30 August 2011

"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." (v. 8)


The Thessalonians had been evangelised by Paul during his second missionary journey (see Acts, chapters 15-18), and this letter was written from Corinth after he had received news of their progress from Timothy.

One problem in the church of which Timothy seems to have informed Paul was that they had been overcome by grief at the death of some of their number (1 Thessalonians 4:13). It is possible that they believed that they would all survive to the day of Jesus' return, and when some of them died they imagined that they had missed out on the promise of final salvation. In response to this problem, Paul assures them that the Lord would come in due time, and that when he comes he will raise up believers who had died to be with him for ever (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

The present passage elaborates this teaching further. The "day of the Lord" (v. 2), ie the day of Jesus' return, is unknown, and when it comes, it will come suddenly - like a thief in the night, or like the beginning of a woman's labour pains when she is about to give birth (verse 2-3). Many will be shocked and surprised by the event, but not believers who are already living in spiritual fellowship with Christ, and are waiting with eager longing for his coming (verses 4-5, 9-10).

This does not mean, however, that Christians can rest on their laurels. The passage is full of encouragement to keep spiritually awake and sober, and to live lives which are marked by faith, love and hope (verses 6-8). Moreover, Paul stresses the importance of fellowship with other Christian (verse 11). Being a Christian for him is not a solitary calling, but one lived out in the company of other believers.

To Ponder

To what extent does "the day of the Lord" figure in your thinking?

What practical difference might an awareness of Jesus' future coming make in your life today?

If Jesus were to come back today, would you be ready to meet him? If not, what do you think you might need to do to be ready to meet him?

Bible notes author: The Revd Peter Ensor

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