Monday, September 22, 2008

In Search Of Truth


1st Thessalonians, Chapter 5:1-15

What is "The Day Of The Lord"?

In this chapter, Paul gives a few details to us about a future event that goes by this title. The topic of future events always comes with a level of disagreement on details between various students and scholars of the Bible. While we should continue to study and understand scripture more deeply (Proverbs 25:2), some things are meant to remain a mystery to us. (Matthew 24:36).

Regarding "The Day Of The Lord", we need to pull some details from other parts of the Bible to get a basic sense of this term, but we’ll still focus mostly on what we learn from the text in this chapter.

In Amos chapter 5, this day seems to be about God bringing justice to humanity. For those who trust in Christ, it will be a time of rescue. For those who reject Christ and ultimately choose to "worship" themselves and their own way of life, it will be a time of severe yet just punishment.

First, we can tell that it will come suddenly and catch people by surprise. (v. 2-3) It will bring inescapable pain (v.3). It will not surprise those who follow Christ. At least not in the same way that it will surprise those who reject Christ. (v. 4-5)

We can probably assume from verse 8-9 that believers in Christ will not suffer, or will not suffer as much, when the "Day Of The Lord" takes place. While the word used for "salvation" in the Greek here can mean either material or eternal deliverence, the context suggests a deliverence from the wrath of the "Day Of The Lord" at the very least.

Paul urges the Thessalonians, and by extension us, to be alert and self-controlled. (v.6) God wants us to be protected on a daily basis by our trust in him and our love for God and others. It’s interesting that trust in God and love for him and others is mentioned after being urged to have self-control. Love for others and a mind fixed on God doesn’t leave as much room for love of self and a focus on our own gratification. An "outward focus" is one great way to gain protection against self-serving sin.

Paul uses the metaphor of sleep in two different ways in this chapter. First, in verse 7, the context indicates that this kind of being asleep refers to a lack of alertness and self control. We might compare this to the expression "don’t fall asleep at the wheel."

In verse 10, Paul is probably using the common metaphor for sleeping that he also used in chapter 4:13. This kind of sleeping refers to physical death. It’s possible that Paul meant this in the sense of being lazy and uncaring, as he used it in verse 7. If this is the case, it would indicate that a person who is a genuine believer in Christ can live a life that is not very different outwardly from someone who does not believe in Christ.

Christians are not "saved" because of how well they obey God. On the other hand, this verse cannot be used to imply that everyone will be saved by Christ, whether they follow Christ or not. If this were the case, we would not see the importance of believing in Jesus emphasized so much in the Bible, or the judgment of those who reject him. Regardless of which way we look at this verse, we can see in it a reminder of both God’s mercy and his justice.

Living the Christian life is not an isolated journey. We are told to appreciate and love those that are responsible for leading us spiritually, implying involvement with a Christian community that includes some form of leadership. (v. 12-13)

Take a look at verses 14 and 15. Paul is describing activities that clearly involve relationships. In the age of electronic media and communication, it’s really easy to exchange some e-mails and be active on some message boards, and then think that we’re really "investing" in people. And to a degree, we are. We definitely shouldn’t overlook the ability of the internet to open doors of communication and relationships previously unheard of. But we should also recognize that the internet allows us a safety barrier and cancels much of the intimacy and vulnerability of live, on-on-one conversation. We can check e-mails and respond whenever we want. There’s no immediate obligation. The relationship is on our schedule, at our pace, on our terms. We can share our views on a message board and then vanish without remaining invested in the continuing conversation. Internet community is an incredible way to expand our relationships, but it is no substitute for being involved, in person, with other Christians.

Coffee House Question

What message boards or online communities are you a part of?

Next Week- We’re picking apart some "churchy" phrases as we close up our look at 1st Thessalonians!


  1. ChristianWriters.Com and the related 4Believers.Com
    National Novel Writing Month -- only in November
    Library Thing
    And chat rooms during UStream broadcasts of a few podcasts from GSPN.TV

  2. You're a pretty active guy!
    Thanks for the comment, Alan!