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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

1 Thessalonians 5

Verses 1-28



1. The day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 )

2. Exhortations 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 )

3. Conclusions 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 )

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

“But concerning the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” The apostle next mentions the day of the Lord. This is the day when the Lord is revealed from heaven, the day of His visible manifestation. It is the day when judgment will be executed upon the world. While the coming of the Lord for His saints, as made known in the previous chapter, is unrevealed in the Old Testament, the day of the Lord of which the apostle now writes, is fully revealed by the prophets. (See Isaiah 2:12-22 ; Joel 2:1-32 ; Joel 3:1-21 ; Zephaniah 1:14-18 ; Zechariah 14:1-9 , etc.)

Our Lord spoke often of that day as the day “when the Son of Man cometh,” that is His own visible glorious manifestation. What precedes this day is also made known in the Old Testament prophetic Word; and our Lord gives us likewise the same information. “And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27 ). See Matthew 24:21-31 . judgment is in store for the world when that day comes, as judgments and tribulation are the forerunners which usher in that day. The world does not believe in such a day, but dreams of peace and safety, in a continuance of prosperity, of expansion, universal peace and a constant improvement of earthly conditions.

“There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4 ). But while the world saith, Peace and safety, their hearts are failing them for fear and they tremble in anticipation of the future. Much of all this we see clearly in our times, so ominous and so solemn. There is a false hope, a false optimism; we hear of what this world war will accomplish, how peace and safety will come to the whole world; yet underneath it all there are hearts failing for fear. And when that day has come, when He has been “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the earth with His saints for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-15 ). That will be the day of the Lord, as the present age is “man’s day.”

Before that day comes with its preceding judgments and the great tribulation, the coming of the Lord, for His saints, the fulfilment of chapter 4:16-18 must take place. Of this we shall find much more in the second Epistle. When the Lord comes for His saints, the world and those who were Christians only in name, will face that coming day. It is the beginning of it. After God’s true children, the praying people of God, have been removed, the age will take its final plunge into apostasy and iniquity; judgment upon judgment from above will then be poured out, as we learn from the book of Revelation.

Because these judgments, the forerunners of the day of His visible manifestation, the times and seasons connected with these events, do not concern those who are the Lord’s, the apostle states that there was no need to write them about it. The Lord had told His disciples before He ascended into heaven that it was not for them to know the times and the seasons. It shows that we are not to be occupied with the times and seasons, when the times of the Gentiles end, etc., but to wait and watch for Him, who will surely come suddenly for His own as a thief in the night.

“Had it been possible in the apostle’s day to predict the centuries of delay that have, in fact, elapsed, disciples might indeed still have waited for their Lord, but watched they could not, and no ‘thief in the night’ could have troubled their slumbers. But for the heart, expectancy was needed; and they were to watch because they knew not. Thus for these watchers the times could not speak, and in fact when they do it will be for another people than the present Christian Church, and when this is already removed to be with the Lord in the manner which we have just had before us.

“For mere formal and worldly Christendom, the coming of the thief will then in a sense have taken place. Shut out in the outside darkness, when others have entered the chambers of light, no place of repentance will be left for the despisers of God’s present grace. In a world which, having rejected the true King, will be left for that awful time to experience fully what Satan’s rule is, they will fall under the power of his deception. Not having received the love of the truth that they might be saved, they will believe a lie; and comforting themselves with the cry of ‘peace and safety,’ sudden destruction will come upon them as upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape!” (Numerical Bible)

The words “they” and “you” make it still more clear that the day of the Lord is for the world. He does not say “When you shall say, Peace and safety” but when “they shall say.” The apostle excludes the believer completely from that day when sudden destruction falls, for he says, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day overtake you as a thief” And why? Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For that they sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. This is the character of true Christians, no longer in darkness, but children of light and of the day, and therefore belonging to that coming day to be with the Lord when He comes to judge, it cannot overtake them as a thief.

Being the children of the day we must watch and be sober; it is that which distinguishes true Christians from the mass of professing church-members and the world. The world and those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, do not watch, nor are they sober; and being sober, walking in separation from the world, its lusts and pleasures, the believer, having on the breastplate of faith and love, can advance against the enemy. He has also for an helmet, to protect him, this promised glorious salvation. Thus we can look always up, without fear, in the midst of danger when the judgment clouds are gathering over this present evil age. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Blessed knowledge and twice blessed assurance! that we might be delivered from the wrath to come and share with Him eternal glory. He died for us. “Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep (as to the body) we should live together with Him.”

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Exhortations follow. He wishes that those who labored among them should be acknowledged by them and very highly esteemed in love for their work’s sake. If the apostle and his co-laborers looked upon them as their crown of rejoicing, their glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 ), they should very highly esteem them as the instruments of the Spirit of God for their edification. Be in peace among yourselves. All self-will is put aside when the heart looks forward to that coming day, when laborers and the fruits of their labors are in His presence. Then peace among His own will not be disturbed. The disorderly are to be admonished; the faint-hearted comforted; the weak sustained, and patience to be manifested towards all. Then we have joy, prayer and thanksgiving as the characteristics of those who wait for His Son from heaven and look for that blessed hope. “Rejoice evermore”--our joy is in Him. The joy of the Lord is our strength. And what joy will indeed be ours when we remember that we shall see Him as He is!

“Pray without ceasing.” Prayer is constantly needed, including the forgotten prayer, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.” If this petition is never wanting, His coming for us will never lack reality. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” As we pray and ever take afresh from His own fulness grace upon grace, and remember all the abundant provision made for us in Him, and that the glorious future which awaits His own may burst at any moment upon us, then shall we give thanks in everything. “Quench not the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not to be hindered in His action in the midst of His people. What sad consequences when He is quenched and how great the responsibility! Do not despise prophesyings--the forthtelling of the truth of God, speaking out of the fulness of the Spirit. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil,” or, as it is better rendered, “Keep aloof from every form of wickedness.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

The conclusion of the Epistle begins with a prayer. “Now the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is faithful that calls you, who will also do it.” God is for all who have believed in Christ the God of peace. Peace was made in the blood of the cross; believers are both reconciled and sanctified through the peace that God has made for us in the work of His Son. We stand therefore in a blessed relationship with the God of peace, have communion with Him, and from this flows practical devotedness of life and walk to God. Believers are sanctified by the three persons of the Godhead; by God the Father, by the blood of Jesus Christ, the offering of His body, and by the Holy Spirit.

We are in Christ completely set apart for God, bought with a price and no longer our own. We possess a new nature and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This demands of us that we be wholly set apart to God in every faculty, whether of mind or body. This is our practical sanctification, which springs from our increasing knowledge of God. This practical sanctification is wrought in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit, who attaches the heart to God, revealing God more and more, as well as unfolding the glory of Christ. This devotedness to God in spirit, soul and body, depends upon the believer’s apprehension of his relationship to the God of peace and his communion with Him. And this is progressive. Entire sanctification will be the blessed and eternal portion of all who are Christ’s, when He comes, and we shall be like Him, “conformed to the image of His Son.” The perfection comes with the coming of the Lord; in the power of this blessed hope shall we be preserved blameless even down here in this evil age. He is faithful who calls you, who will also perform it. Blessed assurance! He has called us to this life of blessed separation with Himself. He is faithful and will accomplish it. May we trust Him daily and stay close to Him.

“Observe again here, how the coming of Christ is introduced, and the expectation of this coming, as an integral part of Christian life. “Blameless,” it says, “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The life which had developed itself in obedience and holiness meets the Lord at His coming. Death is not in question. The life which we have found is to be such when He appears. The man, in every part of his being, moved by this life, is found there blameless when He comes. This life, and the man living this life, are found, with their Head and Source, in the glory. Then will the weakness disappear which is connected with his present condition. That which is mortal shall be swallowed up of life: that is all. We are Christ’s: He is our life. We wait for Him, that we may be with Him, and that He may perfect all things in the glory” (Synopsis of the Bible).

The apostle closes this First Epistle by requesting the brethren to pray for him and his co-laborers. With all the deep knowledge of the truth and the great revelations from the Lord, he felt his dependence and knew the blessing which comes from the prayers of fellow saints. He asks for the expression of affection among themselves and adjures them to have this letter read to all the holy brethren. And the final word “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.