1: Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.
- The first thing I notice here is that there are two concepts of time here. Times is the word chronos, meaning chronological and measured time, and epochs is the word kairos, meaning seasons or epochs, specific ages of time (not dispensations in the hermeneutical or doctrinal sense).
- Paul says that the Thessalonians have no need to be instructed about this. Why is that?
2: For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
- They already knew and understood “full well” [akribos, with exactness] that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Some theological points of interest:
- “Day of the Lord.” This is a bit of a hotpot of stuff when actually researched. I found at least four different uses of the phrase in Scripture:
- The Day of the Lord as a coming divine apocalyptic warrior to execute divine judgement on the world for sins committed against God, in either Old or New Testaments.
- The day that Jesus comes back to gather His church to be with Him, known as the Rapture.
- The specific return of Jesus to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to establish His 1000-year reign.
- The Great White Throne judgement when God will finally deal with evil once and for all.
- I include this for completeness – the “Lord’s Day” is used as a reference to the day that Jesus rose from the Dead when Christians gather to worship God, or Sunday.
- In this case, I suppose that it is used in the second instance, from the context of what immediately preceded in chapter 4, a description of what kinds of things will happen at the harpazo or rapture of the saints.
- “…will come just like a thief in the night.” I think this speaks of the unexpected suddenness with which this will happen. Why? Verse 3.
3: While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.
- “While THEY are saying…” Who are “they?” World leaders? Religious leaders? Diplomats? Industrial leaders? Military leaders? Regular people? Some combination or all of the above? I think all of the above, because of the imprecision Paul uses. And if you have noticed what I have all the way through since we started this in Galatians, Paul is a very precise linguist. The Holy Spirit chose carefully which words to inspire, I suspect. THEY are EVERYONE except Christians, who clearly know differently.
- “Peace and Safety.” Eirene kai asphalia. Literally undisturbedness and certainty or security. Friends, this is always the cry just before things go sideways. It was the case for the ancient Egyptians, the dwellers in Canaan when the Israelites finally entered, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of Judah, heck, even the Babylonian kingdom – Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson was at a party when God’s hand wrote the Hebrew words, “mene, mene, tekkel, upharsin” on the walls, signifying an end to that kingdom that very evening. It will be the same. Jesus said in Luke 17:26, 27, “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
- Later in that same passage, Jesus said (vv.30, 31), “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.” Why? Because while others are saying “peace and safety” we should take warning and be prepared for when the “shout of command” in that “voice of the Archangel” comes, so we won’t miss the call! There is a hope of escape here, and last week, we said that it is conditional upon our sanctification! Not that we will ever be perfect this side of eternity, we always have that sin nature in us, but when He returns, it will be permanently removed. Glory, hallelujah!
- But what of those who do NOT escape? Paul asked a question last week. What will happen to them that are left behind? And I know you couldn’t see his expression on camera, but it was one of compassionate concern for loved ones! Well, this is what happens to them. Destruction, in increasing rapidity and intensity like a woman’s labour pains as the baby approaches, and “they will not escape.” What? God will let some of His precious creation perish? Yes, He will. And the reason that He delays so long is that He doesn’t want to, but in the end, He will pour out His wrath on them.
4: But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;
- Then Paul contrasts the Christians from the rest of the world for the lost, running around in their blindness and darkness – you, meaning the Thessalonians, and by extension us, are NOT in darkness so that the day will overtake us as would a thief. Hebrews 6:9 – “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.”
5: for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;
- Sons – huios, mature offspring. Light – phos, light. Day – hemera, day. Same for Night and darkness, the words simply mean what they say and say what Paul means.
6: so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
- With that in mind, Paul’s phrase “so then” tells us that he is beginning to draw conclusions. The first of these is a negative – “let us not sleep as [lit. “the remaining ones”] do…” These remaining ones are the ones that are going to be left when Christ takes His church, His body, His people from the earth to be with Himself. That’s why they are the “remaining” ones. I’m not trying to be clever here. That’s just the sense of the text.
- The second is a positive. Let us be alert [gregoreo, to be awake, to watch] and sober [nepho, to be sober, that is, to abstain from wine; to be self-controlled]. We have a specific and sacred duty to be aware of what is going on around us, and to control our responses in Christian fashion. How many of you like to watch the news? To be honest, I hate it. All that negativity just reminds me that the Lord is going to pour out His wrath on the sons of disobedience because of it, and that makes me sad. It also lights a bit of a fire under me to keep evangelizing, so that people can hear and possibly be saved. That makes me anxious, but in a good way.
7: For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
- Paul continues his day versus night analogy, explaining that sleeping is done at night. Those that get drunk, get drunk at night.
8: But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
- We are NOT of the sons of night, as Paul has already explained in verse 5. Because of that, he draws another conclusion for us. Let us be sober, or self-controlled (as v.6). And the rest of the verse is starting to sound very familiar…
- Put on the breastplate (protection for the heart and other vital organs) of faith [firm persuasion or opinion held] and love [divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing]. Our firm persuasion and our giving New Nature in Christ will protect our heart, which as you will recall, in ancient times, was understood to be the decision-making center, and we still think of it that way today when we tell people to “follow your heart.” Don’t do that – follow your heart – Jeremiah 17:9 tells us it is deceitful and desperately sick. I’m just showing how we still treat it as the decision-making center.
- As a helmet, the hope [elpis, expectation] of salvation [soteria, deliverance, preservation, salvation]. The helmet protects the head, seen in the ancient world as the thinking and strategizing center. What is to protect that? Literally, the expectation of deliverance from this evil world system.
9: For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Did you hear that? GOD HAS NOT DESTINED US FOR WRATH! On a personal note, I do not believe that it is God’s desire to see any perish but for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Will everyone? Clearly not. But there is a difference between God’s desire, and God’s will. I don’t understand it all, but I know that difference is there, and I want to be a faithful shepherd and tell you about it.
- What does God intend for us? Well, for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. As opposed, according to Jesus Himself in John 14:6, to any other “way,” “truth,” or “life” that one may find apart from Christ. What could that be, Gerry? Oh, there’s lots of them, but why tell you about those when I could point you to what Jesus is talking about when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
10: who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
- And what of this Jesus? How does HE get to set Himself up as THE way, THE truth, and THE life, the only way to God the Father? Well, He died for us! And if we go through Him, this verse tells us that whether we live or die, we WILL live TOGETHER with Him.
11: Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
- Oh, there’s our favorite word! What is it “therefore”? It is drawing a simple conclusion from the verse immediately previous – we need to encourage [parakaleo, to call to or for to come alongside] each other and build up [oikodomeo, to build a house] – KJV: “edify” – just as the Thessalonians were already doing, according to Paul himself. This is like the end of a paragraph here. The next verse begins a new thought.
12:But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,
- Paul is asking the brethren in Thessalonica to appreciate [oida, present perfect tense, meaning to have seen in the past and now see in the present, therefore to have known and have recognized] those who diligently labour [grow weary or wear themselves out by working hard] among you, and have charge over you [proistemi, to stand before, to preside; to maintain or rule over; to superintend; to protect or guard; to care for] in the Lord and give you instruction [neutheteo, to counsel, to encourage, to lovingly confront if necessary].
13: and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
- It says here that you need to “esteem them very highly.” The Greek here is “hegeomai autous hyperekperissou,” which is best translated as “esteem them very highly” in love [divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing] because of their work. Then Paul says to live in peace with one another. I think Paul is saying, “You know thise ones that wear themselves to the bone doing things for the church, and therefore you? Consider them to be very worthy of your valuing – and don’t give them a fussy, prissy, personality-driven MESS to deal with. Live at peace with ONE ANOTHER. And it’s that phrase “one another” that seals that thought for me.
- I know this may seem a little odd, but I have a bit of a nemesis around here. I don’t take the nemesis aspect of our relationship seriously, but one of the ways this individual likes to treat me is by trying to publicly devalue me in everyone else’s esteem, and when they publicly interact with me, they try to create a personality-driven, fussy mess for me to deal with on stuff that our church Council has already voted on and has passed, with, you guessed it, one opposed. And folks, I’m the moderator, and I don’t GET a vote! Goodness gracious, don’t be like that, be at peace with each other. I will not respond in kind, because to do so would bring shame to Christ, the church, and myself for responding in a fleshly, old-natured way.
14: We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
- This verse is why I DO NOT respond from my old nature. The new nature Christ gave us as believers would instead have me choose to be patient with everyone. It actually instructs me here about HOW I should deal with different types of people, dictated by their behaviour.
- Admonish [neutheteo, lovingly confront] the unruly [lit. undisciplined]. A recent example? “Hey, brother, I know you didn’t know this, but 1 Cor. 11 tells us that men should not cover their head in the presence of God. Would you kindly remove your ball cap for worship, please?” I pleased to say that the brothers I have spoken to independently as this came up now ALWAYS remove their hat in the sanctuary.
- Encourage [paramutheomai, console] the fainthearted [oligopsuchos, small-souled]. I think this is referring to those that don’t know a lot or have the capacity to be a big and powerful personality like some of the people in a congregation. Why encourage and console? Well, think of it like a cheerleader’s job. They haven’t got a lot of spiritual strength. Be their spiritual cheerleader! Their personal cheering section.
- Help [antechomai, hold fast to, hold on to; support or care for] the weak [asthenes, without strength]. Why? Because they have no strength to help themselves. I remember after I had my heart attack in November of 2014. I was one of those. I couldn’t even get out of my chair. It was all I could do to drag myself to the bathroom and then back to my chair, or to walk up the stairs to my bedroom. I would have to pause for a moment or so on the landing halfway there for a moment. Paul is saying to be aware of these people and to aid them in whatever way they need within the limits of your resources. I think James is saying the same thing in James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Pure religion, if you will, is to help and defend those who cannot help and defend themselves. [This is yet another place where Paul and James agree, which they do throughout their letters, regardless of what liberal theologians will try to spin to you.]
15: See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
- Here is another reason I try not to respond to my nemesis in kind. What good would it do? I could repay evil with bigger and better evil, but doesn’t that just escalate? NO! DON’T do that! Instead, seek what is good for one another (and that may be difficult if someone really doesn’t want to talk to you), and what is good for EVERYONE. Why? Well, someone has to be the adult – it might as well be the Christian, which means “little Christ” and is supposed to be us anyway.
16: Rejoice always;
- Here we are, the SECOND-shortest verse in the Bible. (The shortest verse is John 11:35, which says Jesus wept. Probably over me knowing this kind of stuff.) But see what it says! It literally says, “be glad at all times.” Why? Well, because we know Jesus, and He doesn’t weep over us anymore!
17: pray without ceasing;
- What other activity does the Apostle himself command? Prayer. When should we pray? ALL. THE. TIME. I should tell you that a part of me is praying now. Lord help them hear and understand and obey. Lord help my delivery of the truth. Like that. If you’re too busy to pray, then you’re too busy.
18: in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- Give thanks constantly! Why? It helps with verse 16, for one thing, but you would be shocked at how much being thankful for everything will change your lousy attitude into a great one. I could tell you stories, but for sake of time, I won’t.
- What is God’s will for us in Christ? All three of these things. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything, give thanks. There is not secret knowledge here – Paul is explaining it plain as day.
19: Do not quench the Spirit;
- This is a serious thing. Quench [sbennumi, to quench, put out, extinguish]. How do we quench the Spirit? One word – carnality. We don’t flee youthful lusts. We return evil for evil. We gossip about the pastor. We covet our neighbour’s goods. We take vengeance when we are wronged. We steal, we murder, we become just like the world. Brothers and Sisters, let’s not be like this. Let’s walk in our new nature in Christ so that we don’t extinguish the Spirit.
- Does the fact that we are able to extinguish the Spirit in our lives mean we can lose our salvation? No, it does not mean that. It means rather that the Spirit will cease to offer His power to live our lives for Christ. When a believer makes this kind of a choice to resist the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God will often permit, or “suffer” [ole English] us to do so, so that He may bring repentance at a later time or whatever He wills. We are NOT sovereign, He is. Regardless of how we may wish it. I will say this – if resisting the Holy Spirit in our lives leads to a lack of fire to go forward, the choice to go back to Him if and when it is offered again will be more difficult the next time, because you have already resisted Him – you have practice at it. Just saying.
20: do not despise prophetic utterances.
- This verse is more accurately translated as “do not despise prophecy” in my case. What is prophecy? It is the speaking of the Word of God to center and stabilize people with Christ. It is NOT “special revelation.” If a fellow comes up to you and says I have a word from the Lord for you, I handle it this way. I ask a question before He can get too far into it. I say, “brother, do you have anything to say to me that is not within this book?” as I hold up my Bible for him to see. If he answers “no,” I’ll ask him to open up the Scriptures to me, and I’ll listen with an attitude of discernment like I am supposed to. If he answers YES, then I will tell him to repent of the sin of paganism. Then I will either duck or block, whichever will get me out of danger faster.
- We need to look at 1 Cor. 13 for a moment. Let’s look at verse 1-3. [read] Prophecy is in there. Look, you might even have a gift for stabilizing people on Christ with the Scriptures, the purpose of prophecy today. But even if you know everything there is to know and can speak it eloquently, it is worth nothing if you are doing it for gain or for show, which are the usual two motives for approaching someone with a so-called word from the Lord. And that’s not all the chapter has to say. See verses 8-10. [read] It mentions this thing called “the Perfect.” What could that be? Well, the only thing that makes sense to me is the completed Bible, our Christian Scriptures, which at the time of this letter had not yet taken place. And when it came, it said that certain things, which were only partial gift to begin with, would cease. What were those things? Prophecy, Tongues, and Knowledge. All those special things that the Charismatics and Pentecostals like to pick on. Okay, I hear you now, come on Ger, what are you, a cessationist? Have all the gifts ceased? Well, it seems they have, at least in part.
- There is even a newer movement out there called the New Apostolic Reformation that contradicts 1 Cor. 13:10, and claims that when their movement began (I think it was around the year 2000) that these gifts were reinstated and active now. Wait a minute – what? You mean THEY were cessasionists? You can’t reinstate something unless it has ceased my friends. SO. MUCH. ERROR. Just stay away from these folks and you’ll be okay.
21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
- And THIS is the way you avoid things like this. By examining everything carefully! And by throwing out the garbage!
22: abstain from every form of evil.
- The word for “form” can also be translated as appearance, meaning that if it looks bad, don’t DO it!
23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Paul is now beginning to close the letter in his usual way, giving final blessings and promises to the believers at Thessalonica. And this is an amazing and comforting one – may the God of Peace [that quality of being unflappable] Himself SANCTIFY YOU ENTIRELY [holoteles, completely, with an element of perfection]. We get our word “holistic” from this word, and it’s pretty much the picture that Paul is painting. Then Paul says what he means by entirely, or in my word choice holistically – that your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved [tereo, guarded] complete [holokleros, complete, entire; the whole nine yards], without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! Now THAT is an AMAZING blessing!
24: Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
- You know, I look at myself in the mirror sometimes, and recognize that I have a long way to go. And I mean a LOOOOOOOOONG way. But you know, He called me by His grace, and here, Paul says that He will also bring it to pass! Again, amazing love.
25: Brethren, pray for us.
- There is a note in the margin in the NASB that indicates Paul MAY have said, “Brethren, pray for us also,” and there is a small amount of manuscript evidence to support that, but nevertheless, he is asking the believers in Thessalonica to pray for Timothy, Silas, and Himself, as well as any others who were with them in Corinth.
26: Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
- I don’t know what this means unless it’s the double peck on the cheek that they still use in places today – I’ve done that with folks that do that kind of thing.
27: I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.
- I am unclear if there was some kind of issue that might prevent the reading of this letter at Thessalonica, but Paul seems to have taken the unusual step of solemnly charging the recipient of the letter with the responsibility to read it to the entire gathering of believers at Thessalonica. No commentators think there was any kind of issue that I was able to find. It is entirely possible that Paul was simply stating the obvious.
28: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Paul’s typical closing here, and I will make it MY closing as well, and I wish for you all that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And that is the entire book of 1 Thessalonians!