- Sermon Notes
Be Dressed in Readiness
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11
This is now the second major section of this letter that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. He’s writing during his second missionary journey, probably while he’s in Corinth.
He had been in Thessalonica about a year before he wrote this letter. He had only been in that city for only about three weeks, but that was enough for Paul to start a major revival, establish leaders, and give them instruction, not only about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also how to conduct their lives. He also told them to be watching for the return of Christ.
During that year Paul had sent Timothy to receive word on their progress and to strengthen and encourage them as to their faith. Timothy returned with great news; the church was strong and healthy and the word of the Lord had sounded forth from them throughout the whole region.
But Timothy also brought back news that they needed to understand more about the return of Christ. And what about those who had already died? Had they missed the glorious kingdom of God? And they were sorrowing and grieving over those who had died before the glorious return of Christ.
So in response Paul writes this letter and a short time later he writes 2 Thessalonians to encourage them to excel even more in their faith, to answer their questions about the return of Christ, and how to be dressed in readiness as they discern and understand the signs of the times.
This letter also applies to us, especially in light of the things that are happening right now in the world. It’s like spiritual tectonic plates are shifting; the world is changing before our eyes. We need to be alert, we need to be dressed in readiness ourselves.
I. Discern the Signs of the Times
- Paul is writing to give them insight into the condition of things in the world so they can be watchful, be ready, and discern for themselves.
- In Matthew 24 Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, saying, “Not one stone shall be left upon another.” The disciples then came to Him privately, asking, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
- Jesus tells them the condition of things in the world that indicate the end of the age is near so that they will be able to interpret the signs of the times.
Matthew 24:32, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
- In other words, God expects signs to be observed. They are given for a reason and God tells us in advance so that we might observe and interpret them and be ready. God expects signs to be observed.
Illus - When Chip Kelly coached U of O football they used large outlandish placards to call the plays to the quarterback. They were signs to be observed. There was a lot of speculation about what they meant. Like the one with the Burger King mascot on it…
- We need to be discerning, we need to interpret world events in light of biblical prophecy so that our faith is strengthened.
Matthew 24:6, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see to it that you are not frightened, for these things must take place, but that is not yet the end.”
- God is not telling us these things to frighten us or to cause us to worry or fret or be stressful; we have enough of that already in our lives…
Illus – a man husband was overcome with stress and went to see the doctor...
- Verse 5:2 – “You know full well that the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” Paul wrote.
- In other words, the Lord will come when He is not expected; at least not when the world expects.
- Verse 3 - While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” Then destruction will come upon them suddenly.
- While the signs of the times are being revealed, most people will not take notice, nor will they care, they will be busy with all the affairs of the world.
Luke 17:26-30, “Just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.”
B. You are not of the darkness
- Verse 5:4 - In other words, that day should not overtake you like a thief; for you are sons of light and sons of day.
- How does a thief in the night come? Does he call and give some advance notice in case you would like not to be there? No, he comes unexpectedly.
- Why then does Paul say that that day should not overtake you like a thief? Are we given advanced notice of the day or the hour of His return? No.
Acts 1:6-7, When they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;”
Matthew 24:35-36, 42, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone… Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
- What Paul is saying and what Jesus is saying is that though we do not know the day or the hour, Jesus told us in advance the things that will indicate that the end of the age is near.
C. Be watchful of these things
- Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, will be the epicenter of the events of biblical prophecy. The enemy knows full well the importance of Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 6:6, I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.
- On May 14, 1948 Israel again was established as a nation; then the Six Day War of 1967 brought Jerusalem once again into the hands of the Jews.
- Jerusalem is so significant that after all the events of the last days have been completed and God establishes a New Heaven and a New Earth, He will also bring forth a New Jerusalem out of heaven.
- The antichrist will arise in the last days and will mislead many. The reason why they are saying, “Peace and safety!” in verse 3 is because the antichrist will do what no man has been able to do in our modern times – bring peace to the Middle East.
- The antichrist will arise out of a 10 nation alliance from the nations of the former Roman empire.
Illus - The British vote to leave the European Union is the beginning of monumental change in the nations of the former Roman Empire. Spiritual tectonic plates are shifting; nations are realigning, prophecy is unfolding.
- We will look in greater detail at the antichrist in 2 Thessalonians, but he will arise out of the nations of the former Roman empire and will deceive many.
- Interestingly, there are many in Islam today who believe that an anointed ruler will come, whom they call the 12th Imam, who will rule the world from Jerusalem for seven years.
- He will bring peace to the Middle East by forging a covenant of peace between Israel and the nations.
- Scripture suggests that part of that covenant of peace could include permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, in Israel today, there is a growing “Temple Movement” with thousands of Jews making preparations for the day when that is possible.
II. God’s Tribulation Will Also Come
- 3 ½ years after the antichrist forges a covenant of peace with Israel, he betrays that covenant, taking over the Temple for himself to be honored and worshipped there.
- As you can imagine, Israel will explode in outrage and literally all hell breaks loose as the nations prepare for war against Israel.
- We see today an increasing alignment of Russia and China as they pull further away from the United States and of course from Israel. In fact, there is a worldwide trend of pulling away from Israel.
- A massive army will come against Israel from the north and the famous battle of Armageddon will take place in the Valley of Megiddo, just northwest of Jerusalem.
- However, there are scriptures that should guide our thinking and frankly, should guide our foreign policy as a nation… “Those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.”
- God Himself will intervene in behalf of Israel when Jesus returns at the end of the age to rule and reign from Jerusalem. He will come with a great army.
- All this takes place during a seven-year period of great tribulation which is God’s wrath on the earth.
Matthew 24:21-21, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”
A. You are not destined for wrath
- Verse 5:9 - for God has not destined us for wrath… While the world is saying, “Peace and safety!” the day of the Lord will come; destruction will come upon them suddenly and they shall not escape.
- But this is God’s wrath poured out on the world, on the “sons of disobedience” as Paul writes in another place. Worldwide natural cataclysmic events will be happening even as the nations come against Israel.
Revelation 6:16-17, And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Matthew 24:22, “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.”
- But we are not destined for wrath, Paul wrote. Why not? The church, also called the bride of Christ, is kept from the wrath of God because the wrath which we deserved fell upon Christ Himself on the cross.
Romans 5:9, Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
- How will God keep us from the wrath of God that is poured out during the Great Tribulation?
B. The church will be raptured
- Verse 4:17 - We who are alive and remain shall be ‘caught up’ together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…
- The words ‘caught up’ are translated raptured in the Latin translation and we’ve continued to use it in the English.
- It’s important to distinguish this event, the rapture of the church, which is marked by believers that are alive on the earth being taken up to meet the Lord in the clouds, from the return of Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation where He comes into Jerusalem to rule and reign upon the earth.
- There are several biblical events that are spiritual pictures or types of this very thing.
- Jesus Himself said that the coming of the Son of Man will be as the days of Noah. But before the flood, God saved Noah and his family in the ark.
- God had determined that His wrath would fall upon the unrighteous of Sodom and Gomorrah, but first God saved Lot and his family, even sending angels to remove them.
- What should our response to these things be? It’s in verse 6 – so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
- Don’t live like the sons of darkness, we are of the day, so let us be spiritually sober; be spiritually alert.
- Be a student of the word and discern the signs of the times through the lens of God’s word. But as Jesus said, “See to it that you are not frightened.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 NASB
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert andsober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.