COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 5:4 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. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night." NKJV
(1 Thessalonians 5:4-7)
When it comes to the consideration of "the day of the Lord," or Christ's return "the second time," the necessity of readiness is accentuated. "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." MATT 24:44 Our text will confirm that everything about salvation is conducive to this readiness. When we were born again, we were placed in the light, where we can progress toward "the day of the Lord." Outside of Christ, however, there is only spiritual night and darkness. The Christ-less realm promotes sin and discourages righteousness. It causes one to fall into sleep, so that the day of Christ will catch him by surprise and mandate ones destruction. To be unprepared for the return of Christ contradicts everything about salvation. It requires the quenching of the Spirit and the spurning of Him who speaks from heaven. The word of God must be rejected, and the world must become primary. In view of these things, it is imperative that we walk in the light, living out our lives in the awareness of the Lord, His will, and His return. At the moment Christ's return becomes meaningless to us, our souls begin to grow dull and our hearts begin to harden. It is not possible to avoid these lethal processes unless we choose to live in the day, in the bright light of the glory of God, and with His Word lighting our path.
YOU ARE NOT IN THE DARKNESS
" 5:4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief." The declaration is that the day of the Lord will come "as a thief in the night." 5:2 It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and while people have been lulled into spiritual complacency and insensitivity. Godly ministers and teachers will keep us aware of the "day of the Lord," when He returns in power and great glory. Ungodly leaders will neglect this subject, or take novel approaches to it, so that the people are left without an alert conscience concerning the return of their Lord.
NOT IN DARKNESS. What a piece of good news! Those who are living by faith are not "in darkness." They are not living blindly, with no vibrant and true direction or goal. Those who are "not in darkness" can "see the day approaching." HEB 10:25 They are living alertly, with their "senses exercised to discern good and evil." Heb 5:14 They are walking "in the light as He is in the light," 1 JOHN 1:7 They are not "ignorant" concerning the coming of Jesus "the second time." 1 THESS 4:13; HEB 9:28
A vital aspect of spiritual life is where we are NOT. Countless professing believers are "in the darkness" concerning the return of their Lord. They are not preparing for the day, hear little about it, and seem to be disinterested concerning the whole subject. They are not living with "the day of the Lord" in mind. They live too close to the world, and are too involved in its affairs. Their interests have little to do with heaven, or dwelling forever in the courts of the Lord. What is said of the Thessalonians cannot be said of them. Whether men wish to acknowledge it or not, such people are tottering on the very precipice of condemnation.
THIS DAY. "The day of the Lord" is the preeminent day for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is the day that will overtake the wicked as a thief, bringing sudden destruction upon them. 5:3 It is "the great and notable day," and the Gospel is declared with it in mind. ACTS 2:20 This is the day in which our spirits will be saved. 1 COR 5:5 It is the day of ultimate rejoicing, 2 COR 1:14 in which "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 PET 3:10 For those who walk in darkness, this is "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," ROM 2:5 in which God will "judge the secrets of men." ROM 2:16 The awareness of this day will constrain men to "cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." ROM 13:11 The objective is to be "blameless" in this day. 1 COR 1:8
This is the day when every person's work will be assessed, and appropriate reward or loss will be realized. 1 COR 3:13 It is the "day of redemption," when we will be clothed with immortality, death will lose its sting, and the grave will lose its victory - the day when we will receive a glorious body like unto His. EPH 4:30; 1 COR 15:55-56; PHIL 4:20-21 What possible reason can be adduced for the remarkable silence on this subject from the pulpits of the land?
Let it be clear that those who preach a gospel that eliminates the coming of the Lord have preached "another gospel." 2 COR 11:4; GAL 1:6 They have reduced hope, if not eliminated it altogether. A message that does not apprize people of the return of Jesus puts the people at a decided disadvantage. Such a gospel makes it easier for Satan to work and for sin to creep into the church. We should not be surprised when immortality, strife, contention, and all manner of sin and foolishness surfaces in assemblies that are fundamentally ignorant of the return of Christ. People who do not ponder this day will find it easier to sin. Satan will more easily deceive them, and his arrows will find their way into their hearts and minds. There is no darkness as thick as the one caused by an ignorance of Christ's return. Those who walk in such darkness do not ponder the judgment. They have no thought for the reward Jesus will bring with Him. They forget they will give an account for every idle word, and that their works will be brought into judgment. They forget the heavens and earth will pass away, and therefore live in them as though they were always going to be here. Oh, it is serious beyond measure to be ignorant concerning "the day of the Lord!" A heart that does not long and wait for it will grow hard. There is no alternative for such a soul but to walk in darkness.
OVERTAKE YOU AS A THIEF. There is a vast difference between being overtaken by the day of the Lord and being blessed by it. None who are overtaken have the promise of being saved by it. Those who are "surprised" NIV by this day will experience "sudden destruction." For such, Jesus will break up their house, taking what they have and confronting them with His glory, which sharply contrasts with the darkness in which they walked. You will search in vain for any good that will come to those who are not expecting Christ's return. If people are not waiting for God's Son from heaven, the danger in which they are living is beyond comprehension. By using the word "overtake" the Spirit emphasizes the certainty of Christ's return. That day will override both time and circumstance. Prepare for it!
YOU ARE SONS OF THE LIGHT
" 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." Here the Spirit places the accent where we must place it. Who we are, when correctly seen, will determine what we do. Here is something that must be affirmed again and again. This is what we have been made in Christ Jesus. It is the result of new creatureship and the consequence of salvation. Furthermore, this is common throughout the household of faith. No person in Christ Jesus is excluded: "You are ALL . . . "
SONS OF LIGHT AND DAY. Because we have been "begotten," or "born again," 1 PET 1:3,23 we are called "sons," or "children." KJV, NRSV We are not merely constituents of an historical movement, or followers of a certain approach to living in the world. We are not people who have merely embraced a philosophy of life, or are adhering to a set of rules. We are twice the offspring of God: once by nature, and finally by grace. The expression "sons of light and sons of the day" emphasizes the means by which we became sons, and the realm in which our new life is sustained. This is a vital distinction concerning which we need understanding.
The means by which we became sons. God's glorious light was the means through which we were born again. Through it we were illuminated concerning our natural condition and the great salvation announced by the Gospel. Scripture refers to this as when we "were illuminated" or "were once enlightened." HEB 6:4; 10:32 The details of this new-birth experience are declared in Second Corinthians 4:6. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." NKJV Working through the Gospel of Christ, which is God's power "unto salvation," ROM 1:16 God revealed Himself to us. He did this by showing us His Son in the message of the Gospel. That illumination was effective, for He "commanded" the light to shine into our hearts. That regenerative work constitutes us "sons of light." As Jesus said, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." JOHN 12:36 Were it not for this light, we could not have been born again.
The realm in which spiritual life is sustained. Spiritual life cannot be sustained in darkness, or ignorance. The more ignorance dominates a person, the more dead they are. Many people, because of their unfamiliarity with God and the things of God, are like the certain man who fell into the hands of thieves and was left "half dead." LUKE 10:30 Their ignorance is alienating them from the life of God, but they do not even know it. EPH 4:18 In order for our lives to be sustained in Jesus, we must "walk in the light as He is in the light." 1 JOHN 1:7 If we conduct our lives "in the light," certain benefits will be realized, namely: "we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." However, there is no promise of either of these essentials if we are not walking in the light - in spiritual illumination and awareness. The implications of this are far reaching, and devastating to the majority of Western Christianity. Far too much contemporary church-life is tolerant of spiritual darkness, and often is even guilty of perpetrating the same. It is inexcusable.
NOT OF THE NIGHT OR DARKNESS. Our new lives have nothing whatsoever to do with the night or the darkness. "The night" has to do with the domain in which men walk. It is a realm where spiritual darkness and ignorance reside. It is where a lack of awareness of the day of the Lord is cultured and enhanced. "The night" is the territory where men do not think of God, Christ, salvation, or the day of the Lord. It is the realm where men are comfortable in sin and are dominated by this present evil world. The children of God cannot survive in "the night." "The darkness" is what rules the night. When men walk in the night, they become ignorant - blind to the realities of life and godliness. When a person chooses to live where darkness dominates, he "does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." 1 JOHN 2:11 It is not possible to be godly when one walks where God is not welcome, and the things of God are out of order! Wherever spiritual light is out of order, spiritual life cannot be sustained. This is precisely why some professed believers die spiritually while sitting in church pews.
LET US NOT SLEEP. To "sleep" is to live as though nothing with eternal significance was going to happen. It is to live without the "day of the Lord" in mind. In this sense, "sleep" is a prelude to spiritual death - being cut off from God. David called it "the sleep of death," and prayed God would enlighten him so he could avoid it. PSALM 13:3
WATCH AND BE SOBER. To watch is to look forward to Christ's return, anxiously anticipating it. To be sober is to be alert, serious, and not deceived by the wicked one. Where these are absent, sin will gain the advantage, and a place for Satan is made. When men "sleep," neither of these indispensable traits are possible.
SLEEP AND DRUNKENNESS IN THE NIGHT
" 5:4 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night." This is a most serious statement, with remarkable implications. It declares there is a realm that encourages both sleep and drunkenness. Neither of these can be experienced in the day or in the light. Both are tailored for the night, and are promoted by the darkness. In fact, "sleep" and being "drunk" cannot be avoided if one lives in spiritual darkness.
SLEEP AT NIGHT. Spiritual and moral "night" dulls spiritual capacities and closes the "eyes of the understanding." EPH 1:17 If you have ever worked with low-lifers, drunkards, drug addicts, and carousers, you know this to be true. One can hardly break through the ignorance and disinterest that covers such poor souls like a heavy mantel. When a person walks in the realm of spiritual night, his soul begins to fall asleep. How carefully, for example, believers must guard their souls when they go to work. For the most part, the places where we earn our living are like the marketplaces of Athens - dominated by the night. When our bodies are in such places, our hearts and minds must walk in the light. If we allow ourselves to become absorbed by the culture of the night, we will fall asleep spiritually. The Word will no longer be important to us, and the coming of the Lord will be the last thing we think about. How true it is, "those who sleep, sleep at night."
In another sense, "night" is the whole temporal order - it is time, and the fashion of this world, which is passing away. 1 COR 7:31 To become absorbed with temporal things is to be in the night, and to be in the night puts one to sleep. It is in this sense that we are admonished, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand." ROM 13:11-12 "The day," in this case, is the day of the Lord - the ultimate day that will dissipate the night and all shadows. By saying "The night is far spent," the Spirit means everything that is not in harmony with the Gospel. This is the domain of opposition to the things of God. It encourages the neglect of the soul and the preeminence of the body. It is the time in which the devil works, and the saints must grapple with a wayward law within. ROM 7:23
DRUNK AT NIGHT. Drunkenness is intoxication, dissipation, and being filled with something that distorts thought and corrupts the whole person. In the body, it applies to being filled with wine, or other forms of liquor. It also includes drugs, which have been popularized in our culture. To be "drunk" is to lose possession of ones faculties, and thus become more vulnerable to the devil. Ordinarily, those who are drunk and "drunk at night." In a hedonistic society, however, that is addicted to pleasure and fleshly gratification, such has become popular in the daytime also.
One can become "drunk" on other things also. The great spiritual harlot of the book of Revelation is said to been "drunk with the blood of the saints." REV 17:6 She derived her pleasure from slaughtering the people of God. Whatever makes one "drunk," unalert toward God, and the vassal of the devil, can be included in this.
In recent years, some professed believers have referred to being "drunk in the Spirit," which is a complete contradiction of terms. They base their misconception on Ephesians 5:18. "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." They betray their ignorance by ignoring the remainder of the thought: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." 5:19 Such holy activities require an alert spirit and mind. It cannot be done while staggering about and falling under the imagined power of the Holy Spirit. The Ephesian text did not say to be drunk in the Spirit, but to be "filled with the Spirit." Any place such an experience is mentioned in Scripture, the individual always became profitable to others, articulate in the things of God, and keenly aware of eternal verities. That is something that can only happen in the day, never in night.
We have lived to see well known religious personalities fall into moral degradation. Some have marveled that such things could happen. Be sure, when religious leaders fall, it is because they have been walking in night and living in darkness. You cannot fall in the light. It simply is not possible. That is why Jesus said, "If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." JOHN 11:9-10 Settle it in your mind, walking in the night produces results, and they are not good. Such results are related to condemnation and death. Equally true, walking in the light yields results, and they are good: salvation and life with God.