As I watch the news every night, I see the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and of Jesus himself in Luke 21 being clearly fulfilled in our times. I also see Christians taking notice that Christ’s return is rapidly approaching. Sadly, it seems for many that this is where their interest ends. 1 Thessalonians 5 reminds us that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return when it says that the day will come like a thief in the night. But that same text also tells us that we are not in the darkness if we are His, so that the day will not overtake us like a thief in the night. We’re told that we should recognize the season, and recognize when the time of His return is close. Then Paul closes out the chapter by telling us how we should respond to that knowledge. One of the first things that this knowledge should stir in us is urgency. We need to be sharing the gospel with anyone who will hear. Peter tells us that the reason Christ hasn’t returned is because God is patient, not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But that patience will run out, and the chance for grace and forgiveness will come to an end once He returns. So now is the time to take this gospel to the world. Paul gives us a list starting in verse 11 instructing us on what God expects for us to do as the days of His return get closer.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-22
(1) 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
He reminds us in a world where we are beaten down and persecuted by those who oppose Jesus, we need to encourage one another and spur one another on to good deeds. We need to speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, speaking truth to one another so that when life becomes overwhelming, we can be reminded to set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. We can be reminded that everything we face in this life is temporary, and that this present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us! (Romans 8:18)
(2) 1 Thessalonians 5:12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
We should realize the great calling and burden that is carried by those who have been placed in our lives by God to train and equip the body. They are constantly under attack by the enemy. We call on them for prayer, and yet sometimes we forget to pray for them, and that they need encouragement too. These verses also tell us the best way to show our appreciation for them – “Live in peace with one another.” Pastors are carrying the huge responsibilities of impacting people’s lives with the eternal things, so they don’t need the distraction of having to deal with petty disagreements in the body.
(3) 1 Thessalonians 5:14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
Here we are reminded that every person and situation is different, and so we have to be sensitive to the need of the moment so that we interact with people in the right way. While we should always speak and act in truth and with love and grace, there are times that we are to admonish and correct our brethren. Sometimes we need to realize that the person has just been beaten down by life and that encouragement, not just correction, is what’s needed. We need to understand that people have weakness – as do we all. We are also reminded that when evil is done to us, or we have been legitimately wronged, that we are to overcome evil by doing good. We have to crucify our desire to pay back the evil done to us and to remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord, and He will repay (Hebrews 10:30). We are to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
Finally, we have a list of do’s and don’ts where we look to ourselves and our own walk with Christ. We’re to live a life of joy, of constant conversation and relationship with God, and of thankfulness for all that God has done. The Bible says to do all things without grumbling or complaining. (Philippians 2:14) In these last days God is calling us to purity, to reality, to full surrender to the spirit of Christ. As time gets short, the lost need to see a clear unblemished example of Jesus in us, so that as many as will come can respond to the amazing grace of Jesus Christ!