By Justin Edwards
It's been about 5 weeks since I began a series titled The Coming of the Lord that was to be based on a sermon series from my pastor, Loran Livingston, on 1 Thessalonians 1-5. As the messages on chapters 3 and 4 were not necessarily on the coming of the Lord as I had anticipated, I did not feel led to write about them. However, the message on 10/31/10 was quite uplifting and comforting for the Bride of Christ, so I will conclude the series with this message and a different title (you can read Parts 1 and 2 here: The Coming of the Lord - Part 1; The Coming of the Lord - Part 2 (A Message on Pastors)).
The Apostle Paul ends chapter 4 with a reference to the Rapture of the Church, and in combination with references from John 14:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, we have the clear biblical basis for this doctrine. Although the rapture doctrine cannot be honestly disregarded in Scripture, the timing of the rapture of the Church has caused much division in the Body of Christ. Moreover, extreme views and extra-biblical liberties have led many to attempt to predict the date of the rapture (datesetting), but the fact of the matter is, NO ONE knows the hour, and to suggest foreknowledge of this spectacular event is utter foolishness. Discussing the timing of the rapture is perfectly fine, but when division occurs between different "camps" (pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib), there is nothing that edifies the Body or brings glory to God. If this topic creates a stumbling block for the furtherance of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it's best not to argue over such things if it cannot be done peaceably.
With that said, Scripture is indeed quite clear that the Bride of Christ will not be here for the Day of the Lord, otherwise known as the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the 70th week of Daniel, and the 7-year tribulation (the latter half often referred as the Great Tribulation). Scripture references supporting a pre-tribulation rapture include: Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. There are other Scriptures that show imminence and provide logical evidence the Church will not be present during the tribulation, but for the sake of brevity in this article, I will focus on the Scripture of yesterday's message.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 reads,
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 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. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Paul opens by saying the brethren have no need to be concerned with the timing of the tribulation. He exhorts them to not be distracted with the timing of God's final judgment, but rather to occupy their time in living godly lives knowing full well that judgment is coming unexpectedly upon the people of the earth. As verses 2 and 3 make clear, judgment will come as a thief in the night when the people of the earth least expect it. At a time when the world is saying "peace and safety" (which will have culminated with the signing of the 7-year covenant between the Antichrist and Israel), sudden destruction will come upon them and they shall not escape. Yet, distracting ourselves with trying to figure out who the Antichrist is or when this covenant will be signed is futile because no one knows, and more importantly, we will not be here to find out (so why are you stocking up on supplies?).
We are not in darkness so to be overtaken by this unexpected judgment. We, the Body of Christ, are children of light (Ephesians 5:8) and walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). Those who walk in darkness, however, are subject to the wrath of God as children of wrath and disobedience (Ephesians 2:2-3, Ephesians 5:6, 1 John 1:6). Paul also makes this contrast clear in verses 4 and 5.
And because we are not children of darkness but of light, let us walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1). As such and as instructed in verses 6 and 8, let us be sober and be watchful of the spiritual darkness around us. As we have been redeemed from our fallen spiritual condition, we must live accordingly by the power of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, those who are walking in darkness will be drunk with darkness when the wrath of God falls on the earth, as if jolted out of a coma for they are spiritually unconscious. And while we wait for the coming of our Lord, we must continue in our work of faith, labor of love, and hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:3) that awaits us when we are glorified with the Son of God (Romans 8:18).
My brothers and sisters, God has not appointed us to wrath and the Apostle Paul makes this evident in verse 9 and also 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (in addition to the Lord's revelation in Revelation 3:10). Whether born again believers have already died or they live today, we will all be together one day soon (verse 10). To make this all the more clear (that we have no reason to fear the Day of the Lord), let's take another look at verses 1-10. Pay special attention to the contrasting pronouns Paul uses to distinguish between believers and those in darkness:
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 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. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.Isn't it clear? There is a marked difference between "us" and "them". "They" will incur the wrath of God. "We" will be kept from the hour of trial that will come upon dwellers of the earth. "They" are sons of the devil (1 John 3:8), while "we" are already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). "Their" end is destruction and have their minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19), while "we" have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22) and have our minds set on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-2). "They" stand condemned (John 3:18), while there is no condemnation for "us" who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
So be comforted, my brethren. If you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, then you need not fear the days to come. Once God has planted His seed in you (1 John 3:9), you are His forever as God does not revoke His promises (Romans 11:29). If you have been called, you will be justified, and if you have been justified, you will be conformed to Christ, and if you are conformed to Christ, you will be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). All who the Father has given to the Son will never be lost (John 6:39), no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28-29), and nothing in ALL of creation will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Let us take comfort in knowing that God has secured our salvation for His glory alone, and He has not appointed us to His wrath but has made for Himself a bride that is holy and blameless before the sight of God (Colossians 1:22).
If you have some time now or this week, please take a moment to watch or listen to Loran Livingston's message from Sunday (see below). If you need to be spiritually renewed and find yourselves weary of this world and the things of the world, this is a timely message for you. The days ahead may be few or many, and they will surely be difficult as the darkness continues to restrict around us. But keep your eyes on Jesus and take comfort in the Hope of your salvation Who has delivered you from the wrath to come, and know that He will never forsake you no matter the trials and tribulation you are currently going through.
The King is coming, let us watch and be sober.
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Loran Livingston Video 10/31/10
Loran Livingston mp3 10/31/10