The Day is coming – 1 Thessalonians 5

Is there anybody here who slept through the night of 20th July 1969? Unless you are too young to remember, I doubt it. If you missed it, it was one of the most significant moments in the history of humanity. We weren’t expecting to stay up so late, but there were delays and so we stayed awake until the early hours. Half the world had been awake all night, eagerly anticipating. It was between 2 and 3 am on 21st July 1969 when the moment finally arrived. The Lunar Excursion Module of Apollo 11 touched down and human beings had landed on the moon. We watched it live, and saw it just a few seconds after it happened. It was a moment well worth staying awake for!
There is another event coming up in the near future. A day which will be even more special. Compared to the day which is coming, the moon landing will be trivial and irrelevant and insignificant. The day which is coming, more than any other, will be worth getting ready for and staying awake for. It is the day the Early Church were all looking forward to more than any other. The day that all Christians throughout the centuries have been anticipating. The day we can be expecting any day now. Because the entire future and destiny of humanity does not depend on the man they put on the moon but upon the man they put on a cross, the man who died but didn’t stay dead, the man who was God and who promised, “I will return.” His day is coming!
THE DAY OF THE LORD
5:1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

The Christians at Thessalonica didn’t really need teaching about the Day of the Lord. It was not just that Paul had taught them when he was with them. It wasn’t only that they had heard about the promises Jesus had made. The Old Testament had pointed forward to that day so many times. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and Joel and Amos and Obediah and Zephaniah and Zechariah and Malachi all spoke about the Day of the Lord. The day which would bring deliverance to God’s chosen people and God’s judgment on the rest of the world. All the Old Testament promises of the Day of the Lord were carried forward to the day of Christ’s return.
Zephaniah 1 14 “The great day of the LORD is near— near and coming quickly.
Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.
15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness,
16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.
17 I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth.
18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.”
2:1 Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation,
2 before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you.
3Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.

There were a number of common themes in the Old Testament prophecies of the Day of the Lord. On that Day
1 God will come
2 God will be with His chosen people
3 God will rule over the world bringing justice and peace which are universal and permanent.
After the Ascension, all those Old Testament expectations of the Day of the Lord were transferred to the Day of Jesus Christ, the Day of the return of Jesus. The Jews had been waiting for God Himself to come to earth. Christians recognised that Jesus WAS God and so it will be Jesus who will be returning to fulfil all those wonderful promises. And Jesus Himself had promised, “I will return.”
That return will be sudden. Jesus will come “like a thief in the night.” That dramatic phrase comes from Jesus Himself.
Matthew 24 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
This was the expectation of the Early Church. Twice in the book of Revelation the Risen Christ warns his church of his return, “as a thief in the night.” We cannot know the times or the seasons – the return of Christ is always unexpected, always imminent. The great preacher Robert Murray McCheyne once asked his congregation to put up their hands if they thought Jesus was going to return that night. Then he read to them Matthew 24:44 In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.
Billy Graham said this. “Our world is filled with fear, hate, lust, greed, war and utter despair. Surely the Second Coming of Christ is the only hope of replacing these depressing features with trust, love, universal peace and prosperity. FOR THAT DAY the world wittingly or inadvertently waits.”
Indeed for some that day of the Lord will be a complete surprise and a shock, because it will be
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
Many will not be ready to meet their Maker!
3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

For some the Day of the Lord will bring dreadful calamities.
Amos 5 18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

That is “the dark side of hope.” If we believe in hope for Christians, we cannot escape what the Bible teaches us about those who do not know Jesus, who do not share the Jesus hope.
In various places Paul tells the Thessalonians that the whole world is in darkness, estranged and alienated from God because of sin. Selfishness, pride, drunkenness, sexual immorality and all kinds of rebellion. And God’s righteous anger and just condemnation of sin are being saved up. For those who reject God’s wonderful salvation, the Day of the Lord will bring only judgment.
2 Thess 1:7 …. when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
On the Niagara river there is a small mound called Redemption Point. Once a boat or a swimmer has gone past that point they are inescapably doomed to be carried over the Falls. For each person there is a point in the river of their lives beyond which, if they pass it, they are doomed!
The Day of the Lord will see the “great divide” when the choices we have all made in this life are confirmed into eternity. Those without Christ face a punishment of total and eternal exclusion from the presence of God. They will lose everything which makes existence worthwhile. Those who have ignored and rejected God all their lives will continue to be separated from Him forever. Those who are asleep and in the dark now will stay that way into eternity. Many will be very surprised when the God they have rejected finally rejects them.
But the Thessalonians were not doomed! They had accepted God’s gift of eternal life, as we read in 1:9-10
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
So for Christians the day of the Lord should not catch us by surprise. It is the day we should be ready and eagerly waiting for! For Christians the Day of the Lord will be
THE DAY OF SALVATION
4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
Christians are not in darkness but in the light. We are sons and daughters of the light – Jesus the Light of the World. We are sons and daughters of the day, the Day of the Lord.
So we should be awake – metaphorically and spiritually. We should be awake, not asleep, with our eyes open, ever watchful, ever on our guard, waiting for the Son. In chapter 3 Paul has already challenged Christians to be holy and to be loving, avoiding sexual immorality and practising brotherly love. And here he expands on what it means to be awake and on our guard.
7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Alongside holiness and love we should have self-control. And here is another picture of the armour of God. Faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. Because our destiny is to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s gift of salvation, never earned or deserved but freely given. C.S.Lewis wrote, “The salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world.” God in His grace has chosen us not to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
We will live together with Him forever. Eternal life starts now – and it never ends. Whether we are awake or asleep, whether we are still alive or whether we have already died when Christ returns, we will be with the Lord forever! So we want to be completely ready when that Day comes.
6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
You’ve seen the T-shirt. “Be alert – the world needs all the “lerts” it can get!” We need to be preparing ourselves for Christ’s return. You probably know the American magazine “Time”. For many years there also used to be a Christian magazine called “Eternity”. A famous journalist once became a Christian and changed jobs between the two magazines. She announced to all her friends, “I’m not working for Time any more. I’m working for Eternity.” That is what all Christians should be – not working for time but working for eternity.
2 Peter 3 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
As we look forward to the return of Christ, we must make sure we will be ready to meet the Son!
Matthew 24 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Be alert. Keep watch! In holiness. In love. In self-control. Warning our neighbours and friends who don’t know Christ yet about the Day which is coming! Working not for time but for eternity. We need to be ready to meet the Son!

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