1 Thessalonians 5:4-11: The Day of the Lord (part 2)

November 17, 2016


Paul reminds them that he had taught them about their future, specifically, about “the day of the Lord,” that future time when God will judge the world and punish the nations.But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night…” (5:1,2).

Paul had assured the Thessalonians that their believing loved ones would not be left behind at the rapture. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep" (4:14-15).

This is the hope of every Christian because we have put our faith in the only One who has conquered death and sin. What a hope we have, that one day, we will be reunited with our believing loved ones in the presence of Christ Himself.  "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:16,17).

We know that one day, maybe today, we will be with those we love in the presence of Christ for eternity. What a reunion! We, as believers, are assured that we will be with the Lord and will be united with our loved ones again in heaven, forever.

Verse 4: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”  


“Not” is ou which is the Greek negative meaning absolutely not. It means as believers our position is sure in Christ, the Light of the world. Now that we are children of light, and do not have to stay in the darkness under the dominion of Sin.

“Darkness” in Greek is skotos is used here figuratively, it refers to spiritual or moral darkness. It is the opposite of light leaving absolute darkness. It literally refers to that sphere in which light is absent. In spiritual terms, absence of light by default pictures that which is immersed in evil and sin.

“Error and ignorance versus truth and understanding—this is the intellectual aspect of the darkness/light analogy of Scripture. In other words, the world, because of its darkened understanding, is ignorant of this impending doom that even today stands imminently ready to strike.” – Keathley

Paul makes this point to the Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  

Jesus said:  “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more  than the light, for their actions were evil” (John 3:19 NLT).

Those who are in spiritual darkness have no perception or spiritual understanding. It is important that we, as believers, are not surprised at these events. We are to be sensitive to what is happening on earth because we are expecting the coming of Christ.

John 12:35,36, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.”

“Overtake in Greek is katalambano to take eagerly, grasp with force, lay hold of, seize with hostile intent.  Here Paul uses katalambano to describe the Day of the Lord” seizing upon or coming suddenly upon unbelievers in the same way a thief would come into one's house and seize our possessions!

Jesus said,Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.”

Verse 5: “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness…”

Ephesians 5:8,9 NLT “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

Before we became children of God we were “full of darkness” Now we are “people (sons) of light.” We partake of the quality of light. We have the ability to perceive and understand spiritual truth.

Night people have  a bleak and terrifying future as Jesus describes their ultimate destiny they will be “cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12). 

Verse 6:Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”

“We’ve been talking about night, we talked about darkness, and now we add another component: ‘sleep.’ The unregenerate are in the night; the night is pitch black and they’re asleep. That compounds their insensitivity, doesn’t it? It’s night.  That’s that enough.  It’s pitch black. That’s doubly bad. And they’re in a coma, absolutely insensitive, insensible to spiritual reality.” –John MacArthur

1 Peter 4:7 MSG, “Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer.”

The term “sleep” in Greek is katheudo, in this context it refers to spiritual lethargy and negligence with a view to Christ’s return. It is the opposite of being “alert and sober.”  It refers to the spiritual state of those who are blissfully continuing in sin despite the warnings of God.

It is not that they're unable to hear the warning,  they are answering it with “Peace and safety!” Rather, because their interests do not include exalting Jesus as Lord of their lives, they choose spiritual darkness, or night, and insist that there is no cause for alarm. We, as “sons of light” choose to walk in the day, living according to the light of His word. 1 John 1:6,7, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The Greek word for “sober” is nepho, meaning, “to be sober (not drunk), not intoxicated; (figuratively) free from illusion, ie: from the intoxicating influences of sin (like the impact of selfish passion, greed, etc.).” –Strong

“Sober” is to behave in an orderly manner, to be sober, serious, sane, sound-minded, discreet, self-disciplined, prudent, and moderate.

Don’t be caught off guard like unbelievers!

Verse 7: For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.”

“To explain what he means in verse 6, Paul states the normal pattern of life. People usually go to bed and sleep at night. Those who drink strong drink to excess often do so at night. Because Christians are not ‘children of the night’, they should keep awake. Those who drink to excess are not in full control of themselves. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus should always be ready for him to come.”–easytenglish.info


This verse is to be taken in the literal sense. Night is the time when sleepers sleep, and drinking men are drunk. Most sins are committed at night. Whoever is sinning seems to think the darkness will cover the sin. In daytime most people are working. The light of day keeps many sins from occurring.

“If you want to see the depth of insensitivity of an unregenerate person, see the compounding of those four concepts: it is night for them, it is pitch black, they are asleep in a drunken stupor. We have nothing to do with that kind of life. We’re day people.  And wouldn’t it be absolutely ridiculous for us to conduct ourselves as if we were night people?  That’s his whole exhortation here. Day people shouldn’t act like night people, that’s not the pattern of your life so why interrupt the normal righteous pattern with night life? It’s no place for night life with day people.”–John MacArthur

Romans 13:12-14, “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. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

“There are a few who have reached to such a pitch of shameless idleness that they sleep in the day, and there are others who have come to such a state of debauchery that they are drunken in the day. But this is not the common way of things, nor even in the judgment of the most licentious of the world is this at all a proper state of things. “They that sleep sleep in the night. They that are drunken are drunken in the night.” Let us who are of the day be sober, and let us of course be awake, but let us be more than awake, since watchfulness is here joined to wakefulness, and watchfulness in a soldier requires that his armor be on. So Paul pushes the parallel a little farther.” –Charles Spurgeon

“Drunk” in Greek is methuo from methu wine, meaning to drink to intoxication or to make drunk. They carouse in the night because their innate nature is those who are night people, people of darkness. Such behavior is natural and expected. The word nepho means sober in two senses: First, it has to do with the avoidance of intoxication. Second, it has to do with the kind of behavior that we associate with sobriety––self-control, sound judgment, discretion, dependability, and studied decisions.

Verse 8a: “But let us who are of the day be sober…”

Paul calls on these believers to the kind of behavior that is consistent with their identity, who they are in Christ. Because our true nature is that of a day person, Paul exhorts us to continually be sober and not allow ourselves to become "drunk" so to speak when it comes to spiritual truth. Believers are to live in the light of Christ, not the darkness ruled by Satan.

“When soldiers...sleep they put off their armor; but in the day when they are awake and on their guard they wear their armor, and are ready for the fray. See how much is involved in Christian wakefulness. God help us to carry out every virtue to its legitimate consequences,-not to be wakeful after a fashion, but wakeful after God’s fashion.” –Spurgeon

Verse 8b:putting on the breastplate of faith and love…”

“Putting on the breastplate.” Well-equipped soldiers wore a breastplate to preserve the vital organs. The modern-day equivalent is the bulletproof (Kevlar) vest.

“Putting on” means literally to clothe or dress someone and to put on as a garment, to cause to get into a garment. It is in the aorist tense which indicates this putting on is a past completed action and includes the idea that this action was decisive. When did the Thessalonians put on the breastplate? This transpired the moment they confessed Christ as Lord and Savior

Every believer has put on the “breastplate of faith and love,” positionally at the moment of salvation, but now in the process of daily (even moment by moment) sanctification (growth in holiness) believers have the privileged obligation to live out experientially what is true positionally.

Verse 8c: “…and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”

“Helmet” in Greek is  perikephalaia from peri, around and kephale, head. The Roman helmet was made of leather or metal. It had a band to protect the forehead and plates for the cheeks, and extended down in back to protect the neck. When the helmet was strapped in place, it exposed little besides the eyes, nose, and mouth. The helmet, being hot and uncomfortable, would be put on by a soldier only when he faced impending danger.

A Roman soldier who had lost his helmet was in danger of receiving severe head wounds which would, at the very least disorient him and render him ineffective and in danger of further injury. Similarly, a Christian who has no assurance of salvation or has "lost his hope" cannot be bold in resisting Satan.

“Satan’s ‘broadsword’ has two sides to it: discouragement and doubt. Satan wants to belt you in the head with discouragement and doubt. His attacks of discouragement might go like this:

‘You sure are giving a lot and not getting much in return. You’re circumscribing your life to a certain standard and setting yourself apart from the world. But what happens? You just lost your job! Some blessing! You’ve been reading your Bible every day, but your wife is as cranky as she was before you bought it, and it hasn’t had any effect on her. What is God doing in your life? You’ve been going to church for years, but look at your kids. They don’t respect you today anymore than they ever did.’

That would discourage anyone. You might have been teaching a class for a long time, yet wonder if anyone is getting anything out of it. That could discourage you. Satan also wants to hit you in the head with doubt:

‘How do you know you’re a Christian? Are you sure you’re saved? You certainly don’t deserve to be; look what you just did! Do you think that’s what a Christian does?’

Many people suffer from doubt and discouragement, but the “helmet of salvation” is our protection.” –John MacArthur

Hope of salvation,” refers to “the hope that salvation gives to us.” Ultimately this “hope” culminates in the return of our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to Rapture His Bride, the church, out of evil age, rescuing us from the terrible, righteous wrath of God that is coming upon the whole world.

Vine has an interesting thought on the believer's hope observing that,

“Until the Lord comes the believer will be surrounded by the enervating (causing one to feel drained of energy or vitality) influences of a world bent on ease and pleasure, hence (in Paul's exhortation) his eye is directed to the future in order to encourage him to resist the spirit of the age in which he lives.”

As believers, we are to be “looking for the blessed hope” (Titus 2: 13) which is the appearing of the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT).

Verse 9,10: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

“Appoint” in Greek is tithemi and it means to set, to place or to put. Here it is used figuratively to mean “appoint.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Our salvation proceeds from God's appointment and is connected with the past act and with deliberate purpose of an infinitely merciful, gracious God. God wills our salvation, not our destruction!

Paul opens this letter with, “…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The Greek word for “wrath” is orge, in this verse it describes God's holy, righteous wrath, which is not an uncontrollable anger. It is His settled opposition to and displeasure with sin. God’s wrath is his holy hatred of all that is unholy, His righteous indignation against everything that is unrighteous.

John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

“If indeed the ‘Day of the Lord’ commences at the midpoint of the last 7 years and the Great Tribulation begins with bowl judgments filled with God's wrath, it would appear that the wrath Paul is referring to here is that described in Revelation 6-19, although obviously it all culminates in the Lake of fire’ (Revelation 21:8) which is a manifestation of His eternal wrath. Either way this truth by Paul is good news for believers…we are delivered (the meaning of the word soteria translated salvation) from the wrath to come.” –preceptaustin.org


God’s wrath is reserved for those who reject Christ and refuse to accept God's pardon for sin in Him, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Wrath is not a part of the believer’s future, because Jesus has fully taken the wrath of God for our sins upon Himself and paid the debt fully. Instead, our prospect is eternal joy with Him! Verse 10, “…whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

Verse 11: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

The fact that Jesus Christ, God’s Son died for us and rose again, and that the Holy Spirit lives in us as believers, and that we have been delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). If that doesn’t make you shout hallelujah, I don’t know what will!

2 Timothy 4:6-8, “…the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

1 Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”


, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any moRevelation 21:4

re pain: for the former things are passed away.”

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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