October 19: 1 Thess 5

Chris Donato
"For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief comes at night. . . . But you, friends, are not in the darkness, and the Day should not take you by surprise like a thief." (1 Thess. 5:2, 4)

The church in Thessalonica had a good reputation. The gospel had an immediate effect on the lives of those who came to life in Christ in that city: their hospitality to Paul and his companions, to the message they brought, their turning to God from idols, and their waiting for God's Son, who they now know to be their deliverer from the coming fury (1 Thess. 1:6, 9-10). 

Remarkably, people were talking about this new church without even being asked--their fame echoed throughout the land. But the exciting news wasn't just about them; it was about the way in which this church had come to be. The gospel, not the people who believed it or preached it, was the hero (may that be true of us in the midst of evangelicalism's celebrity syndrome!). And it was that gospel that wrenched those dead idols from the hands of the Thessalonian Christians, causing them to wait for God and his coming wrath with confidence.

It may seem commonplace to us, but eschewing idols was simply unheard of in the first century. "It would be like asking people in a modern city to give up using motor cars, computers and telephones," notes one commentator. 

Embracing the living God meant embracing his resurrected Son and his way of doing things. It meant living with one of the most unique characteristics of Christianity--hope. This hope, as is often said, was no weak desire for something that may or may  not happen. Rather, it was a confident anticipation of the royal coming (parousia) of the Messiah from the throne room of God. This coming marks both condemnation and reconciliation. On the one hand, God, through his Christ, will condemn all that distorts and defaces his creation; on the other hand, through this condemnation, his people will be delivered and he will restore all things. Such is the stuff that Christian hope is made of (to paraphrase Bogey, not Shakespeare). 

But it's not a passive waiting, like we do in a doctor's waiting room or at home when waiting for a loved one to arrive. It's an active life of holiness and witness to God's righteousness. It's a confident anticipation that God will show mercy to his people, returning them from exile to the Promised Land--a new heaven and earth. So, we are not in darkness and the Day of the Lord shouldn't take us by surprise like a thief (1 Thess. 5:4). May we strive this day to recognize that a future day is coming when God will deal with every form of evil, and may we take comfort in our only defense--the work and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.