1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 ESV
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While 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.”
Jesus Christ, God the Son, after he had died on that cross for our sins and had been resurrected from the dead, he returned to his Father in heaven. There he is preparing an eternal home for all those who are walking by faith in Jesus Christ, who have died and are dying with him to sin daily and who are living according to his commands in obedient faith in him (Rom 6&8).
One day Jesus is going to return for us, his bride, and he is going to take us to be with him forever to our eternal home. Then our salvation will be complete. But he is also going to come to judge the people of the world. And those who were not ready for his return, who were not watching and waiting for him, but who were living for self and in sin will not escape his judgment.
But there are many people who are giving out messages to the people who are giving them false hopes of heaven when they leave this earth based on a lie which tells them that heaven is secured for them no matter how they live their lives once they profess faith in Jesus Christ. So, there are many people still living in sin professing faith in Jesus expecting heaven at the end.
But then sudden destruction will come upon them because they had believed the lie and they had rejected the truth, and they were convinced that they could live however they want and that heaven would still be there for them. And if someone did try to share with them the truth, they rejected the message in favor of the “feel good” message which told them they were good to go. For, they did not want to give up their sinful practices.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-7 ESV
“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.”
If we are walking in the light as Jesus is in the light then we are not in the darkness. But if we profess that we are in fellowship with Jesus Christ but we are walking in the darkness, still living by the flesh, still making self our god, still saying “No!” to God and “Yes” to sin habitually, then we are still in the darkness for we have not come into the light (1 Jn 1:5-9; Jn 3:19-21).
So, a mere profession of faith in Jesus Christ does not transfer us from darkness to the light. We must die with Christ to sin and be dying with him to sin daily, and we must walk in obedience to his commands, as a matter of life practice, for us to be in the light and not in the darkness (Lu 9:23-26). This doesn’t mean we will never sin but that sin is not what we practice.
But there is a caution being given here to us who are presently walking in the light and not in the darkness. We are to guard against falling back into sin and into complacency and into worldliness. We are to be careful to maintain our walks of faith in Jesus Christ in all sincerity of devotion to our Lord for the days are evil and temptations abound.
We can’t afford to get lazy about our spiritual walks. For the Scriptures make it real clear that we must continue in Christ until the end, that we must persevere in our faith, that we must abide in Christ, and that we must daily be putting sin to death and walking in obedience to our Lord’s commands lest we fall away, for we are all going to be judged by our works.
[Rom 2:6-8; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Co 5:10; 1 Co 6:9-10; 1 Pet 1:17-21; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Rom 6:16; Rom 8:1-17; Jn 15:1-11; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev. 2-3; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27]
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 ESV
“But 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. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Those who belong to the day are not those who profess faith in Jesus but who continue living for the flesh. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him he must deny self, take up his cross daily (daily die with Christ to sin and to self) and follow him (in obedience to his commands). For, if we save our lives (hold on to living to sin and to self) we will lose them. But if for the sake of Jesus we lose our lives (die with him to sin) we have eternal life.
And Paul taught that when we believe in Jesus that our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin, but so we would now be slaves to God and to his righteousness. For we are slaves of the one whom we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness and to sanctification and to eternal life (Rom 6:1-23).
He also taught that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit, and that if we set our minds on the things of the flesh it will end in death, not in life eternal with our Lord. For if we live according to the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the body (of the flesh), then we will live with Christ for eternity (Rom 8:1-17; cf. Eph 4:17-24; Tit 2:11-14).
So, heaven is not guaranteed us on the profession of faith in Jesus Christ but on us walking by that faith in the Spirit until the day Jesus takes us home. And that is why we have these cautions and these instructions here to the church, to the saints of God. Our walks of faith must be maintained by the Spirit and via our obedience to our Lord, by God’s grace.
So, we need to take God seriously. We need to be Christians who are sober-minded about our walks of faith. This isn’t saying that we can’t smile or laugh or enjoy what God has given to us to enjoy, but that we can’t afford to take God lightly or to ignore his commands and to continue living in sin. And just because God has not destined us for wrath it doesn’t mean we won’t face his wrath. This serves as a warning to us, I believe.
For the purpose of these instructions here, which are for the church, is to caution us against falling away and becoming like those who are spiritually asleep. We are to keep awake and sober. We are to put on faith and love and we are to walk in them. We are to walk in the light as Jesus is in the light and not in the darkness. For we are all going to be judged by what we do. So, please take this to heart and follow Jesus in obedience today.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]
Lyrics by Noah White, Music by Virgil Stamps (1935).
As I travel thru life, with its trouble and strife,
I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way;
Soon my toils will be o’er and I’ll rest on that shore,
Where the night has been turned into day.
Up in paradise valley By the side of the river of life,
Up in paradise valley, We’ll be free from all pain and all strife;
There we’ll live in the garden, ‘Neath the shade of the evergreen tree,
How I long for the paradise valley, Where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.
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