Thessalonians 5 v 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto yo
We are thinking about the wonderful theme of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
At the end of Chapter 4 there is an account of
The Sequence of Events in The Second Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ.
4 v 16 – 18 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1. THE RETURN
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven
2. The Lord shall descend from Heaven.
3. The return will be marked by an Urgent loud summons.
There will be
A. A shout.
B. With a voice of an Archangel.
C. With the Trumpet of God.
This then is the RETURN – the spectacular and unmistakeable return of the Son of God to earth from heaven. The next thing to happen in the sequence is
2. THE RESURRECTION.
and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
3. THE RAPTURE
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Changed! A wonderful word – a word that denotes a little mystery because we cannot say HOW we will be changed – but only that we will!
And that leads us to the final step in the sequence
4. THE REUNION.
We will meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
What a prospect this is! The living, the dead and the Lord will meet together!
And finally we saw that we are to respond to this –
v 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
We are to be comforters of each other. We are to take the words and teaching of this passage and use it to cheer each other up.
This morning we arrive at the beginning of Chapter 5. Once more our Chapter divisions in the English Bible bear only a little relation to the organisation of Paul’s letter. Verses 1 – 11 of Chapter 5 really follow on directly from Chapter 4. There is no natural division between the passages – so we have the same theme – more about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However whereas the subject in verse 13 – 18 of Chapter 4 were about SALVATION – the first part of chapter 5 is concerned with JUDGEMENT.
1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
The text reminds us somewhat of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when he said such things recorded in Matthew and Mark’s gospels –
Matthew 16 v 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Matthew 24 v 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13 v 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Verse 3 of Chapter 5 before us has a similar ring doesn’t it?
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them,
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he expands the thoughts when he writes in 2 Thessalonians 1 v 7 – 9
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
The opening of Chapter 5 therefore has a different purpose – to focus on Judgement.
The end of Chapter 4 was to reassure the readers about their departed dead – that they will be safely gathered up to meet the Lord and be safe for ever when the Lord comes again.
The beginning of Chapter 5 describes the effect of the Second Coming upon the world. Furthermore the following verses are specifically intended to instruct and warn the believers about their own behaviour while they waited for the Lord to come.
This is why these scriptures are so relevant for us. We are waiting for the Lord to come aren’t we? Therefore we need the same exhortations while we wait – in the meantime. We will look at these verses like this -
1. The Date of the Lord’s return v1 2. The Suddenness of the Lord’s Return v2 3. The Inevitability of the Lord’s Return v 3
So to the first verse and the first thing to learn –
1. The Date of the Lord’s return v1
1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
Of all the perplexing and fascinating problems that have occupied the human mind down through history, one of the most distinct must be what will happen at the end of the world. If there is to be some day of reckoning what will it be like? And can it be prepared for? The Bible teaches a Day of Judgment. But it is not only Christians who seem to accept the fact – non believers often speak of the end of the world – they refer to heaven – they talk of an afterlife of some kind – and there seems to be some irresistible urge in most people to believe in something beyond the grave! Having said that, there are many who choose to deny anything beyond this present life despite prevailing cultural beliefs. Many religions teach of life beyond the grave of some sort. The Thessalonians had some ideas too based on their pagan teachings.
But what began to happen was an enquiry. Since Jesus Christ was coming back would it not be reasonable to know WHEN He is coming back? Did He not leave His disciples any clues? Why is it a secret? Why should we not know the date and time?
These were the questions that were being asked of Paul through Timothy when he reported back to the Apostle in Athens. They framed the questions using the phrase “times and seasons.”
Times and seasons are 2 different Greek words – CHRONOS and KAIROS.
We get several English words with the prefix CHRONO – chronometer, chronology etc. It means time as a sequence – one minute after another – one hour following another hour. It refers to time as a Quantity.
KAIROS on the other hand refers to time as in a season – an opportunity – a particular point in time – a timely intervention and refers really to Quality.
Another way of distinguishing these very closely related words is this –
CHRONOS refers to a duration of time that must elapse before an event occurs. KAIROS refers to the nature of the event when it does come. Times and seasons. The 2 words occur together in Acts 1 v 6
When they (the disciples) therefore were come together, they asked Jesus, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
The Thessalonians wanted to know when the Lord would come so that they could get ready to meet Him! It was a natural thing to do and think. When we are expecting people to come to see us we are anxious that we know their time of arrival – so that we can be ready, unoccupied with other things.
Perhaps it was a little naïve of the believers. But Paul forgives their questions and seeks to help them. He states quite clearly that knowing the date of the second coming will not help them one bit! There was no need to know how long there was to wait. Indeed their own Saviour and master, the Lord Jesus Christ when he was still on earth said this in Mark 13 v 32
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
If we are all honest we like to know things! We like to have information about future events. If they are pleasant events we tend to count the days, the hours the minutes until the time gets nearer and nearer. It is a blessed anticipation that we feel.
On the other hand we can also find ourselves dreading other things, and try to cope with the foreboding.
But we cannot do that with the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we do have is THE WARNING. Nobody knows the date – all we know is that He is coming!
Imagine that you wake up one summer’s morning with the sun streaming through the window. You switch on the radio and the weather man has some unlikely news. WARNING – Very heavy rain clouds are coming and the experts predict some local flash floods. The waters could rise quickly. You look out the window and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. However if the Radio’s weather teams are right, then your home is at risk – you live on a low lying flood plain. The area in which you live is particularly vulnerable. So you decide to make some preparations.
You go out into the road and a few of your neighbours are talking about it. You join in the conversation and find out that no-one is taking the warning seriously. Some think it’s nonsense while others think it’s a publicity stunt. You suggest that there could be some truth in it but they laugh at you. You try and suggest that they make preparations, but they just ignore you.
So you go inside and make your own preparations.
- While your friends sunbathe you are filling bags with sand. - While your friends water their gardens you are piling those sand bags one on top of the other. - While your friends have a BBQ you are sealing all the doors and windows to make them watertight.
You are finally ready and you rest your head on your pillow that night confident that you have done everything possible to protect your home.
That evening the storm bringing the floods comes – the water rises to 2 feet and all your neighbours’ houses are ruined.
But your house was protected. What was the difference between you and your neighbours?
Did you escape the flood?
No – but you were prepared for it! And this illustration prepares us for the thoughts in verse 2
2. The Suddenness of the Lord’s Return v 2
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
There are 2 important things to notice in verse 2. These important things, Paul says, are matters that the Thessalonians already knew very well – you know them perfectly he says. Your information is complete. The words from Paul are saying this “You all know very well that no one can know when the return of the Lord will be!” There needs to be no explanation – just the statement of reminder “that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night”.
We however do need to know about these important terms – which are
A. The term the “day of the Lord”
B. The metaphor, “Like a Thief in the night.”
Day of the Lord.
What did Paul have in mind when he used the term THE DAY OF THE LORD? Surely it was this – he had in view the one great event which will wind up the present age and usher in the eternal state.
But why the Day of the Lord rather than the Day of Judgement or the Day of Reckoning?
The character of this special day that is to come has the mark of God on it – it is His day – it belongs to Him – it is His time for working a special work – it is a day in which He will manifest Himself, display His character and perform His work – His strange work on the earth.
The Old Testament writers knew of this Day of the Lord.
Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah and he said in Amos 5 v 18
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. 19 As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
The Day of the Lord in the Old Testament was the Day of Jehovah. In the New Testament the same Day is the Day of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is Jehovah! (Try telling that to a Jehovah’s Witness and he will vehemently deny it.)
There are many such Days mentioned in the New Testament.
The Day of God –
2 Peter 3 v 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
The Day of Judgement –
2 Peter 2 v 9 says - 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
It is called the Day of Redemption in Ephesians 4 v 30
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
In Philippians 1 v 6 Paul calls this day the Day of Jesus Christ –
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
And in 1 Corinthians 1 v 8 he writes of it as the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ –
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself uses this expression – The Last Day. His words are recorded in John 6 v 39 – 40
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
From these verses we can see that the Day of the Lord is the last great day on which many things will happen. Christ will come again – the dead shall be raised. The Believing living will be caught up with the Lord in the air – the remainder of inhabitants in the world will be judged. It signals the end of the world, the judgement of the lost and the rescue and raising of the believing. All on one day! The last day of the world!
Are you ready for that day my friend? Rather than knowing the date, all of us need to be ready for the unexpected Day of the Lord. This is a deadline without a date. Deadlines force us to settle our priorities and pursue them ruthlessly. The Lord God calls all of us to be ready for a date that only He knows. Only those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can say that they are ready. Only those who have repented and been forgiven of their sins have any readiness to meet the Lord on the Day of the Lord. And the next thing to notice is this – the metaphor
Like a Thief in the night.
Peter says in his second letter
2 Peter 3 v 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The way that the Apostle Paul states the issue in verse 2 –
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
It comes (present tense) gives us the indication that his priority is to tell the Thessalonians that he speaks of CERTAINTY rather than IMMEDIACY. It will be totally UNEXPECTED – like the coming of a burglar. How many burglars send us a postcard to say I will be breaking into your house tomorrow”? Burglars and thieves depend on the element of surprise – they come when you do not expect them.
Once again the emphasis in this metaphor “Thief in the night” is NOT secrecy but unexpectedness.
But the metaphor implies more than this. It points to the UNPREPAREDNESS of those who sleep in their houses while the thief arrives. It is the MANNER that the thief comes to the UNPREPARED that is being emphasised here in scripture.
Putting this together then we learn this – that the Day of the Lord will come upon people suddenly, unexpectedly and with devastating effect.
In these verses Paul distinguishes the Parousia – the joyfully anticipated coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for His saints, both living and dead – from – the return of the Lord as judge – the Day of the Lord – characterised as we have seen as a day of wrath and destruction for rebellious individuals and nations. But at the same time on the same day it is that day of salvation for His own people. These are two different aspects of the same event.
For us in this congregation this morning this coming Day of the Lord will either be a day of terror and the fierce wrath of God or a day of joy and reunion.
If you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ through repentance and faith; if you know Him and He knows you as His son or daughter; if you have come to Him by faith and trusted Him and His death for sinners was for you – all will be well for you on that Day that is coming.
But if you are yet unconverted – if you have not experienced salvation and the forgiveness and pardon and cleansing of all your sins through faith in Christ – my friend – look out! Beware! The unexpected return of Jesus Christ will hold no joy for you – only anguish, fear and an eternal future of suffering!
Therefore – turn to Him – trust in Him – seek His pardon and forgiveness today – and be ready for the Day!
3. The Inevitability of the Lord’s Return v 3
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Paul continues with his words for unbelievers to warn them to take His message seriously. Paul addresses non-Christians, mankind in general, as these words are written, even though addressed to the believers at Thessalonica. The state of mankind in their masses will be one of unsuspecting tranquillity. It will be just like it was before the flood came in Noah’s day. The Lord Jesus Christ said this in Matthew 24
v 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
People believed that, although a great ark had been built, its builder was a little mad. Everything would just carry on as usual, as it always had. There was no danger – only peace and safety.
My friends this is the state of more and more people today. Secularism continues to choke any belief in a God who is a judge and avenger for sin. People are insulating themselves from the impending warnings of sincere preachers of the word of God, by rejecting religion, the bible and the message of the Lord Jesus Christ through His church.
Sadly it has to be said that the Church herself seems to have shied away from declaring the certainty of a future judgement. The church has gone to sleep. So even from professing Christians the thought of a final day of reckoning fades from the consciousness!
My friends as unpopular as this message seems to be, and as unpopular as it is for Christians to take this warning of the Day of the Lord to our community – this needs to be heralded as urgently and as clearly as we can in order to awaken our unsuspecting generation. We have to be clear to tell people about the inescapable destruction that is coming!
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are particularly active on the estate at the moment – 3 times during this week they have visited with their false teaching – that the Kingdom will be made up of people on a renewed earth. They are happy to look forward to a future here on a renewed earth.
They have great difficulty with 2 Peter 3 v 10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
The scripture says that this day of the Lord is coming and signifies the end of the world! But it does not imply annihilation. Rather it teaches endless judgement and punishment for unbelievers – shut out from God. Paul will declare this in his next letter to the Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians 1 v 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Should we not be as active as we can in warning those who will listen to flee from the prospect of this everlasting destruction and go to the Lord Jesus Christ for safety and certainty and the wonderful salvation that He has secured? Let us be stirred my friends to be those who are so convinced of the seriousness of the situation that we will be constantly active in warning the lost people around us – those who will listen!
Finally there is one more image in this verse to underline the suddenness and inevitability of the day of the Lord – Paul uses the picture of a pregnant woman who goes into labour to describe it. When a woman goes into labour – what was expected is now becoming a reality. There’s no going back – you’ll never hear a woman in labour say ‘I’ve changed my mind!’ It’s no use her saying it once labour has started. Nature has got to take its course. Some labours are long and can last many hours. But the suddenness lies in the way that the birth pangs come upon a woman more or less without warning.
So the coming of the Son of man will be quick and sudden. And there will be no escape from the Lord when He comes.
If only people would believe this! If only we were more concerned about those around who are unconcerned. This teaching also makes us more prepared – not by looking for or knowing precise dates – of identifying signs or trends as signposts – but to be READY. Jesus said in Matthew 24 v 44
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
How can we be ready?
1. If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour this morning – the way to be ready first of all is to repent and believe – confess your sins and trust Him.
2. If you do Know and love the Lord Jesus then Paul is about to give some instructions on readiness – which he addresses in the next few verses – and will be the subject for the next sermon.
In the meantime let us not be taken by surprise – but watchful, self-controlled and full of faith, love and hope – the glorious certainty of the Lord’s return!