Peace and Safety
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 (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. (4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. The Apostle Paul, immediately prior to penning these words about the day of the Lord's coming in judgment, had written eloquently about the glorious coming of Christ to resurrect His saints (1TH 4:13-18). He continues his theme here with the contrasting conjunction, “But” (1TH 5:1). Conjunctions are words that connect words, phrases or clauses and they define a specific relationship between the parts they connect. There is therefore a relationship between the subject matter of our text today and Paul's just-mentioned coming of Christ to raise the dead. The contrast that he is vying for with the use of “But” is not to signify two different “days” or “comings” as if the “day of Christ” to resurrect His saints is distinct from the “day of the Lord” when He comes in judgment (as many believe is the case). He obviously sees the believers still on hand when judgment day comes (1TH 5:4) but that it should not take them unawares because they “...are not in darkness.” Therefore, if the believers had already been resurrected (caught up to be with the Lord) long before the day of judgment, then 1TH 5:4 makes little sense. Scripture makes clear that the righteous and the wicked coexist in this world “...until the harvest...” (MAT 13:24-30), that is, “...the end of the world” (MAT 13:37-40). When Christ comes in fiery judgment, He is also coming to be glorified in His saints (2TH 1:7-10). Deliverance and judgment are seen as happening together. Paul's use of “But” here is simply meant to connect the pending day of Christ with the fact that believers who are walking in the light will not be caught unawares, regardless of when He comes. Mind that this text shows that the date of the day of the Lord is unclear and it also shows what the conditions will be when that day comes: “...they shall say, Peace and safety...” (1TH 5:3). It has been the occasional fantasy of misguided men throughout history to make predictions of the date of the world's end and/or the coming of the Lord. Recently, Harold Camping of Family Radio made a stir by announcing that the end would come on May 21, 2011. He seems to have some sort of a cicada-cycle when it comes to apocalyptic predictions since he had seventeen years ago made a similar errant prediction for a date in 1994. Mr. Camping was sure that he had, by careful Bible study, been able to calculate the exact day of the Lord. It may be noted here that such calculations are based upon a number of questionable premises, such as: (1) the accuracy of our current calendar, (2) the accuracy of the Jewish calendar, (3) the reliability of secular and ecclesiastical records of certain events in history, (4) the notion that men can know with certainty what Christ and His apostles left in obscurity. In today's text, Paul speaks of the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night. That phrasing speaks not of secrecy relative to visibility (His coming will be anything but secret in that sense, MAT 24:30) but rather to time: a thief does not announce WHEN he is going to show up at your house. When Jesus Christ was speaking of His return to earth (the Second Coming), He said to believing disciples: Matthew 24:42-44 (42) Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (43) But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (44) Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Whereas there were things that Christ's disciples would be able to see which portended the imminent overthrow of Jerusalem which came in 70 A.D. (an event that would occur during their own generation, MAT 23:33-38; MAT 24:32-34), His coming in fiery judgment to destroy the world would be sudden and unexpected: Matthew 24:35-39 (35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (36) But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (37) But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (38) For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, (39) And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Note that it is not a matter of the wicked being the only ones ignorant of the date of that great day for that time is even unknown to the angels of heaven. Furthermore, as revealed in the parallel account in Mark's gospel, Jesus as the Son of man did not even know the day or hour! See: (Mark 13:32) But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. The suddenness of Christ's Second Coming will be a snare to ALL, and therefore believers should live in godly, fearful expectation of it at all times: Luke 21:33-36 (33) Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. (34) And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (35) For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (36) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. But what about the conditions amongst men when Christ returns? Here, it may be observed that there is a general trend to assume that seasons of social, economic, political or even geological turmoil are the certain preludes to the immediate coming of Christ. And I would here inject my own personal concerns about this: Satan knows that in desperate times, all men by nature long for some kind of savior----and he will provide them with a counterfeit savior who brings a counterfeit peace and order. Such a false savior might even look appealing to people who profess to love Jesus but who are ignorant about the facts of Scripture. No, the conditions during which Christ suddenly appears to deliver His elect and judge the world are not those in which men say, “Wars and woes” but rather “Peace and safety” per our text. Remember what Jesus had said in MAT 24:35-39 about His coming: it would be like in the days of Noah when the Flood came upon men in a state of everyday carefree living. Christ buttressed that description in Luke's gospel with a second example of sudden judgment upon carefree, godless people: Luke 17:26-30 (26) And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. (27) They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (28) Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; (29) But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (30) Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. Note two outstanding characteristics of Christ's own prophetic description of His Second Coming: (1) the righteous are delivered the SAME DAY that the wicked are destroyed, (2) a God-defying unbelieving society are in the majority and they are living it up in indulgent oblivion in peace and safety. Therefore, believer, be cautious to not be led into a false expectation by the current turmoil in this world. There have been previous seasons of geological anomalies and climate changes; the present conditions are not unique. We may indeed be on the brink of a great economic collapse and chaos that will leave humanity looking for someone to restore commercial, social, political, economic or even geologic order. But if some “savior” comes along at such a season, even if he were to show “...great signs and wonders...” (MAT 24:24) that dazzle the eyes and captivate the mind, be not led to conclude that this is the Lord Jesus Christ returning to earth. Remember, the true Christ will come suddenly when men are not expecting Him, when men are saying, “Peace and safety...” and when faith is scarcely to be found: Luke 18:7-8 (7) And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? (8) I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Be EVER watching, regardless of what is going on around you, “...and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (HEB 9:28). You “...are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1TH 5:4).