In 1 Thessalonians, the coming of the Lord is likened to a thief coming in the night. “When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). This story of the coming of the Lord being an unexpected interruption of our peaceful lives has been used for years by evangelicals as a means of scaring people into the kingdom. When I was a kid, there was even a movie circulating all the churches called “A Thief in the Night.” Ask anyone old enough to have remembered that movie and they will tell you it scared them out of their wits.
But, as my brother, David, pointed out last night on our BlogTalkRadio show where we discussed his latest book, The Future Great Planet Earth, Christ’s return will be different for those who believe in Christ and await His coming. The very next verse says, “But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night” (5:4-5).
So for those in Christ, His return will not be like a thief in the night for two reasons. 1) We will already be expecting His return so it will be no surprise, and 2) we are not in the darkness. For us, there is no night for the thief to come in, because we are “all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”
That means no fear. Eyes wide open. We are not in the dark, we are in the light. For us, the coming of the Lord will be the best news ever. Not as a thief, but as a welcomed return in the same way the disciples saw Him go — coming down to us out of the clouds. We will be watching. We will know it’s Him, because we are children of the day, not the night.
“So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (5:6-9). Amen.
Our study in the Book of Acts is a wake-up call for all of us — a good one. Wake up everyone, because it’s not night. We are children of the day. We are bearers of good news. Christ is risen! He has forgiven our sins! He is coming back for us! And like the early followers of Jesus used to say, “Christ is risen, indeed!”
Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)