In Paul's epistles to the disciples at Thessalonica, one of the significant
issues dealt with is the return of Jesus. Much speculation is offered today
about the possibility of Jesus' imminent return. Is it important for us to
know when Jesus will return? A careful study of I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
will tell us what we really need to know about these things.
There Will Be A
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In these verses, Paul affirms that there is a
resurrection to come. Christians have a hope that unbelievers do not and
look forward to being with God after their physical death. Paul declares
that those who are dead in Christ will be raised from the dead! Death is not
the final curtain!
Notice the phrase in verse 14 which says God will bring with Him those who
have fallen asleep in Jesus, and then the parallel in verse 16 which says,
the dead in Christ shall rise first. The souls of the saints who have died
will return with the Lord and partake in the resurrection of the body. The
evidence of this is found in the fact of Jesus' resurrection.
Paul very clearly lets it be known that there is a cause and effect
relationship at work in his words. The phrase “Therefore comfort one
another” is an indication to us that there should be great comfort in the
confident assurance of Jesus' resurrection. If God raised Jesus from the
dead, God can do it again and raise others from the dead! (1 Corinthians
Notice these points:
1. There is no doubt that Jesus was resurrected!
2. There is no doubt that what God has done once, he can do again!
3. When Jesus returns, God will raise the dead in Christ.
4. Those still living shall join them meeting Jesus in the air.
5. We shall ever be with the Lord!
With Jesus' resurrection as evidence that there is a resurrection for us, we
are to comfort each other. How many times do we find it necessary to comfort
each other in our spiritual doubting and weaknesses? Through it all, we need
to be reminded of the concepts Scripture sets forth here. Great spiritual
strength should be derived from the assurance of Jesus' resurrection.
We Know “If” There
Will Be A Resurrection, But Not “When”
None of us knows when these things will take place. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5).
Paul clearly says that no one knows when Jesus will return. Some charge
today that Paul mistakenly thought Jesus' return would be soon. Perhaps we
all think that at times in our lives, but Paul never taught that he knew it
would be soon. He gives no hints about how to tell when Jesus will come
back. Instead, he indicates that it will be a surprise to everyone, even the
faithful! “Like a thief” means “without warning or announcement”.
When has anyone ever heard of a thief who called and warned his victim that
he was going to burglarize their house on a particular day? It doesn't
happen! Nor will men know when Jesus is to return. Because no one knows,
many will not believe that he will ever return. Some look at the long time
that has passed and conclude that He will never come (2 Peter 3:3,4; 8).
Still, today, some look at the long time that has already passed and say it
will be a longer time still until Jesus return, or that He will never
return. They are saying, "Peace and safety!" They feel secure in their
belief, but their feelings are wrong. Paul points out that Jesus' return
will be sudden. It will be like the onset of a woman's labor pains, Jesus
return will be sudden and climactic.
Finally, there will be a universal awareness of Jesus' return. The doubters,
will not escape! In 5:1 through 5:3, Paul made the following points:
1. No one knows when the Lord will return.
2. His return will be a surprise to all, even the faithful.
3. Doubters and unbelievers will feel secure in their safety.
4. When he does come, it will be universal! Even the doubters and
unbelievers will know of it.
The Faithful Will Not
Having demonstrated these points, an interesting observation is made in
these Scriptures! Faithful brethren, even though they do not know when Jesus
will return, will not be taken by surprise! (I Thessalonians 5:4,5). Paul
used symbols in verses 4 and 5 to make his point; the figures of "day"
and "night." The idea is that during the day, good and constructive
things are accomplished by the industrious, while, at night, men work that
which is unseemly and evil. Jesus also had taught about being prepared (Luke
12:42-46). So the faithful are characterized as being of "day" because they
are busy for God and hence stay in a state or condition of preparedness. The
unfaithful are characterized by night and darkness, because they are neither
prepared to nor concerned about serving God.
If even the faithful do not know when Jesus will return, how can His return
not be a surprise? The faithful expect his return momentarily, and are
continually prepared for His return! The faithful cannot be caught
unprepared, because the very fact of the uncertainty of when Jesus will
return causes them to stay in a state of preparedness. The very uncertainty
of when Jesus will return creates a sense of expectation and diligence.
Jesus may return any moment. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly!
(Revelation 22:20,21) What a wonderful disposition to have!
Because Jesus is
Being prepared involves several things (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8):
The first quality that should characterize the Christian who is expecting
Jesus to return is his alertness. The Christian will be like the watchman of
old who is ever alert to the approach of any, whether they be friend or foe.
He is constantly watching for danger and always prepared to turn away any
attack. This same alertness and response to danger, keeps him in a state of
preparedness to meet any threats. He will not be taken unawares by any evil,
not because he has been warned, but because he is on his guard! By the same
token, he will also be prepared for his Lords return.
The second thing that will characterize the Christian who is expecting Jesus
to return is sobriety. This is metaphorical and in contrast to those who are
drunken in verse 7. The one who is drunken has decided that how he behaves
is not important; he won't be caught. Nothing is going to happen! The one
who remains sober is determined to be prepared for any and all
eventualities, whether they be good or bad. His mind is set on service to
Then we are told that we should stay prepared and equipped with the armor we
have already put on, the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the
hope of salvation.
From The Bradley Banner 4/25/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915