“We Live in View of the Lord’s Coming”

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – Last Judgment – November 8, 2020)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – 1But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

Dear Redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ:

When there is a special event coming up in our lives, we think about it often as the day approaches. We mark it on our calendars, whether it is a special holiday, or a birthday; or maybe an important ceremony like a graduation, a wedding, or retirement. When we look forward to a special day, we are constantly aware of its coming. We watch the calendar because we want to make sure we are ready for that day; we do not want to miss out on any of its joys.

Of all the special days in our life, one that stands out from all the rest. Our text tells us “the day of the Lord” is coming. This refers to the Last Day, when our Lord Jesus will come again. As we confess in the Apostles Creed: “He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” We will meet our Maker, who gave us our body and soul. More than that, we will meet our Savior who gave His life and rose again, to win our forgiveness and eternal life. For all who are ready, the day of the Lord will be one of joy as He brings us out of the tribulation of this world into the eternal glory of His heavenly home. But as our text warns, for all who are not ready to meet Him, that day will be one of judgment; and they will miss out on the joys of His kingdom.

So if there is one event we want to make sure we are prepared for, this is it. By the grace of God, by faith in His Son as our Savior, we stand prepared for that day. “We Live in View of the Lord’s Coming”: 1) We know what to expect; and 2) We are watching and ready.

1) We know what to expect

First, we stand prepared for that day because we know what to expect. In His Word, the Lord has told us ahead of time. As the apostle Paul reminds believers in verses 1-2: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”

Many people have tried to set a date and mark their calendars for the Lord’s second coming. False teachers have gathered followers who believed they had figured out “the times and seasons;” and on a certain day they stood watching for Jesus’ second coming, but they went home disappointed. But hasn’t Jesus already told us in Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

We do not know when the day of the Lord will be; we only know that He is coming again. It could be any day. Jesus went on to say in Matthew 24:42-44: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

When does a thief enter a home? Is it not when the owner least expects it – maybe at night when he is asleep, or during the day when he is away? This is why an owner may prepare ahead of time, by making sure his home is securely locked, making sure it is protected by an alarm or a dog, and maybe even keeping weapons of self-defense. The bottom line is, we will go to great ends to make sure we are protected from any harm that might come by an unexpected intruder.

If such preparedness is important when it comes to our physical well-being, how much more important is it to be prepared when it comes to our spiritual and eternal well-being? How can we, as sinners, be prepared for the Day of Judgment? How can we stand before the holy God? God reveals the answer in His Gospel. He sent His Son into the world the first time to win our salvation. On the cross, Jesus shed His blood and gave His life as the once for all sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. God promises that whoever believes in His Son as their Savior shall not perish but have eternal life.

Yet many stand unprepared for His second coming, as Paul says in verse 3: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” Once labor pains begin in a pregnant woman, she cannot change her mind or condition. Delivery is at hand; it is time! When the day of the Lord comes, unbelievers will not be able to change their mind or condition. It will be too late; they will not escape judgment.

How many go about day to day life saying, “Peace and safety!” Yet spiritually speaking, they are neither at peace with God nor safe in their unrepented sin and unbelief. Paul describes their spiritual condition in verses 6-7: “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.” This describes all who walk in spiritual darkness, apart from the light of God’s truth. Like those who sleep or get drunk at night, they are in a spiritual state that is oblivious to how serious their sins are and ignorant of God’s impending judgment. They may dull their conscience by drinking the wine of false religion; comforting themselves with the idea that they can meet God in good standing based on their own good life and merit. They may comfort themselves with the wine of this world’s pleasures and all the distractions of daily life. But their earthly bliss is short-lived.

Here, Paul exhorts us all to be on guard. It is easy to be drawn into a false sense of peace and security, just because everyday life seems to go on as usual. As we watch the calendar, one day fades into the next; a week passes, and then another; soon, months and years have slipped by… It is easy to set our hearts on all our temporal plans, and in a spiritual sense to become drowsy and lulled to sleep by the regularity of life in this world. It is easy to lose focus on the things of God’s Kingdom, amidst the busyness and cares of life. It is easy to become numb to our sinful condition and our need for a Savior of sinners, as we hear the constant lullabies of the world singing: “Peace and safety!”

However as believers, Paul reminds us in verse 4: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” In light of God’s Word, we know what to expect on the day the Lord Jesus comes; and by faith in Him as our Savior, we will stand before Him.

Scripture reveals what will happen on that day. The Lord Jesus will come on the clouds in power and great glory, with the sound of the trumpet. By His voice, all the dead will be raised. All nations will be gathered before Him in judgment. He will separate believers from unbelievers, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats (Matthew 24:30-31; 25:31-33; John 5:25; 1 Corinthians 15:52). What a different day that will be, depending which side one is on!

For all who have mocked the Lord’s coming by impenitence and unbelief, He will appear as a thief and intruder, interrupting their false peace and security. He is the last one they will want to see, as their Judge. In Matthew 25:41-46, Jesus tells us that when unbelievers are brought before Him as King, they will plead their own life and good works as a reason why He should let them into heaven. But based on their life of sin and unbelief, the King will say to them: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

How different that day will be for all who have prepared by repentance and faith. It will be a day of greatest joy. The Lord who comes is not a thief and intruder, come to steal away our life; He is our loving Savior and Life-Giver. Jesus already came the first time to redeem us from sin, death, and Satan. He has laid down His life on the cross, to win our forgiveness and eternal life. Already, by the grace of God, we stand with Jesus today by faith. Already He gives us spiritual and eternal life, with the promise that we will share in His heavenly inheritance. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus tells that as believers are brought before Him as King, we will not plead our own life and good works at all as a reason why He should let us into heaven. Our faith is only the blood of Jesus, shed for us on the cross, by which He has washed away our sins. Our faith is only in His righteous life lived for us, in which He clothes us and presents us holy before His Father. As King of heaven, Jesus will point to the evidence of this saving faith in our life; and He will say to us: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

2) We are watching and ready

Therefore we live in view of the Lord’s coming. And as we take His Word to heart by faith, not only do we know what to expect, but we are watching and ready.

Paul describes our watchfulness as he reminds us, first of all, who we are by faith in Christ. He says in verse 5: “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.” By the grace of God, we have been brought out of the sin-darkened path of impenitence and unbelief. By His Word, the Holy Spirit has awakened us from spiritual darkness. He has opened our eyes rightly to see our sinful condition and repent. He has opened our eyes to the light of His salvation in Jesus Christ. Through God’s gift of baptism and faith, He has united with His Son – washing away all our sins, claiming us as His holy children, making us heirs of eternal life with Christ.

He who began His good work in us continues to protect us and keep us in faith, so we stand ready for the day of His coming (Philippians 1:6). Paul pictures this protection God gives us in terms of spiritual armor, as he says in verse 8: “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” By the faith God gives us, we know His saving love in Christ; and like a breastplate, this protects our heart from spiritual attacks of Satan. And God gives us the hope of His salvation and eternal life in Christ; and like a helmet, this protects our minds from getting bogged down in the cares of this world.

So as the world goes on singing its false lullabies of “peace and safety,” God keeps us spiritually sober and vigilant against the deception of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. He leads us ever to keep our eyes ever fixed on Jesus, as our only Savior from sin and hope for eternal life. As we come into the light and confess our sins, God points us to the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, by which He has taken away all our sins; and He points us to the holy life His Son lived for us, by which He counts us holy in His sight.

Therefore we stand ready for the day of the Lord, as Paul concludes in verses 9-11: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” Jesus could come any day. If He takes our souls from this world before the Last Day, even if our bodies sleep in death, He will bring us to live with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43). And on the Day of Resurrection, what a joy it will be when Jesus comes on the clouds, with the joyful sound of the trumpet – the sound of heavenly music, the sound of victory! He will raise us up with perfect bodies, to live with Him in heavenly peace and safety forevermore (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)!

Of all the special days we may mark our calendar, one stands out from all the rest. When we look at our calendars, may it remind us of the day of Jesus’ coming, when He will take us home. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can truly comfort and edify each other as we live in view of that day (Hebrews 10:25) – for in light of His Word, we know what to expect; and by faith in Christ, we are watching and ready.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.