Like a Thief in the Night: Brief Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

supermoon-moon_3455459bWhen I was growing up my dad was a high school baseball coach. That meant he was away from home a lot during baseball season and would get home really late, especially when the team played out of town. I remember as a kid always asking, “When will Daddy be home? When will Daddy be home?” “Soon,” my mom would answer. On the weekends she would let me stay up late to wait for him. I would go play a game or with some toys and then come back and ask, “Is he back yet? Huh, is he back yet?” I’m sure it was very annoying! But I really wanted to know when my dad was coming back.

Anytime astronomical phenomena occur, many charismatic (and other) Christians interpret these events as signs of the return of Jesus. Many in charismatic traditions have a seemingly insatiable desire to know exactly when Jesus is going to return. Many Christians sound like a rambunctious little child asking exactly when his daddy will be home. This seemed to be Paul’s experience with the Thessalonians. They were concerned about when Jesus would return.

The life of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels and Acts, consists of his birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent God the Son to earth. Jesus left the riches of his throne among angels in heaven to be born as a poor baby among farm animals on earth. Coming in full humility, Jesus revealed the Father to us in his life as he perfectly obeyed the command “Be holy as I am holy.” Jesus perfectly loved God with all his being and he perfectly loved his neighbor as himself. After living a sinless life, Jesus was convicted of crimes he didn’t commit and was crucified in the midst of criminals. While he was not a criminal, his criminal status was ascribed to him not only by Pilate, but by God himself. God treated Jesus as a criminal. Though he lived perfectly, he was treated as a sinner. Though he should have received reward, he received a curse–the curse of death on a tree. The one who gives life lost his own at the hands of his Father for the sake of his glory in his salvation of sinners. After giving up his spirit fully surrendering to the clutches of death, the King of glory was buried in a typical tomb. Dead. Gone. Done.

Or so they thought.

Three days later, Jesus arose from the dead. His Father accepted his sacrifice. He conquered sin and death by dying and rising in power over them. After Jesus died and rose again, he ascended in the presence of his disciples to the right hand of his Father. He reigns from his throne in heaven now.

One day Jesus is coming back again. He is coming back to bring his people home and judge his enemies forever. We can be certain that Jesus is coming back. He promised to return and we should pray for him to return (Rev. 22:20). But there is something we don’t know about Jesus’ return: we don’t know when it will happen. When will Jesus come back? We just don’t know.

The Thessalonians were worried about when Jesus was coming back. They wanted to know a date and time so they could be ready. There were many eschatological concerns in the Thessalonian church. But Paul said, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you” (1 Thess. 5:1). Paul is basically saying, “You know better than to ask such a thing!” Paul doesn’t know when Jesus is coming back. For all the blood moon fanatics out there, this is a word you desperately need to hear. If the blood moon has raised concerns over end times questions, let Paul’s words to the Thessalonians settle your soul.

He says, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). A thief doesn’t announce when he is coming to break in your house. He waits until everyone is either asleep or away from home. Thieves are sneaky. They always take us by surprise. We definitely don’t know when they are coming. In the same way, Jesus will return. He isn’t going to announce his return. He isn’t going to give us a certain date or time. He is going to return like a thief in the night.

This is a big deal for both Christians and non-Christians. For Christians, this means we must be ready at all times for Christ’s return. Not that we should always have our Bibles with us, but that we should strive to live out the gospel every day. The return of Christ for Christians will be a blessed day, for we were not destined for wrath, but to obtain salvation (1 Thess. 5:9). For non-Christians, the return of Christ will be sudden and they will be caught in the guilt of their sin. They will be caught off-guard, and like a family losing valuable things to a thief, non-believers will be shocked to discover that they have lost their lives at Christ’s return.

Non-Christians will be thinking, “There is peace and security” or “Oh, everything is fine” when in fact judgment is coming quick, like when a woman starts to have a baby (1 Thess. 5:3). The Day of the Lord will be a day when Jesus comes to earth. But unlike his first advent, this time around Jesus will come with a sword of judgment to wipe out all his enemies with one swift stroke. As we wait, we must cling to the gospel–the good news that Jesus is not only conquering Lion, but also a sacrificial Lamb. We must cling to and proclaim the truth that Jesus himself came under the stroke of that sword of judgment. He was judged in the place of all who trust in him. May this reality be power to live justly, humbly, and wisely as we wait for the second advent of Jesus. As Christians, we must not only be ready for Jesus’ return by walking in faith and love, but we must also share the gospel with non-Christians before it’s too late.

11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram.


Precious Time: Brief Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

Infinity-Time1Have you ever done something or went somewhere and then said to yourself, “Boy, that was a waste of time!” I remember waiting in line to get the autograph of one of my favorite authors. I had one of his books with me and was so excited for him to sign his name on the inside cover of the book and take a picture with me.

I waited in line almost an hour and my favorite author still wasn’t there. Suddenly, I heard the crowd at the front of the line grumble. Word passed from front to back that the author was unable to sign autographs after all. He wasn’t feeling well and was heading to the airport to fly home. I remember rolling my eyes and sighing with everyone else, saying, “Boy, that sure was a waste of time!”

When we spend a lot of time or energy doing something, we want it to be worth something. We want it to count. We want it to matter. We never want to waste our time. Paul wanted the Thessalonian Christians to know that he had not wasted his time with them. He wrote, “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain” (v. 1). You see, being a Christian in Thessalonica was not easy. Christians were not popular in this city. Paul himself suffered in this city, but he wanted the Thessalonians to know their time and his time was not wasted.

Why? Why would Paul’s time with these Christians not be wasted? And how does Paul know this? Is it worth it to follow Christ when it’s not a popular thing to do? Is it a waste of time to go to church? Is it a waste of time to have family devotions? Is it a waste of time to intentionally pray or share the gospel with your neighbor?

We will never waste our time when we talk about, think about, and share the gospel. Spending time on the gospel is always time well spent. Paul had shared the gospel with these Christians “in the midst of much conflict” (v. 2). Through all the trouble Paul faced, he continued to share the gospel and do whatever it took for these Thessalonians to believe in Jesus. Paul didn’t waste time trying to please other people because he wanted to please God. Paul didn’t waste time keeping the gospel to himself. The gospel was given to him, so he wanted to give it to others (v. 4). Paul didn’t waste his time bragging on himself. Instead, he spent his time bragging on Jesus (v. 5-6).

Paul shared everything he had with the Thessalonians. Most importantly he worked “night and day” both earning a living and sharing the gospel (v. 9). He didn’t waste his time with what he taught the Thessalonians. He taught them the gospel and showed them how to live it out each day (v. 10-12).

Do you know how Paul knows his time wasn’t wasted? First, he obeyed God’s command to teach and preach the gospel. You will never waste your time obeying God. But his time was also not wasted because the gospel found a home in the hearts of the Thessalonians and they were changed. They started imitating Jesus (v. 14). They suffered for Christ (v. 15). When the gospel changes your life, you know you are not wasting your time in church or in Bible study or in family devotions or sharing the gospel with your neighbor. Whatever helps you look more like Jesus is not a waste of time.

You can do a lot of things that are a waste of time. Following Jesus is never one of them. You will never waste your life following Jesus. You will find it.

11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.