We have to wait for many things. Anticipation greets us as we eagerly await a dessert. The call from a potential employer tends to bring great anxiety. We feel nervousness over the grade on a test. As we wait, we feel many feelings as well. Some of those feelings can be positive, leading us to be prepared for an upcoming event, while other feelings have quite negative effects. When we are not equipped to deal with a scenario, such as a driver’s test, an awkward social situation, or a surprise inspection by our boss, some of those negative feelings start making themselves known!
Such is the case with the day of the Lord as well. He is coming, but we do not know when! If we are not spiritually prepared for His coming, if we are not found doing what must be done, then we will be judged unworthy for Heaven. Christ said it well in several parables. Turn to Matthew 24:42-51. We are like servants of a household, given the task of living righteously, and if we are not living as we should, then we will end up even worse than the slave in this parable!
Harkening back to the day of “Fire and Brimstone” sermons, I will say that this world is going to be destroyed with intense heat. As unpopular as this message might be, it is a Biblical one! “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). We are not going to get a second chance at life after this great day! We are not going to be given a special pass to try and fix the mistakes we made in life. No! Once God comes on the last day, that is it. No more lives. No more chances.
In response to this, Peter makes a vital point, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12a). Just what kind of people should we be, knowing that the Lord will come in such a manner? What kind of attitudes must we display when it comes to the coming judgment?
The very fact that Peter makes this statement shows us that we can be prepared for Judgment Day. Yes, it will come when we do not expect it. Yes, it will be a terrible day for most of the world. Yes, many will cry “Lord, Lord! Did we not. . .” (Matthew 7:22). But it can be a great and joyful day for all of us if we only follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to examine a few of the attitudes that are necessary with regard to the day of the Lord. Our text is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. In this scripture, some very valuable attitudes are exemplified and explained by the Apostle Paul.
5:1 “Now as to the times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” 5:2 “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” 5:3 “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.”
When an event is imminent, expectation is the natural result. We know that God is coming; whether it is sooner or later is unknown. But since He is coming sometime, we need to be constantly expecting it, waiting for it, longing for it. More importantly, we need to be ready for it.
How can one possibly survive something that he or she is not expecting? When one lives in certain parts of California, earthquakes are expected, thus proper insurance is purchased, homes are built to strict standards, and emergency plans are made ready because of the expectation of an earthquake.
When children are playing football, expectation is required. If you are a receiver, you must expect that the ball will be thrown to you quickly. If you are a defender, you must expect that certain players at certain places will be running or throwing the ball. You prepare yourself for the game plan. If a child is not expecting a certain play, then he or she will be ill-prepared to deal with it and will lose the game.
One could go on and on with examples of expectation, but Biblical anecdotes prove the point best. Notice from the text that there is a definite difference in expectation between “you” and “they”; as Christians, we know that God is coming in judgment, so we expect it and are able to prepare ourselves for it. For unbelievers, they will not be prepared because they have wasted their time making themselves feel better. They cry, “peace and safety” so that people will not panic or turn to God. It reminds me of the false prophets in Jeremiah 23:17. These are not men sent by God, yet they speak as though they know what His will is!
Do we know “Christians” like this today? Surely they are all around us. Most people who identify themselves with Christianity do not appreciate “fire and brimstone” sermons anymore. They desire a more peaceful message, one that does not scare away people, or “turn people off” from God. They want to water down the Gospel and preach peace and safety. But such men are not pleasing to God! “I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil in their deeds” (Jeremiah 23:21-22). While God does not send out or speak to prophets now the way He did in the time of Jeremiah, the lesson that can be learned is valuable.
He has spoken to us today in His Gospel, through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. And, like these false prophets, many “Christian” preachers have gone forth proclaiming the exact opposite of what God wanted proclaimed. And if only these men would turn to the Bible instead of their own desires, then they would see that God is coming, and He surely does have fire and brimstone waiting for those in rebellion! “. . . Then destruction will come upon them suddenly. . .”
We cannot preach “peace and safety”! We must preach exactly what God wants us to preach, never ignoring the warnings freely given to us in passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. We must be in a constant state of expectation, so that when He does come, we will not be caught unprepared.
5:4 “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief;” 5:5 “for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;” 5:6 “so then let us not sleep as other do, but let us be alert and sober.” 5:7 “For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.”
Watchfulness is the next attitude that is important when pondering the Day of the Lord. We must always be aware that we have something to watch, too! If we are ready for that great day, then we will witness the greatest event in the history of this world. We will have front row seats to the coming of the Lord among a host of angels, riding a great cloud and bringing with Him the hand of judgment. If we wait and watch for these things as we should, then we will be given glory on that day!
Notice some of the characteristics displayed in this section of our text. We are to be sober, first and foremost, not necessarily free from alcohol [although that, too, is important], but free from the degrading effects of the drunkenness of life. It becomes too easy sometimes to get caught up in the excitement, fun, and ultimate vanity of living life “to its fullest” as the adage goes. Unfortunately, living life “to its fullest” often means rejecting God to His face. Running away with an adulteress, getting drunk from intoxicants, wasting money and resources on vain things. . . these are all the activities that lead to the open rejection of God’s divine will for Christian living. One must completely ignore the law of Christ to live the “good life” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-8).
Let us not be like the church of Sardis, then, alive in name only, but dead in our works. Let us look at Revelation 3:1-3. Notice the state in which these Christians were living. They were dead, just like those of our text who are asleep and drunk. These Christians of Sardis were thoroughly unprepared for the Day of the Lord because they were not waiting for it, watching for it. They were asleep in their works.
But we are not asleep! We are not of the night! We are not the kind of people who waste life for temporary pleasure and passion! We are watchful sentries, on guard, ready, anxious for the coming Day of the Lord. Turn to Ezekiel 33:1-9. Like watchmen over a city, we too must be prepared to sound the trumpet when it is required of us. When the time comes to proclaim the Truth, are we asleep at our post?
Habakkuk was a watchman just like us. He, too, knew that the day was coming when destruction would befall those around him. While the kind of day that he waited for was not like ours (he was anxious for a physical destruction upon Israel, a judgment at the hands of God by the Chaldeans), the attitude that he showed should be imitated by us today. Let us turn to Habakkuk 2:1-3. He knew that judgment was coming upon the wicked of Jerusalem, and it was his job to try and proclaim the message of repentance to this people.
But it must be understood that it is always time to proclaim the Truth! Like the watchman in Ezekiel’s prophesy, or like Habakkuk who never stopped standing guard, we too are always on guard for those in our area of influence. And God could come at any time, so what kind of excuse could we possibly have for missing the daily opportunities to preach the word?
5:8 “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.”
It should be noted that as we wait for the Day of the Lord, we are not just going to be sitting on our hands. With the knowledge that we have, who can possibly do nothing to prepare himself for this great day?
Instead, the attitude of a warrior must be always on the forefront of our minds. Like soldiers, we are supposed to train ourselves and prepare our minds and bodies for spiritual warfare, having shod ourselves, as it states in Ephesians 6:15, “with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Having studied daily and readied our minds for combat, we are then to take this gospel of peace and proclaim it boldly.
The verse in our text is important because it shows that we are not just witnesses to the Day of the Lord. We are active participants. As we wait for God to come in Judgment, we have a role to play that is essential; we have the role of preachers, every one of us. We have the job of proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel, on every subject, great or small. We have this responsibility! After all, what kind of person clothes himself in battle raiment and then just hides from the battle? If God did not want us to fight for Him, then He would not have requested that we clothe ourselves in such a way!
The battle will get ugly, so preparation is absolutely essential. We are not told that it will ever be easy. But if we prove our faith, and focus on the goal, the victory will be ours. Turn to 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. We have a battle ahead of us, not an earthly one, not some great Armageddon described in the pile of lies in a “Left Behind” book. No, our warfare is right here, right now. Our warfare is a spiritual one, fought with words and scriptures, faith and love. Our weapon for this battle is the Word of God, like a two-edged sword, with the power to sink deep into a man’s soul (Hebrews 4:12). Our enemy is Satan, though he has agents implanted all around us (“. . . the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” [1 John 5:19]).
Brethren, the battlefield for this fight is right in front of us, everywhere. It can be fought at work, with co-workers. It must be fought with your neighbors, with your family members, with your friends. It must be fought with yourself, to make sure at all times that you are prepared for the Day of the Lord. And if we can each fight the good fight, all the days of our short lives, then we will win this battle (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
5:9 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 5:10 “who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”
We joke around a lot about “fire and brimstone” sermons these days. They are not generally preached by denominations, nor are they preached often enough by the Church. Unfortunately, what this world needs is more fire and brimstone. What this world needs is to understand very clearly the nature and justice of God.
Some people want to think that God’s nature should be what we want it to be. They cry, “But what kind of god destroys so many people in the fires of Hell? My god is not a vengeful god!” Yet those same people never realize that Hell is simply what sinners deserve, and that the truly righteous response to a lifetime of evil deeds is, indeed, eternal punishment. I would, instead, turn around the argument and say, “What kind of god lets people get away with evil? What kind of god freely gives eternal paradise to those who, in carnal life, never even wanted it? What kind of god doesn’t punish people?!”
While some would say that this is the stereotypical “judgment” sermon, I would hope that you see this sermon as one of great hope. “But we are not destined for wrath, but for obtaining salvation. . .” What is more hopeful than that? What most people fail to appreciate is that salvation is available to all, whenever, wherever, and to whomever! We do not need to worry about fire and brimstone and Hell if we only do what is righteous in the sight of God!
That is what makes this scripture so valuable and encouraging! There is no dread of judgment for the Christian. There is no fear. I do not have to b anxious for the Day of the Lord because I will have nothing but joy at its coming. In fact, if I died right now, I would not miss this world too much because I would be with God in paradise! Paul makes the same sentiment in Philippians 1:21-24. What an attitude of faith and love; To regard life as only the necessary step toward Heaven! I would much rather die right now and be with Christ than to live on and experience the terrible things of this world, and to risk the temptation and disappointments of sin.
No, this is not just some canned “fire and brimstone” sermon. This is a sermon about the hope of salvation for all of us. We have nothing to fear when it comes to the Day of the Lord – if we are found doing what is right. Notice what is written in 1 John 2:28, “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
5:11 “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
It is important to note that the church in Thessalonica was already encouraging and building up each other. This was an activity that was not uncommon to them. Yet, even with their already diligent attitude toward the work of encouragement, Paul exhorted them to work even harder! The lesson to us, then, should be that we can never do enough to encourage each other and strengthen our souls. The job of church growth is never complete. It is a continual process.
This proves how valuable the Church is to each of us. There is a reason, in God’s great wisdom, that the Church system was set up. We need each other, desperately at times. The Church acts as our support network when we are sad or discouraged, and it even helps supply us when we are drained financially or physically. The phrase “one another” is used often in the Bible. Turn to 1 Peter 4:8-10. Peter cannot emphasize enough the vast degree of wealth we gain from the Church.
And that is Paul’s point in our text. It would be hard enough making it to Heaven with the help of our brethren. Just imagine how much more difficult it would be if we had to do it alone. The Day of the Lord is drawing near, and for many people it will be a day of great sadness disappointment. We sometimes cannot help but be anxious about it. We need the encouragement and love of one another to get us through the tough times! Notice all the times that Paul (yes, even Paul, as strong as he was spiritually) gained strength from the Church: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8, Philippians 1:3-4, 4:1, 1 Corinthians 16:17-18, 2 Timothy 1:4.
Part of being helpful as Christians is aiding unbelievers in their path toward the Heavenly goal. Perhaps you are not a Christian today, and this sermon has stirred you to pursue a life of righteousness. I am happy if it has, because God makes it clear “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9a).
If you have not had the proper attitude toward the Day of the Lord, then why will you not obey His voice right now? Will you not believe? Will you not repent? Will you not call on His name and be baptized? Or will you wait until it is too late?