Thessalonians 5 v 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a th
The human race is divided into 2 categories and only 2. The categories are not black and white. They are not Western and Eastern. They are not rich and poor. The two categories are these – the saved and the lost.
Those who savingly believe in God the Lord through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ; and those who have refused Him and are therefore lost.
The Bibles describes these two categories in various ways.
They are called by the Lord Jesus Christ the sheep and the goats. In Matthew 25 v 31 – 33 He uses an illustration of mixed farming of sheep and goats together. He says that at the end of the world the sheep and the goats will be separated with regard to their eternal future – but in the meantime they are mixed up and living in the world’s field together.
Thinking of the field illustration the Lord calls the 2 categories the wheat and the tares – the good grain and the darnel weed. At the final harvest the two crops will be separated by His angels into separate bundles.
He also calls these two categories the wise and the foolish. Again in Matthew 25 he tells the story of a wedding – an ostentatious wedding where there were no less than 10 bridesmaids. But only 5 of these bridesmaids had made adequate preparations for the wedding. They were called wise and they picture the believers who were ready, in contrast to the foolish 5 who were not ready.
In another part of the New Testament the two categories are identified as the Children of God contrasted with the offspring of Satan.
1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
This morning the 2 verses in 1 Thessalonians 5 carefully illustrate this difference – this contrast between the saved and the lost. First then we will identify
1. What a Christian is NOT – A Christian is NOT in darkness.
The first 3 verses of Chapter 5 have said this –
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.
In verse 3 Paul has identified a group of people whose watch word is Peace and safety! They think that they have peace with God, or at least peace from God – and they think that they are safe and will not suffer when God judges the world. They carry on in their own way, believing what they like, behaving as they please – all the time not realising that sudden destruction will come upon them when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back with great power to judge the world.
Then Paul says this to the Christians at Thessalonica –
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
You are not in darkness. You are not those who will be taken by surprise by the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are not those who will be amazed and dumbfounded when suddenly the Lord comes back and ends the world! As he says these words Paul is emphasising something. He is emphasising a CONTRAST between the destiny of Christians and the destiny of the unbelieving world. This contrast is just the same today. There are billions of people in the world today who ARE IN DARKNESS!
What does the Bible have to say about darkness?
1. There is Physical Darkness.
At the beginning of time before the world was made the first state of things was darkness.
Genesis 1 v 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Physical darkness can be illustrated in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus was with His disciples this event is recorded –
John 6 v 17 And (the disciples) entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
In Matthew 27 we find the physical darkness that fell at Calvary –
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
Imagine this experience of darkness that came to the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem that day. It must have seemed very strange to them.
When the Apostle Paul was converted – arrested on the Damascus road – a bright light shone around him but –
Immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Acts 13 v 11.
We are all aware of physical darkness. One of our Deacons was once shut temporarily in a storeroom where there was no light at all. The electric light was turned off. He told me that you could reach out and almost feel the darkness – physical darkness.
2. There is Intellectual Darkness.
When Paul describes the darkness of natural sinful man in Romans 1 he says this in verse 21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
And then he describes the Jews with their possession of the Law of God by asking a rhetorical question –
Romans 2 v 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness?
Paul had to point out to the Christians at Ephesus that the Gentiles who were heathens were also in intellectual darkness –
Ephesians 4 v 17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Darkened understanding – blindness of mind – these terms describe so many to day. They are intellectually insensitive to the things of God.
3. There is Moral Darkness.
God has given us all a certain degree of sensitivity to His moral law. But many have blocked this out and morally speaking they are in the dark. They act as if there is no standard of behaviour based on God’s law. The Lord Jesus Christ said this in His Sermon on the Mount –
Matthew 6 v 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
The Apostle John says a very telling thing about moral darkness in 1 John 1 v 6
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
Moral darkness characterises more and more the world and society in which we live. Immoral attitudes and behaviour abound. And institutions, including our Police force, who were founded to maintain morality and good order according to our laws, are now given the freedom to be as immoral as they please. Now that there is a Gay Police Association – how much longer will it be before there is an association sympathetic to burglars endorsed by the Police? We are on a slippery slope down into the transgression of every moral law – this is a growing darkness! How great will that darkness be!
4. There is Spiritual Darkness.
Spiritual darkness is specifically darkness about God and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Mary’s song recorded in Luke 1 she understood that her Son the Lord Jesus Christ would have a wonderful role in bringing spiritual light to her people – she said
79 He will give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
When Paul was testifying to King Agrippa he humbly told the King that the Lord Jesus had appeared to him and given him this commission as a missionary –
Acts 26 v 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins,
Again there is a spiritual darkness today. People do not know that they are sinners – and are offended if you tell them that God calls them that. Since they do not spiritually discern that to be an unforgiven sinner is to be lost forever and under judgement, they continue in spiritual darkness – living according to their lusts instead of God’s light. My friends such people are without hope and without God in the world – and their condition is a terrible tragedy.
5. There is the Darkness of the world in its present condition.
At the beginning of John’s gospel there are these words –
John 1 v 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world and preached that He was the light – the darkness that gripped the world prevented most from seeing it. He even spelt it out to some who were listening to Him one day –
John 12 v 35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
Take advantage of the light while it is here – otherwise the darkness will swamp you!
And the powers that dominate the world order are described by Paul in Ephesians 6 v 12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Rulers of darkness – Satan and his demon hosts are darkness.
6. There is the place of punishment – which is darkness.
The saviour commended a centurion one day for his faith. There were Jews around at the time who disapproved – but Jesus said that there were those amongst them who thought that their family relationship to Abraham and the other patriarchs guaranteed them a place in heaven. Not so He said in Matthew 8 v 12
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Hell is called outer darkness! Hell is a dark place – only lit by the flames of the lake of fire! And when you hear people saying in a flippant way that they don’t care if they go to hell because all their friends will be there – they have no ideas of the horror that awaits them. It will matter little that their friends are their – they all will suffer for eternity in the darkness and misery of everlasting hell and night! Oh my friend this morning – if you have not already done so seek the Lord with all your heart and mind and so be sure that hell will not claim you when Christ comes again. Go to Him – and confess your sins to Him – turn to Him and away from your sin – and look to the Lord Jesus Christ the Light of the world. For those who look to Him He will appear one day. He will come to them as a friend in the day, not as a thief in the night!
There are those who will be surprised by that day. This is the meaning of overtake in verse 4. We have thought about people in darkness – when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again for them it will be night! The Prophet Amos described it –
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. 20 Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
What a grim picture! For unbelievers in the darkness that has been described – only have the darkness and night ahead of them!
BUT – now the good news – Paul addresses those believers at Thessalonica – and us who believe –
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,
You my Christian brother and sister are not in darkness! Fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ – you are not in darkness. This is what you are NOT – in darkness!
Praise God for what He has done for you! Thank Him that He has delivered you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2 v 9) – by the grace of the Gospel. And let us now see what Paul says that you ARE!
2. What a Christian IS – a Child of Light.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian! Any one who is a Christian can testify to a great change that has come into his or her life! A Christian has moved – from the realm of darkness to the realm of light! Just as, to be in darkness is all those things that we have just listed, so to be in the light is to be in a condition of knowledge, righteousness, acceptance and life.
Notice how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4 v 6
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Christians are transformed out of a state of ignorance into a condition of knowing. They are changed from alienation from God to fellowship with God. They are altered – from a state of hopelessness to a state of eternal life!
The Hebrews had some interesting ways of expressing themselves. People were called “sons” of something when they shared its characteristics. Sons and daughters bear striking resemblances to their parents not only in looks – but also in behaviour and characteristics.
Here Christians are called sons (the same word translated as children) of light and of the day.
Day and light represents God and all that is good and lovely.
Night and darkness represents Satan and all that is evil.
Children of the light and children of the day bear the characteristics of the heavenly parent – the Lord God Himself – who is light!
1 John 1 v 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
The Lord Jesus in those wonderful passages in John 8 and 9 said
8 v 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
9 v 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
So we who have been called out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Lord Jesus Christ are those who bear resemblance to the light. We are also those who will inherit a kingdom that is characterised by light –
Colossians 1 v 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Therefore we who are heirs of the kingdom of light should have nothing to do with the kingdom of darkness any more!
The Kingdom of Heaven is a Kingdom of light – in his description of the heavenly city John says in Revelation 21 v 23
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
The Lamb is the light of the city. On Tuesday evening last week we thought about one of the signs of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from Matthew 24 v 29
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Of course at the end of the world the cosmos, the universe will be folded up – no more sun, moon or stars. No more the familiar light sources in the heavens. No electricity to light the world – for all will melt in the fervent heat of the last day.
But the children of light will see with new eyes by the light of the Lamb of God the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – who is the light!
As a believer you have been affected by the light! In our own language we use the expression that someone has seen the light when they have understood something, or been changed for the better by illumination.
The term Children of the Day is a great description of those who belong to that day when Jesus comes again. Nothing will terrify you who are the children of the Day. The Day is the same day as Paul has referred to in verse 2 – so Christians belong to that day in a special way. It will be a day of resurrection and triumph! As we saw at the end of Chapter 4 when the Lord comes and descends from heaven they will meet with Him in the air – and so shall they be ever with Him. That wonderful day will fulfil all of the hopes and desires of believers who struggle through this world of sin – for that will be the final completion of Jesus’ saving work – their redemption draws near!
But one last thought.
Notice how Paul changes the pronouns in the middle of this verse –
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: We are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Paul includes himself, the other two missionaries and all other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ with the Christians at Thessalonica. These truths that characterise you – Children of Light, Children of the day, are common to all believers – we are not of the night nor of darkness.
The sands of time are sinking; The dawn of heaven breaks; The summer morn I’ve sighed for, The fair, sweet morn awakes: Dark, dark hath been the midnight, The dayspring is at hand, And glory, glory dwelleth In Immanuel’s land.
I’ve wrestled on toward heaven, ‘Gainst storm and wind and tide; Now like a weary traveller That leans upon his guide, Amid the shades of evening, While sinks life’s lingering sand, I hail the glory dawning From Immanuel’s land.
Are you keeping heaven in view my friend? Dear brother – dear sister – we press on towards the light. There is light at the end of the tunnel of life as we move through the murky darkness of this world of sin and sorrow; of grief and trial; of the effects of the greater populations dwelling in darkness.
Let us show ourselves to be the children of Light and the children of the Day – the Day which is coming and will not take US by surprise!
Paul is next going to show us what our responsibilities are as Children of light. But first let us rejoice that this is what we are – enlightened sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ – the light of the world – who endured the darkness of calvary bearing away our sins on the cross – so that we may spend eternity with Him in glorious light!