Commentary on "Final Events (1 Thess. 5:111)"
Day 3: Monday, August 27, 2012 - Sudden and Unexpected (1 Thess. 5:13)
Today’s lesson makes the point that the return of Jesus will be sudden and unexpected. People are to be ready, watching, alert, and not seduced into thinking things are peaceful and safe. Rather, they are to keep that sense of urgency and yet not fall into fanaticism as they wait and try to be ready.
The lesson ends with the questions: “How do we live with the sense of urgency, with the awareness of the nearness of Christ’s coming, and yet not get into fanaticism or extremism? How do we strike a right balance? Bring your answer to class.”
This lesson subtly perverts the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3:
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 ESV)
Author Jon Paulien makes the point that the coming of Jesus will be sudden and unexpected and inescapable for the wicked. He further points out that the “end time is not the time to prepare for the end.”
Paulien then says that Paul reassures the Thessalonians in verse 4 that they already know the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night, but “it is others, those who cry ‘peace and safety,’ who will be surprised by the coming destruction.”
With this subtle nuance of phrasing, Paulien changes the meaning of the text. He acknowledges that the time of the Lord’s return is unknown and will “come like a thief in the night,” yet to believers, this imminent event should not be a surprise. Paul is not saying believers will be caught off guard. Nor is it believers who will be saying, “Peace and safety” while their destruction descends on them. Rather, it is unbelievers who will be surprised by the Lord’s return.
To be sure, Jesus did tell His disciples that the final events would occur at an unknown time, and He urged them to be watching and ready.
Watching and readiness, however, are not what Adventism teaches they are. Those who are able to watch and be ready are those who are born again, made alive by the Spirit. Watching and being ready is not a matter of obedience to the law and commitment to right doing.
Those who are not born again can only try to perform better and better law-keeping. Yet this law-keeping will not in any way qualify them to be ready.
Being ready means admitting one is a hopeless sinner and repenting, believing in the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice for one’s own sin and receiving His payment for sin and accepting His life.
Jesus told Nicodemus that the only way anyone can see the kingdom of heaven is to be born again of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:3-6). He further said that he who hears His word and believes Him who sent Him does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.
Those who remain spiritually dead will be unable to “watch and be ready”. Those who are alive with Jesus’ resurrection life and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) will be watching with joy and anticipation. The signs of the end will be the signs of seeing Jesus soon!
Paul is not urging the Thessalonians to live with urgency. He is encouraging them that they will not be surprised by the day which has an unknown date. They know the One who is coming, and they are already anticipating His return. And while they wait, they live for the Lord Jesus. They witness of Him, and they submit to His word and allow Him to mature them.
We don’t have to “balance” ourselves. We only need to trust Him and submit to His word. He is faithful to complete what He begins in us (Phi 1:6). He is the one who keeps us. Once we are His, we are secure. He holds us in an unbreakable grip.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised August 27, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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