Sunday, 20 August 2017
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:6
The word “Therefore” is given as a summary of what has been said concerning the words of verses 1 through 5. He has spoken of the “times and the seasons” which includes the Day of the Lord, and which will come as a thief in the night. He has said that those who are of the night will find that sudden destruction will come upon them. He has said that because we are not of the night, but rather are “sons of light and sons of the day” that this Day will not overtake us as a thief. This does not mean, and it cannot be inferred from these words, that we can know specifically when the Day of the Lord is coming. Rather it means that we will not be ensnared by it, having a general understanding of the prophetic timeline as he has laid it out. Because of this, “Therefore.”
To build upon the “Therefore,” he then says, “let us not sleep, as others do.” What this means will be further defined in the coming verses. Now, he simply tells us to not sleep. It is a metaphor which doesn’t so much speak of sin, but rather of being careless in things pertaining to morality and spirituality. He speaks of sleep in this manner in Ephesians 5 –
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:8-14
Therefore, Paul’s words here are not speaking of us being aware of the “times and seasons” of verse 1 at all. It is speaking of our spiritual state as we await the Lord’s unfolding of those set and appointed moments which are known but to Him alone. Again, as is seen in the previous verses, there is nothing to suggest that we are going to be aware of the day of the rapture. The Lord has told us this, Paul has confirmed it, and so we are to be spiritually and morally awake as we await Him.
We are not to fall into the same state of indifference which is noted about unbelievers (noted here as “the others” – see verse 4:13) who state “peace and safety.” In so doing, as is common among the apostatizing liberal churches of today, they are being drawn back into being in the dark rather than remaining in the light. This is something Paul states, time and again, which can happen to believers who do not actively stay awake, immerse themselves in the word, and walk according to the doctrine he lays down for us.
This then is confirmed by the contrasting clause, “but let us watch and be sober.” In the next verse, Paul will use the literal example of sleeping and drinking until being drunk. After that, he will explain what that means in a moral and spiritual sense by telling us how to avoid it. We are to be calm, wakeful, circumspect, and morally grounded because of knowing and adhering to the word. In acting in this manner, we will always be ready for the Lord’s coming. It will not be a moment of sad surprise when it happens, but rather a moment of joyous surprise. This is what Paul’s words convey. They in no wise indicate that we should be predicting the rapture, but rather we are to be in constant anticipation of it.
How sad it is that those who predict the rapture, time and time again, are actually in violation of this very precept. To state in January that the rapture is coming in September, or from one year to the next, or on a date four years away (or whatever!) would then wholly violate the intent of Paul’s words. We are to be awake at all times, ever prepared for a moment which the Lord has reserved unto Himself alone.
Life application: What a sad and dangerous attitude it is to speculate on the day of the rapture and the subsequent unfolding timeline of the time of God’s wrath upon the earth. And what an incredible waste of time it is. It is good to know the broad outline of these things, teaching them as doctrine, but it is error to specify when that outline will be executed. Let the Lord be the Lord. When we stand before Him, there will be no boast that we knew what He knew about the timing of these unfolding events.
Lord God, help us to be patient in our wait upon You. You would ask us to remain sober and alert, not spiritually darkened to the events of the world around us. There is no “peace and safety” ahead for the world, but rather there is only going to continue to be a degradation of society until the day You call us out of it. Help us then to not get sucked into it and allow our morals to lapse. You have called us to holiness, and so help us to be holy. This to Your honor and glory, O God. Amen.