Considering “times and seasons” the question is asked in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. When will the day of the Lord come? Paul raises a more important issue, the way in which we wait for it. The day will be a surprise. “It will come like a thief in the night” (v. 2). His counsel is to be awake and sober; to be armed with the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of hope.
“Hurry up and wait.” We understand that phrase well. We push ourselves at breakneck speeds only to discover that we have rushed for no reason, for we must still wait. For example, more often than not we make a mad dash to the doctor’s office, make sure we arrive precisely on time, only to discover that we must wait an extra hour to see the doctor. I’ll never forget an experience of running from one end of the Dallas Love Field airport to the other to catch a plane. My wife was being pushed in a wheel chair and eventually was picked up in a golf cart to arrive at the gate to leave for the State of Washington. We came to realize that the plane was not departing for another 30 minutes.
We are often caught in the paradox of excitement coupled with the call for patience. Even the gospel makes such a demand of us. In today’s scriptures, Paul is reminding his audience of the certainty of Christ’s return. It will come “like a thief in the night” (v. 2). As Luke 12:30-40 states, “It will come at an hour you do not expect.” When it comes, there is no time for decision, no time for preparation. Paul compares the Parousia to woman in labor. When it’s time, there is no stopping the process. As Christians who live with the promise of that day, we must live expectantly and wait patiently.
We must live expectantly as revealed in verses 4-10. Paul refers to the times in the history of Israel when the people engaged in the pursuits of peace with no suspicion of danger. Yet their peace was shattered as devastation overtook them. The people of Noah’s day and the inhabitants of Sodom are just two examples. People who remain unprepared morally and spiritually will be judged in the day of Christ’s return. In contrast, the “children of light” are to live in an attitude of great expectation. Christians not only expect it to happen: We want it to happen. We embrace the day; we do not shun it. It will be a day of joy, of peace, of victory. It will mark the completion of the walk of faith. Paul reminds his audience that all the saints of the Lord, those who are alive and those who are dead, will be caught up in the wonder and splendor of that day (v. 10). We live with the expectation of what that day will bring.
We must wait patiently as indicated in verse 11. As we wait for that day, we must do so with patience. Patience is not a call to idleness or to waste away the hours; it a call to occupy ourselves with God’s work, diligently and carefully, until he comes. A deacon once told me “Let us be prayed up and paid-up!” Translation: Let us live our lives ready to receive him at any moment, while serving him with every moment. Paul asks that Christians, as we wait, engage in two activities. We are to encourage each other and build up each other. The call to encourage is the call to comfort and affirm each other. The instruction to build up is the call to push each other toward spiritual maturity. As Christians, we are to use our time waiting in a productive way as we help others prepare for the coming of our Lord and share with them the excitement of the day. Christ is coming; are you ready?