Today we’re reading 1 Thessalonians 5.
What will the end of humanity look like? Everyone agrees that this earth is doomed--eventually. Some people believe that space travel will offer escape for the human race to some other inhabitable planet when our sun dies out or the earth becomes uninhabitable, but realistically that’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality.
According to God’s word, human history will end here on this earth. And most of humanity will be utterly unprepared for it as we read today in verses 1-3. Verses 4-11 describe the contrast; while most of humanity will be unprepared for the end, believers “are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (v. 4). God’s word has described for us what will happen when the “day of the Lord” (v. 2) arrives. As students of his word, then, we should not be surprised when his judgment comes.
Still, although we are not in darkness, this passage urges us to “be awake and sober...since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (v. 6b, 8). The promise of salvation from God’s wrath in Christ (v. 10) calls us to be active and growing in our faith, not passive and complacent as if we are just passing the time until Christ comes.
This is always how the Bible applies end times promises to believers. The promise of deliverance through Christ should motivate us to become like Christ. We strive to become holy for many reasons--the new nature within, the Holy Spirit within, a desire to be like Christ--but one of the things that should motivate us to grow is the knowledge that Christ will return. Understanding that this world is temporary and that eternal things are, well..., eternal, lifts our thoughts from materialism, self-centeredness, pleasure-seeking, and other temptations. We lose our desire for these things when we realize all that God has promised to us eternally in Christ.
Have you lost your focus on eternity? Is your interest in the Lord, his word, and his character formed in your life cooling off? Let this reading remind you that the Lord is coming. So many things that seem important now will be completely irrelevant when Jesus returns; likewise, things that advance God’s work through evangelism and God’s holiness in people’s lives will be shown for the eternal value that they have. So let these words encourage you (v. 11a) but also refocus and re-energize you to know the Lord and participate in his work.