1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 5:1

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.

You have no need. In other words, it’s not important. It’s not your concern (see Acts 1:7).

Like many believers, the Thessalonians had questions about the last days and the return of the Lord. Paul does not want to get drawn too deeply into these matters except to remind them of the main points, which he outlines in the following verses.

1 Thessalonians 5:2

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

(a) The day of the Lord refers to the coming of the Lord or the day of his final and glorious return to earth (1 Th. 4:15, Heb. 9:28). The day of the Lord separates the present age from the age to come.

(b) A thief in the night. The return of the Lord will be unexpected. Both Paul and Peter described the day of the Lord as like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10). From where did they get this imagery? From the Lord himself (see Matt. 24:43, Rev. 3:3)

1 Thessalonians 5:3

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.

(a) Peace and safety. Jesus told his disciples that his return to earth would come at an unexpected time, just like the days of Noah (Matt 24:36-39). Paul reinforces Christ’s warning that the Lord’s return will be completely unexpected. It will not happen during a time of war but a time of peace and safety.

(b) Then destruction will come. When Christ returns, people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, as they did in the days of Noah. Then suddenly, the end will come.

1 Thessalonians 5:4

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;

The day would overtake you. We can be ready for the Lord’s return so that the day will not catch us unawares.

The wise and foolish virgins knew the bridegroom was coming, but they didn’t know when (Matt. 25:1-13). The faithful and un-faithful servants expected their master to come home, but they didn’t know when (Matt. 24:45-51). You don’t need to know when the Lord is returning to be faithful and ready or watchful and wise.

Some interpret Paul’s words to mean, “We can figure out when the Lord will return so as not to be surprised.” Yet after 2,000 years no one has succeeded, and not for lack of trying.

Further reading: “When is the second coming?

1 Thessalonians 5:6

so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

(a) Be alert. You won’t find a clearer or more repeated instruction in scripture: be alert (Matt. 25:13, Mark 13:33, 37, Luke 21:36, 1 Cor. 16:13, Col. 4:2). Some translations say keep watch. The implication is that we should be wakeful regarding Christ’s return. Don’t be fuzzy-headed. Don’t be in a spiritual stupor.

(b) And sober. Be clearheaded and live with your eyes open. Don’t waste your life chasing cheap thrills. Don’t be so consumed with your appetites that you never give a moment’s thought to the Lord’s return.

1 Thessalonians 5:23

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.

(a) May the God of peace Himself sanctify you. Sanctification is God’s work, not ours. See entry for Holiness.

(b) Sanctify you entirely. Christ alone saves you (Acts 15:11), sustains you (Rom. 11:18), and sanctifies you.

In Christ, you are as holy as you will ever be, but your behavior may not be perfectly holy. Just as his gift of salvation is something to work out in your life (Php. 2:12), so is his sanctification. You are holy, so be holy.

(c) Spirit and soul and body. God doesn’t do partial sanctifications. It’s a mistake to think that because our spirits are saved we can treat our bodies as if they don’t matter. We don’t “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Th. 5:22) to make ourselves holy; we abstain because our bodies are the holy temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

(d) The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Did the first-century Christians expect Jesus to return at any moment? There’s no evidence they did. The early church used to greet one another with the word Maranatha, which can be translated, “Lord, come” (see 1 Cor. 16:22). It was an expression of longing similar to the one uttered by Jews at Passover: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Maranatha does not mean, “I expect Jesus to return by September.” It means, “I am looking forward to his coming, and the sooner the better.”

Further reading: “90 scriptures about the final coming of Jesus

1 Thessalonians 5:24

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

(a) Faithful is He who calls you. You do not stand on your faithfulness to God, but on his faithfulness to you.

(b) Bring it to pass. You can be confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Php. 1:6). You are saved by grace and kept by grace (see entry for 1 Pet. 5:10).

1 Thessalonians 5:26

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

(a) Brethren. In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11).

(b) A holy kiss. Like the Jews before them (Gen. 27:26, Luke 7:45), the early Christians greeted one another with a kiss of friendship (Acts 20:37). Paul called this greeting a holy kiss (1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12); Peter called it a kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14).

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