I Thess. 5:1-11
I realize that’s an ominous headline that sounds like a video game or summer movie. And that’s part of this world’s problem. Any talk of a future judgment is scoffed at, ridiculed, mocked and maligned. Saddest of all is this even comes from professing Christians at times.
Doomsday goes by many names. Judgment Day, Day of Reckoning, the Apocalypse, the Tribulation and the End of the World among them. All of these attempt to describe a unique period of God’s wrathful judgment of the world.
More specifically, we are talking about seven years of tribulation that is part of longer time frame called the Day of the Lord, a major concept in the Bible.
You simply cannot read the Bible without realizing fairly quickly that God is a Jealous God who brings wrath on sinful people who refuse to repent. Beyond that we are told that mankind is “storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Paul then asks in the next chapter, “the God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5, 6).
The Day of the Lord concept is front and center in the prophetic writings of Joel, Isaiah, Amos, Zephaniah and Zechariah. In the New Testament, it is dealt with in Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Thess. and of course Revelation, chapters 6-19.
Like our days, the events of the Day of the Lord (not a literally 24 hour day) unfold over time, not all at once. The Bible often compares the judgment phase of the Day of the Lord to labor pains of a woman, pains that increase in frequency and duration until the event is over.
The Day of the Lord then has two major phases: Phase 1 is God’s Wrath on His enemies; Phase 2 is God’s reign over His people. In both phases, ethnic, national Israel is central.
So here then is the Day of the Lord from 35,000 feet. The resurrection/snatching away event (described in the previous chapter of I Thess.) is the trigger event to seven years of escalating, supernatural judgments before Jesus returns to earth to rescue ethnic, national Israel and to set up His 1,000 year Messianic reign, aka the Kingdom of Christ and God.
In a nut shell, when you see Day of the Lord in the Bible think wrath followed by reign.
I Thess. 5:1-11 is focused on that first part – the first few hours if you will – and more specifically, how we as believers should think and live in light of it.
Now this should raise a question: if we as believers are raptured or snatched away before the Day of the Lord, why did Paul’s readers care when the Day of the Lord would come? The answer is this – because both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord are imminent, as taught by Jesus, here by Paul and by John in Revelation.
If both are imminent, meaning they can happen at any moment, then they must happen at the same time, meaning the Rapture must immediately be followed by the beginning of wrath.
We can and should expect both at any moment though these two events are very different in nature and purpose.
For example, it’s like expecting to die and expecting to go to heaven. For believers, both events are imminent. Both could happen at any moment. Therefore they must be simultaneous. And both are very different in nature.
So whether our focus is the Rapture from chapter four or the Day of the Lord here in chapter five, our response as believers is the same: be ready, alert and hopeful but not fearful.
Next time we will look closely at this text and discover two warnings and two promises related to the coming Day of the Lord.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight