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Paul uses the concept of light and dark in 1 Thess 5:1-11 to describe the difference between the church and the world. The Church, the Body of Christ, he says, is “in the light,”we are children of light. In contrast to the world is in the dark, unable to see what is really going on.
Paul is answering another question the Thessalonian church asked Timothy. The first question concerned the fate of those who had died in Christ: would they be left out of the Rapture? 1 Thess 4:13-18 assured the church that the “dead in Christ” will rise first when Jesus returns for his church. Now Paul turns to a related subject, the timing of the Day of the Lord. This seems to be an issue for the church, since Paul has already instructed them on the return of the Lord and he must return the issue in 2 Thessalonians 2.
The church is likely asking “when will the Lord return” or perhaps (like the disciples), “what will be the signs of his coming?” That Paul alludes to the teaching of Jesus in this paragraph is a hint that the question was not unlike that asked of Jesus in Matthew 24:3. But are these even the right questions to ask? Paul says you do not need to know the when, or the signs of the end. Rather, Paul says that you are (as a believer) in the light, living in the daytime. So, act like it!
It may be that the Thessalonian church had been suffering persecution. Since they are suffering, there may bahve been a few int eh church that though this was the Great Tribulation. “But the divine wrath will not be poured out upon the church, which will instead be saved from that event (v. 9, Green, Letters to the Thessalonians, 230).” The suffering you are facing right now, even if it is really bad, is not “The Great Tribulation.” The reason is simple, the church is simply not appointed to wrath.
When Paul says wrath, I think he means the “Great Day of God’s Wrath.” He cannot mean suffering, since they are clearly suffering. All Christians should expect to suffer for their faith. In the context of their suffering and their questions about the “end times,” Paul is trying to comfort a congregation which thinks they may be enduring the wrath of God.
This is an important message for American Christians who think that the government is pushing us closer to the end times. It cannot, those are appointed times and it is not going to happen any faster if the “bad guys” are voted into office. The Anti-Christ is not running for office, even if politicians are against-Christ. As Gene Green says, “Paul demonstrates no interest in fueling an apocalyptic perspective in order to hypothesize about the end nor to foster escapism” (230).
Paul wants to use the teaching of the Day of the Lord as an encouragement to live the Christian Life as fully and completely as possible. He says that his readers are “Sons of the Light and Sons of the Day,” and since they are in the Light they need to realize that there are some responsibilities to living in the light. If you are a “child of the light” you ought to act like it!
4 thoughts on “1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – Walking in the Light”
In 1 Thess 4:13-18, Paul reassures the Thessalonians that the believers who have fallen asleep will not miss the Rapture and will taken up to heaven first. In 1 Thess 5:1-11, Paul talks about the living believers and how they need to be prepared for the coming of the Lord (TTP, 72). Paul describes those not ready for the day of the Lord as being in the night and in the darkness, and describes the believers as being in the day and in the light (TTP, 72). For those in the night and darkness, they Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night and like labor pains for a pregnant woman (v. 2-3). For those being in the day and light (the believers), though they know neither the day nor the hour (Matt. 25:13), they still can be prepared for the coming of the Lord by being awake and sober (v. 6, 8). Towards the end of this passage, Paul gives the reason we ought to be ready for the Day of the Lord, which is to secure our salvation (v. 10). Yes, it is true that believers are going to suffer and feel as though God is taking his wrath out on them, but that is not the case. God did not destine us for wrath (v. 10), but I think we suffer 1) because of original sin, 2) so we know what our eternity could be like if we choose sin, and 3) to test and strengthen our faith to grow closer to God. Our eternal salvation is the most important thing that we can obtain on this earth, with the second most important thing being telling others how to get that salvation. Paul concludes at verse 11 by encouraging the Thessalonians to build each other up and encourage each other. Another very important thing to have in a believer’s life is a strong community of people surrounding you to encourage you and build you up. The other more difficult side of that is you also need that community for correction and calling out what you may be doing wrong. You can improve yourself by only hearing the good stuff, but without the constructive criticism, you may never find out what you are lacking in and that can affect you down the road in life. This is why accountability is one of the greatest tools to a believer, that way, we are not alone in our suffering and mistakes, but we have someone to guide us along the way and help us when we need the encouragement.
This passage and its implications were very intriguing to reflect on. First, it is important to note that the Body of the Church and the world are separate. Furthermore, because the church is in the light, we should not “be caught off guard” (TTP 72). While we are to be prepared for the Day of the Lord, we do not need to know when and how this day will come about (TTP 72). Not needing to know when the Day of the Lord will happen or the signs of it brings comfort in knowing that we do not need to know the specifics rather we need to be prepared. Longenecker and Still contribute to this point in stating that the Day of the Lord will be a day of judgement for the unprepared (TTP 72). In the same way, it is interesting to know that the church in Thessalonica believed that they were experiencing the Great Tribulation due to the suffering happening amongst them. There are people in modern times that believe it is the times of the Great Tribulation. However, our suffering does not necessarily mean that it is the “Great Tribulation”. Suffering doesn’t necessarily mean that the end times are upon us, but simply are just a part of the Christian faith.
This passage is very interesting to reflect on. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 tells the difference between the church and the world. Those who have accepted Christ have the Body of Christ. It is true that we are children of light and God is the light of the world. Paul would tell us that it will be God’s time to take his people of those who died in Christ to rise and He will return to the church. We have believers, thinking the church will suffer like the Thessalonian church but it would not be appointed to wrath. Paul knows God will come in His time for Christians thinking that they are going to suffer in their faith which he is not wrong. Paul wants the congregation to understand and be prepared when it is God’s time.
Today, people still wonder when the time is going to come. There are few churches that are sleeping or not doing anything in their Christ life. People who are nonbelievers will predict or say the end of the world is going to happen anytime soon. Like, the Maya calendar people say the Mayans predicted that the world was going to end in 2012 which was not true. People who are unbelievers will do anything to try to predict the future. It is hard to have the right politicians to run office because people think they know how to trust. When the person wins from office then things will go wrong. Then you have others thinking the person is doing the right thing but we have Christians know what is going on. Paul is encouraging us to live our Christian life and be patient when it is God’s time.