1 Thess 5:1-11 Upsidedown Living: Present Moments

Last month I was sitting in a doctor’s office and could not help but overhear a conversation. The gentleman was speaking with a woman about the recent accumulation of earthquakes. He said it has made him believe in the end of the world in 2012. If you have not heard about the 2012 phenomenon[1] it is a broad range of beliefs that either cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012; which is said to be the end date for the Mayan calendar. These propositions have increasingly been discussed by The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and of course popular movies and various other media hype.

Most people along with credible scholarship, has not placed much stock in these propositions.[2] However, these multi-media influences are helpful in pointing out humanity’s God-given intuition that there will be an end day of reckoning with their Maker.

The Scriptures point to this end day as it is commonly called, “the Day of the Lord”. Jesus told his followers, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:5-8).

 Paul continues his teaching on the resurrection of believers. Paul describes the day of the Lord  in three facets:

It will be a day of sudden destruction: The consequences for sin will be fully met in this day. The unfairness of this current life will finally conclude and God’s righteous justice will be dispensed.

–      On that day there will be no do-overs, no oops, too late for second chances, only missed opportunities

–      Destruction does not equal annihilationism (extinction or no hell); it means complete ruin or utter loss

–      No never escape (double negative in Greek)

It will be a day of sure division: The separation of believers and unbelievers will be like that of day and darkness. Christians belong to the day which carries implications to be explored later in this message.

It will be a day of sustaining deliverance: Because of Christ’s sacrificial death (“He died for us”) those who have believed and received salvation will live together with Him forever.

Paul’s emphasis was not on giving or predicting times and dates. The end times have been predicted for centuries, since Jesus’ day without any certainty. After Jesus’ resurrection his followers questioned if that were the time for Jesus to end the age and begin His kingly rule. Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7) … and therefore giving Christians a present moment calling of being His witnesses unto the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In other words, the end time is inevitable but unpredictable to its timing.

Paul’s teaching emphasis is similar to that of Jesus, in preparing believers to take hold of this life in view of eternity. He gives 3 (and ultimately 16 more in vv. 12-24) implications of how the reality of a future resurrection should change the way a believer lives in the present. The point is that God wants to grab our attention so we do not miss His plan and purpose for our lives on this side of eternity, or on the next. So, take heed to the following words and implications of this passage!

Throughout this study or message series I have been reminded how much God expects His people to grow and be on mission together. There is something about the community of faith that spurs each other toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-26). In this passage Paul continues the theme of togetherness. He uses the phrase “let us…” to rally the Thessalonians to live together for Christ.

 1 Thess 5:1-22            

In this present moment, let us be awake (5:4-6a).

Paul differentiates between unbelievers and believers. He says unbelievers are asleep and of the night or darkness, whereas Christians are awake and children of the day or light. The identity for a Christian is to be awake or alive (Ephesians 2:5). To be awake means that you have ceased sleep and are aware and active. For Christians, they have ceased to live unto themselves, stopped senselessly sinning and now live unto the Lord.

In another place Paul describes it like this: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:10-14).

This is what it means to be a Christian – not perfect but being perfected through the process of spiritual growth. Those who are awake understand that this world has nothing to offer in comparison to the greatest and joyous treasure that is found in the forgiveness of sin and eternal presence in Christ Jesus.

Are you awake?

In this present moment, let us be alert (5:6b-7).

Paul continues the exhortation by calling Christians to be alert. It is the same idea as a soldier who stands guarding someone or something. A good soldier never wants to be caught slacking or sleeping on duty. They train themselves to endure any hardship and focus on the task at hand.

 This is a similar command from the teachings of Jesus. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to everyone: Watch!” (Mark 13:32-37)

If you knew Jesus was coming back one year from now what would you do? How would things be different?

            What about one month from now? One week? One day? One hour?

                The point is that if no one knows the day — we must indeed be constantly alert and found faithful!

In this present moment, let us be assured (5:8-11).

Paul remains gospel-centered in keeping at the forefront of life what Jesus did for us – “He died for us so that whether we may live together with Him” (5:10). The believer’s assurance does not come from their works of righteousness or their alertness but from the breastplate of faith and the helmet of salvation. When a Christian has these as their assurance nothing can overtake them. For certain they can and will be attacked but they have the defenses and weapons of victory.

“for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world – even our faith” 1 John 5:4

 Your assurance is in the gospel, as the hymn writer would sing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, This is my song, praising my Savior all the day long”

 

TAKING IT HOME

  • What do you fear most about the end of the world?
  • Discuss the features of the Day of the Lord – “sudden destruction, sure division and sustaining deliverance”.
  • What does it mean to live in the present but in light of the future? Is this what it means to be “awake” or saved?
  • What are some things to could indicate Christian alertness as we anticipate Christ’s return?
  • How does a person gain assurance in the Christian life? Do you struggle with assurance?
  • Discuss this message with 4 friends over the next month (1 a week).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon

[2] NASA compares it to the Y2K scare: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html

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