Unexpected…Like a Thief!

// March 17th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

Warren Wiersbe, gave this section the title, “Don’t Walk in Your Sleep!”  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Unexpected…Like a Thief

…Jesus is the great Reconciler….but, in reality, He unites and He also divides.  Those who have trusted Him as Savior and Lord are united with Christ as God’s children.  But, the harsh reality is…Christ is also a divider.

In John 7:43 we read, “…the crowd was divided about him.”  Faith in Jesus unites us to all other believers, and it separates us spiritually from the rest of the world.  In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prayed, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).

What Paul is dealing with in these 11 verses, is that there is a difference between believers who are looking for the Lord’s return and the people of the world.  His purpose is to encourage the believers to live holy lives in the midst of their unbelieving environment.

I don’t know if you know this, but since 1947 a magazine called the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has maintained the “Doomsday Clock” – this is a symbolic clock that shows just how close we are to global catastrophe.

As the situation in the world gets better or worse, the hands of the clock are set closer or further away from midnight.  The clock has been adjusted seven times since it was started – at the start it was set at 11:53 or 7 minutes before midnight.

In 1991, it was moved back to 17 minutes before midnight, but since then the minute hand has moved closer and closer to midnight.  The increase of terrorism, the rise of rogue nuclear threat from North Korea, and increasing instability in the world are things they take into consideration.  In early 2017, the Doomsday Clock was reset to 2.5 minutes before midnight – which is the closest it has come since 1953.

How will the world end?  Man has his answers, but God always gets the last word.  The Bible says “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7), and Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20).

Recently, a Christian leader in Kenya was quoted as saying, “These are not the last days. These are the last hours.”  We need to read the Bible together with the newspaper to see how close we actually are.

In 1 Thess. 5:1-11 – Paul reminds us of four things we already know about the end of the age:

  1. There will be Sudden Destruction – v. 1-3

“Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you.  For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.”  

Paul uses the phrase “the day of the Lord” to describe the end times.  It’s a phrase you find quite often in the OT.  It describes any moment when God suddenly interrupts the normal flow of life and “breaks in” to time and space.

Several prophets used the term to describe God’s judgment on the pagan nations surrounding Israel.  In fact, throughout history there have been numerous time periods that could be called “the day of the Lord.” But all of those little “days” are pointing towards the big “day of the Lord” at the end of time.

Our text tells us we know three things about the coming Day of the Lord at the end of the age

1) First, it will come suddenly, like a thief in the night.

We lock our doors at night because it is at night or when we are not home, that typically a thief come.  Their intention is to catch you unprepared and thereby have the advantage over you.

2) Second, it will be a period of great destruction.

This refers to the judgments described in the book of Revelation, when the seals are broken, the trumpets sound, and the bowls of God’s judgment are poured out on the earth.  All those terrible events take place during a seven-year time period called “the Great Tribulation.”

3) Third, there will be no escape.

This is an important fact that we need to know about the future.  When the Day of the Lord finally comes, and God’s fury is poured out on the earth…there will be no place to hide.

Paul compares it to a woman in the middle of childbirth.  If you have ever been pregnant, you know what this is saying.  You wait all that time for the day to come – with natural childbirth you don’t know the exact day, but you just know it’s getting close.  All of a sudden, the pregnant wife says to her husband, “It’s time!”  Nothing matters…if he is in the middle of something he deems is important or not, he better drop what he’s doing and get with the program.  When the time has come, you’ve got to go because the baby is on the way.  You can’t ignore those sharp pains and you can’t make them go away.

The same is true of the Day of the Lord. No one will be able to escape God’s judgment!  The world cannot escape the Tribulation Period.  Our only hope of escape is through the Lord Jesus Christ.  So, the first thing Paul tells his readers is – there will be sudden destruction.  Secondly…

  1. Believers know Whose they are – v. 4-5

“But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.  For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” 

Light and darkness symbolize the two great divisions of the human race – the saved and the lost.  There are two key words in this text: “you” and “we.”  The followers of Christ/Christians, belong to the light and to the day, not to the darkness or the night.  We should desire light not darkness.

And, we need to know, Jesus’ 2nd Coming will clearly show those two kinds of people.  In our world today, it is sometime hard to tell apart those who say they are Christians and those who are not.  It can be hard to tell because the sons of light live side by side with the children of darkness.  And, even though our values and lifestyles are quite different, we share the same space, live next door to each other, we may listen to the same music and cheer for the same sports teams.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a person is a believer or not.  But when the Day of the Lord finally comes, the difference will be perfectly clear.  We who belong to the light won’t be caught by surprise when Jesus returns and sudden destruction comes to the earth.  Paul wrote to the church at Corinth – “’Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them,’ says the LORD. ‘Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.’”

We need to live today, knowing Who we belong to…#3…

III. We Know What We Are To Do – v. 6-8

“So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.  Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk.  But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”

In v. 6 Paul uses two words to tell believers how they should live while they wait for Jesus to return:

#1) We need to be alert – the word used means “to make a determined effort to stay awake.”

We all know that when we stay up too late in the evening, the next day it can be hard to stay awake.  We all know there are “morning people” and “evening people.”  Spiritually we are called to be “morning people” for God.

Some people don’t function well in the morning until they have had a good dose of caffeine.  Spiritually, it can be no different…we need the time in God’s Word to give us that spiritual boost to take on our day, lest we be in danger of becoming spiritual sleepwalkers.  Spiritually, we need to be awake!  Much of the church today is content with a little dabble here and a little touch there, of God’s presence and with digging into His Word.  Dabbling won’t keep us spiritually awake and we need to be awake.

#2) Second, we need to be sober.  The word used means “serious-minded” or “earnest” – not really anything to do with the use of alcohol, except that if one is “under the influence of drugs or alcohol” you are not “under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit” – you can’t do both!

Some Christians I have met, over the years, live like they have been baptized in pickle juice – they are always sour, never happy – that’s not what this means.  Of all people on earth, Christians should enjoy life!  In v. 16, Paul tells us to “rejoice always”.  We’ll look more at that next week.

The word “sober/self-controlled” means to maintain your poise in an unsettled world.  Such a person does not get overly-excited nor act indifferent to the things that happen around him/her.  A good way to evaluate this in your life is, to take note how you react when things around you are spinning out of control.

Are you able keep your cool when everyone around you is losing theirs?  Can you restrain yourself from angry responses via email or Facebook posts?  The self-controlled person can walk away from a fight.  Can you?

In the past while there has been all kinds of signs that say “Keep Calm and…”  Recently, I found one that says, “keep calm and carry on.”  That is a very accurate description of how a Christians should live in the middle of our chaotic world.

  1. 7 tells us some things that should not be part of a Christian’s life. These are things that are connected to the evils of the night.

Drunkenness is a prime example of how the ungodly live.  It is evidence of where they hang out, the functions they attend, and the people they choose as friends.  We are to have nothing to do with a drunken lifestyle because we are people of the light and those things belong in the darkness.  Eph. 5:18 says, “Don’t be consumed with wine (mind-altering substances), instead be filled with the Spirit.”

  • We need to be alertbecause the enemy watches our activity and uses this information to drag us down.
  • We must be self-controlledbecause we are always on duty.
  • We must reject moral compromisebecause it only drags us down.
  1. 8 tells us to put on the breastplate of faith and love. Just as a soldier’s breastplate covers the vital organs, even so faith in God and love toward our brothers/sisters protects us in the time of battle.

And, we are to put on the helmet of the hope of salvation.  This helmet protects the mind and produces clear thinking.  What is the “hope of salvation”?  It is the certainty that if we die before Jesus returns, we will go directly to be with Jesus.  If we live until He returns, we have the certainty that we will be raptured and get to meet the Lord in the air.  Either way we’re going to be delivered—whether alive or dead we’re going to meet Jesus very soon.

While we wait for Jesus to come back, we live in a world that is hostile to spiritual truth.  A battle rages all around us for the hearts and minds of men and women.  It seems like secular society is becoming more secular than it has ever been.  The D21 – 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer – is happening because we are in a battle for our children, for our culture and for our nation.  Every Christian is a soldier in that battle.

In light of Christ’s soon return…we need to:

  • Wake up!(v. 6) – eyes wide open;
  • Clean up!(v. 7) – stay away from anything to do with the night, and,
  • Dress up!(v. 8) – put on the breastplate and helmet.

Jesus is coming again, and we will meet him when he comes, whether by resurrection or by rapture.  This is not just wishful thinking.  Can we be sure we are going to meet the Lord?  V. 9-11 give us the answer…

  1. We Know Where We Are Going – v. 9-11

“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.”

The word “destined” means “an appointed end.”  We all makes plans for our future – our tomorrow.  Most people have some goals in mind for their future.  But no matter how well you plan, you can never be sure that it will happen as you planned.

We need to realize that God’s plan for you is so solid that we can call it our destiny!  Paul speaks of it as an “appointment.”  Three things to ponder:

  • God knows where you came from.
  • God knows where you are right now.
  • And, God knows where you will end up.

What is the destiny of those who are saved?

  1. Not for wrath

If Jesus is your Savior, you are not destined for the terrible destruction associated with the coming Day of the Lord; you are not destined for eternity in hell.  Yes, hell is real, but if you are born again, that is not your destiny.  Secondly, you are destined….

  1. To obtain salvation

The phrase means “full deliverance.”  We are not appointed to wrath but delivered by God’s mercy.  Through whom?  V. 9 says – “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Through what means?  Look at v. 10 – “He died for us.”  We are delivered through the substitutionary atonement of Christ.  He died in my place on the cross, bearing my sin, taking my shame.  This is the only reason for our assurance of salvation:  the knowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and for me.

Pastor Ray Pritchard summed up this text with 4 words:  Our Destiny is Deliverance.  If you know Jesus Christ, you are fully delivered from the wrath of God—now and in the future.

So, are you ready for Christ to return?  Are you ready to meet Him?  If He returned in the next 24 hours, would you be ready or would you be ashamed to face Him?

Maybe you are not sure how to answer those questions.  Paul tells us the answer in this passage.  Your Identity Determines Your Destiny!  Ponder Paul’s contrasts:

  • Light vs. darkness
  • Sleeping vs. waking
  • Night vs. day
  • Us vs. them
  • Wrath vs. Salvation

Your choices are only 2:  ruin or rescue, destruction or deliverance!  All that man has built crumbles when Christ returns.  If you don’t know Jesus, you will face judgment.  You will not escape!

Many believers have such a comfortable situation here on earth that they rarely think about going to heaven and meeting the Lord.  They forget that they must one day stand the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Knowing Jesus is coming again – and soon – helps us to stay on track.

Jesus is coming.  Are you ready?  He could come today…are you ready?  God’s Word gives us the straight answer so that there is no reason to be unprepared.  If Jesus comes today and you aren’t ready to meet him, you will have only yourself to blame.

How can we escape the terrible wrath that is to come?  It is only possible through Jesus who died for us.  We have to choose to transfer our trust absolutely to Him.  Open your heart to Him.  Ask Him to forgive your sins.  Believe that He died for you and rose from the dead.  Invite Him to sit on the throne of your life!

Pastor Ray told the story of a businessman who took his young son with him, to work.  When they got to the building where dad worked, he told his son to stay by the door and soon he would return for him.  The father got busy, the hours passed, and somehow he forgot what he had said.  He left work through a different door and went home.  When he got home, his wife asked him about their son.  Dad was so worried and afraid…he hurried back and found his son where he had left him.  The boy was tired, cold, hungry and scared, but was waiting just as he had been told to do.  When he saw his father, he smiled and said, “I knew you would come. You said you would.”

It’s almost 2000 years since Jesus left earth to ascend to heaven, and some of God’s children are tired and hungry, wondering why Jesus hasn’t come back yet.  Some have become disillusioned, lost focus, and many have lost hope.  But Jesus said He would come back—and He will!

Aside from the Doomsday Clock – do you know what time it is?

  • It’s later than it’s ever been.
  • We are closer to the return of Christ than we have ever been.
  • It’s time to put off the deeds of darkness.
  • It’s time to put on the armor of faith, love and hope.
  • It’s time to live for Jesus 24/7.
  • It’s time to get serious about your faith.
  • It’s time to stop sleepwalking through life.

We all know what it is like to see those first rays of the dawn?

For us, today, the night is almost over, the Son is soon to appear.  Jesus is coming soon!  Your Savior is on the way – do you believe it?

Take hope, stop living as defeated Christians.  The Lord is at hand.  Be encouraged, in your suffering and troubles.  The trumpet will soon sound.  Jesus is coming!

And so, I ask…If Jesus were to come before the sun goes down today – and He might – would you be ready?

If not – would you come and talk to me after the service?  Just say, “Can we talk?”

Let’s pray…

Series Navigation<< Will We See Our Loved Ones Again?Staying Fit . . . As Christians >>

Comments are closed.