1Thessalonians 5 - Outline of 1Thessalonians (Book Notes menu page)
In this chapter, Paul continues teaching about the second coming of Christ, which will occur in two stages...
Chapter 5 can be outlined as follows --
  1. The Coming of Christ in Judgment, a surprise to them, but not to us (v.1-5)
  2. The Commitment of Believers, in anticipation of His Coming (v.6-24)
    1. Our Conduct in this dark world (v.6-10)
    2. Our Communication with one another (v.11-15)
    3. Our Communication with God (v.16-18)
    4. Our reception of Communication from God (v.19-22)
    5. Our Completion at His Coming (v.23,24)
  3. The Closing Charge of this letter (v.25-28)
1. But of the times and the seasons, brethren,
ye have no need that I write unto you.
2 For yourselves know perfectly
that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety;
then sudden destruction cometh upon them,
as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
...of the times {GK=chronos, chronological time, duration} and seasons {GK=kairos, periods with specific characteristics}...
...ye have no need that I write unto you.
The word 'need' {GK=chreia} has two possible meanings (cp. this word, in 1The 1:8; 4:9)...
  1. You have no 'necessity' or 'essential need' to perfectly understand future events.
    Their true need was to attend to the task which the Lord has given the church, while trusting Him with the details (such as the day and hour of His return). cp. Acts 1:6-8
  2. You have no 'lack' of instruction concerning future events.
    Paul's teaching, about future things, had been remarkably thorough, during his brief ministry in Thessalonica. Therefore, they had an accurate understanding, about...
...the day of the Lord...-
Throughout the OT prophetic books, and also in the NT, "The Day of the Lord" refers to the period in which the Lord will exercise judgment upon the kingdoms of this world, displacing them with the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, which will be followed by His final judgment of all men. Most of the book of Revelation deals with this period.
     'The Day of the Lord' will bring the 'Times of the Gentiles' to its end. The Times of the Gentiles is the period of Gentile world dominion which began with the captivity of Judah and the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon (in 586 BC). The final form of Gentile dominion will be under the rule of the Antichrist. Throughout this period, men consider themselves the rulers and judges of all things. Paul recognized the imperfection 'of man's judgment' and would not even trust himself to judge himself (1Cor 4:3, where the GK phrase 'of man's judgment' is lit., 'the day of man'). God's judgment is far superior to man's judgment (Rom 2:1-3). In the Day of the Lord, all men will finally bow before Him.
     'The Day of the Lord' follows soon after 'the Day of Christ' (which refers to His coming to take His own to be with Him, in the Rapture, as we saw in 1The 4:13-18). These two events are in sharp contrast.
...the day of the Lord so {ie., in this manner} cometh as a thief in the night.-
That day of judgment will come unexpectedly (as an unpleasant surprise) to the world of ungodly men, because they are willfully ignorant of God's Word.
     That day will 'come' {GK=erchomai, arise, show itself} with the 'coming' {GK=parousia, presence} of Christ to the earth.
     In this first epistle to the Thessalonians, every occurrence of the GK word 'parousia' refers to His coming, in the air, to receive His own. But elsewhere, this word is also applied to Christ's coming in judgment upon sinful men. eg., 2The 2:8,9 (where v.8 refers to the presence of Christ, and v.9 refers to the presence of the Antichrist); Mat 24:27,37,39; also compare Mal 3:2.
     The 'parousia' of Christ, in the air, will be very good for the saints. But His 'parousia,' to the earth in judgment, will be very bad for sinners.
for when they shall say peace... then sudden destruction 'cometh upon' {GK=epihistemi, stands over} them...
The nations will be assured of 'peace' {ie., harmonious inter-relationships} and 'safety' {ie., security}, when the Antichrist establishes his new world order, which will include his covenant with Israel. But with the breaking of that covenant, unexpected ruin will overtake them. (see Dan 8:25; 9:27). (cp., Isa 13:6-11; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20).
...as travail upon a woman with child...
'Travail' is the pain of childbirth. When the time comes, unavoidable distress will overtake Israel and all the nations. But through these birth pangs, the Lord will bring His purposes to pass, as the nations are judged and the Messiah's Kingdom is brought forth to fill the earth. Jer 30:5-10
...and they shall not escape {ie., flee out}.- cp. Luk 21:34-36
Note the pronoun change between v.2 and v.3 (from 'ye' to 'they'). The effect of Christ's coming is very different for believers versus unbelievers. In v.1-11, the first and second person pronouns (we, us, you, ye) apply to believers, while unbelievers are identified as 'they' and 'them.'
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,
that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day:
we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Ye... are not in darkness...-
Because believers have the light of God's Word as illuminated by His Spirit, we are aware of, and prepared for, the coming day of judgment.
     But for unbelievers, the coming of that day will be more than surprising. It will 'overtake' them {GK=katalambano, seize upon, lay hold upon; (cp. the way this word is used in Mark 9:18 'taketh'; Joh 8:3,4 'taken')}.
     Like a thief, that day will unexpectedly overtake unbelievers with violence (cp. Joh 10:10).
Ye are... children of the light... of the day...- cp. Joh 1:1-5; 1Joh 1:5-7; 1Cor 2:12,14; 2Pet 1:19
...not of the night, nor of darkness.-
The words 'night' and 'darkness' are frequently applied to the realm of evil spiritual powers, and to human blindness to God's truth. 2Cor 4:3,4; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13
6. Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others;
but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night;
and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
Therefore {ie., since we are of the light} let us not sleep {GK=katheudo, fall asleep, become indifferent}...
This is a different word for 'sleep' than in 1The 4:13-18, where 'sleep' was a euphemism for a believer's physical death. Here, the believer is admonished not to become inattentive, apathetic, or distracted from the vocation to which God's children are called. Eph 4:1
...but let us watch {GK=gregoreuo, be alert, (translated as 'wake' in v.10)} and be sober {GK=nepho, free of intoxicants}.
  • watch - cp. word use in Mat 26:38,40-41; 1Pet 5:8 ('be vigilant')
    We must be alert to the weakness of our flesh and to the strength of our enemy.
  • be sober - cp. word use in 1Pet 1:13; 4:7, 5:8
    We are engaged in a spiritual battle (v.8).
    We must not allow anything to dull or distract our hearts and minds from heeding our Lord's instructions.
...for they that sleep... are drunken in the night.
'Night' is the realm of spiritual darkness, when the thief comes unexpectedly (v.4).
Apathetic inattention and fleshly distraction prevent a person from watching. Luk 21:34,35
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober,
putting on the breastplate of faith and love;
and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath,
but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep,
we should live together with him.
...the breastplate of faith and love... an helmet, the hope of salvation...-
A longer list of the believer's 'armor' is given in Eph 6:11-18 (see the Book Notes on that passage for explanation of each item). There, as here, this equipment is to enable us to 'stand' against the spiritual 'darkness of this world.' Here, we will not take time to consider the purposes of the various pieces of armor, or the differences between the two lists. But notice, in the shorter list before us, that these pieces are not ornamental or decorative. They represent the enduring substance of our identification with the One who is the Light, and whose Day is about to dawn "...faith, hope, love, these three" (1Cor 13:13; 1The 1:3).
     Here, in v.8, "faith and love" guard the heart, while "the hope {confident expectation} of salvation" protects the mind, against the wiles of the wicked one, who would draw us away into his darkness.
...for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation...
Through faith in Christ, the believer has been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin. He is no longer under God's wrath (Joh 3:18,36). But the believer is a child of Light living in a dark world. He is 'in the world,' but not 'of the world.' When Christ comes again, the believer's salvation will be fully realized, when he is fully delivered from the presence and power of sin and spiritual darkness. 1Pet 1:3-5,13
     At Christ's coming in the air for His own (at the Rapture), He will take the true church out of the world, to be with Him (1The 4:13-18). Shortly thereafter, He will come to the earth to exercise the wrath of God (during the Day of the Lord, v.2,3). The true church will be removed, before God's wrath is poured out upon the earth (v.9; 1The 1:10).
This order of events is consistent with other passages...
  • which place the Rapture prior to the Tribulation period. Examples...
    • Rev 3:10, where the Lord promises believers who have kept His Word, that He will keep them from 'the hour of testing' that will come on the earth.
    • Rev 4:1, where the trumpet-like voice of Christ calls 'Come up hither,' and the church is not mentioned again (in the long section describing the Tribulation, Rev ch.6-18), until reappearing with Christ, in the closing chapters of that book.
  • which define the length of the Tribulation as a period of seven years, and count off the last half of the period by months and days (eg., Dan 9:27; Rev 13:4,5). During this period, the Antichrist will secure his power, persecute those who turn to Christ, and make and break his covenant with Israel.
    No man knows the day or hour when the Tribulation period (the Day of the Lord) will begin, or when Christ will return to the earth (Mat 24:36; 25:13). Yet, once that day begins, the prophesied events will follow a precise schedule, in a count-down to the end (eg., Rev 11:3; 12:6). However, this period cannot begin until 'that which hinders' is removed (2The 2:7,8). Therefore, the period of Tribulation will begin, after Christ's coming {parousia} 'in the air' to remove the true church from the earth (at the Rapture). The Tribulation period (and Gentile world dominion) will end at Christ's coming {parousia} 'to earth' in judgment.
       As noted previously, the Lord's return for His own is imminent (it could happen at any time). There are no prophetic events which must precede it. However, those who watch will know the time is near, as they see prophesied features of the future Tribulation, coalescing on the world stage (eg., Mat 24:32-34).
...to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, that... we should live together with Him.
Our salvation is entirely the work of our Lord, who died and arose that we might live with Him. Everyone, who trusts in Him, is already saved from sin and its punishment. As we learn to walk with Him, by the Spirit, we are being saved from sin's power and fleshly impurity. But we will not be fully delivered from the power and presence of sin, until Christ takes us out of this world into His presence (1Joh 3:1-3). At His coming for us, our salvation will be fully realized: "and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1The 4:17). This is the believer's blessed hope.
...that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (v.10)
What does this mean? Scholars have suggested two different meanings.
  1. All true believers, whether physically alive {'wake'} or dead {'sleep'} when Christ comes for us, will be taken to be with Him at the Rapture. (This verse restates and summarizes 1The 4:13-18).
    [The editor considers this to be the primary meaning.]
  2. All true believers, whether 'watchful' or 'slumbering' in the night of sin, will be taken to be with Christ at the Rapture.
    1. The basis of this interpretation is the use of a different Greek word for 'sleep' in the discussion of watchfulness (v.1-10), than in the discussion of the Rapture, where the word for 'watch' or 'wake' does not appear (1The 4:13-18).
      However, both words for 'sleep' are applied to the 'sleep' of death, in other passages. In the context of ch.5, only those who remain physically alive can be 'awake' or 'watchful' {both words are GK=gregoreuo, remain awake, vigilant, watchful}.
    2. The argument is: Because the words 'wake' and 'sleep' refer to 'watchfulness' versus 'inattentiveness,' in v.6-8, that meaning must be applied to those words in v.10 (thus, inferring that it does not matter if you neglect to watch). However, that interpretation undermines the exhortation to watch, which is urgently pressed in the preceding verses.
      Some, who argue in favor of this interpretation, use the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Mat 25:1-13) to illustrate their view, because entrance to the marriage (by the wise virgins) was not determined by their degree of diligence (for 'all slumbered and slept,' Mat 25:5), but by the oil in their lamps (signifying the Holy Spirit within them).
         However, this parable does not relate to the Lord's return for His bride (the church), but rather, to His return with His bride, to gather the bride's companions (the remnant of Israel, at the end of the Tribulation) to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. These two events are distinct and should not be confused. [See the Book Notes at Matthew 25:1-13.]
    3. The editor considers this view dangerous, because it diminishes the need to watch.
      A characteristic of true believers is that they are watching expectantly for Christ's return (v.4-6; 1Cor 11:26; 1The 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 2Tim 4:8; Titus 2:13; Heb 9:27,28). Although a true believer may not have a clear comprehension of eschatology (the study of end-time prophetic events), his/her heart should be occupied with the Lover of our souls (Joh 14:3; 1Pet 1:5-9).
         It is true that our salvation rests entirely upon the One who purchased us with His blood, and sealed and sanctified us through His Spirit (eg., Eph 1:13,14; 1Pet 1:2), not upon our works or diligence in watching. Yet, the indwelling Holy Spirit will cause the true child of God to yearn for our Lord's return (eg., 1Pet 1:7,8; also see references in the paragraph above).
         In all earthly trials, the believer is comforted by the 'blessed hope' {confident expectation} that Christ is coming again for His own, whether they are alive (and, therefore, watching) or have previously been laid aside in the 'sleep' of death. The same comfort is expressed in 1The 4:16-18, as here, in v.9-11.
11. Wherefore comfort yourselves together,
and edify one another, even as also ye do.
12 And we beseech you, brethren,
to know them which labour among you,
and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.
[And] be at peace among yourselves.
wherefore, comfort {GK=parakaleo, come alongside, encourage}... edify {ie., build up} one another...-
As believers, our common hope is to live together with Him (v.10). Until He comes, we must learn to live together with one another. Individual believers must be encouraged to live as children of the light, and to grow into maturity as God's sons. Heb 3:13; 10:25
     The word 'edify' {GK=oikodomeo, lit., build a house, build a building} also looks beyond the edification of individual believers, to the building of the church into an integrated body, in which believers are working together as led by the Lord (Eph 4:11-16).
...we beseech you... to know {GK=oida, to recognize by observation} them which labour among you...
In the local church, there is an order of leadership: Christ the head, the elders (which may have various titles), and the body of believers. The assembly of believers should recognize those who qualify as leaders by observing their way of life and the way the Lord has enabled them for ministry (cp., 1Tim 3:1-13).
In v.12, these leaders are identified as...-
  • them which labour {ie., toil to exhaustion} among you...-
    These give of themselves, freely and joyfully, for the good of the body, as motivated by love for Christ. They are humble men who lead from 'among' the people.
  • and are over you in the Lord...-
    Their authority and responsibility is according to the Lord's appointment. These humble men are very aware of their accountability to Him, for the welfare of His flock.
  • and 'admonish' you {GK=noutheteo, to warn, to put in mind}.
    These are men who know God's Word, live accordingly, and are 'apt to teach' others to follow the Lord's way.
    (compare the three points, above, with 1Pet 5:1-5)
[we beseech you to]... esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake...-
Believers are to honor such servants of the Lord, holding them in high regard. This esteem rests upon 'love' {GK=agape, the high type of love which willingly does hard things in behalf of the loved one} and includes submission to their leadership (1Cor 4:1,2; Heb 13:17).
...be at peace among yourselves. Joh 13:34,35; Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:15
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly,
comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men].
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any [man];
but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all [men].
...we exhort {ie., admonish, implore} you, brethren...-
(These words are directed to believers in general, not only to the leaders.)
  • warn {GK=noutheteo, put in mind} them that are unruly {ie., disorderly}...
    Those who refuse to submit to leaders need to be corrected with God's Word. 2Tim 2:24-26
  • comfort {GK=paramutheomai, console, encourage} the feebleminded {ie., the faint hearted}...
    Those, who are fearful of persecution, or of failure in their walk, need personal encouragement in the form of kind words, and gentle persuasion, from a brother or sister in the Lord.
  • support {ie., hold near} the weak {ie., the infirm}...
    Those without strength, such as babes in Christ, need someone to nourish and nurture them, with tender care.
  • be patient {GK=makrothumeo, long tempered} toward all men...-
    This word for 'be patient' is translated 'suffereth long' in 1Cor 13:4-5.
    Difficult people (whether believers or unbelievers), need to be treated with love that is slow to anger.
    Believers "...must not return evil for evil... but ever follow that which is good..." (v.15)
    There must be no thought of 'getting even' or 'taking vengeance,' for our Lord has blessed us, though we are undeserving of His kindness. Mat 5:43-45; Rom 12:14; Eph 4:31,32
16. Rejoice evermore {GK=pantote, always}.
17 Pray without ceasing
{GK=adialeiptos, without interruption}.
18 In every thing
{GK=en pas, in all} give thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
{1Joh 2:17}
The believer's communication with God, should be characterized by...
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise
{GK=exoutheneo, disregard as without value} not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
The believer's reception of communication from God, should be characterized by...
  • Obedience to the Holy Spirit's leading.
    The Spirit is grieved when we willfully follow our fleshly ways (Eph 4:30-32).
    The Spirit is quenched {put out, extinguished} when we refuse to follow His leading (eg., to speak His Word 'in season and out,' Jer 20:9; 2Tim 4:2).
  • Not disregarding the proclaimed Word of God.
    The word 'prophesy' refers 'to speaking forth' God's message.
    The 'forth telling' of God's Word may or may not involve 'fore-telling' the future.
    Of course, we are responsible to hear and heed God's Word. eg., Luk 8:18; Rom 10:14,15; 1The 2:13
         In apostolic times, before the NT was completed, prophesying included newly revealed truth, which sometimes was not easily comprehended or assimilated. Then, as now, there was need for discernment between God's Word and the deceptive messages of false teachers and false prophets (eg., 1Tim 4:1-3; 2Pet 1:20- 2:2).
  • Testing all, holding onto that which is good {right, worthwhile}.
    All the words of every preacher or teacher must be tested against the revealed Word of God. Isa 8:19,20; Acts 17:11; 2Tim 3:16,17
    That which is in harmony with the testimony of the whole of scripture (2Pet 1:20), is not only to be accepted, but 'held fast' (eg., Heb 10:23). Everything else must be rejected.
  • Holding back from all that appears to be evil {ie., harmful, malicious}.
    Verse 22 is often used to warn against any association with questionable activities, which could damage a believer's testimony in the eyes of others. This is good advice.
       However, the context concerns the testing of messages which are purportedly from God. Believers are to 'hold fast' that which is true, and 'abstain from' {'hold back from'} every form of evil {ie., whatever, upon testing, appears to be pernicious, or malignant} (ie., the words of false teachers, 2Tim 3:13; Mat 12:35).
       The words for 'hold fast' (v.21) and 'abstain' {'hold back from', v.22} are like opposite poles of their common root word. Cling to the Truth, be far from all else.
23. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body
be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it].
God's purposes for believers will reach completion at Christ's coming.
This work will be accomplished by...
...the very God of peace {ie., the God of peace Himself}... will do it.-
He is the God of peace, in whom there is nothing out of order. Every facet of His being is perfect in itself, and perfect in relation to every other facet of His being. For example, His truth and love are in perfect harmony. There is no conflict between His judgment and His mercy. Everything about Him is right, settled, and unchanging (Jam 1:17).
     It is not so, with men. Today, believers struggle to get along with each other. We frequently find it necessary to 'agree to disagree' in order to maintain a measure of unity within the church. Our own innermost thoughts are frequently in conflict, as the 'new nature' struggles against the fleshly 'old man.' But in His time, God's peace will fully prevail within and among His people.
...sanctify you wholly {GK=holoteles, wholly completed}...
To be sanctified is to be made holy. Today, the saints are holy in the sense of being set apart, as God's purchased possession, to serve Him (eg., 1Pet 2:9; Php 2:13-16). But when our sanctification is complete, we will be like Him, with every aspect of our being in perfect harmony with Him who is in perfect harmony with Himself (1The 3:13; 1Joh 3:2,3).
...your whole spirit, soul and body...
This phrase emphasizes that every aspect of each believer's being will be conformed to His likeness.
This phrase also teaches the 'tri-partite nature' of man. However, that is not the emphasis of the context.
...be preserved {ie., kept} blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The verb 'be preserved' is singular, while the subject ('spirit, soul, and body') is threefold. This indicates that the 'keeping' applies to the complete person.
  • The aorist tense, of the verb, "indicates a single completed action, without reference to the time occupied in its accomplishment" [Vine].
     At Christ's coming, each believer will be found completely 'blameless' {GK=amemptos, without blame}, for He purged away our guilt and sin. The word 'blameless' is not used of Christ, for He is 'unblemished' {GK=amomos} (eg., 1Pet 1:19). When He completes His work of sanctification, we will be fully like Him (eg., Eph 5:25-27).
Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it. Rom 8:28-30
The Closing Charges of this letter...
25 Brethren, pray for us. (Eph 6:18-20; 2The 3:1-3)
26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
(Rom 16:16; 1Cor 16:20)
A kiss was a culturally acceptable form of greeting, equivalent to a handshake, today.
The greeting between believers was to be a 'holy' kiss, free of any impurity.
27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
Paul's command is very strong: "I charge you {adjure, place you under obligation, bind you under an oath}."
     But he did not stop there. Those, so charged, were accountable before the Lord to fulfill the required task. This epistle, which answered specific miss-understandings within the Thessalonian church, was the Word of God, to "all the holy brethren." It was not to be kept back by the leaders, or any elite group. Every believer needs the nourishment of the milk and meat of the Word (Acts 20:27,28; 1Pet 2:1-3).
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen.

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