The doctrine of the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ has generated more than a little heat and perhaps less light. My dad spoke to me about the various sermons and articles he had read through his lifetime which identified the antichrist, pontificated about the details and charted in colour one interpretation which has dominated North American churches.
As Paul penned First Thessalonians, he reminded his readers that they ‘knew very well’ the suddenness and unexpected arrival of Jesus Christ. Perhaps in his preaching or teaching while with them, he and the missionary team had at least covered the basics. Paul was not a ‘date setter’ (Matthew 24:36 forbids such prognostication). The focus of his teaching was on seeking to assist the believers to be prepared, to live in keen anticipation and faithful obedience until Jesus returned.
“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Though writing to believers, is he not noting the impending destruction coming upon unbelievers? The ‘people’ seem to be the ordinary citizens who think all is well and are caught ‘off guard’ by the coming destruction.
He illustrates the unexpected arrival in two ways.
a) A thief in the night – Thieves don’t make appointments. They don’t call up and inquire if Thursday morning at 3:00 a.m. would be suitable for a break in. They just come.
b) A pregnant woman about to give birth – Labor pains may happen any time. The birth is not arranged at the mother’s convenience. Just survey a few moms and you’ll meet at least some who were surprised. They were anticipating the birth but did not know the specific moment when labour would commence.
Though unbelievers may not be preparing, Christ’s followers should live with a readiness. I think the hymnwriter got it right while penning these words…
1 When Jesus comes to reward His servants,
Whether it be noon or night,
Faithful to Him will He find us watching,
With our lamps all trimmed and bright?
Oh, can we say we are ready, brother?
Ready for the soul’s bright home?
Say, will He find you and me still watching,
Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come?
2 If, at the dawn of the early morning,
He shall call us one by one,
When to the Lord we restore our talents,
Will He answer thee–“Well done”?
3 Have we been true to the trust He left us?
Do we seek to do our best?
If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,
We shall have a glorious rest.
4 Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching,
In His glory they shall share;
If He shall come at the dawn or midnight,
Will He find us watching there?
Or as we sang yesterday
Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King we sing
Even so come, Lord Jesus come
Even so come, Lord Jesus come
So if Paul were to write to your church would he write, “You know very well…” or do you? You demonstrate your knowledge by your ‘readiness living.’