1 Thessalonians 5:1-28

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-01-28 10:36.

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Regarding his return in glory, Jesus Christ told his disciples that the “day and hour” was unknown to the angels and the Son and known only to the Father. (Mark 13:32) It was not for his disciples to know the times and seasons the Father had placed in his own authority or which were under his exclusive control. (Acts 1:7) In parables relating to his return, God’s Son repeatedly emphasized that the time of his arrival would be unexpected, requiring his disciples to maintain spiritual wakefulness and divinely approved conduct at all times. (Matthew 24:42-51; 25:1-30; Luke 12:35-48; 21:34-36)

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians conveyed the same teaching. There was no need for anyone to write to his Thessalonian brothers in Christ about times and seasons, for they knew that the day of the Lord or the time of his arrival would come like a thief in the night, unexpectedly and without a previous announcement pinpointing the time. (5:1, 2)

In the centuries since then, many have disregarded the straightforward statements of God’s Son and the apostle Paul. Drawing primarily on the book of Daniel, they have written much about times and seasons, raising false hopes in those who were willing to believe them. Despite numerous failed predictions, the leadership in some of the existing movements that have focused on “times and seasons” continues to represent itself as knowing that the time is very close, “just around the corner.” Therefore, Paul’s letter is as relevant today as it was for first century believers who had drawn wrong conclusions about the Lord’s return and made decisions about their personal life based on their erroneous view. (See 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.)

Continuing to stress that the day of the Lord would come at an unexpected time, Paul said, “Whenever they are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ then sudden disaster is upon them like the labor pains of a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (5:3) The apostle clearly was not telling the Thessalonians to watch for a time when world rulers would be making a declaration of having attained a state of “peace and safety.” Rather, he was showing that people would not be expecting the Lord Jesus Christ to arrive to execute judgment against them. Their attitude would be like that expressed in 2 Peter 3:4, “Where is his promised arrival? From the day our ancestors fell asleep, everything is continuing as from the start of creation.” Accordingly, people would be feeling that all was well and secure, with no possibility of their facing a day of divine reckoning. Suddenly, however, that day would come upon them, as when a woman is seized by labor pains, and they would not escape adverse judgment.

Paul’s Thessalonian brothers, however, were not in darkness about the certainty of Christ’s return in glory so that the day would overtake them unexpectedly as a thief. All of them were “sons of light” and “sons of day,” for they were not guilty of habitually carrying on godless activities under the cover of darkness. Their aim was to live lives free from the shameful deeds that were commonly committed in secret. Accordingly, they were not of the “night nor of the darkness.” It was not fitting for them to sleep like the rest, the unbelievers, whose lives reflected no awareness of any accountability to God and Christ for their actions. Unlike the rest who were “asleep” (blind to their responsibilities and unaware of the grave danger in which they found themselves), believers needed to be awake and sober, not burdened by sinful acts and life’s anxieties but living lives that reflected favorably on the Most High God and his Son. (5:4-6)

Paul continued, “For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.” (5:7) In the case of unbelievers, their whole life is spent in the “night” or in the dark. Their state is therefore one of sleep and their activity like that of a person overindulging in drink. As persons of the “day,” believers needed to remain sober, in full control of their senses, with their hearts or deep inner selves protected by faith and love as by a breastplate. To remain spiritually awake, they needed to maintain a strong faith in God and Christ and love for them, fellow believers, and fellow humans. To safeguard their thinking, they needed the protection of the “hope of salvation,” which hope would serve like a helmet and enable them to remain focused on the certainty of attaining all the divinely promised blessings. (5:8)

God’s purpose for them was to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and to be delivered from the wrath to come upon all who deliberately and defiantly choose to remain alienated from him. Salvation through Jesus Christ was made possible by what he did in laying down his life in sacrifice. As Paul expressed it, “He died for us.” Therefore, whether believers remain “awake” or alive at Christ’s return or are “asleep” or dead, they would live with him, for his death opened up this marvelous prospect. In view of their God-given hope, the Thessalonian believers had good reason to heed Paul’s admonition to comfort or encourage one another and to build up or strengthen one another, as they were also doing at the time. (5:9-11)

Next Paul focused on the responsibilities of the Thessalonian believers as brothers in the family of God’s beloved children. Among them were those who labored for them in promoting their spiritual well-being, “stood before” them “in the Lord” as teachers and caring shepherds, and admonished them regarding their conduct. Paul asked that the Thessalonians grant these faithful ones in their midst the recognition they deserved and show them high esteem in love on account of their work. He urged them to be peaceable among themselves, preserving a loving spirit and maintaining a good relationship with one another. As for the disorderly ones among them, Paul admonished the Thessalonians to correct the thinking of these idlers. Despondent or discouraged ones needed consolation, and the weak required loving support to strengthen them. As members of the spiritual family did have flaws, the Thessalonians needed to be patient or forbearing with everyone. All were to see to it that no one repaid wrong for wrong but that all were seeking the good of one another and of all others or of all who were not part of their spiritual family. Especially because of what God and Christ had done for them, their help and guidance, and the certainty of seeing the fulfillment of the divine promises, believers had good reason to rejoice always. (5:12-16)

The apostle continued, “Pray continually; in everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the spirit. Do not be contemptuous of prophecies, but test everything; cling to the good. Shun every form of evil.” (5:17-22)

As persons continuing to need God’s help, direction, and strength, believers rightly persevere in prayer, never ceasing to make their petitions. (5:17) They also maintain a spirit of gratitude. The phrase “in everything” could mean that thanks be given in all circumstances or for everything. “This is God’s will in Christ” may mean that always rejoicing, praying constantly, and giving thanks are what the Most High desires that believers do, those who are “in Christ” or at one with him. There is also a possibility that the words “this is God’s will” specifically relate to the giving of thanks. (5:18)

Upon first coming under the influence of God’s spirit, new believers may have manifested an intense fervor. As a result, others may have been inclined to want to put out the “fire” that the spirit had generated. This aspect may explain the reason for Paul’s admonition not to “quench the spirit.” (5:19) Prophetic utterances may likewise have been accompanied by an extraordinary intensity of feeling and fervor, which could have prompted certain ones to look upon the prophetic utterances with contempt and thus would have made Paul’s exhortation appropriate. (5:20) Still, prophetic utterances needed to be tested, making sure they had God as their source. (See the Commentary section on 1 John 4:1.) Then, whatever testing revealed to be good should have been valued and retained. (5:21) Evil of every kind, on the other hand, needed to be rejected and abhorred.(5:22)

As the source of an inner tranquility because of his love and care, the Father is the “God of peace.” Paul prayed that God would sanctify the Thesslonians completely, setting them apart as holy, and that their whole spirit, soul, and body be kept (or, that their spirit, soul, and body be kept whole) blameless at the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. This may denote that the apostle’s prayerful desire was for each one of the Thessalonians to be preserved in their entirety as a person—spirit, soul, and body—and found blameless at the time of Christ’s arrival, the start of his presence. The “spirit” may be understood to denote the motivating and energizing power of the inner being; the soul, the life of the individual in its outward manifestation, and the body, the human body with all its members. Because the one who had called them, the Most High God, is faithful or completely dependable and trustworthy, the Thessalonian believers could be confident that he would preserve them as approved persons. As Paul expressed it, “The one calling you is faithful, and he will also do it.” (5:23, 24)

Paul, too, was in need of God’s guidance, care, and help. He therefore included the request for the Thessalonian believers to pray for him. (5:25)

They were members of a beloved family of God’s children. So the apostle encouraged them to greet one another with a “holy kiss,” a kiss that reflected their holy standing and affection for one another. (5:26)

Paul wanted all of the believers in Thessalonica to know what he had written. Therefore, he solemnly charged them to read the letter “to all the brothers.” With all of them knowing what he had written, they would have been less likely to believe teachings differing from what they had personally heard. (5:27)

For the favor, unmerited kindness, or grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with the Thessalonians would have meant for them to continue to benefit from his aid and guidance. (5:28)

Notes:

In verse 4, the plural “thieves” (not the singular “thief”) appears in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. This could mean that the day would not overtake believers like the coming of day might surprise thieves while engaged in their nightly lawless activity.

In verse 21, many manuscripts read “but [] test”; other manuscripts omit “but.”

Instead of “brothers” (verse 27), other manuscripts read either “holy brothers” or “holy ones.”

Many manuscripts conclude the letter with “Amen.”