1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

In 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 Paul continues his teaching about Jesus’ return. He tells them to just be who they are. They need to live up to being who God made them to be. “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Morris wrote “Paul is led from a consideration of the day of the Lord to the thought that the Thessalonians have nothing to fear from the coming of that Day. This leads to the further thought that their lives should be in harmony with all that that day stands for.” The coming of Jesus will be a surprise for everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36).

But for Christians who know the times and the seasons, it will not be a complete surprise. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but we can live with general preparation against thieves. We need to be careful not to be caught up in some of the sin Paul warned against previously in this letter – then we are not ready, and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus. “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” It is important we not lose track of who we are and how we should live. Paul gave us very prescriptive guidance on what life as a Christ Follower should look like.

Paul goes on to next tell us three things we need to do in order to be ready – be awake, sober and watchful. “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” As Christ Followers our spiritual condition should never be marked by sleep. Spiritually speaking, we need to be active and aware, to watch and be sober. Hiebert explains “The word sleep is here used metaphorically to denote indifference to spiritual realities on the part of believers.” Sleep speaks of so much that belongs to the world (the others), but should not belong to Christians:

  • Sleep speaks of ignorance
  • Sleep speaks of insensibility
  • Sleep speaks of no defense
  • Sleep speaks of inactivity

We need to be very awake!

In a sermon on this text titled, Awake! Awake! Spurgeon showed the folly and tragedy of the sleeping Christian with three powerful pictures:

  • A city suffers under the plague, with an official walking the streets crying out, “Bring out the dead! Bring out the dead!” All the while, a doctor with the cure in his pocket sleeps.
  • A passenger ship reels under a storm and is about to crash on the rocks, bringing near-certain death to the hundreds of passengers – all the while, the captain sleeps.
  • A prisoner in his cell is about ready to be led to execution; his heart is terrified at the thought of hanging from his neck, terrified of death, and of what awaits him after death. All the while, a man with a letter of pardon for the condemned man sits in another room – and sleeps.”

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