1I don't need to write you about the time or date when all this will happen. 2 You surely know that the Lord's return will be as a thief coming at night. 3People will think they are safe and secure. But destruction will suddenly strike them like the pains of a woman about to give birth. And they won't escape.
4My dear friends, you don't live in darkness, and so that day won't surprise you like a thief. 5You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark. 6Others may sleep, but we should stay awake and be alert. 7People sleep during the night, and some even get drunk. 8 But we belong to the day. So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet.
9God doesn't intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. 10Christ died for us, so we could live with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes. 11This is why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.
Yes, but when is the When coming? We are so much in love with “When,” always curious and anxious about the future, and no less so with the idea of a Jesus who is coming back. We are passionate about time in general and we want to know when Jesus is returning. For then, of course, we can make sure we will be ready.
But Paul and his readers are relaxed: they have no need to know when the When is coming because although they understand the suddenness of this incredible event which is known as “the day of the Lord,” they also know that they are children of light, people of the day – all images of those who, in Christ, are safe in the kingdom of God.
“The Day of the Lord” is a phrase from the Old Testament prophets. It’s the When when Yahweh comes to judge his people, to make a separation, to save the faithful and punish the faithless. “Thief in the night” imagery speaks to that which is both unexpected and unwelcome. But the Thessalonians – and indeed we – need have nothing to fear here, because while that Day will be terrible for the ungodly, it will be salvation and glory for those who are in Christ.
Curious and anxious about the When? Relax, says Paul. We belong to the day, to light, to faith and love and salvation. God has sorted it. Through Christ we are given the life that survives any day of wrath that we can imagine.
So take heart and be encouraged. We have no need of calendar or crystal ball. We rest in the assurance of the second coming; and in the assurance that when the When shows up, we’ll be fine.
We’re ready. Be encouraged.
Father God, all calendars and crystal balls are in your hands. Help us to await the return of Jesus with patience and understanding – and peace. Help us to know with certainty that when the When comes we will be united with you in the sheer beauty of a Life that is endless and impossibly rich.