Faithlife Sermons

1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11 - Wait Like A Christian

1 Thessalonians: Real Gospel For Real People  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:04
0 ratings


There is a lot of money to be made in the anxiety market. Keeping people in a constant state of fear and apprehension about the future is a sure-fire way to keep people watching your cable news show or subscribing to your podcast or buying your survival kits or enrolling in your prepper courses. The individuals and corporations and entities behind all of these things are not bringing you this information out of the goodness of their hearts. They have a vested interest in keeping you scared. And so they fill your news cycle with Chinese spy balloons and burning tanker trains and mass shootings and global warming and Marburg virus outbreaks and politicians’ shenanigans so that you will keep coming back for more.
A frightened people are a controllable people. An anxious people are susceptible to any sales pitch that promises to rescue them from the pending disasters of an unknown future. Vote for this party or spend money on this self-defense course or install this home alarm system and you will be safe from whatever disaster comes your way.
Now, as Christians, we know that we have no reason to fear the future; we know (as we saw in God’s Word last week) that Christ is returning and bringing our rescue and our resurrection with Him! And so ought to be the last of all people to be fearful or apprehensive about the future!
But Jesus warned us that, even when we know He is coming back, we are still prone to act as though He is not. In Matthew 24, He tells His disciples,
Matthew 24:44–51 (ESV)
44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
As we move into Chapter 5 of our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we see that he is addressing these same “ditches”—anxiety over the return of Christ and indifference to His returnin the church there. (In fact, when we get to 2 Thessalonians here in a few weeks we will see Paul specifically admonishing the members of the church who had decided that since Jesus was coming back that meant they didn’t have to work anymore!)
At the end of Chapter 4, Paul specifically said that he was pointing to the return of Christ in order to encourage his readers. And he says much the same thing at the end of our text this morning:
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Paul aims to encourage the Thessalonians in the way that they lived their lives waiting for the Return of Christ. He does not want them to be anxious about the future (as he said in 4:13 - “Don’t grieve as those who have no hope”), and he does not want them to be apathetic about the future:
1 Thessalonians 5:6 (ESV)
6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
You see, Christian, you do not have the option of being frightened and anxious about what the future holds; you cannot allow the length of your days waiting for His return to cause you to become apathetic or careless. What Paul lays out in our text this morning, and what I want to demonstrate for you from God’s Word this morning is that
A Christian WAITS for Christ’s return with VIGILANT HOPE
You are not to look to the future with fear, you are not to become apathetic and cold in your waiting for Christ’s return. You must be vigilant because of

I. How the Day will ARRIVE (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

1 Thessalonians 5:1–3 (ESV)
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Paul is clearly referring to Jesus’ own description of His return—a few verses up from the passage we quoted in Matthew 24 a moment ago we read:
Matthew 24:42–43 (ESV)
42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
The first characteristic of that Day is that
It will be UNEXPECTED (v. 2; cp. Matt. 24:42-43)
1 Thessalonians 5:2
2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them...
No one gets a note taped to their back door saying “I will be back around 3:30 tomorrow morning to break in this window and leave with whatever valuables I can grab in the dark. Sincerely, Robbert McBurgleson...” (Any homeowner worth his salt who gets a note like that would be sitting by the door at 3:20 with his two closest friends, Smith & Wesson!)
In the same way, Jesus (and Paul) both say that Christ’s return will not be announced beforehand—it is instructive that Paul describes people reveling in their “peace and security” before the thief arrives—because that is precisely what a home invasion takes from you. People no longer feel peaceful or secure in their homes after they’ve been broken into; they feel as though it’s all been an illusion.
Like a home break-in, Jesus’ return will be unexpected—and Paul says also that
It will be UNWELCOME (v. 3b; cp. Amos 5:18-20)
He says that “sudden destruction will come upon them”—all of the security and stability that people thought they could rely on will simply evaporate on the Day when Christ appears.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Amos had a stern warning for people who said they longed for the Day of the LORD to appear:
Amos 5:18–20 (ESV)
18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19 as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
Understand that Amos is not talking to Gentiles in that passage—he was talking to Israel. In the same way, I think Amos’ words are instructive for us as well. As I want to argue later on this morning, the Return of Christ is a great and certain hope for us as believers, but make no mistake—on that Day when we see Him return, we will be so overwhelmed by His glory and His holiness and His power, and so acutely aware of how little we have progressed in our sanctification and battles with sin in comparison with His manifest perfections that we will be terrified and undone as well at His appearing. We say that we long for that Day (as indeed we should), but when that Day actually arrives, it will not be what we are expecting.
We are called to live in vigilance as we wait on the Day of Christ’s return. That day will be unexpected, it will be unwelcome, and
It will be UNAVOIDABLE (v. 3c; cp. Rev. 6:15-17)
1 Thessalonians 5:3 (ESV)
3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Just as labor pains are an unavoidable part of childbirth, so the return of Christ will bring calamity and disaster and destruction into the lives of those who have refused to submit to Him. The Apostle John paints a vivid picture of the attempts that rebellious leaders make to keep from being confronted by the holiness and righteous perfection of Christ as He returns in Revelation 6--
Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV)
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
This is the way that this Day will arrive—the Day of the LORD, the Day when Christ returns. It will be unexpected, it will be unwelcome, and it will be unavoidable. So in light of the way this Day will arrive, Paul goes on in verses 4-8 to instruct his readers

II. How to WAIT for that Day (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)

1 Thessalonians 5:4–5 (ESV)
4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
The thief comes in the night—but those who are awake are not taken by surprise. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 24:42
Matthew 24:42 (ESV)
42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Paul says the same thing here--
Keep ALERT (vv. 6-7; cp. Ephesians 5:11-17)
1 Thessalonians 5:6–7 (ESV)
6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.
Paul contrasts those who are “children of the light” and those who are “of the night or of the darkness.” He unpacks that same distinction in Ephesians 5, starting in verse 11:
Ephesians 5:11–14 (ESV)
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
And how are the “children of the light” to behave?
Ephesians 5:15–17 (ESV)
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
If Jesus’ return really will be the way the Scripture tells us, then what does that mean for your battles with sin, Christian? Is there any point at which you can, as it were, “lay the reins aside the horse’s neck” and just quit fighting? Let your mind be the same as the 18th Century theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards, who wrote in his diary:
19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it...
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it. (Retrieved from, Accessed 2/15/2023)
Paul warns his readers that since Christ’s return could come at any moment, unexpected, unwelcome and unavoidable, that they must be constantly alert, waiting for the moment He appears. In verse 8 he goes on to say that believers must
Be SELF-CONTROLLED (v. 8; cp. Isaiah 59:17; Romans 13:11-14)
1 Thessalonians 5:8 (ESV)
8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
This is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors for holiness—putting on armor as a defense against sin (cp. Ephesians 6:11ff). The imagery comes from the prophet Isaiah, who described the Messiah putting on armor as He prepared to bring salvation to His people:
Isaiah 59:15–17 (ESV)
15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
In Romans 13 Paul uses this same imagery as in 1 Thessalonians 4 to describe the way that believers are to wait for the appearing of Christ in the midst of the darkness and apathy of this world:
Romans 13:11–14 (ESV)
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The picture here and in our text this morning is of a soldier who has armed himself for battle, and is settling down to wait for the appearance of his commander. And the image is particularly apt, since a soldier who is dressed in full battle armor is going to have a hard time sleeping, isn’t he? (I know my military guys wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but certainly a lot harder!) Mark it well: Dress yourself in the armor of Christ’s holiness, and you will find it hard to succumb to the stupor of sin!
Christian, you are called to wait for the return of Christ with vigilance. His return will be unwelcome, unexpected and unavoidable, and so you are to wait with alertness and self-control. But that vigilance is not a vigilance borne out of apprehension or fear of that day—we are called to exercise a vigilant hope in the return of Christ. And so in verses 9-11 Paul instructs his readers

III. How to HOPE in that Day (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)

Here is the great hope that you have on that Day, Christian:
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (ESV)
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
This is our great hope and consolation, to be sure—but we must be careful to understand what Paul (and the rest of the testimony of Scripture) is telling us about that Day. Because when you see what the New Testament tells us about Christ’s return, you come to see that when He returns,
Jesus delivers us from the WRATH of JESUS (v. 9)
It is not as though God the Son and God the Father are at odds in saving you from wrath, Christian—it is not as though God the Father desires to punish you and Jesus steps in to protect you. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus Christ Himself is the one coming to bring His wrath on sinners on that Day:
2 Thessalonians 1:7–9 (ESV)
7 ...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
We saw earlier in Revelation 6 that the kings of the earth on that Day will cry on the mountains to fall on them to hide them from him who sits on the Throne and the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15-17). Jesus Himself says in John 5 that
John 5:22–23 (ESV)
22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 5:26–27 (ESV)
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
A few moments ago we saw the Old Testament prophet Amos’ warning that the Day of the LORD will not be what His people expect it to be. In Amos’ case, he was warning hypocritical and apathetic Israelites that their loud declarations of allegiance to YHWH would be shown up as the lies that they were in the light of the holiness and power of God’s appearing.
But even for you who do love Jesus, who have named His Name as your only hope of salvation, who have prayed your whole Christian life that He would hasten His return, who are battling sin and seeking the holiness promised by the Spirit that dwells in you—at that moment when Jesus Christ appears in the clouds with the full revelation of His majesty and holiness and righteousness, what will that moment be for you?
Let John Piper give you a glimpse of that moment:
Let yourself imagine just slightly what that hour will be like. We do not know with detail or precision what the moment of his coming will be like. But only the slightest effort to imagine it overwhelms us. Suddenly, absolutely all doubt about his reality will vanish. Stark certainty will replace it. There will be nothing— absolutely nothing—imaginary about it. It will be raw reality. For the first time in our lives, sight will replace belief in the unseen. The magnitude of it will be such as to make our hearts feel like exploding. In ourselves, we will have no capacities for fathoming this event. It will stagger us. The infinite canyon between his perfection and holiness mingled with his galactic power, on the one hand, and our ridiculously small weakness and moral evil and banal lives of trifling, on the other hand, will be overwhelmingly plain and terrifying. He will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7–8). There is nothing warm and cuddly about these hours. They will bring stark terror and reprisal for all who are outside Christ. They will mark the end of all divine patience for those who did not embrace the gospel.
At this point, we will have one hope: grace. (Piper, J. (2023). Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Second Coming of Christ. p. 64)
The difference between stark terror and unraveling horror at that moment and joy and hope at His coming will be the grace of Jesus Christ extended to you as His beloved child. The hope you have at that moment—the only hope you have—is that Jesus will save you from the wrath of Jesus! That the Judge Who has come to inflict vengeance on all who have refused to obey His Gospel has paid the penalty for your sin with His own blood!
That’s Paul’s very next thought in verse 10—that this Judge who appears on that unexpected, unwelcome, unavoidable day
1 Thessalonians 5:10 (ESV)
10 ...died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Jesus delivers us from the wrath that He brings on that day, and
Jesus delivers us from FEAR of the FUTURE (v. 10; cp. 1 Peter 1:4-7)
Christian, it doesn’t matter what happens to you between now and that day—whether you are alive at that moment, or whether you are asleep in your grave! Jesus died for you so that you will live with Him! You will see this Day with your own eyes! And nothing that can happen to you in the meantime—no tragedy or collapse or disease or violence or dissolution or turmoil of this fallen and falling world can keep you from seeing this Day come, no wickedness or dishonesty or corruption or mendacity of this world’s rulers and leaders will slow His arrival by one second. You have an unshakeable, incorruptible hope for the future,
1 Peter 1:4–7 (ESV)
4 inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So, beloved, wait like a Christian--with a vigilant hope in joyful expectation of the coming of your Savior!
But if you are here apart from Christ; if you think that repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is fine for other people but you have no interest in it; if the thought of submitting yourself to Jesus for salvation is too restrictive for the life you want to live; then what are you going to do on that Day?
Because that Day is coming. It is about one hour closer than it was when we all walked into this room, and tomorrow at this time it will be one day closer. It is coming, and you can’t put off dealing with it by saying, “Oh, I’ve got plenty of time to think about religion—I still have a lot of things I want to do...” Because you have no idea when He is coming. There is nothing standing in the way of His return. We may very well not even finish this service before He calls us out. And from that moment, it will be too late.
You can’t even console yourself by thinking you won’t have to deal with His return because you will be dead by then--because He will call you out of your grave in order to stand before Him. There will be no time to plead for grace, because the time for grace will be over, and Jesus Christ will summon you to Him not as your Savior, but as your Judge
2 Thessalonians 1:8 (ESV)
8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Paul concludes our text in verse 11 by saying
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
And so allow me to bring you such encouragement as I can in light of the unexpected, unwelcome and unavoidable return of Christ—wake up! Awaken out of the darkness and the careless slumber that says you don’t need to worry about these things, the voice even now in your ears that insists that this preacher is blowing these things all out of proportion and he’s just trying to scare you into repenting. Well, maybe he is trying to scare you, because he wants to rescue you from the terror and horror and mind-destroying fear of that Appearing!
As of this moment, that trumpet hasn’t sounded; that call to arise has not been issued; Jesus Christ has waited at least one more moment so that you can escape that wrath that He is bringing! So that you won’t have to face Him as your Judge, with every wicked deed and every sin and every perversion and lawless intent of your heart open and laid bare before Him. He calls you this morning to come to Him for the forgiveness of your sins as you call on Him in faith, trusting His death, burial and resurrection as your only hope that you will have hope and not horror on that Day! He offers you the escape today that will be denied to you on the Day He returns—so I plead with you on His behalf: Come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
Jude 24–25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


How are the questions and concerns that Paul was addressing in this letter similar to questions that Christians face today when it comes to thinking about the return of Jesus?
How is the “Day of the LORD” described in the Bible? How is it a promising event? In what ways is it a threatening event?
How does Paul contrast the fates of believers and unbelievers in this passage?
Explain how a firm hope in the future will enable you to live confidently today.
How does the hope of Christ’s coming encourage Christians to live alert and self-controlled lives?
Read Matthew 24:42-51 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. What similarities do you see in the images and exhortations that Jesus and Paul used in describing His return? What does this tell you about the way you are called to live as you wait for His appearing?
Related Media
Related Sermons