Are You Ready For the Revelation?
Are you ready for the revelation? The return of Jesus Christ puts everything else in this world into perspective and brings hope to those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ. Discover this hope as Dr. Marty Baker takes us through 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Right before Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection, the disciples asked a logical prophetic question:
6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority..." (Acts 1)
The disciples knew Jesus fulfilled the prophesied Davidic King of Kings role. His pedigree could be traced to the David line through His mother and father (Matt. 1; Luke 3:23-38). His teaching and miracles verified His status as the long-awaited God-man the prophets foretold (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Mic. 5:2). His perfect sacrifice for man’s sin fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Messiah’s role as THE sacrificial lamb (Isa. 53). His resurrection in time and space as the victor over sin and death left the dumbfounded and excited disciples wondering if the messianic empire would now arrive in all of its splendor.
Lovingly and patiently, Jesus told these faithful followers to stop wondering about the timing of God’s kingdom plan but to be flesh and blood witnesses of the power of His gospel (Acts 1:8). Aren’t the disciples just like us? We look at events and see how they coincide with what prophecy says concerning the end-times and get all excited and say things like, “Is it now? Lord, surely you must be ready to appear and set things right.” While it is healthy to be excited about the Lord’s arrival, this reality should not distract you.
Are you distracted?
The Thessalonian believers struggled, as we discovered in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, with whether their deceased Christian loved ones would participate in the messianic kingdom when the King, Jesus, arrived. In this passage, Paul allayed their fears by informing them how dead and alive believers would both be radically transformed when Jesus appears to take them to heaven to reward them for their service on earth and to complete His marriage to the Church. After this, He will present them to the world at the end of the seven-year tribulation when He comes to finalize His judgment of sinners, secure the salvation of Israel (Zech. 12-13), and establish His Davidic empire (Psalm 2; 89; Isa. 2:1-5; 9:1-6; Jer. 23:5ff; 33:15ff; Dan. 2:40ff).
Like the disciples, it appears in the first eleven verses of chapter five that the Thessalonian believers wanted more precise information regarding God’s prophetic plans. As Jesus did some eighteen years earlier (Paul wrote this letter in 51 A.D., and Jesus ascended on May 14, 33 A.D. according to Dr. Harold Hoehner: Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, p. 143), Paul lovingly and patiently corrected them. He did this by stressing how the Lord’s return should not be focused on when but what. God will take care of the prophetic timing. In the meantime, believers and unbelievers should be concerned with what they should be doing or how they should be reacting in light of the imminent arrival of Jesus. With both of these people groups in mind, and you are in one group or the other, a question naturally arises from Paul’s teaching in these eleven verses:
Are You Ready For The Lord’s Revelation? (1 Thess. 5:1-11)
This is the most critical question you will ever answer in your lifetime. Your answer will impact you for eternity and usher you into heaven or hell. Your response will also position you to be handsomely rewarded when you stand before Christ’s Judgement Seat (1 Cor. 3:5ff; 2 Cor. 5:10). Since this question is so important, it warrants our focused attention on Paul’s teaching concerning its answer for sinners and saints.
First, we consider what I call based on Paul’s words . . .
A Checklist For Sinners (1 Thess. 5:1-3)
The first verse reminds us of what the disciples asked Jesus before His jaw-dropping ascension from the Mount of Olives.
1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.
In Greek, “times” is chronos ( χρόνος) and “epochs” is kairos (καιρός). While these terms can be used interchangeably in the NT, they can have slightly different connotations. The former denotes chronological time, or time-related to a clock or a calendar, while the latter denotes the character of a given time, as in the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:25). The plural nature of these words underscores two things: one, history is headed to God’s prescribed plan and nothing or no one can, or will, thwart it (Eph. 1:10), and two, there are many seasons in what God has prophesied. Various time-sensitive events come to mind: the Rapture, the Marriage Feast of the Church, the Twenty-one Judgments in the Seven-year Tribulation, the Second Coming of Jesus, The Millennial Reign of Jesus, and so forth. Concerning this detailed prophetic information, Paul didn’t need to teach the Thessalonians anymore because he had already ventured into these topics with them in depth after they became believers. Don’t tell me that the study of eschatology is not essential. It was foundational to Paul’s pedagogical program for new saints. Why? This knowledge is motivational where holiness is concerned, and it brings hope in life’s hardness.
Is it essential for us to know when the Rapture or the Second Coming will occur? No. What is essential is for us to live in light of the fact that these two prophetic events will occur in time and space. To drive this point home, Paul offers insight Christians already know and non-Christians should undoubtedly act on before it is too late:
2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
Paul’s teaching in verses two through three leads to three checklist questions for non-Christians.
Question 1: Do You Know What’s Coming?
“The day of the Lord” is not the Rapture. In the OT, this phrase denotes the ominous future divine judgment of all the wicked on the planet. When God finally unleashes His pent-up wrath (Zeph. 2:2; Rom. 2:1-3), definitive things will occur: arrogant people will be humbled (Isa. 2:11-12), cosmic darkness and anomalies will be the order of the day (Joel 2:30-31), and earthquakes will level mountain ranges (Isa. 24-27). The phrase is repeated four times in the NT (Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10) and is denoted in the book of Revelation (Rev. 6:17; 16:14). The NT echoes and expands on the terrible outcomes when God’s holy fury is finally leveled against Satan and his faithful followers. Currently, God is being gracious and patient with sinners, hoping that some of them will repent of their sins and become believers (2 Pet. 3:9). One day, His patience will wear thin, and His day, or time of wrath will explode mercilessly all over the cosmos, bringing man to his knees, while also destroying everything he holds dear.
Question 2: Will You Be Caught Napping?
Concerning this dreadful day, which follows the Rapture, Paul recounts how it will come upon mankind unexpectedly like a thief who breaks into a home of unsuspecting people at night. No skilled thief leaves a note on your doorstep telling you he will be by your house on such and such a day and at a particular time. The element of surprise is what he counts on to ensure his burglarization of your home is profitable. No, Paul isn’t saying Jesus will come at night. He’s merely underscoring how the Lord’s arrival in judgment will be secretive, unannounced, and utterly unexpected by unbelievers. They will be left dumbfounded that everything they thought about God was wrong, their vain ideologies and worldviews they lived for will vaporize in a flash, how they lived for pleasure will be found wanting, and they will stand frozen in fear of the Lord’s revelation of His holy wrath as evidenced through awe-inspiring judgments never seen on earth before (Rev. 6-19).
Will you be caught napping? Are you so caught up with your life that you must give adequate time and attention to spiritual matters? Are you so preoccupied with your job that you are failing to consider the condition of your soul before God? Do you laugh under your breath at preachers like me, thinking we are scaremongers? You know, they laughed at and mocked Noah for 120 years while he warned them of God’s coming wrath as he built the ark in the middle of nowhere (Gen. 6:1ff, 1 Pet. 3:20). But there came the day when it rained as no one had ever seen before. The day came when people waded in waist-deep water to the ark and pounded on the closed wooden door as they pleaded for that wacky old man to open up for them. Concerning this, Jesus has warned you:
37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24)
The day of His wrath is coming, and it will catch the majority of unbelievers flat-footed. Don’t be in that crowd. Turn to Christ today in faith, and He will save you for time and eternity (John 3:16; 5:24-25; Rom. 10:9).
While you are thinking about what you need to do to get spiritually prepared for what is coming, here is one more checklist question:
Question 3: Do You Realize Escape Will Be Impossible?
Paul minces no words for eternity hangs in the balance:
3 While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thess. 5)
Right now, the wicked are working overtime at pushing their progressive (digressive) godless and man-elevating agenda. By destroying the concept of absolute truth, twisting sexual perversity into purity, rewriting laws to suit their selfish and sinful view of the law, dismantling the family so the State can rule with complete authority, controlling all media outlets so the party line is pervasive, redistributing wealth so everyone is equal, the evil elites all over the world seek to position the word for their version of utopia. From what we know of prophetic Scripture, the Antichrist will help them arrive at a place where there is finally world peace. But it will all be a mirage, a false peace, which will be shattered when the sinners start fighting among themselves for power, and when Jesus, the King of Kings, turns the fury of His wrath against them in the twenty-one judgments detailed in Revelation (Rev. 6-19).
Yes, when the power-hungry people of the world will think they have finally created an empire of peace devoid of God, suddenly, God will show up profoundly. Paul likens God’s arrival in judgment to that of birth pangs which strike a woman without warning. No wonder knows precisely when the labor pains will start. One moment she is fine; the next, she can’t breathe because of the shooting, mind-numbing pain. In a split second, she goes from calm to chaos and has no escape from the pain.
Stop for a minute and think hard about this truth. Right now, your non-Christian life might be going quite well. You see the Church being diminished on the world stage and smile. You see truths replacing Truth, and you grin. You see all forms of wickedness being accepted and think, “It’s about time.” If this is you, I’m here to warn you that one day God will get your attention in a big way, and when He does, there will be no way of getting away from His wrath. On the other hand, a wise person listens and learns from God and turns from his sin to the Savior, who makes sinners into saints at the moment of faith (2 Cor. 5:17-19). Jesus is coming to earth again, first to snatch His Church into heaven and second to finalize His judgment at the end of the Tribulation. Will you be ready for His arrival? I trust you will be.
Turning from non-Christians to Christians in the ensuing verses, we encounter a checklist we need to know and apply in light of Christ’s soon appearance:
A Checklist For Saints (1 Thess. 5:4-11)
In light of the Lord’s coming time of judgment, believers have several questions they need to think about so they are prepared.
Checklist Question #1: Do You Understand Your Position?
Watch how Paul develops this concept:
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day.
In God’s mind, there are only two classes of people: Those in darkness and those in the light. The former group are unbelievers, and the latter are believers.
Non-Christians are characterized as people of darkness because they are intellectually, morally, and spiritually impacted by the darkness of sin inherited from Adam (Rom. 1:21). Regarding this condition, Paul reminds the Ephesian believers:
17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart. (Eph. 4)
The non-Christian mind is darkened by sin, causing it to embrace false ideologies and erroneous philosophies, make disastrous moral decisions, and formulate completely incorrect spiritual conclusions. Concerning Christ’s mission when He came to earth, John writes:
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1)
In other words, when Jesus, who is light (John 8:12), appeared, the sin-darkened world didn’t recognize Him. And, as Jesus later explained to Nicodemus, who left spiritual darkness by coming to the light of Christ, even when those of darkness get near the Light of Jesus and His truth, they recoil from it because they love dark deeds and don’t desire to change:
19 And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John. 3)
Intellectual, moral, and spiritual ignorance and open rebellion are the world of those who reject Christ, the Light.
A believer is the opposite of this. Paul develops this truth in his teaching to the Ephesians:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Eph. 2)
Once you bowed your knee to Christ in saving faith, you traded the kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light. You also went from being objects of God’s wrath to being objects of His fatherly love, and you went from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. Amazing, and it is all because of God’s rich grace. These transformative truths so captivated Paul; he spoke about them to the Colossian saints as well:
13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1)
As sons of light, we, of all people, will not be caught off-guard by the fact the Lord’s day of wrath is coming after the Rapture. We know it is a future and imminent reality because our minds are full of the light of prophetic truth. We can read Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 and fully understand what He will do when He unleashes His wrath against the wicked. Children of the light aren’t clueless about God’s prophetic plans, but they understand them. Children of darkness, conversely, don’t grasp this, nor do they care to. Its coming reality eludes them as they are captivated by all the world’s temptations.
Being children of light is a unique spiritual position. If this describes you, then realize it comes with a performance requirement:
We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
People of darkness are spiritually asleep and are as unaware of what’s going on around them as if they were a bunch of drunks stumbling in the night. They think they will not be held accountable for their actions. They think that what they do in private is their business and won’t negatively impact anyone. They think it’s all right for sin to abound and flourish because there will be no repercussions. They don’t care if they hurt someone on their way to the proverbial top. They think it is loving to believe whatever you want so long as you don’t hurt anyone. They think it’s perfectly fine to have other lovers outside your mate who meet your insatiable sexual needs. And so on.
People of the spiritual light know differently. They know there is a God in heaven they will have to give account to one day. They know He keeps track of all of humanity’s activities so His judgment will be sound and true. They know they should model their lives according to the teachings of the Scriptures so God is pleased with them. They also know they should live sensible, sober lives so they are always ready for their Lord’s arrival. Is this you? Are you as prepared as you should be?
Question 2: Are You Wearing Your Spiritual Armor?
How do you ensure you, a child of light, live in light of your unique position as you move through a world full of darkness? Paul’s answer couldn’t be more precise:
8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Substances don’t control a sober saint, be what they may. He is in complete control of his mind, so he is prepared daily, as a soldier of Christ, to ensure his armor is in place for maximum protection. The breastplate on a Roman soldier guarded the vital organs of his chest. A saint with great faith in God will be victorious over temptations in dark days because his breastplate of faith and love will be firmly in place. A saint with great faith in the living God who will one day call us home, by definition, is full of love not just for God but for others. Faith without love is nothing short of hypocrisy, which is detrimental to spiritual life. Faith with love forms a breastplate that will guard your vital spiritual organs as you engage the forces of darkness in this life. Is your breastplate on your body now?
A saint with great faith and love also logically has the hope of salvation. No, this is not salvation in the spiritual sense but salvation in the eschatological sense. Paul tells us this much in verse 9:
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
In chapter one, verse 10, Paul makes it emphatically clear that saints will be spared the time of God’s wrath in the tribulation. He doubles down on that concept here in verse 9. Since believers are already saved, spiritual salvation is not something they must obtain. Conversely, we saints will receive salvation from God’s seven-year wrath against the wicked (Den. 9:24-27) when Jesus raptures the Church into heaven. As Paul articulated in 4:13-18, salvation will be true of all saints whether they are in heaven or on earth. This is what verse 10 means:
10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
Our position as sons and daughters of light assures us there is no way we will have to endure the ominous nature of the tribulation. Whether we have died and are in God’s presence or are still alive when the time for the day of the Lord arrives, He will snatch us away to deliver us.
In light of this, what should we be doing? For starters, we should live sober, thoughtful lives. We should have the Bible in one hand and an eye on our lives and our world so we make sure we are living in the light. As soldiers of the Lord of Light, we should also ensure our armor is constantly on so we can live effectively in this hostile world. Today is a day to take stock of your armor to ensure you are ready to head back into the wicked world for Christ.
Checklist Question #3: Do You Realize Your Responsibility To The Church?
11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you are doing. (1 Thess. 5)
Our world is full of discouragement daily. From major league baseball teams embracing drag queens dressed up as nuns and thereby attacking godly people to powerful people getting by with all kinds of wickedness, life for a godly person can be highly discouraging. It’s hard watching light being traded for darkness, truth is replaced by error, laws being dismantled by the lawless, godly people being silenced, a nation turning from belief in God to belief in themselves or nothing at all, and wickedness marching through our institutions almost unabated. That is why sons of light who are suited up with God’s armor need to be encouragers of other saints. We need to encourage and build each other up by constantly reminding each other of God’s truths which will come true in due time:
- The King is coming for His Church, so hold on.
- The King will deal definitively with evil, so don’t lose hope.
- The King is setting the stage to erect His glorious empire, so get ready to rule with Him.
The day of the Lord’s revelation is upon us. Are you ready for His arrival?