1But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3For when they say, 'Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 - 11 (NKJV)
The major problem of Christians understanding the letter to the Thessalonians church is the failure to understand eschatology. There really is no reason to miss-understand the intent of the letter nor these verses. Some state that there is no mention of the "rapture" in the bible - and in a word there is no mention of "rapture"- but it is clearly explained. On the other hand rapture is mentioned because it means "caught up", which is exactly what verse 17 of chapter 4 states. Furthermore, I believe, the Thessalonians clearly understood eschatology, which is evident by the first sentence in the portion we are studying today - "but concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write" - why, because they clearly understood how events would unfold at the end times - the prophecies spelt this out clearly, which was further elaborated upon by The Revelation made to John by Jesus Christ himself - see Revelation 1:1. Furthermore, for the Christian, there is no need to know because he or she is waiting and watching - all will be evident when it happens.
The crux of the matter is to understand that the Lord comes twice - once for his people and once with his people. I have done a chart - as have many others - and posted in on the www.life-everlasting.net web site. You will find it under "messages" and clicking on "notes" - the link to the page document is called "The Rapture compared with the appearing of Christ". The Thessalonians had absolutely no problem understanding the second element - the appearing of Christ, but was confused about the first. This is understandable, because like the coming of the Messiah it was not fully revealed in the past, in that the formation of the church as a consequence of Christ's action was a "mystery" - not in a sinister sense - but one of incomplete understanding of which Ephesians speaks of. The Jews did not realise the Messiah was coming as a saviour in the sense of an atonement not as a saviour from their enemies, the Romans. The rapture too, was a mystery - hidden, because until the church was understood, the rapture had no context to explain it.
The biggest mistake people make in reading chapter 4 and chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians is to think that Paul is writing about the same event. He is not! The text gives a clear logical explanation. The Thessalonians were concerned that if saints died they would miss the coming of the Lord or the rapture. They were fearful of this, and they may have been misled into believing that the rapture had already taken place. This lie has been perpetuated through out history. Paul explains in great detail that believers will be 'ruptured", that is, caught-up out of this world prior to the Day of Lord. He does this carefully and in a great many words. Then he gets to the second great event in eschatology and states - there is really no need to explain "The day of the Lord" to you because you understand this. And why wouldn't they as they would have read or heard the Scripture of old and especially enjoyed, due to the hope it conveyed, the pray of Daniel in chapter 2 of the Book d of Daniel:
21And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: Daniel 2:21 (KJV)
The appearing of Christ
|Concerns the Church only: 1 Thes 1:10||Concerns Israel, although the consequence concerns all nations: Ps 6:1-4|
|Comes for His saints: John 14:2-2||Comes with His saints: Jude 13, Zec 14:5|
|Takes place at any moment: Matt 24:36||Proceeded by the tribulation: Revelation 4-19|
|Takes place secretly, in the twinkling of an eye: 1 Cor 15:52||Is public - every eye shall see Him: Rev 1:7|
|Is not the thief in the night - believers are watching and waiting: 1 Thes 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10, Matt 24:43, Rev 16:15, Rev 3:3||Comes as a thief in the night - no-one is watching and waiting: 1 Thes 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10, Matt 24:43, Rev 16:15|
|Comes in the air - the saints rise up to meet Him: 1 Thes 1:10||Places His feet on Mt Zion, Mount of Olives: Zech 14:4-5|
|The saints are gathered to himself: |
1 Thes 5, 2 Thes 2:1
|Angels are sent to gather the elect of Israel: Matt 24:30-31, 25:41|
|Believers taken out of the world: John 14:2,3||The wicked are taken out of this world: Matt 13:41-43|
|He comes to deliver the Church of the wrath to come: 1 Thes 1:1-||He comes to deliver His wrath: Rev 19:11-16|
|He comes as the Bridegroom, to receive His bride, the Church: Matt 25:6, 10||Comes as the Son of Man in judgement upon those that reject Him: Matt 24:27-28|
|Comes as the "Morning Star": Rev 22:16||Comes as the "Sun of Righteousness": |
|Comes without signs: 2 Cor 5:7||Comes in signs and wonders: |
The "times and the seasons" are mentioned in Daniel 2:21 when it is revealed to Daniel the meaning of the dream given to Nebuchadnezzars that described the kingdoms of the world. A similar phrase is used in Acts 1:7 when Jesus explains that the time of the restoration of Israel was not for them to know - noting there was no reason why the church would not know. This is relevant here, as the date of the Day of the Lord is a mystery, but will come into effect when "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25). That is, when the times of the Gentiles has run its course and all those that God will have saved are saved, the events described in Revelation and elsewhere such as Ezekiel will run their course. What this does not say is that we will not be able to discern the nearness of the time. Although we cannot place a date for the rapture - it is imminent (nothing else needs to happen) - nor date the Day of the Lord there will be much that will herald these.
There is no mystery that God will judge the world - this has been inevitable since man sinned and this is explained in great detail in the Bible, beginning at Genesis 3. The only fact missing is the date, but as Jesus pointed out, the time or season will not be a total mystery even as a coming storm isn't to the observant. There will be many aspects of the events in the world all pointing to the end times.
3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? Matthew 16:3 (KJV)
Jesus says to watch, look and obverse the signs -
20'But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. ...25'And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;... 28Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." 29Then He [Jesus] spoke to them a parable: 'Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. Luke 21:20 -30 (NKJV)
Now if there were to be no signs then Jesus would hardly have said to look out for them!
Note also the faithful church of Philadelphia was faithfully watching and commended for it (Rev 3:10). Watching is not setting a date but is the expectant posture of a saved soul. I ask, are you in expectation of the Lords' return?
Note also that Paul sees there is really no reason to write to these folk about this, unlike the rapture that he gives explicit details in the previous chapter.
The day comes as a thief in the night - this only occurs to those that are not watching. Again Jesus had explained this. A house cannot be robbed if the land-lord is watching.
43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Matthew 24:43 (KJV)
Overall the term "the day of the Lord" can be any period that the Lord has or will act in judgement. We see this in the judgement of Israel and the prophecies leading up to it. For example, the dispersion and captivity of Judah was not a sudden or unknown consequence of the sinfulness of Judah - the prophets had warned both Israel and Judah to repent but they heeded not.
The great Day of The Lord will be a dreadful time fully explained in Zephaniah:
14The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. 15That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, Zephaniah 1:14 - 15 (KJV)
The Day of the Lord is also referred to as Jacobs Trouble by Jeremiah (30:7) which the event alluded to is expounded upon in Revelation (chapters 6-19).
The end time begins with a false peace - "peace and safety" - led by the world leader, the Antichrist. This is the rider on the white horse found in The Revelation 6:2 and is this person who is first spoken of in Daniel 9:27 - the great Antichrist. Peace is established by covenant for a short time and suddenly all will change. The second seal of Revelation 6 sees the beginning of violence expounded upon in Daniel 9:27 etc. There will be no escape from the judgement of God. Many of those that believe will be martyred but these will have reserved for them special attention by Christ.
Although the signs of the times will be clearly evident and indeed evident today, and is obvious to the saint who bothers to look around, to the apostate church and the world in general this day will come as a thief in the night. It will surprise most, although the prophets like Amos, Joel, Isaiah and Daniel and that recorded by John in The Revelation are given for all to see. There is nothing new in this - the destruction of Jerusalem, Babylon, and Nineveh, to name a few, all were heralded with signs, but for most people it was a sudden and terrible surprise. Compare also the call of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). 2 Thessalonians 2:3 etc shows that the Day will not come until a complete falling away occurs and the antichrist is revealed.
Christians are not in darkness - having the Holy Spirit to discern. Our problem is that we don't listen. We become too wrapped up in our own ideas and the affairs of our life and this world to watch and wait, patiently, for the coming of Christ. Events in history are seldom sudden - there is usually long and tortuous events that lead to the final calamity, whether it be the two world wars or the tragedy of Rwanda. The first world war was not began with a gun shot - the necessary stresses and strains between and within individual nation states, that eventually became involved, began years before the trigger was pulled that caused the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The signs were all present; the final straw was a trigger pull. And likewise, the Day will not happen without a series of preluding events - we can see much evidence that the falling away is occurring now - but post rapture this will be exponential - as meat goes bad without salt so will the total depravity of this world when the salt of the world is withdrawn (see Matthew 5:13).
Christians are neither in the night nor in darkness. The light is Jesus Christ himself - ‘I am the light of the world' and Christians rest in this light. In practice this is the Bible along with the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Read the first chapter of John's gospel to see this spelt out and the practicality of this in the first letter to John (1st John). Darkness is the natural habit of man (Psm 82:5). Ever since Adam sinned he has delighted in darkness - his choses his abode in darkness in an attempt to hide from God, however foolish this may sound (John 3:19). Those that practice evil are in darkness and furthermore they hate the light - that is Jesus Christ.
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." John 3:21 (NKJV).
The trouble with light is that is shows up our true nature - warts and all. Have you ever shone a bright at an angle upon a supposedly smooth wall - we see all its imperfections. Our drive way is paved, which my father and I did may years ago. It was with great surprise one night as I opened the gate and my wife drove the car into the property that I could see every imperfection in the drive way - I never realised how imperfectly we had laid the pavers.
If we are in God and abide in him then we are in the light.
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.1 John 1:7 (NKJV)
Sleeping here is lying down and resting and here I see the word to align with being at ‘ease'. One parties all night and rests during the day - work is not done. Amos writes:
Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of Israel comes! Amos 6:1 (NKJV)
This verse is illustrative of us today. Amos laments the state of Israel - its moral decay and idol worship and writes to warn the people of the impending calamity because God judges people in order to root out the evil. Amos warns the people who have a sense of self-security (cf ‘peace and safety'), who are ‘at ease', and in the same sense ‘asleep' completely oblivious to the fact that God hated their sins and was about to deal with them in judgement - the same state most of the world finds itself today - the parallel is the same.
The world is drunk on its own glory, its own wealth, its own intoxicating sinfulness, and cannot discern that a day of judgement is coming, although it is clearly obvious. A Christian is sober - both alcohol wise and morality wise - one cannot think if not sober, and one cannot commune with God if one is not sober. It is complete at ease - in fact like the day of Noah as Jesus mentions - life goes on it a state of ease as Noah slaved to build an ark, that in the end saved 8 souls (Matthew 24:37).
The night is for evil. Night is symbolic of hiding from the preying eyes of God. Our most depraved debauchery occurs at night. Drunkenness occurs at night - symbolic of the absence of the fear of God.
V8. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
A Christian is a "day" person - what he or she does, what he or she thinks, the way he or she behaves and response to situations is in full view of all. There is no need to hide his or her actions or thoughts - they should be pure. In this world it is easy to become polluted. Our feet do so every day and they need washing every day - symbolic of our association with the world. The coming together weekly allows each to wash another's feet. Forsaking the meeting together leads to pollution that can infect the whole body.
A Christian needs protection from the pollution of the world, the war against ‘against the rulers of the darkness of this age' (Ephesians 6:12), and this is done with the armour of God. Here Paul highlights the two required to stay sober - the breastplate of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. The breastplate protects the heart and without protection of our heart we will loose our first love - that for God. We must maintain constant vigilance in guarding our love for God - a love to please Him. Our faith is in God, in His promises, in His word. It is the unwavering confidence in God. Mentioned here because the end times sounds and looks absolutely dreadful, yet we can have confidence in God of our salvation. This leads to the second being the helmet which is the hope of salvation. This protects the head, the part that thinks and ponders and considers - the seat of our intelligence. Our will to please God comes from the hope of salvation afforded to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. The helmet protects our mind so the wiles of Satan cannot influence us. No power on earth or elsewhere can touch us if girded with the whole armour of God. Our confidence in God will quench any doubts we have. Assurance of salvation gives us boldness to enter a new day.
This is a salient point and one that gives great hope. Christ came into the world to save us, not condemn us. We are not appointed to wrath but to salvation. Obvious we have a choice - chose the salvation through Jesus Christ or try salvation through your own self endeavours. The later will fail and you will receive the wrath of God. Therefore, don't miss-interpret this passage. Nowhere does it say that a sinful unrepentant soul will be saved - its speaks to Christians who comprehend the joy and peace of the gospel of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of Christ's death was to bring us all together with Him, at the great marriage supper. So whether we have died or whether we are still alive, the end will be a joyous re-union with Christ in heaven.
Two things are required - the gospel gives us great comfort, so be comforted. A person who is saved and dies we will meet again when Christ comes. Secondly, we need to teach each other the truth. The latter unfortunately takes effort, something that the model age affords little of - unless there is a quick and simple way of gaining something, the modern person appears little interested in partaking. Edification requires reading, listening and discussing with each other. Everyone in this room should (perhaps must is a better word) be involved in a bible-study, or ‘cell group'. To learn you must put time aside to read followed by discussion. The best way to learn is to teach others - and in this case, share what you have learnt with someone older and wiser who may then exhort and instruct you if there is difficulty in your understanding.
Therefore, a Christian whether he or she has died or is alive, will meet the Lord in the air at the rapture and prior to the final judgement called The Day of the Lord. Until that time the Christian is to live in the light - illuminated by the word of God, ministered to by His Holy Spirit. There comes a day when God will judge the living and the dead who have rejected Christ his Son. This will occur suddenly and unexpectedly to those who are not watching and waiting and will herald seven years of terrible judgement.
Much has and I guess will be written on the last days. There is a wealth of information available, noting that the Scripture must be the primary source. Much is confusing to read - full of information but often poorly edited, unfortunately, written by well meaning men, who confuse exhortation with mere babble! One question that needs to be answered is "why are you trying to form an opinion on the last days?". Too much in the way of pride and arrogance has developed between believers who form "the last and only 'right' view" on this topic, often in the absence of being informed, most noteworthy, often in the absence of understanding basic Scripture, in particular what the gospel is.
Begin with the book of Romans before attempting any understanding of the last days. Understand what the gospel is and hence what salvation really means to both God and you. Fully understand the following terms - do this by writing a page of notes or dot points on each - justification, redemption and propitiation (You should really read Leviticus and Deuteronomy at least during your study of Romans to understand the term "law"). Then read the gospels, writing a page of notes as summaries on each. Highlight on another page all the verses that speak of a future time. Read then the Old Testament - starting at Genesis then moving to Exodus and Joshua. Follow this with the historical books of Samuel and Kings. Only then read Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah's books, Zechariah, Zephaniah and Hosea (as a beginning). Without a firm grounding in the historical context of Judah and Israel you cannot begin to comprehend the prophets. Read Revelation a few times referring back to the prophets to gain perspective of the history that surrounds each event.
To understand the Last Days the following questions need answering, as listed below. I use the word "view" here, because, although scripture is fairly clear there are some un-answered questions, and some that can only be answered vaguely. In the end, there is only one view worthwhile, and that is of God himself.
1. Is Israel and the Church separate entities?
This answers the question of whether the church replaced Israel or has Israel been put aside for a time. The view requires an explanation of the purpose and content of Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11 amongst others, but these principally. Those that hold the covenant theory embraced by Calvin and others will see that the church spiritually replaces Israel. This allows a wide variety of views on the last days. Those that see Israel as having been put aside for a while but will have a remnant provoked to believe mush hold the view that Israel is not the Church. The former view will have practical difficulties to overcome in explaining the book of Romans.
2. What is the Kingdom of God?
This cannot be answered until a full understanding of Israel is obtained. The question is, is the Kingdom of God past, present or future? And to whom does it refer? It is best to start with Genesis and understand who Israel is followed by understanding the prophecies of the Davidic kingdom, especially in regard to the Messiah. Following this, you will need to understand fully what Israel did to the Messiah and its effect on its history, as affected by the prophecies, and how the new revealed mystery - the church - fits in. Only then will you understand what the Kingdom of God is.
3. When, for how long and who is the Tribulation for?
This question also answers the question, does the Church pass through the tribulation? Interpretation of this requires an understanding of the 70 weeks of Daniel amongst other passages. There have been a wide variety of responses to this question and will depend in part, if not in totality, on the responses to the first two questions.
4. Is there rapture?
Again the answer will depend upon the views of the first three questions. Further, if there is to be a rapture, as 1 Thessalonians is pointing out, when will it occur; pre, mid or post tribulation. Depending upon the view obtained, there will be a need to define more or less the meaning of tribulation and wrath. Of importance is the need to understand justification, redemption and propitiation (see Romans 3) to form a view on whether the tribulation delivers just that - tribulation or whether it also delivers wrath, and if wrath, then what does justification and redemption mean to the Church, who in some (il)logical sequences, is purported to receive the wrath of God.
5. What is the Millennium and when does it occur?
The consequence of answering questions 1-4 will bring about a view on what the millennium is and when it occurs as described in Revelation 20:1-6. The way you form you view will be based on the way you interpret scripture. Do prophecies read as real events in real time in real places or are they merely spiritual pointers to an allegory of history and life in general?
Some commentators suggest the rapture stemmed from the theories of dispensation developed by John Nelson Darby, an early 1800's Christian. Nothing can be further from the truth. Although Darby certainly developed and push to the bounds dispensationalism, both the idea of what how dispensations applied to history and the rapture had already been voiced. It is reported (and I have not checked the primary texts yet), amongst others that Ephraim (of Syria 306-373) voiced the ideas that the church will be snatched away before the tribulation. A citation in Paul J. Alexander (1985) The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 210 may shed some light on the truthfulness of the claim.
What is extraordinary is the view that unless ancient writings of doctrine written by men can be discovered, the Holy Spirit is deemed incapable of revealing anything to 21 century Christians. The Bible is the ancient writing forming the basis of our truth whether or whether not texts by fallible men can be found to support it! Hence, whether or not the truth of the end times has only been clearly articulated since 1830 or since 300AD is neither here nor there. What is important is that our relationship with God is established on His word.
 There are a myriad of illustrations of the coming world leader in both Old and New Testament. Missler suggests 33 in the Old and 13 in the New (Prophecy 20/20, C Missler, Thomas Nelson, 2006).
 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. (5) They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. Psalm 82:4-5 (KJV).
 Note that ‘propitiation" is not the same as atonement, although there is the element of atonement present, whatever some bible translations may say - ie Romans 3:25.