1 Thessalonians / chapter 5 (read the chapter)
You’ve heard the term “shock jock,” haven’t you? It refers to a person who intentionally tries to surprise or shock people—usually in disturbing or disgusting ways. They specialize in the unexpected, in catching people off guard.
In this chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul is very clear that God is not a shock jock: “You aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” (vs 4-6)
Paul is writing about the second coming of Christ, a day that he says “will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.” (vs 2) But, he says, it doesn’t have to be that way, because those who choose to have relationship with God now—while they won’t know the specific day of His return—do not have to be caught off guard by His return. They will be watching and waiting, anticipating.
I have long been intrigued by the description of how others will experience His coming—those who have chosen not to have a relationship with God: “When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.” (vs 3)
It’s hard to imagine a time in this world when people will be commenting on the widespread peace and security of life, but there are certainly a lot of people around the globe who are always working toward ushering in such an era. And, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with peace and security, it appears that those who will think they have found it will be sorely unprepared for the calamity right around the corner.
Apparently, what masquerades as peace and security may be anything but.
And this is why Paul reminds us that God has prepared His people for what is to come—so we won’t be lulled into a false sense of security. I must admit, however, that sometimes it’s easy not to be lulled into that. Especially in America, where we enjoy freedom and opportunity, it’s very easy to get caught up in the idea that we are in control of our lives. It’s very easy to feel like we are captains of our own destiny—and that we can save ourselves and save the world.
God doesn’t want us to be lulled into that kind of thinking. While it’s true that we make choices about our lives every day and while it’s true that those choices have a direct impact on our lives temporarily, we’re not just here to live our lives temporarily. Our lives are headed somewhere. This world is headed somewhere. History is headed somewhere. It’s on a big collision course with the climactic ending of a war that’s been raging in the universe over the character and government of God.
The more we remove ourselves from the context of that universe-wide war and perceive that we are simply “living our lives” here, the more we are in danger of being lulled into that sleep Paul was talking about.
God wants us to be alert and awake, meeting each day with expectant anticipation for what He’s doing—even when we don’t know exactly what it is! He isn’t a shock jock; He doesn’t want us to be surprised, startled, or caught off guard. He wants us to not only know what’s coming, but Who’s coming.
We may not know when. And we may not know how.
But we shouldn’t live a single day without the awareness that He’s on the way.