The Saint’s Contrast with Unbelievers
1 Thess. 5:4-11
When Jesus comes in the Rapture, His coming will be unexpected by the world. But as Christians we are to watch for Him. We are waiting and even praying for His imminent return. Believers are not to be overtaken. However, the world will be surprised and overwhelmed. The Day of the Lord is coming and it should not surprise us as believers. Paul now here writes the contrast between true believers of Christ and the nonbelievers. Believers will not experience the “Day of the Lord”
Illustration 1: Return of Christ
The Second Coming is a term applied to the return of Christ. If there is a second coming, it follows that there must have been a first. The first coming of Christ was His incarnation when He was born. At the second coming of Christ every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7) as He descends from heavens in the clouds (Matt. 24:30; Mark 14:62).
Christ’s return at the end of the world to establish God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 15:23-25). The New Testament does not use this expression; it refers simply to “the coming” (parousia), also called a “reveal(ing)” of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:7), or an “appearing” (Titus 2:13). There is dispute about the relationship of Christ’s second coming to the thousand years, or millennium (Rev. 20:4), but none as to the fact that it will be God’s decisive and indispensable intervention. Christ’s coming to destroy all evil will be the culmination of his redemptive work.
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton, IL; 1984), p. 358
I. Ye brethren, (1 Thess. 5:4)
A. The “ye, brethren” of 1 Thess. 5:4 are those who were “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:1). They are those who have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). This describes true regenerate faith, not an empty profession. The “ye, brethren” “are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief ” (1 Thess. 5:4). They are “not of the night” (1 Thess. 5:5). They are “not appointed to wrath” (1 Thess. 5:9). Words could not be plainer that born again church-age believers will not experience the day of the Lord. As we will see, the day of the Lord from its beginning is the day of God’s wrath.
B. The word “overtake” in more simple terms means, surprise you in an unprepared state. Jesus will have already raptured the church by the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18). That is why this day will not overtake them.
C. You are all children of light and children of the day (1 Thess. 5:5). Children of light are saved children with God as their heavenly Father who is light and is no darkness at all. Before salvation, they are children of darkness. After salvation, they become children of light. Paul specifically writes that “we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” It means that the unsaved were “of the night and of darkness”
Illustration 2: Faith and Unbelief
Important lessons are given by this alternation of the two ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience.
Faith is voluntary submission within a person’s own power. If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons. It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, “who is Lord over us? Why should we have to depend on Jesus Christ?” As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts.
II. Exhortation to the Believers (1 Thess. 5:6-8)
A. We are to be alert
1. Let us not sleep, as do others (1 Thess. 5:6a). To “sleep” is to be insensible to what is happening around you. It refers to spiritual lethargy. For a believer to sleep is to live in a such a way that he is not aware of the times, he is not spiritually alert, he is captured by something that distracts his attention from God’s business, whether it be alcohol or drugs or video games or addiction to the world’s pop culture via social media. The sleeping Christian is preoccupied with something other than God’s business.
The “others” are those who do not know the Lord. They are the unbelievers, the unsaved. They live as if Christ will never return and that they will never experience the awful day of wrath. Like the foolish virgins of Jesus’ parable they sleep in spiritual unpreparedness (Matt. 25:5). They are indifferent due to worldliness and sin.
2. But let us watch and be sober. (1 Thess. 5:6) We are not to sleep, but to soberly watch for our Lord. Let us be alert, for the coming of the Lord. Let us regard it as an event which is certainly to occur, and which may occur at any moment. We must refrain from carnal indulgence, mental or sensual (1 Pet. 5:8). The word sober is twice translated “watch” (2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pe. 4:7). It is to be in control of one’s thought-life in order to please God and to avoid dangers.
B. We are to be Armoured
1. Putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thess. 5:8). The breastplate covered the body, protecting the heart and other vital organs from injury. The breastplate of faith and love along with the helmet of the hope of salvation protect the Christian against the wiles and attacks of the devil. These three virtues are often mentioned together.
III. Sure Deliverance (1 Thess. 5:9-11)
A. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1 Thess. 5:9-11).
1. There shouldn’t be any doubt as to what wrath Paul is talking about. The context is the day of the Lord.
2. This verse speaks of the tribulation period. The New Testament believer has no part in the tribulation. The tribulation period is described in Scripture by such terms as the time of Jacob’s trouble. (Jer. 30:7), hour of temptation. (Rev. 3:10), a great day of his wrath. (Rev. 6:17), and the wrath of Almighty God. (Rev. 19:15). Praise God! As His children, we do not look for wrath, but for the rapture.
3. God has promised to deliver His people from the tribulation as we are not appointed to His wrath. The seven year Tribulation period will certainly be the
outpouring of God’s wrath upon the world. The fact that God raptured Enoch (a type of the Church) before the flood, and then rescued Lot before raining fire down and destroying Sodom, sets a Biblical precedent for the truth that God delivers his children before He pours out His wrath. The rapture is the New Testament believer’s means of deliverance from God’s wrath. Those who are born again are exempt from ever suffering God’s wrath. This is our blessed hope
Illustration: What Is the Great Tribulation
This is a seven-year period before the second advent of Christ when divine judgment is poured on the earth in an unprecedented manner, and when sin comes to a head under the leadership of the Antichrist. Some of its terrifying features are:
1. Trouble—Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:7
2. Judgment—Rev. 14:7; Rev. 19:2
3. Wrath—Zeph. 1:15, 18; Rev. 16:1
4. Destruction—1 Thess. 5:3; Joel 1:15
5. Darkness—Amos 5:18
6. Punishment—Isaiah 24:20-21
7. God’s Anger—Isaiah 26:20-21; Zech. 1:18
8. Desolation—Daniel 9:27; Zeph. 1:14-15
Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
Real believers are those who were “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ”. They were called “brethren” by Paul. They will be raptured before the dreadful “Day of the Lord”. But while waiting for the Lord’s coming, we must not sleep, watch, be sober, and armoured. True Christian’s deliverance from God’s wrath is sure. How about you? Are you sure you would scape God’s judgment? If not, repent from your sins now and receive Him as your personal Saviour. Do it now before its too late.