The Day of the Lord Jesus Will Come as a Thief in the Night!
O Lord, our precious God and Savior, the future is only known to You. Keep us aware of that fact, for while the future appears frightening to us at times, You are and will always be in control of our lives. You have promised to bless us as we follow You. To that end, bless our worship today. Amen.
David here prays for wisdom and forgiveness. May we with David understand our own frailty and dependence upon God, as we look to the future!
Jesus is our "Good Shepherd," the Son of God, who has given us the gift of eternal life. We can look forward with confidence because He holds us in His hands!
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-24
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you complete-ly; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Christ Jesus, who has promised to return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, dear fellow redeemed:
“The more things change; the more they stay the same!” Many of you have no doubt heard that proverb, and often it proves to be true. For instance, the educated elite of St. Paul’s day scoffed at the idea that this world would come to an end and that the dead would be raised for judgment before Christ (cf. Acts 17:18,31-32). The educated elite of our day two thousand years later does the same thing. The church in Thessalonica in St. Paul’s day was troubled by misunder-standings concerning the end of time and needed his instruction. The church in our day is likewise troubled by misunderstandings concerning the end of time, as can be seen by the great number of Christians embracing the false teaching of millennialism. We, too, need the clear, scriptural instruction. We need to know that this present world will end one day. Our physical universe will burn up and be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (cf. 2 Peter 3:10,13). Jesus Christ will return without warning to judge both the living and the dead (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). All those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will go to heaven, while all those who reject Jesus Christ will be sentenced to hell (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). These are the facts, for our God has promised they will happen. How, then, ought we respond to these facts?THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT!
Let us, therefore, support one another! Paul urged us, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” The world in which we live is often very difficult. The enemies against which we fight are certainly powerful. The goal of eternal life for which we are to strive can at times be forgotten, as we succumb to the temptations of this world. It is all too easy, on the one hand, to adopt the attitude of the world that we are invisible, even though we know that it is not true; to pursue all of our own dreams, even though at times they may run directly contrary to the will and word of God. On the other hand, it is equally as easy to give up on God when things do not go our way and to become absorbed in bitterness and self-pity—blaming God for our woes and forgetting that He owes us nothing, while we owe Him everything! May we embrace the prayer of David, as we heard it in our Old Testament lesson, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days. That I may know how frail I am…And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions” (Psalm 39:4,7-8a). May we also embrace the apostolic truth as pictured by St. Paul in many of his epistles. He points out that we are all members of the same body, and so are to help one another grow in grace as we await our Savior’s coming.
Let us, therefore, “warn those who are unruly,” that is, we are to admonish and instruct those who are walking contrary to the will of God. Each of us is by virtue of our faith a steward of our God entrusted with our gifts and abilities and called to work in our Father’s kingdom as we await our Savior’s coming. It is in our individual interests to be faithful stewards, so that when Jesus comes we will be received with joy and blessing. At times we forget that and need, as it were, a spiritual slap on the fingers. Let us “comfort the fainthearted,” those who have become discouraged by the troubles of this world. Let us “uphold the weak,” that is, take an interest in and pay attention to those who can so easily slip through the cracks, as we at times become preoccupied with our own interests and activities. “Let us be patient with all” and “pursue what is good both for (y)ourselves and for all.” My dear friends, we are one body—the body of Christ! It is not proper for us to attack, to harm, to “render evil” to a brother or a sister in Christ.THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT! Let us support one another!
Let us exercise our faith! St. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” St. Paul here gives us a series of imperatives or commands, which are to govern our lives. They may seem impossible, and yet in Christ they are not only possible, but can be life-transforming!
St. Paul urges us to “rejoice always!” How can he expect us to do that? In Philippians 4:4 St. Paul adds a phrase, which explains not only how but why it is possible, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” In our lives there will be many up’s and many down’s. It is easy to rejoice when things are up, but we can choose to rejoice even in the midst of the down’s, when our minds and hearts remained focused on the Lord—His grace, His mercy, His promises, and His plans for our lives. We know that God has promised “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, we can with humility accept those difficulties in our lives, knowing that in some way God will also work these things out for our good. We can rejoice that our merciful and gracious God will demonstrate His power and His love even in the midst of trials, and perhaps at times will achieve for us blessing, which can only arise through trials!
We are to “pray without ceasing!” Again, how is this possible? We certainly cannot walk around with our hands folded at all times. We must focus on our jobs, for instance, in order to maintain safety for ourselves and for others. Let us not, however, focus on the externals. St. Paul is urging us to exercise our relationship with our heavenly Father and our dear Savior. We are to feel free to speak to our God and Savior, formally or informally, at any time, about anything, and under any condition. We hear much about needing prayer in public schools in our day, but as believers we can pray anywhere and at any time. We are dependent upon our Lord for all things, and so let us turn to Him with joy and in confidence, laying out for Him our thoughts, our concerns, our troubles, and our plans. He will hear and He will bless in accordance with His gracious, good will.
Let us “give thanks…in everything!” We think of giving thanks for blessings, but our all wise God provides exactly what we need in order to achieve exactly what He wants for us. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (12:6). Consequently, we should thank God for all blessings, but we should also thank God in the midst of troubles and ask Him to guide us in such a way that we learn the lessons He is no doubt attempting to teach us. Yes,THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT! Let us exercise our faith!
Let us avoid spiritual pitfalls! St. Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Again St. Paul issues a series of imperatives or commands. We are urged not to “quench the Spirit,” which is certainly true of His work within our own hearts as well as within the hearts and lives of others. I can by my own bitterness and resentments stamp out the Spirit’s work in my own heart and life. I can refuse to listen to the urgings of my conscience. I can refuse to forgive, as I ought. But whom am I hurting in such situations other than myself? The Spirit works in our hearts, as we hear, learn, and ponder His word. He works in the hearts of different individuals at different speeds and at different levels and in different ways. We need to be sensitive to this and encourage one another. Sarcasm, ridicule, insensitivity can all “quench” the Spirit’s work, just as a bucket of cold water would “quench” the initial flames of a campfire.
“Do not despise prophesies!” To prophesy in Scripture can mean two different things—to foretell the future, such as when Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus by a virgin; or to tell forth the word of God, which is its primary meaning and no doubt its meaning hear. When individuals come to us with the word of our God, let us not dismiss them in anger or resentment. Let us not refuse to listen, but rather take to heart those messages, which truly apply and will help our situations. We can so easily in pride resent correction. But let us remember that all Scripture has been given for our learning and is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous-ness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16b-17).
“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Satan is always on the lookout for ways to undermine our faith. The Lord repeatedly in Scripture warns us to “test” things to see whether or not they are good. We test them properly, when we examine them on the basis of Scripture. This we can only do, when we make the reading and study of Scripture a priority in our lives. We are to hold on to what is good. We are to refuse to become involved in or to participate in any form of evil. Remember, THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT! Let us avoid spiritual pitfalls!
Let us rely upon our Lord Jesus! St. Paul concludes our text with these words, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, they lost the perfection in which they had been created. In and of themselves they could not regain it. That is why God decided to send Jesus to be our Savior. When God gave His law on Mount Sinai to His ancient people, He included a Sabbath law and announced that “it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Exodus 31:13). Our God sanctifies us, that is, makes us holy through the blood of Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior, and faith which accepts as a gift from God forgiveness and the promise of life everlasting.
St. Paul ends our text today by extending to each of us a prayer that our “God of peace” might “sanctify” us “completely.” God’s ultimate goal for each of us is that we be “preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”—that we be ready for the end of time. God indeed has many goals for us to accomplish in our lives here, but above all to preserve us unto eternal life. My dear friends, let us not lose sight of God’s ultimate goal for us. It is so easy to do, as we make plans for our lives in this world. It is so easy to do at this time of year, as our immediate attention focuses on the upcoming holidays and the plans for parties, and shopping, and family get-togethers. Let us remember always that there is nothing quite as important as our relationship with Jesus. Let us rely upon our Lord Jesus, for THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT!Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting