1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
The Apostle continues his teaching on our Lord’s return, specifically, the time when he should come and how that should affect our living in the present. The first thing Paul would have us know, and which he says the Thessalonians understood as well, is that our Lord’s return (scholars call it after the Greek word, parousia) cannot be predicted with any exactness. It comes “like a thief in the night.” Now I don’t think that that means believers will have no word from the Spirit at all as that Day fast approaches. It seems that throughout the Scriptures God warns his people of impending future events, and I would think that such warnings would certainly precede the next great event on the prophetic calendar. Still, there is no knowing exact dates and those behave very foolishly who think that they can wrench secrets hidden in the Bible depths about such matters when we are plainly told we cannot know (Matthew 24:36).
Instead, Paul uses the coming of our Lord, which could happen today, to exhort the Thessalonians to holy living. The very reason why that day will not catch believers unawares is because they are “children of light.” They do not “sleep” as unbelievers, that is, living for the moment, for this world, unaware and unconcerned about spiritual matters. Unbelievers have their minds focused on things below. But Christians behave in a “sober” manner—serious, godly, devout. They have numbered their days and know that time is short, whether they meet the Lord in the air or die of natural causes (Psalm 90:12). They put on faith, love, and hope, knowing that whatever comes and no matter the difficulties the times may bring, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Apostle John uses the coming of the Lord to encourage believers to live godly lives as well: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Not so, the unbelievers. When they say, “Peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them.” The Book of Revelation concurs that just before the end, pagans will think that they have ushered in heaven on earth through a one-world government ruled by an almost superhuman man (antichrist). They will think, no more wars, no more human suffering, that mankind has arrived, ignorance (by which they mean morality) finally conquered and licentiousness counted as virtue—a veritable heaven on earth—ancient Rome reincarnated. But you, set your mind on things above.