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Walk in the Light (chapter 5:1-11)
one step at a time
Walking and Watching
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that we don't hear nearly as much about the coming of Jesus and the rapture of the church as we once did.  I suppose the blame for that should be laid at the feet of preachers like me.  I'm afraid that we've gotten so bogged down in trying to help people with their earthly problems, we've neglected to remind them of the ultimate cure!
We teach and preach about how to live a good and successful life and how to have happy marriages and how to raise your kids and deal with pressure and depression and a 1,000 other things, but we need to be reminded of the soon and sure return of Christ also. 
I think that is especially true when we consider the number of Bible prophecies that are being fulfilled in this generation.  Two thousand years ago Jesus gave his followers the following specific signs of his return in
Matthew 24:3-7
I believe these signs are both descriptive of the entire age and especially of the final period before his Second Coming. The use of the phrase “birth pains” seems to indicate that these things will increase both in frequency and intensity as we approach the end of the age.
With that in mind, consider these facts:
- False Christs
The past few decades have witnessed a huge upsurge in charismatic leaders like Jim Jones and Sun Myung Moon claiming to be Christ.  And unfortunately, the followers of false teachers around the world number in the millions.
- War
War in the original Greek of Matthew 24 is ethnos, meaning ethnic or racial war. According to recent statistics, there are over 50 ongoing armed conflicts going on right now all over the world. According to the National Defense Council Foundation, conflicts around the globe have doubled since 1989.
- Famine
 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million of the 7.3 billion people in the world are suffering from chronic malnourishment, much of that rooting from extreme famines in various parts of the world.  Right now, in South Sudan, 20% of households suffer extreme food shortage, 30% of the population suffers extreme malnutrition and at least 1 pe reach 5,000 inhabitant die every day. 
- Pestilence
In modern language, pestilences most often reflect medical needs.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate of infectious diseases has increased 58% since 1980.
Diseases once considered conquered are now reappearing, sometimes in drug-resistant forms.  Researchers tell us we are losing the war in medicine as diseases mutate and develop faster than our ability to combat them. 
- Earthquakes
The number of dangerous earthquakes measuring 6.0 or greater on the Richter scale has been steadily increasing since the 1950s when there were nine. In the 1960s, there were 13. In the 1970s, 51. In the 1980s, 86. In the 1990s more than100 such serious earthquakes were recorded.
But listen to these statistics spanning from 1980 to 2008:  
There have been 706 earthquake disasters resulting in 385,630 deaths affecting 136,333,515 people resulting in economic damage in excess of $351 billion dollars.
Even here in Oklahoma, what used to be an out-of-the-ordinary oddity has now become commonplace, everyday news.
It seems to me that we are living and experiencing what Jesus predicted would mark the time immediately before His return to earth.  Even a casual reading of God's Word leads us to the conviction that this world will not last much longer.
Now, if you ask me, “Do you know for certain that Jesus will come back in your lifetime?”, the answer is, "No, I don’t know that and neither does anyone else."
But if you ask me, "Do you believe Jesus could return at any moment?", I will answer, "Without a doubt!"  I don't see anything biblically or prophetically that would have to occur before Jesus made His appearance.  I believe the stage is set. 
In fact, I would challenge you to read the Bible and study what it describes about the world situation when Jesus does return, then pick up the newspaper and read it and I believe you will be amazed at the similarity between the Bible and the today’s headlines.
The overall situation in the world today is very similar to the situation the Bible describes for the days leading up to the return of Christ.
Now, with that as an introduction, let me remind you we are studying the book of 1 Thessalonians and discovering how to walk with God one step at a time.  He writes to these young believers in Thessalonica to encourage them to walk worthy of God. 
It is to be evident to the world around them that they are Christians.  That lifestyle will carry the double responsibility of encouraging fellow believers and serving as a witness to the lost.
It is to be evident in every aspect of their life that they are living out the Word of God, and it is important to note that it is lived in light of the return of Christ.  Five times in this letter, Paul mentions the return of Christ. 
And apparently Paul spent quite a lot of time on that suject as he lived and taught among them. Notice what we read in our text:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Now, the key thought of this passage is found in the first phrase of verse 2 where Paul says, "You know perfectly" how to identify" the times and seasons" leading up to the Day of the Lord.
In fact, he says they don't even need him to mention it in his letter.  They know very well.  The phrase he uses means to know accurately or in detail. In this passage Paul is reminding them of certain things they already know about the Second Coming of Christ.
And I think chances areas, you know them well also.  if so, allow me to refresh your memory.  And if you don't know, listen very closely because you desperately need this information.
First, let's look at  
1. What We Know About the Future
verses 1-3
Paul uses a particular term to describe the end times. He calls it “the day of the Lord.”  And i think it important to take a moment and point out an important distinction Paul makes in this letter. 
At the end of chapter 4, as we saw last week, Paul talks about the rapture of the church and what will happen to the bodies of those who die as Christians and those alive at the appearance of Christ in the clouds. 
That experience is scripturally identified as "the Day of Christ.  In fact, Paul himself uses that phrase when writing to the Philippians.  In Philippians 1:6, he talks about how the good work of salvation that God has initiated in salvation, He will complete it until "the day of Jesus Christ."
The "day of Christ", literally the day of the Anointed One or Messiah, means the day of the gathering of God's children home to heaven - the day of the resurrection of the Lord's people.
And it is the "day of Jesus Christ" that is described here in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  But in chapter 5, he's not talking about the "day of Christ", but rather "the day of the Lord". 
And perhaps the reason he doesn't draw a sharp distinction between the two is because they already knew what he was talking about.  Remember, he began by saying "you don't need me to write this becasue you already know it." 
And apparently in the short time he was with them in person, he spelled it all out.  He brought his charts and diagrams and gave them a theology lesson in eschatology.  They got the whole load.
Now, he's just offering a refresher course.  He's hitting the highlights.  And in chapter 4 he reminds them of the day of Christ and then in chapter 5 he moves on the "day of the Lord".  
The day of the Lord is a phrase used many times in the Old Testament in a general way to describe  a time when God suddenly interrupts the normal flow of life and “breaks in” to time and space.
For instance, the prophets used the term to describe God’s judgment on the pagan nations surrounding Israel.  In fact, throughout history there have been many periods that might be called “the day of the Lord.”
But all of those little “days” look forward to be the big “day” at the end history. They are like the preliminary fights leading up to the main event.  One day, there will be a "great day of the Lord" that brings everything to a conclusion. 
To properly understand the background of the biblical idea of the day of the Lord, we need a little history from the Old Testament. 
We find this phrase and others similar to it in the Old Testament used primarily by the prophets.  Isaiah talks about it;  Joel talks it;  Zephaniah talks about it; Ezekiel talks about it; Amos talks about it;  Obadiah talks about it. 
Sometimes they would call it the day of judgment or the day of the wrath of God or the day of visitation from heaven or the perdition and damnation of an ungodly earth, but all those are references to the "the day of the Lord."
There is no place in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament,  where that phrase refers to any other thing but the day of tribulation, the day of wrath, the day of visitation, the day of judgment of Almighty God.
Now, before we get into our text, I want to point out some things about the day of the Lord in a general way that will help us. 
First, the day of the Lord is not a 24-hour day, but a time period. We tend to think in terms of 24 hour periods, and scripturally, sometimes that's true. 
For instance, in creation, God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh and those are references to literal 24 hour days. He could have made it in six seconds, but He made it in six days. He didn't make it in six ages, as some people like to say, but in six days.
But  here, when it talks about the day of the Lord, it's not talking about just a specific 24-hour period. It's talking about a longer time period. The day of the Lord begins after the rapture and it continues until the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ. It's a time period.
Here's the way it unfolds:  Christ returns, as we studied in chapter 4, to resurrect the saints and rapture the church. That initiates a time of Tribulation on earth lasting seven years.
By the way, listen to how that event is described by John in the Revelation at chapter 6, verse 12.
Revelation 6:12-17
And that's just the beginning!  Read the next 13 chapter of Revelation and you will discover things that the human vocabulary can hardly describe as all hell breaks loose on earth.
At the end of the tribulation period, the Lord returns to earth, setting His feet on the Mount of Olives, and He comes to establish an earthly kingdom. 
We identify that time as the Millennial Reign of Christ.  At the end of the millennial kingdom, the Bible tells us that's when the final judgment comes for unbelievers. 
Those who have died without Christ are resurrected to stand before God.  Death and Hell give up the dead that are in them to make their appearance at the Great White Throne Judgment.  They are then cast into the lake of Fire for all eternity as the redeemed of God enjoy the new heaven and earth described in Revelation 21 and 22. 
Now I realize there are lots of smart people who listen to that and scoff and ridicule.  Several years ago, Dr. Criswell told of a conversation he had with a seminary professor who had no regard for Biblical prophecy. 
He said, "I meet many professors of theology of various stripes and I can remember an interview with one who failed entirely to appreciate prophecy.
"Does it mean nothing to you that the Amalekites and Jebusites and the Edomites and the Moabites and the Hittites and the Canaanites and other ites are gone from the earth, and we have lost all trace of them? But the Israelite is still here, according to the saving of the prophet of God.
Does that mean nothing to you?" "Nothing at all", he said.
"Does it mean anything to you that the prophets say and they say and they repeat, that Israel will go back to Palestine, and someday after they are converted all Israel will be in Palestine. Does that mean nnything to you?" I asked.
"Nothing at all, nothing at all." he said. I then asked. "Does it mean anything to you that for nearly 1,900 years there were almost no Jews in Palestine? It was a wasted and forsaken land. But according to the saying of God in the prophets who spoke         of it, they are going back to their land.
Is it nothing to you that today you can see Israel turning their faces toward the Holy   Land? Is that nothing to you?" "Nothing at all," he said, "absolutely meaningless."
I thought. "Well, I'm looking at a prophecy of God itself because in 2 Peter 3 it says: "There shall come in the last          times scoffers... saying, Where is the promise of his coming?     For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as          they were" (v. 3).
You can scoff and ridicule and dismiss the Biblical record if you choose, but Paul says to these young believers, "You yourselves know perfectly well what's going to happen in the future."
In particular, he points out three things in verse 3 we can know for sure about the future:
- First, it will come suddenly, like a thief in the night.
Did you lock your door last night? Unless you forgot, you did it and you did it because thieves normally come during the darkness while you are sleeping.
Verse 3 even tells us what people will be saying in those days. They will cry, “Peace and safety.” That’s interesting.  It means that the days just before the beginning of the final judgment will seem tranquil and peaceful.
Jesus predicted the same thing in
Matthew 24:37-38:
Hear what he's saying?  In the last days, the teachers will be teaching, the preachers preaching, the doctors treating, the lawyers arguing, the politicians speechifying, the salesmen making calls, the pharmacists filling prescriptions, the managers managing.
In short, all will seem to be normal and peaceful. At exactly that moment—when the world least expects it, Jesus will return.
- Second, it will be a period of great destruction.
This refers to the vast judgments described in the book of Revelation, when the seals are broken, the trumpets sound and the bowls of God’s judgment poured out on the earth. All those terrible events will take place during a seven-year period called “the tribulation”
-Third, there will be no escape
Here is the most important fact we need to know about the future. When the Day of the Lord finally comes and God’s fury is poured out on the earth, there will be no place to run, no place to hide.
Then he uses this fascinating analogy to make his point. He compares it to a woman in the throes of childbirth. Every woman who has ever been pregnant knows what I mean.
For months you wait for the day to come. You don’t know the exact day but you sense when it is getting close. Finally something happens and you say to your husband, “Sweetheart, it’s time to go to the hospital.”
He may try to argue or reason with you, especially if there is a ballgame on, but to no avail. When the time has come, you’ve got to go because the baby is on the way. You can’t ignore those sharp pains and you can’t make them go away.
The same is true of the Day of the Lord. When God’s judgment is poured out on this earth, no one will escape. The world cannot escape the tribulation period. Your only hope is to find the way of escape through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, he gives a reminder of
2. What We Know About Our Identity
verses 4-5
Paul continually draws this distinction between the saved and the lost:
- In chapter 1, they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
- In chapter 2, they received the Word of God instead of the word of men
- In chapter 4, they are called from uncleanness to holiness.  They are in Christ, not outside the faith.  they are brethren unlike those who have no hope. 
- Here it is those who are sons of light and sons of the day instead of those who are of the night and darkness.    
Once again he declares this great division in the  human race between the saved and the lost. There are those who belong to the light and others who belong to the darkness.  And it is coming of Christ that will clearly reveal those two groups. 
Today it can be hard to tell because the sons of light live like children of darkness. And even though we have fundamentally different values and lifestyles, still we live on the same planet, share the same space, live next door to each other, and often work in the same office together and sometimes the differentiation gets muddled.
But Paul’s point is that in that day—the Day of the Lord—the difference will be perfectly clear. We who belong to the light won’t be caught by surprise when Jesus returns and sudden destruction comes to the earth.
Third, he calls to mind
3. What We Know About Our Duty
verses 6-8
In verse 6 Paul uses two words to describe how we ought to live while we wait for Christ’s return.
First, we must be alert. The word means “to make a determined effort to stay awake.” We all know that there are “morning people” and “evening people.” Spiritually we are called to be “morning people” for God. But some of us are spiritual sleepwalkers—with low standards and loose morality.
Second, we must be self-controlled. The word means “serious-minded” or “earnest.” It describes a person with spiritual poise in an unsettled world. This person is neither overly excited nor indifferent to the things that happen around him. We are to be “cool, calm and collected.”
Verse 7 goes on to specify certain things that have no part in the Christian life. These are things associated with the evils of the night.
He uses drunkenness as a prime example of how the unsaved live. That includes the party scene, the cocktail crowd, the bars and saloons, the social drinking, and all the rest. We are to have no part of it because we are people of the light and those things belong in the darkness.
We must be alert because the enemy attacks on every hand!
We must be self-controlled because we are always on duty!
We must reject moral compromise because it can only drag us down!
Finally, we must put on the soldier’s uniform.
Verse 8 tells us to put on the breastplate of faith and love. Just as the breastplate covered the vital organs, even so faith in God and love toward our brothers and sister will protect us in the time of battle.
Then we are to put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. This protects the mind and produces clear thinking.
What is the “hope of salvation"? It is the certainly that if we die before Jesus returns, we who believe will go directly to heaven. If we live till his return, it is the certainty that we will be raptured off this earth to meet the Lord in the earth. Either way we’re going to be delivered—whether alive or dead we’re going to meet Jesus very soon.
In fact, in a word, the hope of salvation is Jesus.  With him, you have every reason to be hopeful and victorious and without Him, there is no hope. 
Paul is telling us there is a moral value to the Second Coming of Christ. There are certain standards that go with that truth. While we wait for his return, we live in a world of spiritual darkness that is hostile to spiritual truth. There is a battle raging all around us, a battle for the hearts and minds of men and women.
I dare say it is also a battle for our culture and for our nation. Every Christian is a soldier in that battle.
And in light of that, he is encouraging those who know what we know to do three things in particular"
We are to
  • Wake up! (verse 6)
  • Clean up! (verse 7)
  • Dress up! (verse 8)
Jesus is coming again and we will meet Him when he come—whether by resurrection from the dead or by rapture of the living. Is that just wishful thinking? Can anyone be sure they are going to meet the Lord someday? The last section of our passage clearly answers that question.
Finally, listen to
4. What We Know About Our Destiny
verses 9-11
The word “destiny” means “an appointed end.” We all plan for the future. Most of you have already planned where you will eat lunch after church today. You probably know what you are going to do tomorrow and Tuesday and the rest of the week. You may be making plans for Spring Break or this summer or mission trips, who you're going to marry and how you will spend your retirement years.
There is nothing wrong with that.  It is common and it is also wise and good. Planning for the future is a mark of wisdom and foresight.
However, we live in an uncertain world. You may die before the end of this day. Or something may intervene to change your plans. You may change your mind about your long-range goals. No matter how well you plan things out, you can never be sure how they will turn out.
But God has a plan for you that is so certain that we may call it a destiny.  So what is the destiny of the saved?  Paul says two things in particular. First, it is
1. Not to wrath.
This is not a reference to eternal damnation in hell, but to the time of Tribulation.  Paul is thinking of the terrible destruction of the coming seven-year tribulation period. It is the wrath associated with the coming of the Day of the Lord. It is the sudden destruction that will come on the entire world. God has appointed that his children will not go through any of that wrath.
Instead, we are
2. To receive salvation
The phrase means “full deliverance.” We are not appointed to wrath, but to “full deliverance” by Jesus Christ. When the seals are broken and the four horsemen ride across the earth, when the trumpets blow and the sea turns to blood, when the bowls of God’s judgment are emptied on the earth, the world will be caught totally unprepared. But we won’t be surprised. In fact, we won’t even be here. We’ll be with the Lord in the air, safe, delivered, rescued and raptured!
Who will do this for us?  Verse 9 gives us the answer: “Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Why would he do this? Verse 10 answers that: “He died for us.” That’s the substitionary atonement of Christ. He died in my place on the cross, bearing my sin, taking my shame. That’s the only basis for the assurance of salvation: the knowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and for me.
What is the destiny of the saved?  I can sum it up in four simple word.  Our Destiny is Deliverance. If you know Jesus Christ, you won’t have to face the terrors of the Last Days. You won’t have go to through the Tribulation and you won’t have to spend eternity in hell either.
I close now with three final points.
1. This text is teaching an important truth about the future.
The order is crucial. First there is the rapture of the saints, then the Day of the Lord begins. Unbelievers cannot escape the Day of the Lord while believers will be rescued from it. We will not be overtaken by the Day of God’s Judgment because God has not destined us for wrath but for deliverance.
Let me say it as plainly as I know how:  We are not waiting for the Tribulation … We’re waiting for Jesus to return!
2. Many believers are not ready for Jesus to return.
They are spiritual sleepwalkers who have been intoxicated by the world. They have compromised their values and sold their spiritual heritage for a paltry moment of earthly pleasure.
Are you ready for Christ to return? Are you ready to meet him today? Tomorrow? What if he were to return in the next 24 hours, would you be ready or would you be ashamed to see him?
If you are a Christian, God is saying something to you this morning: Keep your eyes open and your armor on! Look up for your redemption draws nigh.
3. Your Identity Determines Your destiny.
Think of the words Paul uses in this passage:
Light and darkness
Sleeping and waking
Night and day
Us and them
Wrath and Salvation
Your choice is ruin or rescue, destruction or deliverance!
The unbelieving world will not escape. All that man has built will be crumble when Christ returns. If you don’t know Jesus, you have a date with judgment. Your future is wrath, judgment and tribulation. And you will not escape!
Jesus is coming! Are you ready? He may come today! Are you ready? God’s Word tells you the truth. There is no reason to be unprepared.
If Jesus comes today and you aren’t ready to meet him, you will have only yourself to blame.
How can you escape the terrible wrath to come? Our text tells us the answer: It is through Jesus who died for us. You must transfer your trust to him. Open your heart to him. Ask him to forgive your sins. Believe that he died for you and rose from the dead. Crown him as the King of your life and the Lord of your heart.
If Jesus were to come today … and he may … would you be ready?
Ponder this final thought. If Jesus comes back before the sun goes down, what will happen to you? All eternity hangs on your answer to that simple question.
Let's pray.
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