#200 “Are You Waiting For the Return of Christ?” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)

I. An Active Witness (vs. 4-5)

    1. But you are not in darkness (realm of wickedness; lostness; impending doom), brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. Paul reiterates the fact that believers in Jesus no longer live in darkness because they have been set free from sin and death (see Col. 1:13). Unbelievers are blinded to the return of Christ (see Jn. 3:19-21; Eph. 4:18). However, for Christians, the return of Christ is a consummation of their salvation; therefore, they remain alert and watchful.
    2. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. Paul encourages the Thessalonians by identifying that their status is not of the world but is defined by Jesus Christ. They are children of the light. A Hebrew expression that personifies followers of Jesus as belonging to God as his children. Moreover, there were Jewish sects living in the wilderness who referred to themselves as “children of light” recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
      • Eph. 5:8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
      • 1 Jn. 1:5-7, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

II. An Awakened Spirit (vs. 6-7)

    1. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. Paul goes from “you” (vs. 4-5) to “we” (v. 6) to share in on the spiritual hope they have in anticipating the return of Christ. Not sleep—Earlier, Paul used the term “sleep” (4:13-15) to mean death (GK, koimaō)—but in 5:6 (GK, katheudōmen), it means to be spiritually unaware of the activity and plans of God. Paul stresses the need to remain on high alert as the Church faithfully executes their tasks in anticipation of Christ’s return. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, “Paul’s exhortation was for his readers to behave in keeping with their enlightened condition and to be prepared in view of the day of the Lord. He presented this exhortation as a logical conclusion from what preceded. Besides being logical to behave this way, it is also a necessary duty. Christians should not be indifferent to the reality of the Lord’s return; they should not be asleep on the job.” Christians are not to be disengaged and ignorant of what is happening in the world around them. They are to shine their light in the darkness and expose people to the truth of God’s Word.  
    2. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. The imagery comes from the teachings of Jesus (see Matt. 24:45-51; Mk. 13:32-37; Lk. 12:42-48). In keeping with his sober descriptions, Paul uses another metaphor to capture the dead state of unbelievers. Their senses are helplessly inebriated; therefore, they are clueless and lost to what God’s plans are in the future. Rom. 13:12-13, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering [immorality] and wantonness [indecency], not in strife and envying.” Christians are to have a good outlook on life and not get caught up in the bondage of the world. Unsaved people, on the other hand, live in a false paradise seeking only to advance their own pleasures and are drunken by ignorance and consumed by despair.

III. An Equipped Life (v. 8)

    1. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. The imagery Paul uses comes from Isa. 59:17, a description of God going into battle: “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” Paul’s purpose is to teach Christians to act and live like soldiers for battle. That’s why he uses military imagery. Sober—To be a peace with God and to consider the weight of life with contentment. breastplate of faith and love—The breastplate would protect the vital organs of a soldier in battle. Combining it with faith and love, Paul is conveying to the believers to be on guard from the various attacks and temptations that will come their way when they least expect it. Breastplate also represents righteousness (Isa. 59:17) and faith is represented as a shield (Eph. 6:16). helmet the hope of salvation—If Christians trust God and love him with all their heart then they will remain steadfast and fulfill a life honorable to God.
      • Rom. 13:12, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
      • Eph. 6:10-18, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”