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TEXT: I Thessalonians 5:1-11
SUBJECT: Thessalonians #8: The Day of the Lord
The Thessalonians were keenly interested in the Second Coming of Christ. We know they were because Paul wrote more to them about it than he did all of his other books put together. Today, some Christians are preoccupied with the Lord's Return, and this is neither right nor safe. But we don't improve on them by going to the opposite extreme and ignoring the Second Coming or by living as though the Lord will never return. He will. And none too soon!
In this First Epistle Paul answers two questions: the first is rather emotional and the second is more doctrinal. The church was worried sick about their loved ones who had died in Christ. When they first heard the Gospel, they believed the Lord was coming right away, and that every last one of them would live to see it! Of course, they were wrong. So, what happens to the dead in Christ? Have they missed the Second Coming? Will they lose out on its magnificent blessings?
Paul says no to both questions. Dead believers are sleeping in Jesus, and when He comes again, they'll come with Him. On that day, their bodies will be raised to honor and immortality. So don't worry about your loved ones who died in the Lord.
Therefore, comfort one another with these words.
That's the first question Paul deals with here. The second one he takes up in the first eleven verses of Chapter 5. Before we get to them, however, let me tell you why he wrote them. It was not to fill their heads with doctrine or to work them into a lather of excitement. He answered this question for the same reason he answered the other one: to comfort them.
Does the Second Coming of Christ have this effect on you? If you're not a Christian, it shouldn't comfort you-for the Day of the Lord is also the Day of Judgment-a day you're not ready for! Unless you're in Christ.
But if you are in Christ, the Second Coming is full of sweet comfort. Not only comfort when He comes, but comfort here and now. This, it seems to me, is the biggest fault of End Time Speculators. They promote everything but comfort. Excitement, notoriety, division, a cult-like following, there's plenty of these, but where's the comfort of His coming?
If the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ doesn't comfort you, you've got the doctrine wrong.
THE TOPIC, VV.1-2
The topic is named in the first two verses. Paul is writing about the day of the Lord and the times and seasons that lead up to it.
The Day of the Lord is a term found all over the Old Testament. It stands for the Coming of God in judgment and salvation. The Jews in Babylon must pin their hope on it. At the time, the Empire was triumphant while God's People were scattered and demoralized. But this would all be reversed.
Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy the sinners from it.For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and He will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land.
In the Old Testament, this Day of the Lord does not refer to one event only, but to every great manifestation of God's power and mercy.
Carried into the New Testament, the meaning stays the same, but the picture is coming into sharper focus. The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is the day of the Lord. God brought down all the curses of the Old Covenant upon the nation that never listened to Him and now, crucified His Son.
Is that what Paul is talking about here? Some say it is, but I can't see it. The Day of the Lord in this place means the Second Coming of Christ, on which God passes a final judgment on His enemies and brings a complete salvation to His friends.
The Thessalonians are curious about this, but mostly, they want to know something about the times and the seasons that lead up to it.
What are these times and seasons? I think they're signs of some kind, hints or inklings that the Second Coming is near.
Why would God give us these signs and why would Paul call our attention to them? Some say they're given so that we can set a date for the Lord's Return-if not the day and the hour, then, at least the generation. This, however, is flatly contradicted by the end of v.2, which says,
The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
Whatever else the imagery might mean, it has to mean unexpectedly. So, the signs of the Second Coming are not given so that we can figure out when the Lord will return?
Then why give us signs?
The signs are given to remind us that we are the Last Days and we ought to live like it. What does a Last Days Christian look like? Alas! The ones we've seen have mostly looked like fools! But they ought to have a very different appearance. Living in the Last Days means joy and hard work. Joy because our problems won't last much longer Hard work because our opportunities won't either.
Want to see an End Tine Christian? Look at Paul-in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, rejoicing in the Lord always.
The topic, then, is the Second Coming of Christ and the events that lead up to it.
What do the Thessalonians know about these things? They know everything they need to know. They know the Lord is coming again and they know that they don't know when-You yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
THE SIGN, VV.3-4
What is the world going to look like just before the Second Coming of Christ?
Thirty years ago, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, which became the best selling book in the 1970's. More recently, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins have published the Left Behind series. The books describe the Last Days as the scariest and most exciting time in the history of the world.
Lindsey assured us that we were at the End because, well, because there was war in the Middle East, famine in Africa, earthquakes in Nicaragua, riots in America, a dictator in Russia, and a 100,000,000 man army in China. I suppose the later authors have added terrorism, gay marriage, and maybe John Kerry to the list!
If the times are exciting, the Lord is coming. That's how they looked at it, and I bet most of us feel the same way-even if we never heard of these men and reject much of their doctrine.
But look at how vv.3,4,6 describe the End Times,
When they say, 'Peace and safety'.The Day should overtake you as a thief.Let us not sleep as others do.
These are not the words you hear during a worldwide, earthshaking crisis! The world is not panicking, but sleeping. The Day of God won't catch people like an invading army, but as a thief in the night.
This means the Lord will come again when things are at their.dullest and most routine.
If you know your Bible, this will not surprise you. The same thing happened way back in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot. The Lord described the old times this way,
They ate and they drank, they married wives and were given in marriage, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built.
And the Judgment fell!
What happened at the Flood and to Sodom, will happen again, only this time, it will be far bigger. The Second Coming is like a woman who goes into labor. She's fine one minute, then the contractions start, and they don't quit until the baby is born.
Sinners who ignore the Second Coming and scoff at it will know they were wrong. But it will do them no good. For the Second Coming is the Day of Judgment: the day of salvation is now.
THE CONFIDENCE, VV.4-5
Most people will be caught flat-footed by the Lord's Return. They won't be ready, and they will suffer eternal loss. But, Paul says, this is not true of his friends in Thessalonica.
They're not blundering around in the darkness, but walking safely in the light.
Not because they're smarter than other people, but because they're sons of light and sons of the day. God has given them light. They see the Lord will return-and more importantly-they see how to live until He does.
Here he shows a pastor's heart. He has confidence in his friends. He's not expecting the worst of them, but hoping for the best. Others will be caught by the Second Coming, but not you. Because-for all of your mistakes and sins-you walk in the light.
I don't mean to defend laziness, but some pastors work way too hard. Because they have forgotten what Christians are-they are sons of light and sons of the day. All believers have the Word and Spirit of God. This means pastors don't have to lead them by the hand, but after teaching them, setting a good example, and praying for them, they can also trust them.
THE EXHORTATION, VV.6-8
The Second Coming of Christ is in the future. It had not occurred when Paul wrote this letter-and still hasn't. But this does not mean it has nothing to say to believers now. It does. What does the Lord's Return mean to you today?
It means you ought to be watching for it-Let us not sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
What does it mean to 'watch' for the Second Coming? It doesn't mean to look for signs or to study the Bible to find out when He's coming again. You're not smart enough to even recognize the signs, no less interpret them. And the Bible doesn't say when the Lord will return (and it doesn't hint at it either!).
It means to be ready for the Lord whenever He comes. A parable underlines this. A steward is left in charge of a man's house and servants until he returns. After some time, the steward forgets the master is coming again, and starts swilling down the best liquor and beating the servants. Then the master shows us, and the steward is.busted! The punchline to the story is,
What I say to you, I say to all: Watch.
Secondly, it means arm yourself for war in the Last Days. David Koresh believed we were in the Last Days and armed himself and his followers with rifles and pistols. Jim Jones thought the same way and armed his people with guns and poison Koolaid. Doomsday cults have always done this. But Paul wants us to arm ourselves differently. He says,
Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Faith, hope, and charity, these three are the weapons of our warfare. We fight an evil age, not by taking up its own weapons, or by running and hiding till Jesus comes. But we stand up to our enemies by loving them, by putting our faith in the promises of God, and by expecting the Lord to come again and set things right.
When we take up the weapons of the world, we lose because the weapons cannot kill our true enemies. Our enemies are Satan and his demons-and you can't shoot the devil or outvote him or beat him in an argument! He doesn't read letters to the editor or care what you say to your congressman. He laughs at picket lines and manifestoes!
What he doesn't laugh at is faith, hope, and love. Faith means you don't believe him. Hope means you don't fear short-term effects. Love means you win his friends over to God.
This is how to live in the Last Days. Not in fear, not in folly, not in leaving your church, not in digging a bomb shelter.
THE MOTIVE, V.9
We can live in hopefully because our hope is real. It's not a piece of paper or a man's promise. It is God's decree-and as eternal and unchangeable as the One who issued it.
Hope in salvation.for God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we know that God has appointed us to salvation? Some look within: Have I been chosen? Do I have the marks of grace? Am I good enough for God?
Only a Pharisee finds comfort in himself. A Christian finds his hope outside of himself!
Jesus Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
With this wonderful truth-that the One who is coming to judge the world first came to save the world-we're to comfort each other and edify each other.
You know what comfort means. To edify is to build up or support, to strengthen and reinforce. We do this by hearing the Word of God, meditating on it, and discussing with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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