Concerning the Second Coming
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Truth Taught- Jesus is returning suddenly and unexpectedly so we must always be ready for that day.
Last time we looked at the Second Coming of our Lord in the context of what happens to those who are in Christ who have already died and are buried when Jesus returns. We learned that God will never forget any of His beloved elect. From Adam to the last death all will be raised when Jesus returns. The Christians who are alive at that time will also be changed and we all will me Jesus in the air at His return.
Now, the text before us today, Paul addresses what we should be doing and not doing while we wait on the Lord Jesus to return. While last week’s passage dealt with how we should understand what happens to the dead in Christ, today’s passage is concerned with what we should be doing as we anticipate Jesus’ return.
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 (ESV)
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Here we see that Paul had already spoken to them while he was there about the Lord’s return. He says things like…
you have no need to have anything written to you.
For you yourselves are fully aware
So, he has already taught them the basics about the Lord’s return and now explaining what they need to do. What should our mindset be? How should we conduct our lives in this fallen world?
Probably, when Timothy returned and told Paul about the Thessalonian’s great strides in sanctification he also reported that some were asking specifics about when Jesus would return. Notice that Paul immediately moves from the topic of date setting. Here, he actually quotes or at least alludes to Jesus’ words at His ascension.
Acts 1:6–7 (ESV)
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
Jesus told His followers it’s not in God’s plan to fill them in on when Jesus would return. We are not meant to know the date or even the approximate time because if we knew, as sinners, we would not be prepared until the day before He was to come.
Matthew 24:36 (ESV)
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
Man’s obsession with date setting stems from his sinful condition. We would rather live life on our terms then at the last moment, right before Jesus returns, shift gears and live obediently for a day or two and then Jesus comes back. That is the only reason we would be concerned with the date of His return.
So, how should we live? How should we view the second coming? Paul gives us two points here…
Unexpected– 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night
Here again, the Apostle recites what Jesus had already said.
Matthew 24:42–44 (ESV)
42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Jesus’ return will be unexpected. The thief is only successful if he breaks into a home where the owner is not expecting to be robbed. Either the owner is away or sleeping. Either way the thief breaks in unexpectedly. So Jesus is teaching that His return will also take place on a day when no one is expecting Him to return.
His return is also going to be Sudden–
3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
No one will have time to change his or her life, get saved, share the Gospel, or do a good deed that you’ve been meaning to do. There will not be any time then because His return is sudden.
1 Corinthians 15:52 (ESV)
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
You know I think there have been different eras both in our nation’s history and in western history and even over the course of the last two thousand years where our culture and other cultures have been more attune to the reality of the return of Christ. But we live in a time — and don’t you feel this in the air? We live in a time where there is a pervasive carnal security. Very few people in our culture, outside of the churches, have any kind of anticipation of a reckoning with God at the end, a real belief in a returning Savior who is going to judge. And there’s a certain poison in our culture that seeps into our souls — unbelief that this coming is really going to happen.
What we should do now is ask the question, Since the time and season of Jesus’ return is unknown and since He is returning unexpectedly and suddenly what sort of people should we be?
4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake
What does Paul mean here by sleep? Sleep, here refers to not being alert and diligent in the Christian life.
One of the most common ways we are found asleep is in regard to our sin. Because our consciences have been shaped in large measure by the standards of society, we are in real danger of becoming oblivious to our sin. I think of the prophet Jonah in this regard. Prior to being swallowed by a great fish, Jonah had been instructed by the Lord, “Arise, go to Nineveh”(Jonah 1:2). “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”(Jonah 1:3).
Jonah disobeyed God’s direct command, finding a ship that was headed, not to Nineveh, but to Tarshish. As a result of Jonah’s disobedience we are told that “the Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea that the ship was about to be broken up”(Jonah 1:4). And what was Jonah doing during all of this? We are told in the verse that follows that Jonah had “fallen sound asleep”(Jonah 1:5). Jonah was oblivious to the storm that had been caused by his sin.
Jonah typifies what is possible for each one of us. It is possible for us to be disobedient to God; it is possible to be completely oblivious to our sin, and to the storm that our sin has caused. Friends, we must not slumber with regard to our sin. For if the storm God sends does not lead us to repentance, He will likely send a great fish. Let us not slumber in regard to our sin; let us not slumber as others do.
let us keep awake
He writes that the first way to be ready for Jesus’ return is to be watchful and awake. In the context of Paul’s teaching, he isn’t referring to being watchful for Jesus’ return but live a life in which we are ready when that day comes. To live a watchful life is to live doing things that show we are waiting and anticipating our Lord’s return. If all we do is watch for that day and not live for that day we will not be ready when that day comes. That’s the kind of watchfulness that he’s talking about. Are you living in light of the reality that Jesus is coming again.
There is an account of Francis of Assisi tending to his garden where he is confronted by a friend, “Francis, if you knew the Lord was coming for you within the hour, what would you do?” Without any hesitation, Francis responded, “I would finish my gardening.” I marvel at this response because it reveals the preparedness of Francis to meet his Lord. How many of us could honestly answer as Francis of Assisi did?
let us be sober
Living with self-control in reference to our Lord’s return means to live life looking to His return realizing that this world is not our home and it will never bring us happiness. A self-controlled life lives for the future life. It lives by faith and not by sight. Do we live for this world? Paul is saying, “No, no. Because we believe in Jesus’ return, be sober, be moderate, be self-controlled in the way you use this world because this is not all there is and this is not the most important thing. There are things that will last forever that matter more than this. So learn to use the world and love the Lord, not love the world and use the Lord.” So he says be watchful and be self-controlled.
having put on the breastplate of faith
Live a life that you are cultivating stronger faith all the time. If you want to be ready for Jesus’ return don’t sit around daydreaming about it but be diligent in obeying what God’s Word tells you. Obedience to God is what putting on faith means. If you want to be ready for the return of our Lord then be people of the Book. Read the Word and obey God.
Love others especially others within this local Church. If you want to be ready for the return of Christ be busy encouraging and helping His Bride the Church. Love those Jesus loves. Show them love and kindness. Go out of your way and go the extra mile to love others.
for a helmet the hope of salvation
And then there’s hope. “Put on the helmet of hope” — not a wishful thinking but a sure and certain hope that He is coming again. How do you prepare for Jesus’ coming? You’re watchful, you’re self-controlled, you live by faith, not by sight, you live in love, you live in hope. That’s how you prepare for Jesus’ coming. The best way to be ready is to pursue godliness.
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
What is the biblical motivation for living a life being ready for the return of Jesus? Beloved, it’s not really about going to heaven. There’s something greater than heaven. It’s not even about having our sins forgiven, there’s something greater than that. Salvation is not even all about not being destined for the wrath of God, there’s something greater than that. I want to say that salvation involves all these different aspects but the greatest of all things is… so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 (ESV)
17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
So, if your motivation for the pursuit of godliness is being with Jesus then you will be ready for His return. Because His return and being with Him is the greatest aspect of our salvation.
I’ve been a Calvinist for many years, decades even. I do enjoy teaching the doctrines of grace. I love to learn about the truths found in Scripture. I love theology. I love the Bible. I love the excitement of prayer. At the end of the day, I just want to know and love Jesus more.
You are ready for Jesus’ return and you are watchful when you are living for Him. When you are loving Him and serving Him more and more. When you are pursuing obedience, faith, hope and love you are ready.
He is returning suddenly and unexpectedly.
Are you ready to meet Jesus? Are you watchful and not sleeping?
John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time
1 and 2 Thessalonians by Robert Cara
1 and 2 Thessalonians by G K Beale
1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris
1 and 2 Thessalonians by FF Bruce
1 and 2 Thessalonians by G L Green
 Ligon Duncan
 Reverend Bryn MacPhail