would shed more light on this event. Especially as it relates the unexpected nature of His coming.
1. As a thief in the night..” Paul’s statement indicates that Jesus’ return would not be predictable. Thieves do not make reservations. These words would not be accurate if we could figure out the exact date and proclaim it to everyone.
a. Peter uses the same terminology as Paul in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. He then leads his Christian audience to face a question of necessary implication: ..what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness? (vs. 11)
2. Both Peter and Paul teach that God expects more than just a knowledge or conviction of the certainty of the event, but a necessary impact. If you are not first convinced of the reality of His coming, then very little can be said to motivate you to morally or spiritually prepare. In fact, It may be apparent whether or not you believe by how seriously you have prepared.
a. In Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins, he indicated that the preparation was the true indication of wisdom. All the virgins believed the bridegroom was coming. They all had lamps. When he delayed coming, they all slept. But the 5 wise young ladies had previously prepared by filling their lamps with oil. We can become convinced that He is coming, but He is just not coming right now. I’ll prepare someday. How many of your everyday decisions are based on the certain coming of Christ?
B. “They Shall Not Escape” (v. 3)- “While they are saying “peace & safety!, then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and thy shall not escape”. Paul describes the reaction and perspective of the unbeliever (“they”). The unpredictable nature of Jesus’ return leads many to conclude He is not coming, of it He does they are not in danger. (peace & safety).
- “Like birth pangs upon a woman” This points to the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of Jesus coming. Can a woman who put off her birth contractions until she is ready for them, or do they dictate their own arrival? It is an apt illustration of God’s judgment on the sinner. So those who reject or neglect God cannot escape His certain judgment.
1. There are many today who scoff at the idea of judgment to come. They are much to sophisticated for such talk. They deride those who warn others and speak about sin, guilt, and judgment. Go back to Peter’s statements in 2 Peter 3:3-7 – “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2. Paul knew very well what Felix needed to hear to bring him back to his senses. He reasoned with him about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come“ (Acts 24:25) But as many today, Felix put off any response (looking for a “more convenient season”) and immediately focused his attention on how he could make some money from Paul. We too are prone to put off a serious consideration of Jesus’ 2nd coming, in order to focus on what we need today (make more money, have more fun)
3. Jesus told a parable about a man who became so preoccupied with preparing for his future here on earth that he forgot to prepare for God. Luke 12:16-19 “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ He didn’t recognize the danger he was in. Thought he could relax. But his soul was required that night.
C. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness..” (v. 4-8) The Christian has a different perspective on the coming of Christ. Since we know that Jesus is coming again and that He will judge us according to His word, he prepares for that day.
1. Paul used two figures in verses 4 and 5 to make his point. These are the figures of “day” and “night.” The idea is that during the day, good and constructive things are accomplished by the industrious, while, at night, men work that which is unseemly and evil. We are sons of light (we have the truth) and sons of the day (we recognize the importance of acting now). But how do we prepare? – The Holy Spirit mentions several important aspects of our preparation, all characteristic of a good soldier:
2. Let us not sleep (vs. 6) sleep here has reference to a spiritual state of apathy or inactivity. The original word here is Katheudo– (Kath-yoo-do) Vines says it means “carnal indifference to spiritual things on the part of believers,.. condition of insensibility to divine things involving conformity to the world”. Paul uses the same word in Ephesians 5:8-16 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
a. Paul makes a similar admonition based on our ability to “see” in the day in Romans 13:11-14 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
3. Let us be alert (watch or be vigilant) (vs. 6) to be aware of the danger and watch. The word is used elsewhere: 1 Cor 16:13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
a. Paul also relates this attitude to the practice of prayer in Col 4:2 “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”
b. This vigilance is only possible when we recognize the continuing need to know God’s will for our lives. Once we convince ourselves that we know enough, or are doing enough, we stop being vigilant. Bible study or creed rehearsal?
4. Let us be sober – (v. 6) Vincent says “Primarily in a physical sense, as opposed to excess in drink, but passing into the ethical sense of “calm, collected, circumspect.” Alert wakefulness and calm assurance will prevent their being surprised and confused by the Lord’s coming, as by a thief in the night.
a. How serious are you about your spiritual preparation. It is easy to be an “on and off” type Christian – we become interested as the situation demands, but we soon lose interest, until something else happens that catches our attention again. Peter warns us against an unsteadfast faith. 1 Peter 5:6-9 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
5. Let us put on a breastplate of faith & love – v. 8 – Our faith protects us from Satan’s attempts to distract us from our goal. “Faith comes by hearing the word of God” – that simple statement cannot be overstated in our endeavor to increase our faith. Spending time in God’s word will strengthen us and encourage us to prepare. Love is the practical application of our faith. If we truly believe what God says, and we are willing to trust Him, we will put others first and sacrifice for others. 1 John 3:18-19 “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
6. Let us put on the helmet of the hope of salvation – v. 8 – One of the strongest weapons we have against the ungodly culture that scoffs at Jesus’ coming is our hope. The Hebrew writer calls our hope an anchor that secures the soul. Do you have a hope of salvation? Do you expect to go to heaven? If so, then what happens here has a whole different meaning. “So what?”
- Heb 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
- 1 Pet 1:13-16 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Conclusion: Paul goes on to tell the Thessalonians that God has not designed to “catch them off guard” and punish them. 1 Thess 5:9-11 – 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
“God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”. This can be attested to by the willingness of Jesus to die for us, and provide a way for us to prepare. You can only prepare for the day of the Lord through coming to, and obeying the Lord.