All We Need to Know
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Proper 28, A
Dear friends in Christ, Do you Know? Do you know what tomorrow will bring? Do you know what the end will be like? Do you know what comes next for you? In short do you know what the future holds? Lots of people are unsure. Lots of people are worried. Lots of people are afraid to ask about such things for precisely that reason. They just don't know. Do you know? … You should know … In our text for this morning God gives us all we need to know. All we need to know about our Saviour's return, all we need to know about our own readiness, and all we need to know about our ultimate redemption.
1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. In chapter 4 of his letter to Thessalonica Paul dealt with death and resurrection, and the sorrow over departed believers. Here Paul deals with those believers still left. He begins by saying that for these believers he hardly needs to write more but then he proceeds to do the very thing which he said wasn't necessary. In true pastoral fashion He refuses to take anything for granted. So here Paul gladly repeats again and again and again what you already know.
You know that Christ will come again. That day is always coming. But we don't know the time, just that it will be like a thief in the night - utterly unexpected. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman. Every pregnant woman knows that the first pain will eventually come but she is surprised at its suddenness.
Throughout history, from generation to generation, the world has said: "Peace and security" when there really was no peace or security. Everything is so much better now than it has ever been. People are nicer and smarter. There is more freedom and comfort. We are all so much more evolved than our brutish and stupid ancestors. It was the attitude of Israel before the armies of Assyria destroyed them. It was the feelings of Judah right up until they were annihilated by the Babylonians. It was the consensus of the whole world at the time of the flood. Don't be surprised when I tell you that it wasn't true then, and it isn't true now. The world is broken by sin and violence, just as every single human life is. It cannot continue like this forever. So are you ready for it when it comes?
4But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. Here Paul lays out an emphatic "but," in comparing Christians to the rest of the world. They will not escape, BUT You are not in spiritual darkness. You are not blind to what is coming. As a prepared believer you look forward to the second coming of Christ. As Jesus said: "Look up and lift up your heads for your deliverance is at hand." When that day comes Christians will joyfully recognize it for what it is.
You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. You do not belong to the night or to the darkness. You are "People of light, people of day" ... "All of you." Without exception, both weak and strong believers alike are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We are people who have the right understanding and view of that final and glorious day. Christians, in so far as they are still sinners, are still often are concerned about what will happen to them on the last day. But Paul assures all Christians, that they will not be caught unawares, even though they do not know the exact time.
6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. Knowing what will come, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. Those who do not know what is coming are content to live out their meagre lives in spiritual lethargy, dullness, insensitivity, and moral indifference. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. The language here is not figurative but factual; darkness is a friend to the drunk and the reckless. The darkness hides, and obscures, and covers all that would rather not be seen or considered. The darkness excuses laziness, fear, and misdeeds.
But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled. Putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. What we do we do with no fear of being seen. Let them look. Let them see. Let them learn. For we believer heed the signs of the times in every newspaper headline, every natural disaster, and every individual death. Just as unexpectedly as life can be turned upside down, or snuffed out all-together, so just as suddenly will the end of the world be. Why are so many still surprised, so taken aback when it happens? The Christian who understands this is a sober person. They do not let appetites rule them. They are sober in their view of what God says and in their living.
But no one is immune to the lure of the dark and all its easy promises. So just as breastplate and helmet protect the soldier in battle, so faith, love and hope protect the believer from his spiritual enemies. Faith toward God, love for neighbour and hope which is certainty, not merely a wish. Human hope is so often only a wish. Divine hope is always an unfailing certainty. What God says He does. When He says you are saved, YOU ARE SAVED. Period. The Christian hopes for salvation and in this God-given hope he is certain.
9For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Do you not know that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. The wrath of God rests on the unbeliever, never on those redeemed by the Son. Notice also that Paul is flatly denying that there is any such thing as predestination to damnation. God has destined no one for wrath, but some still choose it for themselves anyway. Some will never stop loving the darkness. Faith, hope and love are gifts of God acquired for us by Jesus Christ and now made available through the means of grace. The Gospel is the very power of God for everyone who believes.
Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. He died in our stead. Christ became what we are, in order that we might become what he is. Paul makes us think of two kinds of sleep: the one that of the ungodly while they are yet alive, and, in contrast with it, the other that of the godly when they lie down in peace and sleep in death. All of this Jesus did so that we might live together with Him. We shall live in close communion with Him forever. No one is closer to the believer than Jesus.
11Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Encourage one another with all that you need to know. Jesus is coming, and no one will escape his return. Through Baptism and the other means of grace you are ready, so live your life to its fullest – as a child of the day. Raise your hand in confidence because your salvation is already 100% guaranteed in Christ. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Just as God continues to do in Jesus.