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May 29, 2022

The Day of the Lord

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: awakening, 2nd coming, return of christ


Old Testament saints spent their lives looking forward to the first coming of Christ. We are called to wakefulness in looking forward to His second coming. This message looks at Paul's teaching on The Day of the Lord and the impact that should have on our spiritual wakefulness and awakening.


The Day of the Lord

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

May 29, 2022


What are you anticipating?  Looking forward to?  Hoping will happen sooner rather than later?

            There are various organizations around our world that help children who have terminal diseases realize some of the wishes they have for their very difficult and sometimes shortened lives.  Little Nicole was one of those children.   

Story: When Nicole received the devastating news that she had a brain tumor, her life became consumed by dreary days spent in the hospital enduring painful treatments. While limited to her hospital bed, Nicole took comfort in watching her favorite sport – figure skating – on TV. As the skaters twirled in the air and glided across the ice, Nicole imagined that she was one of them, zigzagging across a glittering ice rink as the audience cheered her name. After months of isolation, Nicole wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by a crowd of adoring supporters.  So, for two months, a group of dream-makers helped Nicole experience her childhood dream.  She would go from her chemotherapy treatments to the ice rink to practice, her heart filled with determination. After weeks of private lessons and pulling herself up after untold stumbles, Nicole experienced her dream—a headlining performance, “Nicole on Ice.” When she arrived at the skating venue, she was greeted by her new friends in the figure-skating community, her coaches and friends and family.  “I’m not going to fall,” Nicole said proudly… “Unless I do, I’ll stand up.” That day, everyone there got to be part of a dream come true. 

Story 2:

            God has designed us as humans to anticipate things we haven’t yet realized, things we still want to experience.  People express those wishes in different ways.  Some make a “bucket list” of places or experiences they want to have before they “kick the bucket.”  Believers often have prayer lists of things and people we pray for, believing God for something in the future that we haven’t yet known. 

            Today we’re back in the last chapter of 1st Thessalonians heading down the home stretch of this exegetical series we’ve been in since February. Today Paul is drawing our attention to a concept that runs through the Old and New Testaments—“the Day of the Lord.”  It’s something God wants His children to look forward to with great anticipation.  But it is also something that should terrify those in rebellion against God.  So, let’s read about it in 1 Thess. 5.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 

This passage is a continuation of what Paul was discussing in chapter 4 about the return of Christ, the “taking up” of both the living and deceased followers of Jesus.  Whatever you believe about WHEN that is going to take place in relationship to the Great Tribulation (before—pre-tribulational rapture, in the middle of—mid-trib, or at the end of the tribulation—post-trib), as long as you believe in a rapture of the church prior to a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus on earth, you are “premillennial.”

Paul just before our passage today said, “16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Many believe that Paul is here giving instruction about the “rapture” or “taking up” of the church at the end of the church age in human history.  The fact that this instruction precedes his discussion in chapter 5 of “the day of the Lord” seems to indicate that it is something previously hidden or unknown to the O.T. teaching on the day of the Lord.  Otherwise, he probably would have included it as part of “the day of the Lord” teaching they were already familiar with both from the O.T. and his time with them.

This phrase and theology of “the day of the Lord” is one that was well known and often referred to in the O.T.  You can find it all over the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Zephaniah.  (Isa. 2:12-21; 13:9-16; 34:1-8; Joel. 1:15-2:11, 28-32; 3:9-12; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 15-17; Zeph. 1:7-18).

It’s an OT phrase referring to God or His Messiah breaking into history to a.) punish evil and b.) set up the new age of righteousness. God's coming would be for blessing or for judgment. For God-loving believers it will be the culmination of salvation and thus a huge blessing.  But for God-rejecting unbelievers it will be the consummation of judgment.

We all know of events that are for one person something they can hardly wait for while for another are something you dread.   


  • Dad coming home from work: love it if you are on great terms, have been obedient to mom all day and he’s promised to take you to Silverwood when he gets home; hate it if you’ve been giving mom grief all day, disobeying, balk-talking and being mean to her because you know judgment is coming.

Same person, same event, different expectation and anticipation… all dependent on your relationship with him.    

Let’s pick it up in vs. 1.

5:1— Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 

The first word, “times” (chronos) is concerned more with the idea of duration, body or amount of time. It could include the idea of particular dates when predictions would come to pass, OR it could look at the various periods or ages of God’s program for the world. Apparently, Paul had, in the short time he spent in Thessalonica, taught the biblical theology of different periods of God’s working in this world, all culminating in “the day of the Lord” that he is going to reference and review now. 

The latter word, “seasons” (kairos), stresses the quality or the characteristics of time, hence, the events, the nature of the time with its accompanied signs and characteristics like those expressed in Matthew 24, “the sun darkened,” or as expressed here, “as a thief in the night.”  [Hampton Keathly’s study found at https://bible.org/seriespage/9-comfort-and-challenge-concerning-day-lord-1-thess-51-11.]

5:2--For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

I personally believe this is one more reason to believe in the rapture of the church happening before the Great Tribulation talked about in the bulk of Revelation (chapters 6-19).  Paul doesn’t talk about the rapture in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians as if it were a part of “the day of the Lord” addressed in chapter 5.  The rapture, which can come at any moment, will usher in “the day of the Lord” “like a thief in the night.”  It will begin that time of greatly anticipated blessing for the church of the marriage of the Lamb to the church AND it will initiate the time of greatest judgment on this sinful world for those living in rebellion against God.

            What’s the point of Paul’s analogy of the ‘day of the Lord’ being like “a thief in the night”?  It’s the element of surprise.  Thieves come when you aren’t expecting them.  If you do expect them, you’re not going to be surprised; they are! 

            The people of God are not to be “surprised” by the rapture that marks the beginning of ‘the day of the Lord’, this Tribulation or time of the world’s greatest judgment.  But it will ‘surprise’ those who don’t know God’s word, those who are spiritually asleep in the dark.  It will be a horrific ‘surprise’ for those who think, as many people and world leaders today do, that the world just needs to work together in one governmental system that will lead to peace and security for everyone.  In fact, that is what they will be thinking when that horrible period of human history arrives.

Vs. 3--While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

            Notice how the subject changes here.  Paul moves from talking about “you”, believers/followers of Jesus, to “people”/ “them”, the unbelieving and unprepared world. 

Notice also that this world system is a very poor judge of reality.  If we are not looking at the world through the lens of God’s word and the prophecies in it, we will be constantly surprised by what is happening.  Listening to this world’s media on just about anything will not prepare us for God’s unfolding story…HIS-story…in this world. 

  • The world will tell you that human nature is basically good, left to itself and left to make choices in radically absolute ‘freedom’, we will produce a utopian society. LOOK AROUND today!  Is that what we’re getting when people are free to not work, to drug themselves to death, to spend all day on video games killing and then walk into a classroom and act it out in real life? 
  • Morality, politics, economics, social relations, family—anything untethered from the absolute and eternal truth of God’s word will result in a life of constant and unpleasant surprises.

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 

QUESTIONS AT THIS POINT about this passage???

Having spoken about ‘night’ and the ‘darkness’ that accompanies it, Paul now picks up opposing physical human conditions with which to challenge us, the church. 

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 

One of the questions to ask ourselves when we are studying the Bible is, “Does this passage have any contrasts?”  These two verses certainly do.  What are they?  There are 4.

  1. Day verses night.
  2. Light verses darkness.
  3. Awake verses asleep.
  4. Sober vs. drunk.

If you have come to faith in Jesus, God says you have become a “child of light, a child of the day.”  You have Jesus, “the light of the world,” as your Shepherd (Jn. 8:12).  You have the Word of God which is “a lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalm 119:105).

Without the light of Christ in you, you are a child of the night, living in spiritual darkness.  You can’t see reality as God wants you to.  You can’t discern truth from error spiritually.  You are, spiritually speaking, asleep to life’s most important realities. You’re also essentially spiritually “drunk”—acting like a fool, consuming things that control you rather than controlling them, under the influence of the evil one all the while probably thinking you are really “living the life” of “freedom.”  The biblical term “sons of the night/darkness” is referring to people who practice evil while “sons of light/day” refers to people who live in righteousness and God’s righteous call on their lives. 

            Paul gives us two parallel commands when it comes to living as children of the day:

  • Keep awake.
  • Be sober.

The first (“awake”) has to do with what you engage in/do.  It is driven by an anticipation about things yet to come.  It has a focus and purpose.  The second (“sober”) has to do with what you avoid (excess), being in full command of your faculties, clear-headed thinking, not under the influence of anything external.

Let’s think about the command to “not sleep as others do, but…keep awake.”  Seven (7) times in the synoptic Gospels (Mt., Mk. & Luke) Jesus commanded his followers to “stay awake” or “be watchful” in regard to His return.  Paul is simply echoing this command of the Lord here.  Jesus usually told a parable/story about a master leaving servants in charge and commanding them to stay awake and keep watching for his return. (Mt. 24:42; Mk. 13:33, 35, 37; Lk. 12:37,38, 21:36).

Take Luke 12.  Grant at Men’s Connection breakfast yesterday referred to this when he did a wonderful job talking about what Luke tells us about the sometimes difficult job of “waiting” for Jesus.  As he reminded us, Israel was waiting for the first appearing of the Messiah for several thousand years and now we are waiting for His second coming.  He took us to Luke 2 with Simeon and Anna, two senior saints in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus first coming who had been “waiting” for the Messiah for decades.  But, as we saw, waiting is not inaction.  Waiting is not idleness.  Anna had been worshipping, praying and fasting in the temple on a daily basis for somewhere between 60-80 years!  Waiting for Jesus’ coming like that will change you.  It will make you a truly godly person.

In Luke 12 we have this teaching of Jesus on the very same subject: 

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

            Just a note about the “2nd or 3rd watch.”  Depending on whether Jesus was using the Roman method of calculating time or the Jewish system, it would either be between 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  Luke usually uses the Roman pattern (9-3) but since he’s speaking to a Jewish audience, he may have used the Jewish system.  Either way, we’re talking about working the night shift.  It’s the most difficult time to stay awake, right.  So how do you stay awake when you’re sleepy? 

  • Don’t lie down on the job!
  • Don’t eat a big meal or have a couple of drinks.
  • Don’t get sedentary.
  • Do something that keeps you moving.
  • Be busy doing something productive.

Part of spiritual wakefulness is living life fixed on things we are anticipating will unfold while we are awake. Part of it is just staying active.

ILL:  Friday morning I helped host a Spokane Prays breakfast where we heard about the importance of prayer in “the other Washington,” D.C.  I was up early after a not-too-great night’s sleep.  I expended a lot of energy.  When I got home, sat in the easy chair and started working on this message on my computer, guess what happened.  I dozed off just before a lunch I was to have with Daniel.  So, by the time he called… and I got to the restaurant… I only got 30 minutes with him instead of 60. ☹  I lost out on half of what I could have experienced with him in conversation, sharing, catching up and bonding…because I didn’t stay awake. 

ILL:  When the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane that night Jesus was betrayed, what did they lose?  (Strength in temptation [Keep watch that you enter not into temptation….”], intimacy with God, protection….) 

What happens to us when we physically fall asleep?  Everything slows down:  our metabolism, our heart rate. We stop moving…or at least don’t move much.  We lose conscious interaction with people and the world around us. We aren’t productively making or doing anything (as vital as sleep is for us).  What do you have to show for falling asleep on the job?  Nothing!

The same is true for Christians who are ‘spiritually asleep’.

  • They are inactive in the life of the kingdom. They aren’t really engaged in any ministry to others. 
  • They aren’t building into the lives of others, making disciples.
  • They aren’t communicating or conversing with others about the Gospel or the truths of God’s word.
  • They don’t have much of a prayer life.
  • They are not awake or alert enough to be able to discern what is going on around them in terms of the spiritual battle and they are probably losing most of their spiritual battles.
  • Lots of dreams but few real, tangible, winning experiences.

But what does it look like to be “spiritually awake” while waiting for Jesus’ return, His 2nd coming?  Look at the things Jesus mentions in that parable in Luke 12.

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.

  • God’s servants are “dressed for action”. I think this alludes to believers who are a.) wearing the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18), and b.) in the battle, pushing back the gates of hell in an offensive way.
  • They “keep their lamps burning”. They are Spirit-filled, Spirit-dominated, Spirit-driven people (Eph. 5:15-20—walk wisely, make the most of the time, understand the will of God, fellowship in worship, thankful to God). 
  • They are expectant, anxious and desirous of Christ’s return (see Anna & Simeon in Luke 2 >> righteous living, devout worship, prayer-filled, fasting,)

37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes….38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 

  • “Awake”

American Church historians talk about periods of “Great Awakening” in America. 

  • 1st Great Awakening: 1720-1750—Jonathan Edwards, Whitfield, Wesleys
  • 2nd Great Awakening: early 1800s—Charles Finney, later D.L. Moody

What happens in spiritual awakenings usually happens to the church first and then spills over to the salvation of the lost. 

Def. of Revival from Church Awakening/Alec Rowlands: 

“Revival is the overwhelming sense of God’s Presence… that falls powerfully on a Christian people who have become dead and lethargic in their spiritual life… reviving those elements of the Christian life that God intended to be normal for His Church.

Characteristics of Revival:  When God’s overwhelming Presence falls on His people there are 7 characteristics of revival that seem to be common to all of the major awakenings.

  1. Worship comes alive and becomes fresh and new.
  2. There is conviction of sin and a return to holiness.
  3. The importance of brotherly love comes alive again.
  4. There is a new passion in serving the Lord… both in witnessing to the lost and ministering to one another.
  5. There is an unquestioning belief in and obedience to God’s Word.
  6. There is a new and powerful desire for prayer.
  7. There is a new and unequivocal battle launched against the strongholds of Satan.

These are the same things we’ve observed in our passages today, aren’t they? 

APP: Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment and let the Spirit of God speak to us about any of these characteristics of being spiritual “awake” that He may want to ignite or fan into flame in our lives currently.  I must admit that I need more of every one of them.  I need a fresh work of God in my own soul that will make me far more impassioned about every one of these characteristics.  (Review all 7.)

CLOSE:  Directed prayer about these marks of spiritual awakening.