ROBERT >> Have you ever had an experience like this? My wife asked me to go into the closet to get something for her, and so I got up and left the living room, went through the bedroom, into the closet; and I got in the closet, and I’m thinking, What was it that she wanted me to get? I couldn’t remember. And so I went out of the closet, back through the room, into the living room and asked her what it was. She thought for a moment. I can’t remember, she said. We all have those times, don’t we, when we can’t remember, when we forget things? Well, there’s one thing that we must never forget, and that’s our Lord’s return.
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> Today we’re going to look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 where the apostle Paul speaks of Christ’s return. And it’s right here that Paul gives us three reminders to help us prepare for the coming of Christ. Let’s take a look at them together today.
First of all, let’s read verses 1 through 3, where the Bible says, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have to 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. 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.”
The first thing that we need to remember about Christ’s return is to remember what you’ve been taught about the suddenness and unexpectedness of Christ’s coming. You see here Paul didn’t need to write about this to the Thessalonians, because they had already been taught about these things. They had already been informed about them. And they had been so well taught that there should have been no questions about it. He had taught them perfectly. Their knowledge concerning it was complete. But Paul said, I need to remind you of what you’ve been taught. And we still need to be reminded today, because so often we forget what we have been taught. And sometimes we become confused because there are so many other teachings about the coming of Christ than what we read about in the Bible. And so it’s important that we remember what the Bible says about Christ’s coming, and particularly that we remember the suddenness and the unexpectedness of Christ’s return. That’s what the Thessalonians had been taught, and that’s what we need to be reminded of today.
Paul uses three figures actually in these first three verses to teach us about the suddenness and the unexpectedness of the return of Christ.
First of all you’ll see here that he tells us Jesus would come as a thief in the night. That means he would come suddenly, he would come unexpectedly. A thief’s not going to call you up and say I’ll be there Tuesday night at 12 o’clock so we know exactly when he’s coming. Not at all. No, it’ll be suddenly. It’ll be unexpected. We know that a thief could come anytime and break into our house, and so we make preparations for that. We’ll lock the doors and we may have alarms or a big dog, and we make sure that all of our valuables are secure because we know that could happen.
Well, we know that Jesus Christ is coming again, but we don’t know when. We don’t know the day or the hour. We must always be ready. We must always be prepared because Jesus, when he comes, will come suddenly and unexpectedly. I want you to notice what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36. The apostles were asking him questions about his coming and the end of the world. You’ll notice in Matthew 24:35 he had talked about heaven and earth passing away. But then in verse 36 he said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
You see, the only one that knew when Jesus and still knows when Jesus is coming is God. He’s the one that knows. But he has not revealed that to us. He has taught us, yes, Jesus is coming, but we don’t know when. And yet there are many who have and are still claiming to know when Jesus is coming. For example, William Miller of the Seventh Day Adventists said that Jesus was going to come on April 3rd, 1843. And the people all got ready for it. Some of them went up on the mountain so they could get a little head start, and there were some that went out to the cemeteries because they wanted to be united with their loved ones when they were raised up, and there were those more polite society women who got outside of the city, didn’t want to be with the riff raff. But April 4th dawned, and Jesus never came. And so he recalculated and he set another date. This time it would be on March the 21st of 1844. And once again some of his followers gathered that day and were waiting for Christ to come, but he never came. And so once again a date was set for October the 22nd of that same year. Still that day passed, no coming of Christ.
Joseph Smith of the Mormons made it clear that Jesus would come sometime before 1891; but that century passed, too. And then those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are telling us that Jesus came in 1914. That was the prediction of the one who established the Watch Tower. They say we just can’t see him, that he’s already here. But Jesus didn’t come in 1914. The world did not pass away in 1914. Later on in that same century Hal Lindsey came out with his little book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and he popularized the date of 1988, just a generation from the establishment of Israel there as a state in Palestine. That date also has come and gone. I remember receiving a book in the mail, 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Come In 1988. Well, once that year passed, all of those reasons were invalidated, and once again Jesus’ words were proven true, no one knows the day or the hour. And then here comes the change of the next century. Coming into the 21st century, people thought the year 2000 or the year 2001, all the computers are going to be disrupted, the calendars will not be able to change properly, there’s going to be a holocaust, there’s going to be problems all over the world, it’s coming to an end. But now we’re in 2016, and still the Lord has not yet come.
Listen, Jesus says if anyone says he knows when Jesus is coming that he is a liar. He’s a false prophet. When Jesus comes, it will be like a thief in the night, suddenly and unexpectedly. We must always be ready. We must always be prepared.
Notice how Paul also compared the coming of Christ here in 1 Thessalonians 5 to a surprise attack that nobody’s able to escape. He says,” They’ll say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them.”
See, there are going to be no signs which will point to the coming of Christ. When the army comes to attack or to surround a city and besiege it, they don’t give signs of their coming. They don’t want anybody to know that they’re on their way. And there are no signs which will point to the coming of Christ.
I want you to go back again to Matthew chapter 24, because that’s where so many teach these signs that are supposedly to happen before the coming of Christ. But the signs mentioned in Matthew 24 have nothing to do with the coming of Christ at the end of the world. They have everything to do with the coming of Christ in judgment upon the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD through the Roman army.
You’ll notice in Matthew 24 where the Bible says in verse 1, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the building of the temple. And Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The subject of discussion here in Matthew 24 has to do with the destruction of that temple that then stood in the city of Jerusalem. And that happened in 70 AD when the Roman army besieged that city and ultimately burned and destroyed the temple of God in the city of Jerusalem. As you go on in the passage, you’ll see where the disciples were thinking that this must be when he comes, this must be the end of the world, for the temple to be brought down so that one stone was not left upon another, and they went on then to ask these questions. But Jesus made it clear that when the temple would be destroyed, there would be signs so that they would get out of the city, so that they would get out of the temple and they would not be destroyed in that destruction in 70 AD. But then he made it also clear later in the chapter that the coming of Christ would be much different. You read about the signs, for example, here in these verses in chapter 24, for example in verse 7, “nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines and pestilences and earthquakes in various places and the tribulation that will take place in those days and how people will betray one another and hate one another and the many false prophets deceiving and all the lawlessness that’s going on and how the gospel is preached to the end of the world.”
Folks, all of those signs took place. The time that Jesus spoke this, in about 30 AD, until the time Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, all of these things are historically documented and took place, even the preaching of the gospel to the whole creation under heaven, as Paul said in Colossians 1:23. It was then that Jesus said the Roman armies would come and surround the city.
It’s the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel that’s described in Luke chapter 21 as the armies surrounding the city. And then he told them to get out of Judea, to get out of that place so that they might escape this awful judgment. Now, there’s something that pins all of this down for us very clearly.
Look at verse 34 of Matthew 24, where Jesus, having spoken about the destruction of the temple, all of these signs leading up to it, he makes this statement; Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. So whatever Jesus said before verse 34, all of those things would take place in that generation. And that generation has passed on, and all of those things he said have been fulfilled. But then Jesus says in verse 35, that, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. So those signs were given, and they would be warned so they could flee the city at the destruction of Jerusalem.”
When Jesus comes to bring an end to this world, it’s going to be sudden and it’s going to be unexpected. It’s going to be like an attack that no one can escape. It’s going to be like, if you read on in Matthew 24, the days of Noah. Let’s read it together here in verse 37. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
So you see here how that when Jesus comes, it’s going to be like the flood. They had heard that a flood was coming, but there were no signs that indicated it. In fact, as far as I can tell, there had been no weather upon this planet until the time of the flood. I know the dew came up and watered the garden there in Eden at the beginning, but we don’t read about any hurricanes or storms or tornados, or floods or anything like that until we read about the flood in Genesis chapter 6. It appears that the atmosphere and the world before the flood was much different than it is today. But at any rate, you’ll notice when that day came, everything was going on as normal. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were giving in marriage. There were no signs pointing to the coming of the flood until it came and took them all away. That’s what it’s going to be like when Jesus comes again. As he says in verse 43 of Matthew 24, “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. Yes, Jesus is coming, but he’s going to come like a thief in the night.”
He’s going to come like a surprise attack no one is able to escape. Nobody knows when he’s coming. There’ll be no signs pointing to the coming of Christ. And now I want you to notice the third image that Paul used in our text in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, an image to again express the suddenness and unexpectedness of Christ’s return. Here he says at the end of verse 3, As labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape. As labor pains upon a pregnant woman. I remember when my wife was in labor at the hospital with our oldest son Brian. And her pains began to increase, and she told me to go get a nurse. And when I returned and asked her if she could wait a minute because the nurse was busy, she informed me rather dramatically that no, she could not wait. And of course everybody heard this, and Brian was going to come very quickly, and they rushed in, and they brought her into the delivery room, and I just had enough time to get ready so that I could be there for it. Brian was born shortly thereafter. In the same way our Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly. We’ve always got to be ready. We’ve always got to be prepared.
Now I know it’s been some 2,000 years now since Jesus said that he would come again, since he left this earth and promised he would return. It’s been 2,000 years. And I know some have lulled into a false sense of security, some have forgotten about his promise. Some have now become skeptical, and they wonder, Where is the promise of his coming?
That was going on near the end of the first century. We read over in 2 Peter chapter 3 how some were asking then, Where is the promise of his coming? It had only been 30, 40, maybe 50 years later, but they were already asking, He said he’s coming, where is he?
We need to remember, as Peter points out in this chapter, that God does not operate on our timetable. He does not operate on our calendar. And look what he says in 2 Peter 3:8 in response to those who would question the timing of Christ’s coming. He says in verse 8, But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. So Peter is telling us really it hasn’t been that long. It may have been 2,000 years, but that’s just like two days to God. He’s saying that God doesn’t operate in time, that is, he doesn’t have the same sense of time as we do. He’s eternal. He’s in the past and the present and the future all at the same time. And so it may be that our Lord will come any moment. It may be a million years from now before our Lord comes again. A day is with the Lord as a thousand years, a thousand years as one day. Don’t think that the Lord will not fulfill his promise.
Peter says in verse 9, “But the Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering, he’s patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Yes, you see, the Lord has not yet come because he’s still giving us opportunity to prepare, to get ready for his coming. And so we all need to realize that we don’t know when he’s going to come. We don’t know if it’s going to be today or if it’s going to be a long time from now. I remember a little cartoon that I saw where God was talking to a little boy. And God said, Son, he said, you know, a million years is like one second to me. And he said, You know, a penny, that’s like a million dollars to me. And the little boy said, God, can I have one of those pennies? And God said, Sure, just a second. You see, time means nothing to God.
The Lord may come anytime. We need to be ready. We need to be prepared. So Paul reminds us here to remember what we have been taught about the suddenness and the unexpectedness of Christ’s return. But Paul also has two other reminders for us I just want to mention in passing this morning.
In verses 4 through 8, look what he says. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You’re all sons of light and sons of the day. We’re not of the night nor of darkness. And 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. 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.”
Remember, you are the sons of light. You Christians, you who have been taught, you who know the Lord. You see, Paul pictures two groups of people here: The sons of light and the sons of darkness. The sons of light are of the day. They watch, they’re sober. The sons of darkness, they’re of the night. They sleep and they are drunk.
Paul uses these two pictures to illustrate the difference between the Christian who’s ready for the coming of Christ and the lost sinners of this world who are taken by surprise.
Remember, in the Bible light and day is used as a figure. Light and day is a figure for truth and knowledge and righteousness and life. But the darkness of night, it speaks of falsehood and ignorance and wickedness and death. We must never forget that we’re sons of light and always be on guard for Christ’s coming.
His final reminder in verse 9 and verse 10, let’s read it together. “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.”
Remember, God has appointed you, Christian, for salvation. In fact, he wants us all to be saved through Jesus Christ. We Christians, we don’t have to fear future judgment because Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come according to 1 Thessalonians 1:10. God chose us for salvation, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. We believe Jesus died for us. We believe he was raised the third day to live forever and that we can live forever with him. And this is the confidence, not just for those of us who wake, who are alive, but also for those who sleep, those of us Christians who die. And this just confirms what Paul had already written in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, how the Lord will come, and the dead in Christ will be raised, and we’ll meet him in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. And so while others should dread the coming of Christ, Christian brother and sister, we may look to that day with assurance. Let’s each keep these things in mind and encourage one another to be ready and to be prepared for our Lord’s return. Let us know how we can help you so that you’re ready on that day.
SINGING>> Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great,
and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul for liberty, at Calvary.
ROBERT >> I’d like to thank you for watching our program today. Our interest in our viewers with regard to our program is about eternal salvation. It’s not about money. It’s not about anything like that. We’re interested in your soul. The Bible says that for a person to be saved, they have to first of all believe in Jesus Christ; but not just to believe in him generally, you must believe that he is indeed the Son of God.
He said, “Except you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” John 8:24.
But he also said that a person must repent of sins, and that means to change your mind about your sinful past and to decide to change your action and live for God. “Except you repent, you will perish,” Jesus said in Luke 13:3.
Paul said that, “God commands all men everywhere to repent,” Acts 17:30.
And the Bible also teaches that in order to be saved, we have to be willing to verbally confess to others our faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 10 verse 10, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
But even that’s not enough, because the Bible teaches that a person must be immersed in water to have their sins washed away by the blood of Christ. Peter said on the day of Pentecost to those who asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, and be let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” Acts 2:38.
Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” Mark 16:16.
When a person does that, they don’t earn their salvation. That’s just the moment at which the blood of Christ washes sins.
Revelation 1:5 tells us that it is the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins.
In Acts 22:16 we learn to, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
I hope that you’ll study these things for yourself to see if these things be so. And I hope and pray that if you’ve not obeyed the gospel that you will before it’s eternally too late.
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SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace,
from the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so.
Showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven,
sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low,
till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.