I Thess. 5:3

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

The context of this verse in relationship to the next verse makes they a clear reference to the unbelieving world, not the Church.  It refers to all unbelievers who give very little thought to future events. In Matthew 24:37-39 and Luke 17:26–30, Jesus compares the end times to the days of Noah and Lot.  So let’s review those stories and see what the similarities are. 

Genesis 6 details the condition of mankind during the days of Noah.  It was pretty sad. We read that God saw that the wickedness of man was great; that all their thoughts and deeds were only evil, all the time; that the earth was corrupt and filled with violence.  In chapters 12-19, Genesis gives us the account of Lot and his choice to live where he thought there were greener pastures.  He finally settles in Sodom, which is described as a city of great sexual sin and violence.  In both these stories, the central focus of man seems to be on his own pleasures. Very little thought is given to the God Who created him and gave him life.  Rather, the heart of man is turned inward to his own desires, likes and dislikes; he is full of himself, turning God’s finest creation, the human race, into a mass of violence and hatred. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  If you are a student of history, you know that every age in the history of man has been marked by incredible cruelty, hatred, wars and murders.  This should not surprise us, because when man forgets his God, forgets Who God is, then he completely loses sight of what is important and begins to think only and always of his own desires, deeming those desires to be just and right because, after all, he is the center of the universe. 

Peace and safety, indeed.  Where one man holds his own desires and opinions to be of utmost importance over anyone else’s, including God’s, then there will never be peace and safety. 

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The Day of the Lord

We need to be careful not to confuse the Rapture, described in the previous chapter, with the Day of Lord in the beginning of chapter 5.  The Day of the Lord indicates a time when God (Christ Jesus) will return to the earth; it is a time of judgment of His enemies, and deliverance of His people.  Both of these events were well taught  to the early church, and the first Christians understood that God would return to rule and reign.   The hope that it would be in their lifetime was just the same then as it is for us today and, again, is a reason for us to be living our lives in a godly manner in view of His imminent return. 

A main emphasis here is that these events, while predicted by certain signs (Matt. 24:32-44; Luke 12: 35-40), cannot be accurately predicted as to the exact day or hour.  The important thing was not when, but that He will indeed come. We need to be ready, waiting, and watching eagerly for His return. 

As I study all this, I am impressed with how important the Lord’s return was to the early believers.  We tend to consider eschatological teaching as obscure, and maybe not really that important.  What we need to realize is that without teaching and preaching on this topic, we will lose our zeal to be ready; to be winning others before it’s too late; to look at every day as  “maybe today.”  As the years roll by and I find myself facing the middle of my ’60’s, I am more acutely aware of wasted time; hours and days spend with no real concern that Jesus could come to take the Church out “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” setting into motion all the events that will follow the Rapture. It’s way to easy for us to lose our focus, especially if we are not in the Word; and if the Word is not being preached and taught in its fullness.

I Thess. 5:1-2, continued

There is a reason both times and seasons are used in this passage. Times refers to time in its duration, whether a longer or shorter period.  Seasons draws attention to the characteristics of the period.  The first deals with the measurement of time, the second with the suitable or critical nature of the time.

Bother terms are plural. Times  refers to the ages which may pass before the Rapture occurs. Seasons has more to do with the events which will take place during these times. Other translations refer to times and epochs, or times and dates. 

It is amazing to me that there is such a wealth of meaning in two little words.  So many scriptures come to mind;      II Tim 3:16 and  Proverbs 30:5 are right at the top of my memory, teaching us that every word God inspired the writers to use is significant.  There are no wasted words, no rabbit trails, in scripture.  It is all profitable, and there is something we can learn from every detail.

I Thess. 5: 1-2

” But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Times and seasons refer to the Rapture and The Day of the Lord.  It would seem that the Thessalonians already were acquainted with the teaching about the Rapture.  Acts 1:7 uses the same phrase, times and seasons,  as Jesus was teaching the disciples about His return, telling them that it was not for them to know when His return would happen.

There are always those who want to predict the exact time of Christ’s return.  They go to great lengths, using the 70 weeks of Daniel and other obscure formulas, to pinpoint the time.  Some have taught their followers to sell or give away all that they have in anticipation of the event; some have even dressed in white robes and waited on hilltops, plausibly thinking they would be the first to go.

So far, obviously, none of these predictions has been true.  They will continue to be untrue, because God has said we are not to know the day or the hour.  We are wasting our time to get caught up in this type of screwy theology.

So why not?  Why didn’t God tell us that on a certain date, at a certain time, the Church would be taken up?  I believe it is because He knows that we would fail to be ever watchful; we would become lazy and careless about living Godly in Christ Jesus, knowing that we could clean up our acts in time for His coming;  rather like children being very, very good two weeks before Christmas. Our hope and expectation of His imminent return should color ALL our thinking and ALL our behavior, all of the time.

A Little Background

In order to understand what I Thess. 5 is about, we need to know a couple of other things.  First, it is a continuation of the passage in chapter 4: 13-18  that we love so much for its promise that we need not sorrow at the death of a loved believer because we have the sure hope that we will see that person again.  The passage goes on to describe what we refer to as the Rapture of the Church, when all believers, both dead and alive,  will be snatched away to meet Jesus in the air, to remain with Him forever. 

Second, we need to understand eschatology.  The word itself comes from the Greek word for last, or final.  So eschatology is the study of last things, or the end times in relation to prophecy in God’s Word.  The Thessalonian Christians believed that Christ would return in their lifetime, and were becoming restless and confused as time passed and the great event did not happen. They believed that only those who were alive at the time of Christ’s return would enjoy that amazing experience, and all that was to follow. Paul is writing here to reassure them that everything is in God’s control.

Part of Paul’s purpose was to remind believers that, since the time of His coming is not revealed, we need to be ready at any moment.  That would include the readiness to meet Him with a pure heart, having lived godly in Christ Jesus as they had been taught. They were to be diligent  to be morally and spiritually ready. 

My mom was a wonderful hostess.  She was always prepared for “drop-in” company; always had something delicious she could serve up with coffee or iced tea.  Her house was always in order.  She was ready, prepared, and looking forward to the coming of her guests, whether they were expected or unexpected. That is how we are to look for the coming of Jesus.  We are to go about our daily tasks with the idea in mind that He could come at any time, and we must not be found unprepared. 

So now the scene is set, and we are ready to dig into I Thess. 5. 

 

 

 

Introducing myself

Studying and teaching God’s Word has been a passion of mine for many years.  Dipping my toe into the waters of going public  is a little scary for me, but there are many indicators that this may be the direction that God is showing me for now.  So starting tomorrow, I’m going to start posting  what I’ve been referring to as my mini-studies.  I’ll be starting with I Thessalonians 5, a wonderful, uplifting, and encouraging chapter for all believers. 

A word about comments.  I welcome them, but I will not engage in debates that seem counterproductive; and I will not allow comments that are ugly.  My goal here is to be an encouragement.  If you don’t like/agree with what I say, just go somewhere else.

The posts will be short and to the point.  I pray they will be a blessing to everyone who reads them.