I Thessalonians 5
Devotional by Pastor Mark Hudson
How do you evaluate when someone understands something? For different things there are different evaluation tools. In seminary, the atmosphere is very academic. I actually enjoyed seminary but thought it was interesting that while some were preparing for PhD work, most of us were preparing for ministry in a local church setting. Does an A on a paper mean you will be a good pastor? Or does a C on a paper mean you will not be a good pastor?
Who feels confident with end-times mysteries? How would you evaluate if someone understand eschatology (study of the end times)? We will come back to that question. First, let’s look at this wonderful chapter in this letter. Evidently, the day of the Lord was a topic that the apostles spoke often about. Paul says that these believers knew about the chronology of time and important events (times and seasons – although some scholars think the difference between the two words is negligible) enough that they didn’t need more teaching. Yet, he is still summarizing the application of these truths. The truth of Christ’s return carries practical benefits: namely holiness.
They know the day is called the day of the Lord which may be a synonym for times and seasons. But the day of the Lord is an Old Testament phrase that refers to the judgment (Amos 5:18-20; Ob 15; Joel 1;15; 2:1ff; Zp 1:14-16). Yet for God’s people the day of the Lord is a day of deliverance (Joel 2:31-32; Zc 14:1-21). Here the day of Lord is a time of judgment. The day will come like a thief in the night. In Matt 24:43 and Luke 12:39 we see a similar reference to a thief.
The reference to labor pains is also found in the O.T. (Is 13:6-8; 26:16-19; Jer 6:22-26; 22:20-23; 50:41-43; Mic 4:9ff). Gene Green points out in the Pillar NT commentary that childbirth was a bit more dangerous for ancient people who gave birth at home compared to modern mothers who give birth in a hospital. The inevitability of birth when the labor pains begin is similar to the those who will not escape when Christ returns. The idea of labor pains is the unexpected nature of labor/God’s judgment and that His wrath is inevitable.
If you look at verses 5-8, Paul contrasts children of the day with those of the night or of darkness. The light has many references in both Old and New Testament. Here light/day refer to being alert and spiritually or soberminded, knowing the return of Christ is soon and living in a righteous and holy manner. Darkness refers to those who are asleep spiritually and ignorant of the soon return of Christ. This does not refer to literal sunshine and darkness or people dozing off but those who are spiritually unaware of the danger they are in.
There is a sense that others are counseling peace and security, sudden destruction (v. 3) will come upon them “and they will not escape.” Those who reject Christ will be surprised like a thief coming to your home (v. 4). This is important because if you tell people that God loves them, they might answer, “Yeah, already know that.” But if you tell them when Christ returns, “they will not escape” as if they would try to get away or that God has “destined” them “for wrath” v. 9, you will hear push back. Isn’t this how Paul ends chapter 1:10, “. . . Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” And this is how Paul begins II Thessalonians 1:6ff, “. . . God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, . . inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel . . . . They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. . . .”
For the called, those who believe, “. . . God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” v. 9. Why this teaching? Why go over ground the apostles had already covered? “ . . . so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” v. 10. One of the reasons to read the Bible, read these devotions, discipline yourself in prayer and reaching out to others is sampling that: living with or for our Lord. Holiness, that is living according to God’s Word, is emphatically and clearly God’s will for us. This is God’s call repeatedly for us and yet God’s people so rarely live that way.
We will be reading Leviticus next. Lev 11:45 is an oft quoted verses in the New Testament, “For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God, you shall therefore be holy for I am holy.” We will be exploring what that means for us and how often holiness is urged and how often we are exhorted to be holy. Holy living is an indicator you understand the coming of Christ or the end times. If you live a holy life, you grasp the importance of reflecting on the end times.
Father, I know that Your Son will come again to this earth. He will come not as a lamb, not incognito, but in power and glory Admittedly, Lord, we tend to get sidetracked with determining a time when that will happen. Help me to focus on living a life that honors You. You deserve my watchfulness, my serious, sober life. Help me to not be lulled asleep by this world. It beckons and calls me with lies and fleshly allurements. Give me the strength to resist the darkness and ignorance of this world. Give me Your power to be children of the day; awake to Your life, ready and watching for Your return. In the name of the soon returning King. Amen.