Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Epistle for this week is from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. Here we find the controversial statement that “the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (v. 2b, CSV). Why is this controversial? Some theologians have affirmed this indicates that Christ’s return for his people will go unnoticed by most of the world. Some will be taken, some will be left behind. This even resulted in a series of fictional novels which have scared many Christians. Maybe they don’t believe well enough. Maybe their works are not good enough to be taken by Jesus.
First, we want to remember the close of the previous chapter. There will be an archangel shouting. God’s trumpet will blow. The dead in Christ will rise, bodily, from their graves. This is going to be noticed by all creation. Christ’s coming will be a secret to nobody.
How, then, is this like a thief in the night? I would compare it to the thief in the night who comes to the house, blasts through the front door lock with a shotgun, sets off the alarm system, turns on the lights, screams, and starts hauling things out as fast as possible. The homeowner just might notice it. The thief’s coming was unexpected. But the action is certainly conspicuous.
How are we to be vigilant? We hear God’s word. We know that Jesus is going to come. We pay enough attention to our lives that we will be aware of the wake-up call. We hold to Jesus’ word. When this is the case, we can have confidence. We will not be neglected. Jesus’ coming is for us. He plans to raise the dead. He will certainly be able to rouse us out of our night’s rest which is committed to his hands.
The end of the world is a message of encouragement to Christians. At the end of time, Jesus will put all things to rights. There won’t be any more people trying to break into our lives and harm us. He will restore everything by his own presence. It’s in God’s hands, after all.
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