(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Introduction: We left our study last week with Paul's glorious description of the Second Coming of Jesus and the instruction "therefore encourage each other with these words." After hearing the fabulous news that Jesus was coming again, and He would save both the living and the dead, the next obvious question is, "When?" When will Jesus come again? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible because that is something we all want to know!
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1. What is Paul talking about? This is exactly what we want to know! Why does Paul dodge this important next question by saying "we do not need to write you" about when?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:2. What do you think of this answer? (Paul says he does not need to tell us about the timing of the Second Coming because we know that we are supposed to be surprised.)
- I don't know about you, but I would like to know when, during the night, a thief was coming to visit me! Would you agree that the timing of a thief's night visit is something that you need to know? (Think about this a minute. You want to repel a thief because you know he only has harm in mind. Isn't Jesus' Second Coming more like a hidden police officer with a radar gun checking our speed? If you are not speeding you don't care where or when the officer is hiding, right?)
- Read Acts 1:6-7. Is this a popular question? How does Jesus handle the answer? (Like Paul! Jesus says we do not need to know.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Who should care about the timing? (Those who are destroyed. Those who deny that a judgment is coming.)
- Paul has chosen a very odd illustration for his argument that the Second Coming will be a surprise. Is a pregnant woman taken completely by surprise by labor pains? Whoops, I just gave birth! Now that was unexpected!
- If I were writing this, I would say, "Just as a person strolling along the path is killed by a falling meteor, so is the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming." Why do you think Paul chose his illustration instead of mine? (Because it is not a complete surprise. Paul is telling us that we do not need to know the specifics, and people will be in denial, but we are given general warnings of the approach of the Second Coming.)
- On Alert
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4. What is the difference between the brothers and the world when it comes to the timing of the Second Coming? (Paul says that we are not in darkness, we are not surprised.)
- How do you explain the apparent contradiction between 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ("you know very well" Jesus will come like a night thief) and 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ("you are not in darkness" and should not be surprised)? Is Jesus coming like a night thief or not? (This gets back to our pregnant woman. Paul tells us that if we are paying attention, we will not be surprised - even though it is a surprising event to the world. However, we still need to deal with the fact that both Paul and Jesus tell us that we really do not need to know the precise timing.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6. What is the key to anticipating the night thief so that we are not surprised, even though we do not have precise information about timing? (The problem with night thieves is that it is dark (so they are harder to see) and we are sleeping (we have a low level of awareness). Paul says live like it is day and keep your level of awareness high.)
- Read Luke 21:34-36. When Paul was talking about the light, day, night, sleeping and drunkenness, he was speaking in generalities. It was clarity versus obscurity. What does Jesus tell us are the practical barriers to clarity? The barriers to being in the light and being alert? (The anxieties of life that cause us to look away from reality.)
- My guess is that most of the readers of this lesson are not running around drunk all the time. Did you know that texting while driving is like drinking while driving - in terms of driver alertness? What about texting, surfing the Internet, and television watching while living? Does this make us less alert to reality? Are we distracted from what is going on around us?
- How do you handle anxiety? Do you try to distract yourself or look to God for help?
- For most Americans, "judgment" comes in the form of a speeding (or some other kind) of traffic ticket. Think of your last ticket, were you alert or distracted when the police pulled you over? (Paul and Jesus tell us not to live a distracted life. Pay attention to God things and pay attention to signs of His Second Coming.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:7. Do you spend most of your waking time during the night or the day? Do you think that could make a difference in your behavior?
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Paul again uses some interesting illustrations. What do a breastplate and helmet do? (They protect you against attacks.)
- How can faith, love and hope protect us against attacks? (Recall that the problem, according to Jesus, is being distracted by anxiety. Faith, love and hope guard against anxiety. Faith, love and hope help us to keep from being distracted by the world.)
- How does "self-control" play a role in the goal of not being distracted? (If you want to avoid being distracted by the problems of life, pay attention to how much of your problems you create! A little self-control goes a long way toward living a more peaceful life.)
- Wrath Avoidance
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. What is God's appointing for us? (Salvation, not wrath.)
- Re-read 1 Thessalonians 5:10. According to this verse, when it comes to living together with God, does it matter whether we are awake or asleep? (This text rather clearly says, "no," it does not matter.)
- What does this mean?
- I looked at a number of translations to see if the NIV was unique in conveying the idea that we live with God whether we are awake or asleep. The NIV is not unique in this. It seems to me there are three ways to understand this:
- Jesus died for everyone whether they are part of the darkness or the light.
- We are saved by grace, and whether we are sleeping or alert, we are saved. The difference is that the alert people will not be shocked by the Second Coming.
- The NLT looks back to the discussion in the prior chapter about what happens to those Christians who died before the Second Coming and says we are saved by Jesus whether we are "alive or dead."
- Which one (or more) of these possible explanations do you think is a correct understanding of this? (We have previously discussed that the Thessalonians had some serious sin issues. Paul calls them (v. 5) "all sons of the light." I think that is the grace message. Like the Thessalonians who chose God, we wrestle with sin without losing our salvation. However, since Paul says that those who "belong to the night" (v. 5) are not only surprised, but that "destruction will come on them suddenly" (v. 3), I do not understand verse 10 to mean that those who sleep, and who are part of the night, will be saved.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Last week when Paul told us about the Second Coming, and that all who believed in Jesus, whether living or dead, would go to heaven with Him, he ended with "encourage each other with these words ( 1 Thessalonians 4:18). Paul did not need to explain why this was encouraging news. Explain why 1 Thessalonians 5:11 is encouraging news? (The verses that we studied in this lesson are the heart of the gospel! Jesus died to give both the good and the bad the possibility of salvation. If we choose to be sons and daughters of the light, by accepting grace, then we will not be surprised by the Second Coming and we will not be destroyed by it!)
- Friend, are you encouraged by that news? If you have not given your heart to Jesus, and chosen to become a child of the light, will you do so right now? Why be surprised and destroyed when Jesus returns?
- Next week: Church Life.