1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you.…
I. HOW THE DAY OF THE LORD IS SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED IN ITS COMING. "But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." By the same method which is followed in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, the apostle seeks to impress on the Thessalonians a certain point relating to the times and. the seasons which make up the period of the Lord's dealing with men. This related more particularly to the day of the Lord, the day when the Lord is to descend to earth, which is to be thought of as the completing point of the times and the seasons. It is practically to each of us the day of our death. When with them he had taken care that they should accurately understand the sudden and unexpected nature of the advent. There were decisive words of the Lord on which to proceed. "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only;" "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." There was even the same image employed by our Lord which is employed here. "But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched, and not have left his house to be broken through." As a thief, without notice given and under cover of the night, approaches the dwelling which its occupant thinks secure, so stealthily approaches the day of the Lord. To all alike the uncertainty exists, and will exist. All fixings of the time, such as are sometimes attempted, are wholly unwarranted. God does not mean that either the Church or the world should know the time, any more than he means that any of us should know the time of our death.
II. HOW TO THE CARNALLY SECURE THE DAY OF THE LORD IS TO COME AS A TERRIBLE SURPRISE. "When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape." The image is carried forward, and we are to think of those who confine their interest to the earthly sphere, and do not dream of their possession as ever to be disturbed. But, having sown carnal security, they are to reap destruction, and not only in their earthly but also in their higher interest. It is a strong word which is employed, and corresponds to "wrath," which is afterwards employed. This feeling of carnal security grows upon men. At first they chide themselves that they neglect Christ and their everlasting salvation. But, carried forward by the desire or' earthly gratification and in confidence in their own strength, they find excuses for the course which they are following. A state of moral darkness is produced in them. They become blinded to the character of God, and the opposition which is ever widening between their life and the will of God. The result is, that qualms of conscience leave them, and they say, "I have a feeling of peace within, and there is no trouble from without." But just when they crone to this height of carnal security, then sudden destruction comes upon them, from which there shall be no escape. Thus, it would seem, wilt it be at last. All men wilt not be ready for the descending Lord. "As were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man." So it would seem is it, anticipatively, now. Men go on in their sinful courses, until they are suddenly overtaken by death and destruction.
III. HOW TO SONS OF LIGHT AND SONS OF THE DAY THE DAY OF THE LORD SHOULD NOT BE A SURPRISE. "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: fur ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." The Thessalonian brethren are excluded from the darkness which is implied in the state of carnal security; it was not, therefore, designed that that day should overtake them as a thief. The class to which they, as Christians, properly belonged, was that of sons of light and sons of the day. They are those to whom the Lord has been revealed, especially to whom it has been revealed that he will come, and who thus have light in them. They are those upon whom the Sun of righteousness has risen, making day aroused them. Welcoming the light, even in its reproving power, they come to be made of light and enveloped with light, so that they are sons of light (which is the Divine nature) and sons of the day (which is the Divine encompassment). When it is always light, the thief has not opportunity of approaching without being seen. So those who have abundance of light in them and around them should not be surprised by the day of the Lord. The class from which we as Christians are excluded is that of those who are of the night and of darkness. They are those who have moral night drawn around them. They are those into whose nature the light of God's mercy and truth has not penetrated. Loving the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil, they come to have darkness as their surrounding and their nature, so that they are of the night and of darkness. It was open to the apostle, from the use of similar expressions by our Lord ("sons of this world," "sons of the devil"), to have said sons of the night and sons of darkness. He seems to have chosen his language purposely to avoid the idea of freedom, to bring out the idea of servitude. They are not like the free sons of light and free sons of the day. They are rather those who are hemmed in by the night, who are enslaved to darkness. When there is darkness in and around a dwelling there may be said to be an invitation to the thief to approach. So those who have darkness in and around their being may be said to invite a surprise from the day of the Lord.
IV. HOW WE ARE BOUND, AS ENLIGHTENED CHRISTIANS, TO WATCH AND BE SOBER. "So then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night." There is put forward what we are not to do. Let us not sleep, as do the rest of mankind. Sleeping implies obliviousness and inactivity. The rest of mankind are in an oblivious, inactive state, especially with regard to the solemn issues of life. Let us who have light not be like them. What we are to do is to watch. We are to have the wakeful activity of the sentinel at his post. He knows not from what side or what hour the enemy may approach, so he has altogether and always to be vigilant. In like manner, let us take full account of the fact that death is coming. And, seeing we know not how or what hour it may come, let our vigilance all round never sleep. What we are to do is also to be sober. A subject should be in a fit state when ushered into the presence of his sovereign. It will be a solemn thing for us to be ushered into the presence of the Lord at death; and we should be in a fit state for the occasion. We should especially have our appetites in proper restraint. We should have the full command of our powers. We should be so employed from moment to moment that, when the last moment comes, we can fitly leave our employments and pass into the presence of our Judge. Not to be doing this, is to be conforming to unenlightened practices. "They that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night." The literal fact is stated as the basis for thought. Night is the congenial time for sleep. So those who are in the night of sin are in a drowsy, unalarmed state with regard to their spiritual concerns. They do not take into account that they have to meet death, and yet, however deep their sleep, they have to meet it and the realities to which they will be wakened up after death. Night is also the congenial time for drunkenness. How much of the drinking that is to be deplored goes on after darkness has set in! So those who are in the night of sin are in a state of spiritual intoxication. And that is the worst thing that can be said of the literal drunkard. His spiritual nature is in a bad state. In not restraining his appetites he is rebelling against God. In continuing in sin he is hardening his heart. And he is not fit for passing into the presence of his Judge. And so is it, too, with those who are drunken with the world's engagements and cares. They become incapacitated for spiritual exercise, and for the enjoyment of the Lord's presence. "But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare."
I. HOW WE ARE TO GIVE PROOF THAT WE ARE SOBER BY BEING ARMED WITH FAITH, LOVE, AND HOPE. "But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation." Having the light of day, and knowing what is coming, let us, as sober men, take all due precautions. For us to be forewarned should be to be forearmed. It is only defensive armor that is thought of here as brought into requisition. The idea seems to be, that we are to be armed against all that would unfit us for our Lord's coming.
1. The breastplate. This is a double piece of armor. It is faith and love combined. Faith apprehends the Lord's coming, in opposition to blind unbelief which says, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fall asleep, all things continue as they were." Faith defends by encircling us with the Divine strength, which is as though every part of our defenseless hearts were covered with armor. But faith only rightly defends when, at the same time, love gives Christ the possession of our hearts. It is the world that tempts us to forget the Lord's coming, to make no preparation for death. When our hearts are filled with love to the Savior, we are enabled to keep out the world. The breastplate of our defense being completed by love, brings it into agreement with what, in Ephesians 6:14, and also in Isaiah 59:17, is called "the breastplate of righteousness."
2. The helmet. This is a single piece of armor. In Ephesians 6:17, and also in Isaiah 59:17, it is simply called "the helmet of salvation." But what is meant is what is here called "the hope of salvation." We have a certain experience of salvation already in the working of faith and love. Hope reaches beyond this experience forward to the salvation which is to be completed at the Lord's coming. This hope is a defense to us, as the helmet used to be to the warrior. Wearing this provided armor, we can hold our head high and scathless above present troubles. Let us, then, as sober men, not unclasp our breastplate, not lay aside our helmet.
VI. HOW THE SALVATION HOPED FOR HAS BEEN MADE A DIVINE CERTAINTY TO US. "For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." For those who are sunk in spiritual slumber and intoxication there is an appointment unto wrath! The Divine displeasure must be manifested against the rebellious course which they have been following. But for us who are acting as sober men there is an appointment unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. at his coming. And what God has appointed will be carried out. A soldier endures in the hope of victory. But the victory is to him an uncertainty; it may not be realized, or he may not live to share in it. But the Christian soldier has a Divine appointment on which to proceed. If even now we take Christ as our Savior, and from this point wait for his coming, then God intends that we shall conquer. Let us seize the advantage of our position. While we have our faith and. love in vigorous exercise, let us know also the sustaining power of a lively hope.
VII. HOW THE OBTAINING OF SALVATION HAS BECOME ASSURED TO US. '"Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."
1. Our life has its source in Christ's death. Christ died for our benefit, and, by implication, in our stead. He died in the way of making satisfaction for our sin. In him, as our Representative or Head, we obtain the benefits of his work. It is as though we had died, as though we had made satisfaction for sin. Thus in condescending love, in accordance with eternal principles, are we introduced into salvation.
2. The final end of Christ's death is that we should live together with him. Christ died with this view, that we should ultimately live along with him, and have fellowship with him; we entering into his thoughts and delighting in his love, while he enters into our thoughts and delights in our love.
3. This end is independent of our waking or sleeting at Christ's coming. Our waking or sleeping is accidental; the essential thing is that we shall have fellowship with Christ, and fellowship, as it then shall be, in the body. Both classes, those who wake and those who sleep, have the same reason for assuring themselves that they shall live together with him, viz. in the fact that he has died to merit it for them, as he lives to secure it for them. Those who wake shall be changed without the union between soul and body being broken; and, changed, they shall live together with him. Those who sleep have the union between the soul and body broken, without any break in the union between the soul and Christ and in fellowship with him; and, raised from their graves, they shall live together with him. Thus the ultimate state of both classes is to be the same, the apostle returning here to the conclusion reached in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where it is said of the same two classes united that they shall be for ever with the Lord.
VIII. HOW IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES THEY ARE TO ACT TOWARD EACH OTHER. "Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do." There is an unhappy change from "comfort" to "exhort" in the translation. It ought to be "comfort," as in the parallel verse at the close of the previous paragraph. They were to comfort one another with what was blessed in the Lord's coming. They were also to edify each other, in preparation for the Lord's coming - communicating knowledge to each other, praying for each other, pressing duty on each other, stimulating each other by example. This they were doing, and in that way were admirably answering the ends of their being in a Christian society. But let them go on, and not, while only a little away from the starting-point, suppose that they have reached finality. Let us, to, o, make the end of our being in a Christian society comfort and, especially, edification to all the members. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.