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Text – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
Last week we learned that there is hope and encouragement in knowing that this world with all of its sin and death will not last forever. Whether we are alive or dead, we will be reunited with Christ, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Here is the William Varner quote I tried to quote last week but couldn’t remember, “Prophecy is not given to form a calendar, but to form a character; a character of prayerfulness, watchfulness, honesty, and holiness.”
When is it going to happen? Jesus said that only God the Father knows, but there are some signs we can look for. Most of these are given in Second Thessalonians, so we’ll hold off looking at all of them until we get to that Epistle. Chapter 5 talks about some basic things to look for. (We will get to 4:9-12 soon!)
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 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. 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.
v. 1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.
Paul is talking about the timing of Christ’s return, commending them for not being all caught up in it. This is ironic because in Second Thessalonians we will see that some of them did get caught up in it and quit their jobs waiting for the rapture.
Times means the measurement of time, such as hour, day, week, and month.
Seasons refers to blocks of times, such as the season of President Bush’s term of office, and the season we are in now is President Obama’s term of office. Seasons also refer to times of plenty, like before our depression, and times of want, like the depression that is just starting. Think of seasons like Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, each has its own characteristics and each is fleeting, giving way to the next one.
The Thessalonians weren’t caught up in waiting or in trying to figure out the exact date that Christ was coming back. They were only sure it was going to happen.
Paul doesn’t feel the need at the time to correct or edify their beliefs, because they aren’t caught up waiting for the rapture, but they know it is going to come quickly, as evidenced by verse 2.
v. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Paul is quoting Jesus here. First of all, what is the Day of the Lord?
Isaiah 13:6-8 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.
Jeremiah 46:10 That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord GOD of hosts holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
The Day of the Lord is the day that God’s patience finally breaks, when he crushes his enemies. It is used a lot in the Old Testament to talk about Israel’s military battles. It shows the might of an army, that it is able to take it’s enemies in a single day. Sometimes it is exaggerated, there is a historical account of an Assyrian king who won a war, the historical account says it took six months, but when he recounted it he exaggerated it a little and said that he won in a single day. Christ truly will win in a single day.
Amos said we shouldn’t look forward to the Day of the Lord, Zephaniah said it is a bitter day because of the death and destruction to men that will happen on that day.
Oh beloved, it is hard not to look forward to Christ destroying the iniquity of the world, of finally putting an end to such wickedness as what happens every day; but we have to remember that each of Christ’s enemies has an eternal soul and that they will suffer for eternity in Hell unless they repent and trust in his payment on Calvary’s cross.
What do you think we should do while we still have time? Preach the Gospel, give out Gospel tracts, tell people to flee from the wrath to come, to be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. At E-Team we are going to be teaching you how to do that, so please come if you haven’t already, even if you can’t go to New Orleans with us, I promise the training you receive will serve you well for your entire life.
Paul and Jesus both said that Christ’s return will be like a thief in the night. This is powerful language, because nobody every expects to get robbed, right? If you knew when the thief was coming, you’d load up your shotgun, sit on the stairs five minutes before he came in, then when he came in you’d cock the shotgun, which is the universal sound for “You’re in big trouble”, listen to him run off, and then go back to bed. But it doesn’t work that way, nobody ever expects the thief in the night.
What does the thief come to do?
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
That’s Christ’s first coming, here is his second:
Jude 14-15 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Verse three gets a little more into what we’ll expect,
v. 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.
This is exactly what happened before the flood,
Matthew 24:38-39 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
The Bible has known all along that the world is round, just in case anybody tells you otherwise. Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in what year? 1492… largely on his reading that God sat above the circle of the earth in Job. But look at how Christ demonstrates how his return will be,
Luke 17:34-37 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left."
Some will be sleeping, others will be working. The parallel passage in Matthew talks about men also working in the fields. Christians will be taken up, raptured, non-Christians left to face the wrath of God.
I don’t know what the peace and security will look like, but I bet it won’t be real, but feigned. The Soviet Union had lower crime rates during the Cold War than the United States, only because if you got caught, you got executed. That is not peace and security, but it certainly could be called that by the government.
I bet the church will fall for it too, that was one of God’s biggest indictments against the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day,
Jeremiah 6:13-15 For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown," says the LORD.
Now, it will come upon the world like labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, this means it starts somewhat slow, smaller contractions far apart, but get bigger and closer together. Here is how Jesus explained it,
Matthew 24:3-8 "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
The birth pains will be people claiming to be Christ, God, the Messiah, or the Redeemer, and many will follow after them. Wars will break out all over, there is something like 40 armed conflicts happening right now in the world. Countries will fight countries, with massive famines, and earthquakes. Jesus said these are just the beginning, so while we see these things happening, such as the first time in history that there have been World Wars, we may still have a long way to go…or it could happen soon, Second Thessalonians will talk a little more about this.
Before we go onto the application, I want to show you that this is not something new from the New Testament only,
Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
That was 600 years before Christ, and Daniel was prophesying not just about the first coming, but also about the second coming of the Messiah.
Running out time...skipping ahead...
Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Is anybody here perfectly sinless?
If you stand before God with any sin in you, you will be incinerated, and cast out of his presence into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. He can’t tolerate sin in the same way the sun can’t tolerate an ice cube, his holiness will consume all unrighteousness.
Even though we are saved, we still have sin in us, no matter how much better we are now than when we got saved, we’re still not perfect, that means we still can’t see or stand in the presence of God.
But we know that he, the Holy Spirit, who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
And how will it happen? Either when we die we will be glorified, that is made perfect, or if Christ comes back it will happen this way,
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.