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1Thessalonians: Chapter 5

Setting

There is so much material in this chapters, that you might want to spend more time studying this chapter. So here are some great resources to learn more on Paul's epistles to the believers at Thessalonica (note:  neither site had been contacted for support of this site, nor is their endorsement implied.  This information is passed on to the reader due to the quality of the information that they provide):

  •   A web site by Dr. George O Wood who is a former pastor of Newport Mesa Christian Center, and is now the General Superintendent of the Assembly of God Church.  To view his material on the letters to the Thessalonians, click on his link on the left side of his page, expositional, then click on the New Testament.
  • Second is a terrific site for any serious study in the word on line, the Net Bible.  There are many articles and series of the Bible to study from, so click on this link to go to their 1Thessalonians series, (Net Bible is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 for the purpose of developing and distributing sound, evangelical Bible study materials in electronic format).

When examining this chapter, it is important to remember that chapter and verse labels in today’s Bibles were added well after the original text was written.  Therefore, the chapter break for 1Thessalonians 5 does not imply a detached line of thought.  Though Paul’s physical presence at Thessalonica was cut short, his ministry to the young believers was not.  This is evident by the two letters Paul to the church at Thessalonica, indicating that he had time to teach them of the resurrection and the day of the Lord. Paul did need to use the occasion of this letter to teach them of the rapture of the church, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, which presented very important information that he did not want them to miss.

This final chapter provides additional information concerning the rapture of the church, as revealed in 1Thessalonians 4.  Paul establishes in this chapter the expectation for those left behind, and compares this group with those that were raptured in the previous chapter.  There is an implication of a sequential order between the rapture of the church and the wrath of God.  Additionally, there appears to be an issue of the Thessalonians miss-applying the information concerning the Lord’s return, as some may have stopped working.  However, they were encouraged in 1Thessalonians 4:11 to:

  • Lead a quiet life
  • To mind their own business
  • To work with their hands, as Paul and his team told and demonstrated to them

The teaching of Christ’s return, the dispensation of times, and seasons surrounding that expected event, are suitable topics to teach even to new Christians, since Paul spent time on this subject during the short few weeks that he was with them.

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-3 The day of the Lord
4-11 Contrasting darkness with light
12-22 Other commandments
23-28 Paul's salutation to the Thessalonians

The day of the Lord

In 1Thessalonians 5:1-2, Paul states that he did not need to rehearse what he told them before, concerning the times and dates, which is a prominent theme in the Old Testament. When the Lord spoke of this period of time, the day of the Lord during His Olivet Discourse, He was speaking to the Jews and told them to watch, see Mark 13 and Mark 13 timeline for more information.  This is an event that as a nation, Israel is expecting their Messiah (who believing Christians know is Jesus) to be revealed, though as a nation they missed His first visitation.  Just as Daniel was given the prophesies of how all these things will occur, the Lord presented to His church the unfolding of all these future events, though the Church is not going through the day of the Lord,  Mark 13:21-27.

There are several Old Testament passages describing the day of the Lord. One of the first references to the day of the Lord was written by the prophet Amos about 800 years before Christ, Amos 5:18-20, where a woe is expressed upon those who seek the day of the Lord, thinking to escape the current judgment.  Another passage found in Isaiah 2:10-21, shows that in that day the Lord will be exalted.  In Isaiah 13:9-13, the day of the Lord is equated to a day for punishment and the manifestation of the Lord’s burning anger.  There are several other references that describe this day such as: Ezekiel 13:5, Joel 1:15, Obadiah 15, Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:14, Malachi 4:5, and Mark 13:35-37.

Though there are a number of passages referencing the day of the Lord, for the Christian it is not of dread, rather it is a time of being with Christ, and is the day of Jesus Christ:

1Thessalonians 5:3 describes a future time, and probably not long from now, when people will believe that they are in the age of peace and safety, but then sudden destruction will come upon them.  Such a case is shown in Revelation 6 with the opening of the 1st seal, when the white horse (symbolic of false peace and the Antichrist) is revealed, then the 2nd seal is opened to reveal the red horse (symbolic of war). The the 3rd seal is opened to reveal the black horse (symbolic of famine, hunger, devastation), followed by the opening of the 4th seal that reveals the pale horse (symbolic of death and Hades). The opening of the 5th seal reveals the tribulation saints under the altar of God, followed by the opening of the 6th seal, which reveals the terrible day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is equated to the pains of a pregnant woman going through the birthing process. The signs of the time for the delivery is evident as the labor pains increase in intensity, frequency, and duration.  The actual time of birth is not known exactly until the moment of the event.

Contrasting darkness with light

In 1Thessalonians 5:4-11, Paul provides the characteristics of Christians, who are not of the night but day.  Christians reflect the Lord, who is the light, and the light of men, John 1:3-9.  In Paul's defense before Agrippa, he recounted  his commission from Christ; to open people’s eyes from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, Acts 26:15-20.  Those in the light, which are Christians, are described as:

  • Not being surprised by the arrival of the day of the Lord
  • Being alert and self-controlled
  • Having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation
  • In the body of Christ, whether alive or asleep
  • Encouraging and building up each other

In contrast, Paul states that those in the dark, and have no relationship with the Lord, are described as:

  • Being surprised by the day of the Lord, which will arrive by surprise to them like a thief
  • Being asleep
  • Being drunk
  • Having no hope or encouragement
  • Being appointed to suffer the wrath of God

Other commandments

In 1Thessalonians 5:12-22, Paul is taking the occasion to address other issues that may have been manifest in this young congregation's life. This section is relevant to today's Christian lives as how we are to live as we await Christ’s return. He stresses that we are to respect those in charge in the ministry. We are to hold them in the highest regard in love. We are also to live in peace with each other.

In 1Thessalonians 5:14, a distinction is made between those who choose not to work and those who cannot work.  Paul gives a warning to those who can work, 1Thessalonians 2:9-10, and to encourage those who cannot work, 1Corinthians 8:9-13.  As in other passages, Paul warns that we are not to seek revenge, 1Peter 3:8-9, Matthew 5:38-42.

Other commandments that Paul enumerates include:

Paul's salutation to the Thessalonians

1Thessalonians 5:23-28 is where Paul once again breaks out in prayer for the Thessalonians, and reinforces what he wrote to them about in this letter:

  • Being completely sanctified by God
  • That our whole being as God created us, body, soul, and spirit, would be kept blameless at Christ’s appearing
  • The faithfulness of God in all things, Philippians 1:3-6

Paul also asked for prayer from them and encourages them to greet each other with a holy kiss and to read this letter to all the brothers as an encouragement to others.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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