Living in a fallen world, you may have heard stories of or may have been a victim of thieves breaking in at unsuspecting hours; taking away what was not theirs. In 1Thes 5:1-11, Paul by way of reminder exhorts the believers at Thessalonica to be on the lookout for the second coming of the Lord, since it will come like a thief in the night. He wasn’t the first person to use “the thief in the night” metaphor Jesus himself and other apostles did that (see Matt. 24:23, Luke 12:39; 2Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15).
Now since the first century, the followers of Jesus Christ have been curious about the exact time of his return. During his time on earth, he constantly spoke about his departure and the fact that he will be coming back for those who are his. The believers in Thessalonica were no different. The gospel had gone to them with a strong emphasis on the fact that Christ will be returning soon. However with the passage of time they realized that believers were dying and still there was no sign of Christ’s return. There were lingering questions on the minds of some of these new believers. It was in response to some of these questions that Paul wrote this letter. The exhortation of Paul is equally relevant to us.
Paul tells us three realities about the day of the Lord; the day God has set aside when Christ shall return in his glory, this time not as a Saviour, but as a judge when everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to render account of their lives.
The Day of the Lord will be like a Thief in the Night
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (v.2).
We see from the text that Paul is not saying anything different or new that his readers are not aware of. Paul however knew that as Christians in a fallen world, they are prone to wander and forget. Sometimes we discover that our lives and our theology don’t match. Because of this tendency to forget, we need to keep on reminding ourselves until the truth sinks in. and Paul does exactly that, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”
Dear friend, if you examine your life, are you expectant of Christ’s return?
The Day of the Lord will be a Surprise to those who are in Darkness
Paul goes on to say in vv. 3–4 “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. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief”
We see from these two verses that even though the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night – sudden and unannounced, it is not meant to be a surprise to the Christian. It will only be a surprise to those who are in darkness. If you are unaware thieves are coming to your house, you will definitely be surprised when they show up. However, if you know, you may perhaps be prepared (Luke 12:39). We don’t know the exact hour when Jesus will come, but for the believer that is immaterial. It is as though we have received a tipoff.
The unbeliever however has chosen to walk in darkness. They are hypnotized by the deceitfulness of sin. The mundane and the busyness of life have deluded them into thinking there is “peace and security”. For others the affluence and seeming comfort provided by the things money can buy have cushioned them into thinking all is well. What’s your manner of life, are you confident you will be with Jesus if he came today? If you cannot answer a resounding yes, it is likely you are living in darkness.
However, there is hope; God in his kind mercies sent forth Jeus into the world to die to save sinners (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16; Rom. 5:8, Eph 2:4) and that includes you, if only you will repent and trust in him.
The Children of Light Will be Ready
Paul says that while the Day of the Lord will be a surprise for those in darkness, it should not be for those who are children of light. He says “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” The children of light are those who are eagerly awaiting the return of the master. They are dressed for the occasion. Are you one of them?
How To Be Ready
Paul in verse 6, addresses how the Thessalonians can be ready for the day of the Lord. Firstly, he tells them “let us not sleep, as others do”. In view of what they know about the sudden nature of the second coming, he tells them not to sleep as others do. Just to be sure, Paul is not talking about sleep in the literal sense. He uses sleep here in a metaphorical way to describe spiritual apathy. For the Christian, every moment is game time. There is no room for sleep and slumber. Secondly, he tells them “but let us keep awake and be sober”. In other words he tells them to be dressed ready for action. We clearly see this idea further on in verse 8 where he says “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 language he uses there is one of battle and warfare. We must put on the full armor of God and be ready for battle with the sword of the Spirit – the word of God firmly in hand and praying at all times in the Spirit with all kinds of prayer and supplication.
Finally, he tells them to be sober. What does he mean by that? It means to be self-controlled and clear-minded. This is important because it is possible also to be hysterical about the Day of the Lord. There are some Christians whose idea of the Day of the Lord is alarmist to say the least. It paralyzes them from doing anything. So while he warns them against spiritual sleep, he also admonishes them not to panic or be in a state of alarm but to be sober.
Are you ready for the day of the Lord? Your answer is either yes or no. There is no middle ground.