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1 Thessalonians 5:1-3: The Day of the Lord (part 1)

In the last message we looked at Christ’s 2nd coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, and we were reminded that this life is not all there is. Jesus is coming to take us home to be with Him, either in death or at the rapture when all true believers will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air.”

The main cause for unrest among these believers was their thought that only those who were alive at the time of the rapture would witness and share in its glories. All grounds for their unrest were removed with the assuring revelation that there would be no difference in the experience of the believers who had died and those who were alive when Christ returned for His Church. So Paul is comforting those who have buried loved-ones, …”do not sorrow as those who have no hope…” (4:13). He goes on to say, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18). To paraphrase: “calm down. Be of good cheer. The God who raised Jesus from death is in charge, and “God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus (those who have died)” (4:14).

Verse 1a: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren…”

Acts 1:7, “And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

“Times” in Greek is Chronos, it designates time in its duration, whether a longer or shorter period, while “seasons” (epochs) in Greek is kairos which draws attention to the characteristics of the period. Chronos deals with the measurement of time, while kairos deals with the suitable or critical nature of the time.

“But concerning the duration of the successive intervals of time and the epoch-making periods of time, brethren, you have no need that I should be writing to you.” –Wuest Translation

Verse 1b: “…you have no need that I should write to you.”

Paul had already conveyed all this information concerning the future to them. He was not saying that instruction on this point was not necessary, but that they already had a basic understanding of these end time events. That is a contrast the previous section regarding the coming of Christ, “I do not want you to be ignorant (uninformed), brethren…” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Verse 2: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”

Paul presents the solemn truth that the returning Lord will bring a day of judgment for the unbelieving world. With this in mind the duty of the believers is to so live that they will be prepared to meet the Lord whenever He comes giving diligence to be morally and spiritually ready.

2 Peter 3:10-12, “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. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”

The phrase “the day of the Lord,” in the Old Testament (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5) and in the New Testament, (Acts 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

The “Day of the Lord” is an extended period of time, which incorporates the Great Tribulation, the Millennial Reign, the Great White Throne Judgment, which in turn is followed by the New Heavens and New Earth. Basically, the Day of the Lord involves everything that is going to happen in the end times, beginning with the pre tribulation “rapture" of the saints.

“Gathered under the expression “the day of the Lord” is a large group of prophetic events predicted in both the Old and the New Testaments. But the day designated in Scripture as “the day of the Lord” is coming when God will punish human sin, and He will deal in wrath and in judgment with a Christ-rejecting world. One thing we are sure of, that God in His own way will bring every soul into judgment.” –John Walvoord

The day of the Lord is also known by the terms “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) and “Daniel’s seventieth week” (Daniel 9:24-29). Many other students of prophecy refer to this time as the Tribulation (see Matthew 24:9, 21, 29; Mark 13:19, 24; Revelation 7:14).

“As a thief in the night “ describes how this day will arrive. The primary point of the thief analogy is the element of surprise. A thief usually comes when people are asleep or gone.

2 Peter 3:10. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”

Revelation 3:3, “Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”

Revelation 16:15, "Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief!”

Matthew 24:42-44, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

“But this earthly wrath does not pertain to those in Christ (verse 9). Their meeting with Christ will be “in the air” and separate from God’s dealing with those on earth. The only way to hold that this meeting with Christ in the air is an imminent prospect is to see it as simultaneous with the beginning of the divine judgment against earth. Only if the rapture coincides with the beginning of the day of the Lord can both be imminent and the salvation of those in Christ coincide with the coming of wrath to the rest (verse 9).” –John Walvoord

Therefore, in light of the awesome nature and absolute certainty of the “Day of the Lord,” we should be constantly watchful, and live accordingly. Paul was watching throughout his life. “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Verse 3a: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’”

“For when they say peace and safety” The majority of mankind will be preoccupied with the things of this present evil age and will exhibit no anticipation of, or even absolutely no belief in, and no interest in preparing for the Second Coming of Christ. Our Lord used similar terms of comparison to describe the days before His return, declaring that on one hand they would be like the life as usual, days of Noah and Lot: Luke 17:26-30, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed..”

Instead of anticipating and preparing for the coming day of judgment, unbelievers will be wrapped in a fatal, self-deceiving sense of security, saying “peace and safety.” They will be continually and repeatedly assuring themselves that there is peace everywhere and that everything is safe and secure. Deception can be a dangerous and deadly disposition!

The question one might ask is when will the unbelieving world be saying “peace and safety?” Daniel prophesied that in the first half of the 70th week (the 7-year tribulation), 3 ½ years of pseudo peace, then 3 ½ years of total chaos. A covenant of peace with Israel will be made, which most likely allows them to rebuild the temple. In light of events in the Middle East today (2016), it is easy to imagine how the world might respond to what ostensibly appears to be peace in the Middle East! The fact that the long sought after peace with Israel has been achieved will lead to a feeling of “peace and safety.” Watch for the one person who will be able to bring peace in the Middle East.

Verse 3b: “…then sudden destruction comes upon them…”

Sudden destruction: destruction that was unforeseen or unexpected. The word “sudden” is aiphnidios in Greek, and is only found one other time in the New Testament, Luke 21:34, “…and that Day come on you unexpectedly (aiphnidios).” It is something that one cannot anticipate nor understand how it happened.

“Destruction” in Greek is olethros. To destroy utterly or fully and has to do with that which is ruined and is no longer usable for its intended purpose. It is a state of utter and hopeless ruin and the end of all that gives worth to human existence! This word (olethros) occurs in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 5:5, “…deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction (olethros) of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:9. “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction (olethros) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” 1 Timothy 6:9, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction (olethros) and perdition’ (1 Timothy 6:9).

“There will be an air of confidence and security in the world. Then God’s judgment will suddenly begin to descend with vast destructive force. Destruction does not mean loss of being, or annihilation; it means loss of well-being, or ruin as far as the purpose of one’s existence is concerned. It will be as inevitable and unavoidable as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. From this judgment there will be no escape for unbelievers.” –W. MacDonald

“Comes upon them” literally means to stand upon or over and then conveys the sense of being at hand (instant) or to be present and is generally used of any sudden unexpected appearance.

“Them,” unbelievers, those who have spurned all warnings of coming judgment and rejected the offers of grace. Those who have not accepted the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ when they have had opportunity in this age, rejecting Him as Creator, Redeemer and Savior, are destined for eternal punishment (destruction, ruin) in the lake of fire.

There will be no opportunity for those who willingly rejected Christ in the tribulation period, for their names will have been blotted out of the book of life. However, there will be a great multitude out of every tribe and nation saved during the tribulation period: Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” Revelation 7:14, “So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

These will be men and women who never had a real opportunity to understand and receive the gospel before the rapture, but who will believe, even suffering martyrdom for their faith when they read or hear it during this coming time of the “Day of the Lord” and His judgment on earth.

Listen my friend, if you have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and failed to accept Him as your Savior and Lord, when Jesus comes back again, you will never have another chance to be saved. You will be condemned to eternal death in a place, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Luke 9:46).

Verse 3c: “…as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.”

Paul uses this phrase as a figure of speech to refer to labor pains or birth pangs which pictures intense pain. Isaiah 13:6-8 MSG, “Wail! God’s Day of Judgment is near—an avalanche crashing down from the Strong God! Everyone paralyzed in the panic, hysterical and unstrung, doubled up in pain like a woman giving birth to a baby. Horrified—everyone they see is like a face out of a nightmare.” Micah 4:9,10, “For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor. Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in birth pangs.” Note: Micah is referring to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews and to their later return to Palestine under King Cyrus.

Jesus used this same illustration in the Olivet Discourse: “But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come” (Matthew 24:8 NLT).

The tumultuous nature of the birth process pictures the inevitability, suddenness, inescapable nature, and painfulness of the “Day of the Lord.” It is not only sudden but comes unannounced and with considerable pain.

And as maternal birth pains exhibit an increasing intensity and shortened intervals between their occurrence, the events associated with the Day of the Lord exhibit a similar pattern, and as with human birth, the ultimate result and glorious purpose is to bring forth a new life. In other words, the coming of the Day of the Lord marks the beginning of the end of human existence as we have known it for some 6000+ years, the birth of this new age culminating with the return of the Messiah as King of kings and Lord of Lords!

Verse 3d: “And they shall not escape.”

The English translation of “they shall not escape” misses the sense of the Greek passage which is actually a strong double negative, which removes any hope one might have about their ability to escape this dreadful time. There is absolutely no escape.

Hebrews 2:3 NLT, “So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?”

In Romans 2:3, Paul addresses the unbelieving religious person asking them a question to prompt their conscience: “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

The doom of the unbelieving world will be inescapable in the “Day of the Lord.” In light of this inescapable destruction, how comforting to believers were Paul's opening words describing Christ's delivering us from this horrible time… “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

What are believer’s escaping? “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 12:21,22). “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (Mark 13:19).

You can be certain that you will miss the Tribulation, and that you will go to heaven when this life is over. Luke 21:36, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “…that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

Jesus is the only way to God. This is the hardest one for many people to believe. I’ve heard so many people say, “As long as you do the best you can you’ll be okay.” “There are many paths to God, it really doesn’t matter which one you choose.” There are no other “paths” to God or “ways” of salvation. While this “many paths to God” theory is popular in the minds of many and even some modern-day churches, it is a lie designed to keep people from the truth of Jesus Christ. “Jesus said, I am THE WAY, (so there is no other way) THE TRUTH, (so there is no other truth) and THE LIFE; (so there is no other life) no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). (Emphasis provided by the author).

Each person must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “But to as many who received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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