Online Bible Commentary
A Thief in the Night
1 Thessalonians 5: 1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (NKJV)
Paul is writing here of the “day of the Lord”, specifically when it will come. This is not a single day, but a time of judgment, desolation, and darkness. It is a time that begins with the rapture, the event where all Christians are taken out of the world.
We could say that “the day of the Lord” is when the Lord takes over. It includes the rapture, the seven year Tribulation, the coming of Christ with His Saints, the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, during which Satan is bound, and the destruction of the heavens and Earth by fire.
Paul begins this passage by saying that Christians “have no need” to be concerned about when the “day of the Lord” will come (v.1). Christians have no need to be concerned because they will already be in Heaven with the Lord, since the rapture happens first.
Speaking of the rapture, John gives us an idea of when the rapture may occur, in the Book of Revelation. He gives us the history of the church, by writing of seven local churches of the time. It begins with the church of Ephesus, which was emblematic of the first churches. It ends with the church of Laodicea, which is emblematic of the churches at the time of the rapture. Jesus called the church at Laodicea “lukewarm” and said “I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). The churches at the time of the rapture will be like some mainline denominations today: apostate, liberal and ecumenical. The rapture may be close.
The "day of the Lord" will come like a “thief in the night” (v. 2). In other words, only God knows when this happen. People will be calling for “peace and safety” (v. 3a) after the rapture. All Christians have been taken to Heaven. Christian pilots were raptured out of cockpits and airplanes crashed. All modes of transportation crashed. “All the Christians have finally left”, some might cheer. But the world is a mess. Crime is rampant. Churches are boarded up. Evil rules. There is no “peace”, and there is no “safety.”
The “day of the Lord” is God’s judgment reigning down upon the world. This judgment will come in the form of “destruction” (v. 3c). It will come suddenly, like “labor pains” (v. 3b). No one left on Earth will be able to escape the destruction (v.3d). People will be totally unprepared.
Christians do not live in darkness, like unbelievers (v. 4a). They live in the Light, Jesus Christ. They are not surprised when the "day of the Lord" happens, because they are expecting the rapture. But those unbelievers remaining on earth are surprised (v 4b).
The Bible often refers to light and dark, day and night (v.5). Those who walk in the light of day are Christians, representing purity. Those who walk in the dark of night are unbelievers, representing evil. Christians represent purity because of the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling them, and unbelievers represent evil because they are in a lifestyle of sin.
John writes of the beginning of the tribulation in Revelation, chapter six. Seven seals are opened, each bringing judgment upon the earth.
The first judgment is the threat of warfare (v. 2). The second is “to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other” (v. 4). The third judgment is high prices so that the poor live in famine but the rich continue in luxury (v. 6). The fourth is that one-fourth of the earth’s inhabitants are destroyed by war, famine, plague, and wild beasts (v. 8). The fifth is that new Jewish believers are persecuted and slain (vv.9-10). The sixth judgment brings tremendous acts of nature causing a great earthquake, the sun darkens, the moon turns red, stars fall to the Earth, the sky recedes, and mountains and islands are displaced by tremendous upheavals.
Christians will be in Heaven during all of this. Thank you, Jesus.