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1 Thessalonians 5 - Stay Alert for Christ's Return

INTRODUCTION: Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians with more detail about the second coming of Christ, and how Christians should be prepared by continuing to live in the light. His teaching on this subject is practical, and he makes it clear that since we cannot know a specific time for the return of Christ, Christians should strive to live in the light of truth with an attitude of expectancy. He closes with specific ways to live out our faith, and to have continual praise to the Lord for whom we wait.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible (WEB).


1 Thessalonians 5 "1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. 4 But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5 You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don't belong to the night, nor to darkness,"

COMMENTS: Paul may have taught this truth while he was with the Thessalonians, considering his statement, "for you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night." In his letter he now gives them a reminder of that truth which can be shared with other Christians. The unknown time of Christ's return is consistent with the teaching of the Lord Jesus, as he had used a comparison to the days of Noah. Matthew 24 "36 But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 "As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, 39 and they didn't know until the flood came, and took them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one will be left; 41 two women grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Watch therefore, for you don't know in what hour your Lord comes. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don't expect, the Son of Man will come."

Jesus also taught using a parable about ten virgins who were waiting for their wedding and only five kept ready for the bridegroom's arrival at any time, while the other five tried to prepare too late. Matthew 25 "10 While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' 12 But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.' 13 Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

We must remain firm in our faith until either we rest in the grave, or the Lord returns to transform us as he comes in the air. Those who do not accept the grace of the Lord while it is available, will with certainty receive his judgment, and there will be no escape when that time comes. The spiritual light of truth about his return is constant through the earthly cycles of day and night, so we must be "awake" in light of that truth.


1 Thessalonians 5 "6 so then let's not sleep, as the rest do, but let's watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. 8 But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."

COMMENTS: Paul uses picturesque speech to tell the Christians to remain ready as though always awake, while others have not prepared, as if to sleep through the most important event of their lives. This is not speaking of the natural and necessary cycles of sleep for the body, but of the continually alert condition of our hearts and minds to spiritual reality. He also introduces the metaphor of the armor of God that we must "put on" for protection against the attacks on our faith that are sure to come while we are still in the world. These attacks could lull us to sleep from our spiritual awareness, along with the unbelievers. The breastplate of faith is a love gift from the Lord that will guard our heart. The helmet represents the hope of completed salvation, for God has spared us from the wrath to come, and to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, that whether we live or die before his return, we shall live together with him eternally.


1 Thessalonians 5 "11 Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do. 12 But we beg you, brothers, to know those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, 13 and to respect and honour them in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. 15 See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all."

COMMENTS: Paul instructs that anytime believers are together, they should be about the business of encouraging and building up one another about that which the Lord has promised for our future state. Paul emphasizes how important it is to recognize with respect those who are over the local assembly, and to honor them in love for the work they perform. Then Paul tells the church of responsibilities for each believer within the body. Be at peace within the assembly by taking action in the following areas. Gently correct the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all. Paul's advice has just as much application today as it did at the original time of writing.


1 Thessalonians 5 "16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you. 19 Don't quench the Spirit. 20 Don't despise prophesies. 21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil."

COMMENTS: This passage contains very brief statements that have far more depth than their few words might at first imply, and this overview of Paul's letter will not be the place for an exhaustive examination. But a few comments are in order before letting the unexpanded scripture remain as the baseline reference for the practice of our daily living. Our rejoicing is not because of any present circumstance, but rather an underlying response to our sure hope in Christ as Paul explained in another letter, Romans 5 "1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

The apostle Peter wrote this advice to Christians, 1 Peter 4 "12 Beloved, don't be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you, to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you. 13 But because you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy." Because of these truths we should continue in prayer for strength from the Lord for ourselves and for others; counting that all things that happen around us, are within the will of God in Christ Jesus. We must be careful not to restrain the activity of the Spirit of God within ourselves or others as we look to the word of God with discernment. Through the scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can determine the good things that we must hold onto firmly, and know every form of evil from which we must abstain.


1 Thessalonians 5 "23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the holy brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."

COMMENTS: What confidence we should have as we consider that Paul directs attention to the God of peace providing us with peace that can surpass all other forms, as the Lord himself sets us apart completely from the world system. If we follow Paul's previous injunction that we not quench the spirit, the Lord who calls us is faithful, who will also preserve our whole spirit, soul, and body blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though Paul knows he is secure in the hands of the Lord, he asks that the readers "pray for us," and those prayers would include Sylvanus and Timothy who were named in the opening of the letter. When we are praying for others in the Lord, it is much more natural to greet them warmly. The close of this letter has striking similarity to the opening in chapter one. Paul wants this letter to be shared with all the believers at Thessalonica, not hesitating to call them holy brothers, and he states this as a solemn command in the Lord. The final line of the letter could be taken as a brief prayer, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."


I thank you Lord for Paul's words about the way that we can live in confident expectation, while not knowing when you will return for those saved by your grace. The widespread and readily accessible communication sources that continually feed us information about troubling events worldwide could otherwise give us serious concern about an uncertain future. You, Lord, have provided the unshakeable confidence that our hearts can be at peace despite any unsettling circumstances. Help me Lord to continually review the scriptures for the overwhelming supply of reminders of your compassionate protection for those who put their trust in you. You have given me that breastplate of faith to guard my heart, and the helmet of salvation that calms my thoughts. I want to stay spiritually alert as I live day by day, while also remembering the needs of others around me. May I keep the joy of the Lord as my strength, not forgetting to pray and to give thanks for all things as being your will for my life. I want to honor the promise of things to come so I will not restrain the work of the Holy Spirit. I desire to use scripture to evaluate all matters so that I can avoid every form of evil while living out that which is good in your eyes. My confidence is not in myself for any of this because I know Lord that you alone can sanctify me totally so my whole spirit, soul, and body will be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have calls me, and you are faithful to complete the work you began in me. All praise to my Savior! Amen.

Published 28 March 2011