The Day Of The Lord

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  5 : 1-11
Subject: Judgment; Return of Christ; Rapture

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

In our text, you will notice in verse 2 that the apostle Paul speaks of "the day of the Lord." He is referring to that time when God will judge the world and punish the nations. At the same time, God will prepare Israel for the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. Paul indicates that this day will come "as a thief in the night." Our Lord used this image in His own teaching concerning His second coming. In Matthew 24 and in Luke 12 it describes the suddenness and the surprise involved in the coming of "the day of the Lord." In Revelation 3:3 Jesus used this image to warn believers not to be caught napping. Since we do not know when the Lord will return for His people, we must live in a constant attitude of watching and waiting while we are busy working and witnessing. I hope you understand by now that the greatest theme and the greatest meeting that this world will ever know will be that of the second coming of our crucified, resurrected, and ascended Lord.

It was a great meeting at the foot of mount Sinai when Jehovah God came down and gave to Moses the Ten Commandments amid lightening bolts and deafening thunder and heaving earthquakes.

It was a great meeting when Solomon dedicated the Temple, and heaven and earth came together, and glory came down upon the people.

It was a great meeting on mount Carmel when Elijah, God's lion-hearted prophet, defied Ahab and Jezebel and 800 backslidden preachers and pulled fire out of heaven in three minutes using but 63 words in doing so.

It was a great meeting when John the Baptist stood on the bank of the Jordan River dressed in camel-skin and cried, "I baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am unworthy to unloose. He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

It was a great meeting on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind and kissed their brows and bathed their hearts and filled their spirits.

And so it was a great day when Peter preached that powerful sermon in the power of the Spirit and thousands fell prostrate under the forked lightening of this gospel sermon. But the greatest meeting that this world has ever seen will be when the law of gravity is unanchored and Jesus will roll through and roll on and roll down in His glory to make up His jewels. This will be the meeting of all the meetings of history. The purpose of all that has been done from Genesis to Revelation and from Pentecost to the present day has had the coming of Jesus as its goal, to prepare for that great meeting in the air.

John Wesley was once asked, "Suppose you knew that you were to die by midnight tomorrow, John, how would you spend your time until then?" Without hesitation Wesley replied, "I would spend it exactly as I expect to spend it now. I would preach tonight in Gloucester. I would get up early tomorrow morning and proceed to Tewkesbury where I would preach in the afternoon. Then I would go to the Martin's house in the evening since they are expecting me. I would talk with Mr. Martin and pray with the family. Upon retiring I would put myself in the Father's care, go to bed, and wake up in heaven."

Could you truly say that if you knew your hour of death, or the hour of the Lord's return -- that you would be able to live the same life you're living right now. Most of us would have to say, "No, not at all."

In our text for tonight Paul has revealed some very special things for those of us who are the people of God. First of all, I want us to look in verses 4 and 5 and I want us to see:

I. The Special Insights Of God's People (V. 3-5)

Look in verses 3-5 (read). The unsaved world will be enjoying a time of false peace and security just before these cataclysmic events occur. Notice the contrast between "they" and "you" throughout this entire section. "They" refers to the unsaved. "They" will say, "Peace and safety," but we will say, "Jesus is coming and judgment is coming!" The world will be caught by surprise because men will not hear God's word or heed God's warning. God warned that the flood was coming; yet only eight people believed and were saved. Lot warned his family that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed, but they would not listen. Jesus warned His generation that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and this warning enabled believers to escape, but many others perished when the city was destroyed. People in those days were going about their regular daily activities -- eating, drinking, getting married -- and never considered that judgment was around the corner.

Well-meaning people have tried to set dates for our Lord's return only to be embarrassed by their failures. Jesus said that no one would know the exact time of His return to the earth, but the approach of the year 2000 has stimulated an upsurge in doomsday prophecies. One trend watcher has identified some 1100 groups or individuals (Christian and non- Christian) that would see the dawn of the new millennium as having cosmic significance. The intensification of cult-like activity because of distorted millennialist views is cause for concern. And tonight we're all well aware of the Solar Temple, the Branch Davidian, and the Heaven Gate tragedies. Nearly 20 centuries have come and gone since our Lord gave the promise of His return, and He has not returned yet. This does not mean that God does not keep His promises. It simply means that God does not follow our calendar. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8). All this means for us is that as children of light we're to live expectantly. This does not mean putting on a white sheet and sitting atop a mountain. That is the very attitude that God condemned in Acts 1:10-11. But it does mean living in the light of His return, realizing that our works will be judged and that our opportunities for service on earth will end. It means to live "with eternity's values in view." We may not know exactly when Jesus Christ will return, but we know how we are to live until He does return. He has given us the light that we need to live expectantly and abundantly.

The story is told of a mother and her small daughter who were walking past the house in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln once lived. The lights were burning inside, making the home seem warm and inviting. They paused for a few moments as the mother told the girl what a great President Mr. Lincoln had been and how the whole nation mourned when he died. The youngster listened with rapt attention, then noticing the glow coming from the window, she said, "Look, momma, when Mr.

Lincoln went away he left the lights on." Well, when Jesus went away He left the lights on for us, and we know how we're supposed to live. We're to live expectantly and abundantly. But in this passage of scripture Paul not only speaks about the special insights of God's people, he talks about,

II. The Special Obligations Of God's People (V. 6-7)

Look in verses 6 and 7 (read). Now, to be sober minded means to be alert, to live with your eyes open, to be sane and steady. In order to make the contrast more vivid, Paul pictured two groups of people. One group was drunk and asleep while the other group was awake and alert. Danger was coming, but the drunken sleepers were afraid of it. The alert crowd was ready and unafraid.

Let me illustrate this by taking you back to Noah's day. In Hebrews 11:7 we have a word about Noah, and we're told in that passage of scripture that Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his house. If you will remember, Noah preached for 120 years and had no apparent results. I don't know how Noah stood it. I don't know how he preached that long and endured not having any results. No telling how many invitations he gave, but nobody ever came forward. I mean, you talk about a ministry; you talk about a guy getting discouraged. And yet there was something about the caliber of the testimony of Noah that made an impact upon his children.

Noah "prepared an ark to the saving of his house." Maybe it was like this. The boys had gotten grown and they had moved away. Japheth had gone off to the University of Nod where he was a professor. One day in a faculty meeting, one of the professors who had been out on a tour of the country starting telling about this fellow who was building the most audacious boat you ever saw in your life. The professor said, "This fellow who is building this boat is saying there is going to be a flood. He is warning people to get into the ark or they are going to perish." Dr. Japheth said, "What was his name?" "I think they said his name was Noah." Dr. Japheth turned ashen-faced. He sat up straight. He remembered the teachings of his father, and he said, "Listen, fellows, that's my old daddy.

Though I haven't lived for my daddy's God, He was real to my daddy and if my daddy said there's going to be a flood, there's going to be a flood. If my daddy says the only way to be saved is to get in the ark, I believe it. I'm sorry, I'm going to get in the ark."

And perhaps old Ham became a kind of a wayward boy. He went the way of the world. He lived for the world. He deserted his father's God. One day he was sitting in a bar and a fellow came up and said, "Man, let me tell you something. You may think I'm drunk, but I want to tell you there is an old coot out here in the country. He has been hammering away at building a big ole boat. He says that God is going to pour down water on this world, and God is going to judge this world for all of the sins we are enjoying." Ham said, "What's his name?" "His name is Noah." Ham began to tremble. He said, "Fellows, I knew it. My daddy told me there was going to be a flood one day and that I had better get saved. Down deep in my heart I know that I haven't been living the way that God wants me to live, and the way my daddy taught me to live. If my daddy says it's about time for a flood, I have never known   my daddy to lie. My daddy's God is real and if Dad says the judgment is coming, I believe it. I'm sorry, boys, I'm leaving this life of sin and I'm getting in that ark with my daddy."

Perhaps the same was true of the other son, Shem. But I know the Bible says, "Noah prepared an ark to the saving of his house." And there were eight people saved in Noah's day. There were eight people who were sober enough and alert enough and sensitive enough and sensible enough to get in the ark. The rest of the world was in a drunken stupor. And I tell you that the unsaved people of the world are not alert. They are like drunken men living in a false paradise and enjoying a false security. At least the sons of Noah had enough sobriety, and they had enough sensitivity to remember the teachings of their father and to get in the boat.

Now, doctors tell us that some people are "morning people" while others are "evening people." That is, some people are wide-awake before the alarm clock rings. They hit the floor running and never have to yawn or throw cold water in their face. Others wake up slowly -- first one eye, then the other -- and then gradually shift gears as they move into the day. And their heart really doesn't start beating until about eleven o'clock in the morning. But when it comes to the return of our Lord, we must all be "morning people" -- alert, awake, sober, and ready for the dawning of that wonderful day. We must be responsive and receptive to the invitation of the Lord and the will of God. Now, we have considered the special insight of God's people, and the special obligations of God's people. Let us consider now,

III. The Special Equipment For God's People (V. 8)

Look in verse 8 (read). I was reading this very passage the other night and watching a Brave's game at the same time. And I noticed the equipment that Javier Lopez had on. He had on chin guards. He had on a mask. He had on a chest protector. He had on a glove. And I noticed that Jeff Conine of the Florida Marlins swung at the ball and just barely hit it and deflected it into the catcher's mask and it preserved him from perhaps serious injury. And like a baseball catcher, we are vulnerable without protection for our chest and for our head.

The armor mentioned here is defensive, not offensive. Paul does not talk about a spear to attack the enemy, but of putting on the helmet and breastplate. He is dealing with our defense against the lethargy and indifference that can come upon God's children, just as it does the world. He's talking about our defense against the things that would dilute our witness and take away our effectiveness.

There are three things that we absolutely have to have. He mentioned them earlier: faith, hope, and love, the trinity of godly characteristics, the triad of virtue that should be demonstrated in the life of every child of God. All of the other characteristics of the child of God emanate from these. And the tense of the Greek verb indicates that we do not put on the armor and then at some time lay it aside. That would be unthinkable. The tense indicates that we are to put on the armor and to leave it on. It is a once-for-all step. Now, having considered the special insights of God's people, and the special obligations of God's people, and the special equipment for God's people, let us consider,

IV. The Special Destiny For God's People (V. 9-11)

Look in verses 9-11 (read). Now, these verses talk about the special destiny that God has for His people. And, of course, the destiny for the believer is heaven itself. But do you know what? The people on the Corn Islands of Nicaragua are much more interested in heaven than we are. As you heard the other Wednesday night, those people on the Corn Islands have virtually no books for their school libraries. They have no medical equipment or medicine for their hospital. They have no teaching materials for their churches. Most of them have no electricity. Most of them do not have indoor plumbing. Most of the young people on that island feel trapped. They feel that they're going to have to spend the rest of their life on that island where there are very few vocations to pursue. And so when you begin to talk about heaven to those folks, they get excited. And when you sing... There is a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we have seen it afar, they want to know about that land. They want to know about heaven. They want to know about Jesus because Jesus gives them hope. And Jesus gives them the promise of a land that is fairer and more wonderful than anything they have ever experienced.

Do you know what we've done in America? We have created our own heaven down here. Our libraries are not lacking for books. Our hospitals are not lacking for medical supplies. Our churches are not lacking for learning aids. Our homes have electricity and air-conditioning and indoor plumbing. If one of our young people has a dream of being a doctor or a businessman or a college professor or a nurse, they will probably have all of the ingredients necessary to attain their goal. We have all kinds of entertainment, and our pursuits are prosperity and pleasure. So we have created our own paradise. And so the thought of heaven is not particularly attractive to us, unless we are extremely elderly; or unless we discover that we have some terminal illness; or unless, for some strange reason, our situation seems to be particularly hopeless.

I have conducted my own survey of preachers and asked them, "When is the last time your congregation sang... When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be, When we all see Jesus, We'll sing and shout the victory." And I ask them, "When is the last time you sang...

“On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,

And cast a wishful eye,

To Canaan's fair and happy land,

Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land,

I am bound for the promised land,

O who will come and go with me,

I am bound for the promised land."

Or, when is the last time that you sang...

“Shall we gather at the river,

Where bright angel feet have trod,

With its crystal tide,

Forever by the throne of God."

Or when is the last time you sang...

“Face to face with Christ my Savior,

Face to face what will it be,

When with rapture I behold Him,

Jesus Christ who died for me.

Face to face I shall behold Him

Far beyond the starry sky,

Face to face in all His glory

I shall see Him by and by."

Or when was the last time you sang...

“When my life work is ended, And I cross the swelling tide,

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,

And His smile will be the first to welcome me."

Now, I personally do not think that the traditional versus contemporary style of worship has anything to do with it. I think the problem is that we have set our affection upon things below and not on things above. We simply do not have an eternal perspective. And so many believers have such a comfortable situation here on earth that they rarely think about going to heaven and meeting the Lord. They forget that they must one day stand at the judgment seat of Christ. It helps to hold us up, and builds us up, when we recall that Jesus is coming again.


If you have never trusted Him, then your future is judgment. You needn't be ignorant, for God's Word gives you the truth. You needn't be unprepared, for today you can trust Christ and be born again. Why should you live for the cheap sinful experiences of the world when you can enjoy the riches of salvation in Christ? If you are not saved, then you have an appointment with judgment. And it may come sooner than you expect, for it is "appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Why not make an "appointment" with Christ – Meet Him personally and trust Him to save you. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." And if you are saved, the truth of the Lord's imminent return should encourage you to keep clean and to do faithfully whatever work He has assigned you to do.

It also encourages us to attend church and love the brethren according to Hebrews 10:25. It encourages us and strengthens us in the difficulties of life according to II Corinthians 5:1-8. And it motivates us to win the lost according to II Corinthians 5:9-21. So let us not simply embrace this truth as a part of our systematic theology, but let us embrace it as the blessed hope of the saints of God. Amen.