Devotional # 182. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Devotional # 182. 3/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

Intro. We’ve been going over eschatological (future things/ study of the end-times) themes in that last devotionals and we will continue to here, as we finish out the book of 1 Thessalonians and also as we move into 2 Thessalonians.

v. 1. By using “but” here Paul tells us he is transferring on specific subject matter (the Rapture) while keeping the theme of prophesy. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time on reviewing the Tribulation or Jesus’ Second Coming with them since they’ve talked about it before. However, it is good for us that Paul does go over some of it so we in 2016 can know!

v. 2. Paul gives us our first vocabulary phrase here: “the Day of the Lord”. Anytime we see this phrase it is referring to God’s Judgment (examples are in Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-31; and Joel 3:14). MacArthur explains, “the future ‘Day of the Lord’ which unleashes God’s wrath, falls into two parts: 1) The end of the seven-year tribulation period (Rev. 19:11-21), and 2) The end of the Millennium…here, Paul refers to that aspect of the ‘Day of the Lord,’ which concludes the tribulation period” (Source 1). We should note that the “Day” doesn’t refer to one 24 hour period but can be an epoch of time.

We find our second vocabulary phrase: “as a thief in the night.” Often this is applied to the Rapture but instead this refers to how Jesus comes after the Tribulation. We see this in Revelation 16:15 when Jesus warns how He will come on the scene for the Battle of Armageddon. There also He tells people to be watchful just as we’re told here. Note that after the Battle of Armageddon has been raging Jesus suddenly appears on the scene and ends the war (Revelation 19:17-20).

v. 3. Here we have more descriptions of what the times will be like when Jesus comes for “the Second Coming.” In addition to 1. “as a thief in the night” (v. 2) it will also be: 2. When Peace is Spoken Instead Devastation Hits (“when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them”), 3. Quickly (“as labor pains”), 4. No Escape (“they shall not escape”). Let’s talk about what these mean:

They say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.” This will be noticeably different than any other time. We’ve always had plenty of people talk about “peace.” But when Jesus comes after literal hell on earth all of the people who have told others to be at peace and also have claimed there is peace and safety will see what true judgment and destruction looks like. This is very clear today considering the terrorist attacks in Brussels Belgium that happened at about midnight PST (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869254 ). I heard an interview with someone from the U.S. Department of Defense this morning and when asked when terrorist attacks would stop she didn’t say, ‘only Jesus can bring peace’, she started listing tactics and intelligence and military might. But it’s hopeless without Jesus. I mean literally there is no way to get peace around the globe without Jesus’ intervention. The very people saying these things (“they say”) will be the ones immediately, completely annihilated (“sudden destruction comes upon them”). There will have been a time when the Anti-Christ offers a peace plan that will work for a short time (Revelation 6:2*) but his true motives will be revealed – “to conquer.” As this begins the 7 year Tribulation it will be evident that sin and evil will never result in peace. Sadly, there will be many who won’t acknowledge God’s peace plan and willfully condemn themselves to hell.

As labor pains.This is imagery meaning an increase in frequency and intensity. This, again, will be unlike anything the world has seen. As the Tribulation winds down the “destruction” will come on more quickly and painfully. Part of this is what Satan and the Anti-Christ bring into the picture but much of it is dished out by the Father and the Son.

They shall not escape.Revelation shows us people will try and commit suicide but will be unable to kill themselves (Revelation 9:6) and will try and hide from God although they will be unable to do so (Revelation 6:16). Both of these will have happened prior to the “Day of the Lord” that we’re talking about here but we see how stubborn it is for people who know God is real (acknowledging Him) and reject His salvation (instead they beg to be hidden from His face). They have no one to blame but themselves.

 

* Revelation 6:2: The Anti-Christ has a “bow” which is considered a peace plan. But since there are no arrows the peace plan will fail.

vv. 4-5. “But you” marks an important point: Paul notes he’s not talking about the non-Christians from verse 3 anymore, now he’s speaking to the Christians both in Thessalonica and us today. He’s saying the believers (“brethren” and sisters!) are “not in darkness” which means we have a light, a roadmap, for the end times. We also are of the “light” and not of the “darkness” (v. 6). We know “that this Day” will not “overtake [us] as a thief” because this “Day” refers specifically to the Tribulation and since Christians won’t be on earth of that it won’t “overtake us.”

vv. 6-8. So if Christians aren’t on earth for the Tribulation or for the “Day of the Lord” why does Paul give a warning of not “sleeping” here? Because true Christians will be raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Devotional # 181) but that doesn’t mean just because you go to church or say you’re a Christian that you will be raptured. The clear distinction between the “true” Christian and everyone else (the “pretend” religious person included) is shown here. Let’s look at it like this:

“True” Christian: 1. “sons and daughters of light and of the day” (v. 5); 2. “not asleep”; 3. “watching”; and 4. “sober” (v. 6).

Everyone Else: 1. “of the night” and “of darkness”; 2. Not watching (by implication); 3. “sleeping at night”; and 4. “drunk at night” (v. 7).

It should be obvious that this has nothing to do with being lazy or any sort of physical sleep and certainly not with drinking alcohol but the principles and attributes that accompany such things. If you are scared of not being a “true” Christian then now is the time to take action! If you allow yourself to be spiritually lulled to sleep you will miss the Rapture and consequently endure the Tribulation. And for anyone reading this thinking, “this is the typical doomsday speech about becoming a Christian to avoid all the bad stuff” I would agree with you in one way, but in another way I would ask you what’s the alternative? If I die and I’m wrong then I’ve lived a life helping people and reading a Book that has told me to put my family first and stop being selfish. But if you’re wrong you end up going through hell on earth (the Tribulation) and the only time it stops is when you find out that you’re going to the very literal hell. Personally, I hate fire and brimstone tactics to force people into repentance. Jesus never forced anyone, but He made sure they knew. Now you know.

So for those of us who want to be found “watching” and “sober” what can we do? Paul gives us two things to put on: 1. “the breastplate of faith and love” and 2. “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” The “breastplate” covered the vital organs of the body and in the same way “faith and love” protect our vital spiritual “organs.” Interestingly, “salvation” is always associated with the “helmet” (as we saw in Ephesians 6:17, Devotional # 119).

v. 9. This is probably the most important verse to show that believers won’t endure God’s wrath but instead will be saved from His judgement. If you think about it, what would be the point? Why would God put us through something like that if we’ve been faithful to His command of “denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him” (Matthew 16:24)? Although some think that this refers to Christians being saved from God’s eternal wrath and not His Tribulation wrath I disagree. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 we see “asleep” and so it follows that “whether we wake or sleep” we will “live together with Him.” Sure, God’s judgment wrath was “appointed” on us before we accepted Jesus and it would apply then that if we were among the last group of Christians on earth that the wrath reserved for sinful people during the Tribulation would also be “appointed” on us. But the very fact of accepting Jesus removes us out of any and all of God’s wrath, whether that be hell or hell on earth.

There is an incredibly interesting contrariety (not contradiction) here: Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation.” In the same way that we can’t have Three-in-One and yet we have the Trinity and we can’t have Jesus be both fully God and fully Man and yet He is, in the same way, we see here that the words “appoint” and “obtain” sit comfortably next to each other. “Appoint emphasizes God’s sovereignty, but obtain is a word that emphasizes human effort. Together, they show that the full scope of salvation involves both divine initiative and human effort” (Source 2). Somehow, although we cannot do good works to earn our way into heaven, God has given us a choice and as such, we are responsible for choosing what He has done for us.

vv. 10-11. What has He done? “Our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us.” The fact that the same God that holds that “wrath”, that terrible “Day of the Lord”, our fate, in His hand, would humble Himself and come down to earth and die for our sins is incredible! But what else would have worked? How could anyone but a perfect God judge us? And at the same time how could He ever find anyone equal to Him in perfection? So it had to be Him who saved us! And that is the great news that Paul tells us to “comfort each other and edify one another” with.

Conclusion. Has this put things into perspective for you? Sure, an understanding of our Bible vocabulary words will be really helpful for you as you strive to be “watchful” and “sober”, but even if you can’t remember all of those things what will stick with you is that Jesus wants us to be vigilant and to encourage each other with Jesus’ great gift of salvation! But we can’t keep it to ourselves! We have to share this gift with other who haven’t trust Him as their Lord and Savior!

 

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1849.

Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_5.cfm?a=1116001

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Devotional # 119. Ephesians 6:11-18 (The “Armor of God”)

Devotional # 119. 1/12/15. Ephesians 6:11-18. The “Armor of God.”

Intro. To understand the amazing “Armor of God” we have to remember what we talked about last week. We went over verse 10 which says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” The main points were that although we will have to go through a lot of spiritual warfare we’re not doing it alone but in the strength and power of Jesus’ might. This is the perfect introduction to the “Armor of God”!

I have had a quote hanging next to my computer at work for the last 10 years. It reminds me of what it means to be a good leader. The quote is from Julius Caesar who said, “Every soldier has the right to competent command.” It means that every person who is putting their life on the line deserves to have a leader who makes wise and informed decisions. I have used this in my life as a motto as I lead people but it really clicked with me as I was preparing this devotional that it is true of Jesus. Jesus is the perfect leader! Again, He doesn’t make us do something He didn’t do first, He doesn’t leave us alone but He has already won the battle and gives us the armor to protect us.

vv. 11-13. Paul tells us several things: 1. That there is an “armor of God” available, 2. That we should put it on and 3. Why we should put it on. I would expect Paul to tell us to put on the armor and then immediately tell us what the armor is, but he doesn’t. He tells us why we need it.

Did you notice that at the beginning of this section Paul is saying that these will be tools to make you “stand” (v. 11) then at the end he says “having done all, to stand” (v. 13). It’s important for us to remember that Jesus has already won the war: we don’t fight for victory we fight from victory. So we are not expected to run headlong into battle but instead to “stand” in defense. This is difficult and takes patience and self-control.

It may seem cowardly or foolish but we are given the order by our commanding officer and we obey it. One of the reasons is that we’re not fighting against humans (“flesh and blood”) but against Satan and his demons (v. 12). We never want to lift Satan up or glorify him but we need to have a healthy amount of fear of what he is capable of. If we do not then we will fall for his lies and temptations.

vv. 14-17. Now we come to the actual items that each of us has for personal use.

Regarding the “belt of truth” (v. 14): Roman soldiers had a belt that was part of their underwear rather than their armor. It pulled up their tunic so that they could march or run easily. The belt would give them “a sense of hidden strength and confidence.” Our belt of truth can be understood as “the truth” as in “the revelation of God in Christ and in Scripture” but it can also be understood as “integrity” so that the Christian is honest and above reproach (Source 1, p. 277). Remember this is to thwart the devil so in both senses how our hidden strength comes from what we know about Jesus from the Bible and our resolve to be truthful and never slip into the devil’s way of lying.

The next one is the “breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14). I have often heard it said that we should note that there is only a breastplate and not anything to protect the Christians back. Some use this to encourage believers to not run away in battle, and while that’s good advice, a Roman breastplate usually consisted of back and front protection. Regardless of that side note what is Paul trying to teach us? There are three main theories: 1. Since the word Paul uses for “righteousness” here is often translated “justification” Paul could mean “God’s gracious initiative in putting sinners right with himself through Christ.” This makes sense because if I have to go up against Satan who is always accusing me I would much rather be protected by Christ’s righteousness than my own (Source 1, pp. 278-279). 2. Another theory is since Paul spoke of moral righteousness in a similar context in 2 Corinthians 6:7 and what we studied in Ephesians 4:24, then “the Christians breastplate may be righteousness of character and conduct” (Source 1, p. 279). But the third option might be best: 3. Combining the two. As G. G. Findlay agreed, “The completeness of pardon for past offense and the integrity of character that belong to the justified life, are woven together into an impenetrable [chain]mail” (Source 1, p. 279).

Next are the sandals “with the “preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15). Some call these boots but I call them sandals because of the open toe. Either way, they let the Roman soldier have free movement but keep really good traction. The wording on this is a little bit weird and of course there are multiple theories. I think the best one is that this “preparation” or “firmness” gives traction and stability to the person equipped with the “gospel of peace.” So if we have accepted the good news of Jesus and are sharing that with others then we both have a “peace of mind” about our eternity and ultimately a “peace” with others. Tying this to the context of fighting against Satan, “we have the firmest possible foothold from which to fight evil” (Source 2, p. 280).

For the “shield of faith” (v. 16): the type of shield that Paul is describing is very interesting in its construction. Basically it was 1.2 meters (almost 4 feet) long, protecting the whole body and designed to put out the arrows, dipped in pitch and lit on fire, that would get shot and stuck in it (Source 1, p. 281). So Satan has flaming darts of our self-doubt, lust, anger and so on and he shoots them at us. But how does faith work in putting out these arrows? When we cling to the promises that God has given us (Psalm 119:31), when we remember the times that He has gotten us through temptation or depression in the past and when we remember that God is good (Psalm 119:68) and that He will never give us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13), then we are gripping our “shield of faith”!!

The “helmet of salvation” (v. 17) is likened to the Roman soldier’s helmet which was usually made out of bronze or iron and really difficult to pierce. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (Devotional # 182), Paul describes the helmet as the “hope of salvation” in other words “final salvation”. Here, it appears to be “salvation” like forgiveness from sin. I like what Stott says here: “but whether our headpiece is that measure of salvation which we have already received (forgiveness, deliverance from Satan’s bondage, and adoption into God’s family) or the confident expectation of for salvation on the last day (including resurrection glory and Christ-likeness in heaven), there is no doubt that God’s saving power is our only defense against the enemy of our souls” (Source 1, p. 281-282).

Finally, the “sword of the Spirit” (v. 17) is easily described as “the word of God”. This is probably the most famous of the pieces of armor (possibly because it is explained by Paul). But we can learn a few things by meditating on what God means by this. It is the only item of the armor that is plainly both defensive and offensive. If you think about it the word of God cuts through peoples excuses, pride, hard hearts and defenses and ultimately convicts them. But it also is defensive in the way that Jesus used it when being tempted by Satan (Mathew 4).

v. 18. I have included verse 18 here although I’m going to expound on it a little more next week. Its important that we don’t cut Paul short just because there aren’t any more items of armor left. His statement isn’t just that we have these great spiritual tools at our disposal but also that they must be accompanied by “praying” and “being watchful” for other sisters and brothers in Christ. We have been given these tools not just to defend ourselves but to help the rest of our Christian family.

Conclusion. I think the best way to conclude this section is from a retired Marine who has been in actual warfare. This person actually receives this devotional each week but he is in a much better place to comment on the parallels between real warfare and spiritual warfare than I am. He says, “What stands out to me is that God is telling us to be ready as if we were going into an open field of battle and that He understands we need to be equipped with the correct weapons and armor, otherwise we will fall. Realizing these weapons of God are not a physical armor that can be touched or worn, without them we will still fall in the battle against evil as one would fall against a sword. The other thing that comes to mind is well known as a football analogy but it was true in the military too; that you must “practice how you play” (or fight). If you never put on the “weapons” to see how it feels and how you can move or swing your sword or shoot your weapon or hold your shield, you will not be as effective in battle. If you use it often and become comfortable wearing it, you have a better chance of survival. The same is true for the weapons of God, if you never wear them, you will not be as effective when the time comes to battle evil” (Source 2).

References
Source 1: John R.W. Stott,The Message of Ephesians, 1979.

Source 2: Personal Interview (via text), FB, 1/11/15.