While people are saying, "Peace and security," destruction will come upon them suddenly, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Matthew 24:43, 44). The "day of the Lord" which is to come thus suddenly is often referred to in the Old Testament. There it is a dreadful occasion of Divine manifestation for judgment, to be hailed with gladness when the judgment falls on the enemies of Israel and brings the chosen people deliverance, but to be regarded with terror by sinful Israelites (Amos 5:18). St. Paul regards it as the day of Christ's second advent. But the general use of the expression in the Old Testament justifies us in applying the warning concerning it to various forms of the parousia.
I. THE DAY OF THE LOUD WILL COME UPON THE BENIGHTED AS A THIEF.
1. The day is unexpected. What did the heathen fellow-citizens of the Thessalonians know, or think, or care about the glorious advent of Christ, with its angel-summons and its trumpet-blast for which the Christians were watching so eagerly? The Jews did not expect the coming of the Son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem. The world does not think of the great judgment-day. Worldly people do not contemplate death.
2. No signs are given to the world of the dawning of this dread day. No lurid twilight betokens the tempestuous morning. It bursts suddenly upon a world slumbering in darkness. Science, philosophy, ordinary signs of the times, give no hint of it to the unspiritual. The biblical arithmetic of our modern prophets is always proving itself at fault. No bare intellectual calculation will ever discover the "day of the Lord."
3. It is best for the world that no natural signs should herald this day.
(1) Christian people are better without the common signs which could be discerned by ordinary observation. To possess them would be to walk by sight. They are not given in order that faith may be exercised.
(2) The world at large is better without these signs. They would disarrange all the necessary pursuits of life. Some would cry abjectly for mercy without really repenting at heart. Some, as when plagues raged in cities, would fling off all restraints and plunge into a reckless course of debauchery. Some would coldly calculate the time allowed for sinning before they would need to bethink them of preparing for the end.
II. THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL NOT COME UPON THE ENLIGHTENED AS A THIEF. St. Paul makes an important distinction here - one that is not always recognized: "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."
1. No men are enlightened as to the date of the second advent. Even Christ did not know it. This he distinctly says (Mark 13:32).
2. Christians are enlightened as to the fact and the character of the second advent.
(1) They know that Christ will come again, which is more than the unbelieving world knows. They have Christ's own promise to rely upon (Matthew 24:30).
(2) They know that Christ will come unexpectedly. At least, they ought to know this if they read the teachings of Scripture on the subject.
3. The enlightenment of Christians will prevent the second advent from coming upon them like a thief. When we are prepared for a surprise, it is no longer a surprise. If we know a thing may happen at any time, its occurrence will not give us the shock of an unexpected event. Christ, longed for, eagerly desired, fondly expected, will come at an hour when his people know not, but not when his true disciples are unprepared to welcome him. - W.F.A.
When they shall say, Peace and Safety
I. THE DAY STATED. By the expression, "the day of the Lord," must be meant a day in some unique sense His day; for all days are really days of the Lord of time.
1. By the day of the Lord is signified that day on which He will take the first place in the thoughts of His responsible creatures.
2. It is the day on which He will bring the vast moral account between Himself and His responsible creatures to an end.
II. THE FIGURE EMPLOYED. What are the ideas suggested by the words, "As a thief in the night"?
1. They are suggestive of fear. The old prophets spoke of the coming day of universal doom as "the great and terrible day of the Lord"; and we cannot but echo their language. But if we will, the Judge may be our Friend and Saviour. It is during the years of time that men decide how they will meet Him.
2. They are suggestive of suddenness. There is the contrast which it will present to many of God's judgments in the present life. They approach with measured steps. Neither war, nor famine, nor pestilence, come generally like a thief in the night. But not so will be the Second Advent of Christ. A Christian's first practical anxiety should be expressed in his Master's words, "Lest coming suddenly He find me sleeping."
3. They are suggestive of that which cannot be prevented by our own efforts. We cannot prevent the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven: all that we can do is to prepare to meet Him by judging ourselves in self-examination. We may erect in our own heart a tribunal, and bid all our life pass before it; and then we may hear, if we will, the echoes of the voice of Christ, in mercy or condemnation, as that voice will sound to us hereafter from the judgment throne. Thus we may make a business like preparation for death; for death, like judgment, comes as a thief. Death is the ante-chamber of the judgment hall of Christ. To prepare, therefore, for death, is a man's true and most serious business during his life. "Ye are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief."
(Canon Liddon.)I. IN THY MIDST OF IMAGINED SECURITY. When enjoying riches, and contemplating, as the rich fool, their further augmentation; and when, perhaps, trusting in the infinitude of the Divine mercy, and thinking "the day" afar off.
II. Sudden. Without notice: nothing in the course of nature, or the affairs of men, to indicate the catastrophe.
III. UNAVOIDABLE: reputation, good works, etc., will be as cobwebs.
IV. TERRIBLE. "Destruction."
(Sir E. Bayley, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. L. Nye.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)Edinburgh Review, "describes a village situated on the slope of a great mountain, of which the strata shelve in the direction of the place. Huge crags directly overhanging the village, and massy enough to sweep the whole of it into the torrent below, have become separated from the main body of the mountain in the course of ages by great fissures, and now scarce adhere to it. When they give way, the village must perish; it is only a question of time, and the catastrophe may happen any day. For years past engineers have been sent to measure the fissures, and report them constantly increasing. The villagers, for more than one generation, have been aware of their danger; subscriptions have been once or twice opened to enable them to remove; yet they live on in their doomed dwellings, from year to year, fortified against the ultimate certainty and daily probability of destruction by the common sentiment 'Things may last their time and longer.'" Like the dwellers in this doomed village, the world's inhabitants have grown careless and secure in sin. The scoffers of the last days are around us, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers have fallen asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." But in saying this, they are too confident. Nothing is permanent that has sin about it, nothing secure that has wrath above it, and flames of fire beneath it. Sin has once deluged the world with water, it shall deluge it again with waves of fire. Sodom and Gomorrah are the types that foreshadow the doom of those that live ungodly in these latter times, and he who can walk this reeling world unmoved by all the tokens of its fiery doom, must either have a rock of refuge where his soul may rest secure, or else must have fallen into a strange carelessness, and a sad forgetfulness of God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)Central America? She was in a bad state, had sprung a leak and was going down, and she therefore hoisted a signal of distress. A ship came close to her, the captain of which asked, through the trumpet, "What is amiss?" "We are in bad repair, and are going down: lie by till morning," was the answer. But the captain on board the rescue ship said, "Let me take your passengers on board now." "Lie by till morning," was the message which came back. Once again the captian cried, "You had better let me take your passengers on board now." "Lie by till morning," was the reply which sounded through the trumpet. About an hour and a half after, the lights were missing, and though no sound was heard, she and all on board had gone down to the fathomless abyss. Oh, unconverted friends, for God's sake, do not say, "Lie by till morning." Today, even today, hear ye the voice of God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. W. Hardman.)
(J. W. Hardman.)
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