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Final Events (1 Thess. 5:1–11)
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8, ESV).
This week we continue with our study of the epistle to the Thessalonians. We are to remember that this chapter is related to the previous one. Paul did not make divisions to his letters; those were added later for our convenience.
When we look at it this way we realize that Paul was not done with the subject of the second coming. Our quarterly states,
In this week’s passage, the Second Coming is still the primary theme, but the focus shifts. Here Paul is not so much clarifying details about Jesus’ return as he is proclaiming the need for constant readiness in light of that return (and the judgment that it entails). The previous passage was encouraging; when the end comes, the outcome will be much more positive than the Thessalonians were expecting. Now that they understand better the nature of His return, the question is how to prepare for it.
So, Paul continues in this passage with a different aspect of the subject. One more clue that these two passages – last week’s and this week’s – are related is the fact that both passages end with very similar phrases.
1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
This let’s us know that the message of Christ return was to be comforting to the believers. With last week’s passage Paul told them that Christ would not forget the dead, and with this week’s passage Paul tells us that Christ would not forget those who are still alive in His return. What we are going through here has an end, and it is a glorious one. It will be the end of Sin and the beginning of a new life without Sin. As our quarterly says, “it will be better than we expect.”
Now, by comparison last week’s passage is only six verses, and this week’s is eleven.
The beginning of last week’s chapter started with the words, “I would not want you to be ignorant.” So, Paul went into details to make sure they got it. This week’s passage starts with the words, “Regarding … I have no need to write, because you already know that …” In other words what we get in this chapter is probably only a review. So, this week’s passage could have been a lot more verses.
Ultimately, Paul’s message is that to endure to the end we need to be watchful and sober (1 Thessalonians 5: 8). Why? Ellen White says why,
“There is need of watchfulness. Our own hearts are deceitful; we are compassed with the weaknesses and frailties of humanity, and Satan is intent to destroy. We may be off our guard, but our adversary is never idle. Knowing his tireless vigilance, let us not sleep, as do others, but ‘watch and be sober.’ ”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 409.
Until Christ comes we will be assailed by the Devil. And, we need something to protect us and fight back. So, being that this is a Spiritual War, we need an armor that can help us fight in that war. Paul says that we are to be watchful and sober putting on the armor of God so “that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” and “that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 11, 13). Now, to be watchful we must be awake and alert. Which means your eyes and ears should be open. But, we walk by faith and not by sight. So, the issue here is one of faith. And, to be sober means that we are not drunk or drugged up, we have not lost control of mind. So, we do not lose our inhibitions and acts in ways we regret later. We also do not lose our memory, as many who are drunk or high do, and do not remember our foolish actions. When we are sober we are in control. Since we are talking about spiritual soberness then we mean that the Holy Spirit is in control, this is what the Bible calls temperance.
Faith and temperance are both attributes of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22 – 23). And, if we would look at the components of the armor (1 Thessalonians 5: 8; Ephesians 6: 14 – 17), some of them are also attributes of the fruit of the Spirit; namely: love, faith, and peace. So, we could say that in this spiritual war the Holy Spirit is our armor. Only He can protect us from the wiles of the Devil and give us the ammunition to fight against him. The question is: will we let Him.
The last words of the passage say,
1 Thessalonians 5: 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
The fact that God does not leave us on our own to fend for ourselves should be a reason to be comforted and encouraged. This is something worth reminding each other with.