Sermon for Sunday, March 19th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Joe 2:1-11 ESV] 1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6 Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. 8 They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10 The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11 The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
New Testament reading:
[1Th 5:1-11 ESV] 1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
[Mat 24:36-44 ESV] 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
This is the third of three sermons covering the material Paul writes to the Thessalonians on encouragement.
First, he encouraged the church with the good deeds they had been doing, saying let’s do that more and more.
Then, we saw last week, the encouragement of the coming of the Lord. “Encourage one another with these words.” Jesus died and rose again, and will bring with him those who have fall asleep. And therefore, all who belong to Christ will see the glory of his second coming and be forever together with the Lord.
Now, is a third section which ends with the words “ENCOURAGE one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Why? Why ought we to build one another up an encourage one another in the faith an in the hope of salvation?
Because the LORD IS RETURNING and we are CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
Though there is darkness when he returns, those who are AWAKE, those who are children of light, we shall not be surprised at the day of the Lord but shall rejoice the salvation we have obtained through Jesus Christ.
We can understand this text in three headings:
I. Concerning the Times and Seasons
II. Not of the Darkness
III. Salvation Through Christ.
I. Concerning the Times and Seasons
The Time and the Seasons.
Here the “time” is the question of “how long.”
And the “season” is the question of “when.”
How long will it be until Christ returns and when will he return?
Paul says “1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
These verses are connected,
There is nothing we need write to you on this matter …
because you well know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
The return of Christ will be a SURPRISE.
Peter says also [2Pe 3:10 ESV] 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief
And Jesus Himself says in [Rev 16:15 ESV] 15″Behold, I am coming like a thief!
It will be like the days of Noah. People going on with their business without a care in the world. People saying “there is peace and security.”
The people were warned, but they did not listen. They did not listen to Noah, that preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). They were warned by his building of an ark. But they did not listen. And they were destroyed in the flood.
Like a thief in the night. Hence Paul says it is a “sudden destruction.”
The thief comes in the night when he is least likely to be seen. And, if he is successful at his craft, the victim finds merely that something is missing. The thief gets away and the victim is surprised to find something stolen.
But with the coming of the Lord, the Christian is not to be totally surprised.
The coming of the day of the Lord is likened to a pregnant woman whose labor pains have come upon her. Yet, she knows she is pregnant! It would a far greater surprise if she didn’t know she was pregnant!
So Paul says “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
The thief not only comes suddenly, he comes with dreadful awful results! The one who is not prepared will have disaster strike him!
But Christians will be prepared for the coming of the Lord. They won’t know when it will occur, but they will be prepared. Prepared through Jesus Christ to be dressed ready for battle with the breastplate of faith and love and with the helmet of salvation.
We are prepared, though we do not know the day.
It is clear that no one knows the day of the coming of the Lord and of the end of the world.
[Act 1:7 ESV] 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
[Mat 24:36 ESV] 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
No one knows.
But many have pretended to know.
There are many, who, despite these clear Scriptural verses, have yet predicted the date of Christs return. The list of failed prophecies and of failed prophets is long. Some of the more notable ones have been:
William Miller and the Millerites in their “Great Disappointment” in 1844. This is when many sold all their earthly good and expected the Lord to return, but He did not.
There there was Charles Taze Russell who founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that Christ would return in 1874.
And there was Herbert Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God thought Christ’s return would be in 1975.
And Harold Camping who said 1994. And when that year came and went, he said maybe 2011.
This actually has a salutary effect. There is a beneficial effect of these failed prophecies. We can, by these false predictions, know that these are false prophets! That narrows down our choices!
Indeed the Scriptural view of prophecy is that ANY prophetic error proves that the person is not a prophet of God.
[Deu 18:22 ESV] 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
So it is that we cannot know the day of the Lord’s return, we cannot know the time or the season.
But this doesn’t mean that will be totally caught off guard.
For we not of the darkness.
II. Not of the Darkness
There are two Biblical reasons why it is that we shall not be surprised when the Lord returns.
In other places in the Scripture, briefly, we have the idea that the Lord has warned us of the events that immediately precede his coming.
The old commentary of Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown says “Signs will precede the coming, to the confirm the patient hope of the watchful believer, but the coming itself shall be sudden at last.” (Matthew 24:32-3, Luke 21:25-32, 35)
This is true indeed, but is not the focus of our present text.
Our present text tells us of another reason that we are “not in darkness,” another reason why day of the Lord will not surprise us like a thief. And that is “the Lord prepares us spiritually as the Children of Light.” [REPEAT: We are Children of Light.]
And, as Children of Light, we are not in the Darkness.
The Lord prepares us for his coming because he has given us “the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of hope of salvation.”
He gives us faith, love, and hope. And these are like armor for battle. We are protected by the Lord himself.
So while the Day of the Lord is a day of destruction and fear for the unbeliever, for he who believes it is the day to look forward to with faith and hope, desiring to see glory of the Lord and know his salvation and eternal life completely.
The ESV Bible titles this section of the letter as “The Day of the Lord.”
Now, in the Old Testament the “Day of the Lord” is spoken of a number of times. Some 20 times. And in almost every instance the text speaks of it as a day of DESTRUCTION. Amos speaks of it as DARKNESS.
[Amo 5:20 ESV] Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
That is what Paul seems to have in mind here in his letter. It is indeed darkness. … But, he says, you are Children of Light. So be encouraged. Take cheer. Be awake and prepared for his coming with faith and hope.
Jesus says this also about being “awake”:
[Mat 24:42-44 ESV] 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
You cannot know when the thief will come, but you can be prepared. You can have your armor ready at hand.
And you cannot know when the Lord will come, but you can be prepared. You can have the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation ready at hand, already fastened on and prepared.
Faith, hope, and love. These are the same three Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, that famous passage about love. “So now, faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”
All are gifts from God, along with our salvation.
III. Salvation through Christ
Indeed the Lord himself blesses with these gifts.
Faith, Love, and Hope, come from God encouraging us in that salvation which Jesus Christ has already obtained for us.
Paul says, “For God has no destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That is great encouragement. He who saved you, will see you through to the coming of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord. He died for us that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Because of God’s love for us, HE himself prepares us for his second coming. He gives us faith, He gives us love, He gives us Hope. And on that day we will depend on Him. And every day we depend on Him.
That is the only way.
He is the only one who can save us.
Jesus Christ alone has the power over death and the assured promise of eternal life to all who believe.
All of these blessings that he showers upon are because we are Children of Light, chosen in the Lord to obtain salvation.
Praise be to God.
The Puritan Matthew Henry explains of the Thessalonians and of us:
They are not in darkness; they are the children of the light, etc. This was the happy condition of the Thessalonians as it is of all true Christians. They were not in a state of sin and ignorance as the heathen world. They were some time darkness, but were made light in the Lord. They were favoured with the divine revelation of things that are unseen and eternal, particularly concerning the coming of Christ, and the consequences thereof. They were the children of the day, for the day-star had risen upon them; yea, the Sun of righteousness had arisen on them with healing under his wings. They were no longer under the darkness of heathenism, nor under the shadows of the law, but under the gospel, which brings life and immortality to light.
So let us consider this:
Each one of us shall have his last day. One day or another shall be your last. So there is the warning: be watchful and well-armed with the Gospel of God.
And on the Day of Lord you will have no reason to fear. That will be HIS day. THE DAY OF THE LORD. He shall be in control. He shall bring to pass eternal judgment and eternal life. But in that day of darkness, we shall be drawn out as children of light, brought safely to His kingdom. So be encouraged. The Lord has chosen you to hear this message this day, and He has chosen you to believe in Him and forever be Children of Light.