Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
In the Marvel Comics Universe there is a character named Blade. He was invented in 1973 but rose to popularity with the film series of the same name in the last 15 years or so. One of Blade’s nicknames is “The Daywalker.” He got that nickname because he is half vampire and half human. His mother was attacked by a vampire while she was pregnant, and the result is that he is turned into some sort of half-breed. He becomes half vampire, but still a good guy. He’s a creature of the night, but walks in the daytime. In the Epistle reading, Paul writes, “You are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day.” In keeping with the theme of the end of the church year we learn from the text that the day of the Lord will soon come like a thief in the night to put an end to darkness, but we have already been made children of the day.
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” When we last looked at 1 Thessalonians we learned that Thessalonica was the capital of Roman Macedonia. It was surrounded and filled by the wicked practices particularly of pagans, but of the Jews as well. Paul was not able to spend as much time there as he wanted on his second missionary journey, as he was driven out of town by an angry Jewish mob, only to have the same happen in the next town over. And so, he was worried about the new Christians there until he heard a good report from Timothy.
Paul commended them as an example of faith amidst a sea of evil. In addition to temptations to gratify the desires of the flesh as they saw everyone else doing, they had another concern: the return of Jesus Christ. Early Christians believed that Jesus would return immediately, and then when He didn’t, they became concerned that they missed it. This thinking Paul would specifically address in parts of 2 Thessalonians, but at this point Paul writes that the Thessalonians have no need to have anything written about the Second Coming – the return of Christ for judgment against sin and the reunion of all believers. Paul constantly affirms in his writing that he is not teaching anything new, but he teaches what he received from the other Apostles and from Jesus Himself. Part of that teaching was what Jesus said about His own return.
Matthew 24 puts us in the middle of Holy Week. As Jesus left the Temple, His disciples remarked how great the buildings were, and He told them that not one of them would be left standing. This piques their interest and they ask Him what the sign of His coming will be. Jesus gives them a general idea by saying that there will be wars and famines and earthquakes; false prophets will arise and deceive many, and many will fall away from the faith – all things which have already happened and will continue to happen. But to keep them from trying to pinpoint the time, He tells them, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
This teaching the Thessalonians received from Paul and we receive as well. But, wouldn’t it be nice to know when exactly Jesus is coming? We could have all our ducks in a row; we could make sure that we were behaving like good little Christians. Some, like John Hagee, have put stock in something called the Blood Moon Prophecy. This is the idea that a series of red moons will immediately precede Christ. Therefore, since we can use science to predict these, some say they know exactly when Jesus will return. Now, this is well-intentioned, I’m sure. But, what happens when you have work to do – say you have a task that will take you an hour to do – and you have more than enough time to do it? If you’re like me, you procrastinate. I’ll get this idea that if I can get this thing done in an hour, and I’ve got two hours free, why not spent the first doing whatever I feel like? In that way I make myself comfortable as I gratify my own desire to not do work.
The text says, “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.” Jesus said that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah, where people were eating and drinking and being merrily unaware up until Noah was getting into the ark, and the Flood destroyed them all. I like to read the Psalms; Luther prized them and called them the songbook of the Bible. Truly all Scripture transcends time, but the Psalms are especially good at speaking to the core of our human condition. Psalm 73 is one of those Psalms, I think, that just hits the spot. Asaph writes that God is truly good to Israel, but he almost stumbled and slipped out of faith, and the reason was that, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Job was troubled by this as well. He asked, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power…they spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. They say to God. ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we get if we pray to Him?” Sometimes we ask ourselves, what is the benefit of being a Christian? Why do we come to church? We sing and hear some readings, but how does it impact me, if at all, when non-believers appear to live the same or even a better life? Asaph continues in Psalm 73, “When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”
Scripture gives us this comfort, that though it seems like the world has the upper hand, that we Christians are like flies beneath the swatter, the end will come like thief in the night and sudden unescapable destruction will come upon those who say in their heart, “There is no God.” Though it appears they live the prosperous life, their end is ruin. The psalmist wrote, “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end…I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.”
St. Paul writes, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” The end of those who reject God in their heart will come swiftly, and they will not escape. But we are not in darkness. Though we were once in darkness, enslaved to the sin that lurks within and around us, now you are light in the Lord. Those who disbelieve, who get drunk on the desires of their own flesh will not enter the kingdom of heaven. While they are telling themselves, “peace and security,” the end will come.
But God has not destined those in Christ for wrath, but for salvation through Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Son of God. He existed before all creation and all things were created by Him. He took on flesh to die for us, to win for us the salvation that we cannot work out ourselves. He did this to win us for Himself and make us children of the day. St. Paul writes, “Let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Since we have been bought by the blood of Christ, we are not only assured of our salvation, but we also receive the armor of God. This we need as we continue to be in the world, but not of it. The breastplate of faith and love was been placed upon us to share that faith and love with those around us.
Next week we are having our community meatball dinner. The money we raise from it goes not to us, but to our neighbor in need. In this we are sharing the love that we have through the faith we receive from Christ.
This is the second to last Sunday in the Church year. We’ve been focusing last week and this week on what that means for those on earth. We know that those who live according to the world will receive their just reward. But, we are still tempted and we do envy them. There are so many who live such better lives than us. This is why we have been given the helmet of salvation. Our helmet that protects us from the devil and the world is the hope that in Christ all of our sins are forgiven and that in Him we have obtained salvation.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Thess. 5:4-5.
 1 Th 5:1–2.
 Mt 24:36.
 1 Th 5:3.
 Ps. 73:3
 Job 21:7, 13-15
 Ps. 73:16-17
 Ps. 73:17, 23-24
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Th 5:4-5, 9–10.
 1 Thess. 5:8