Living Life in Anticipation – Part 3
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007
|Watching, waiting and comforting one another as we wait for Christ to return.
Living in Anticipation – Part 3
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Well, thanks to The Cove in my poor planning unfortunately. But they were so kind to put this together. And I asked them not to do a fancy thing, but they did anyway, so it’ll fit nice and neatly in your notebook. You can put it perhaps behind the section of teaching notes. But just to take a quick look at it. We talked today about the time of the tribulation. On the back of this chart or one side of it we talk about the different views concerning last things. And this has more to do with the millennial structure than just the time of the tribulation. There’s lots of pieces when you look at an eschatological scheme about, you know, what time events, how Satan plays in it, who is being involved.
So what this chart shows on the far left, the different events, the second coming, the resurrection, the judgments, tribulation, so forth. We talked about that one little band of the tribulation piece. So this gives you an overview, a little more depth of the a-mill, post-mill, historic pre-millennialism and dispensationalism, which I did not go into the historic one this morning.
Of most interest to many of people are the adherents across the bottom. I hesitated to put some of the names. Well, I didn’t put some of the names on there that I thought about. For instance, my good friend Alistair Begg who, he’s a great friend and brother. I’m pretty sure he’d be a-mill. So there are many fine Christian men and women who hold different views of the last times. And you might remember the Dr. Hebert quote I read this morning about a collegial nature, not a polemic and bombastic view of these discussions. But these are some of the reasons each group lines up with where they are.
On the other side is the judgment chart, and this is one that I’ve sort of cobbled together over the years. When I first came to Christ, I thought there was one judgment: In the end we were judged. I had no idea there were seven judgments in the Bible. And so this gives you some. Some will say, well what about the great judgment? Well, which one are you talking about? And more often than not they’re talking about the bema, but they don’t understand that that’s not about what they think it’s about. That’s about a person’s works. And we give you the Scripture on the far right. Old Testament saints will be judged, tribulation saints.
Someone asked today about the Jew, and if a Jew believes in Yahweh Elohim, but not Jesus. You notice here the living Jews, if you look across, the basis of their judgment is faith in Christ. The Old Testament saints was faith in God; what they knew of the revealed character of God. They knew a Messiah was to come. Did they know Him in the person of Jesus? No. But they knew the Messiah was to come.
So anyway, have some fun with the chart. Again, if you’re bored while I’m teaching, do something productive. Look at the chart, read your Bible, take a nap, whatever you need to do. It won’t bother me at all.
I want to look with you tonight in 1 Thessalonians 5, the first 11 verses. It’s a big task, but we’ll see if we can get through it. Watching and waiting. In the first section of chapter 4 we talked about comforting one another, and even some joy in that passage. This particular passage is a passage of solemn warning. It’s a depressing passage. It’s a hard passage. But maybe we can put a little bit of a framework on it. Chapter 4, verses 13 through 18 are decidedly concerning the dead. Chapter 5, verses 1 to 11 is decidedly concerning the living. What happens to those who are living? Remember the Thessalonians were worried about in context, if a person died did they miss the rapture? Have we missed the rapture? If the rapture’s yet to come, what about our friends who are dead? The perusia, the end times.
And so Paul’s saying, no, live in anticipation of Christ’s return, not in fear of these coming events. That’s the bigger context. Paul wants to calm their fears. He wants to warn them. And in this section he’s going to talk about Christ’s judgment. The last time we met, you remember, we talked about we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren. And so we see these literary flags, like Paul has little yellow flags to read the Bible. We don’t want you to be uniformed. He’s telling us something we need to know. In this passage if you look ahead to chapter 5, verse 1, “we have no need to tell you anything.” Earlier he says we don’t want you to be uniformed. Now he says, in other words, you should know this, is what he’s saying in the undertone here. So you’re always looking for these types of structural devises, especially when you’re reading Paul’s writing in his letters, his epistles. We have no need of writing this to you. In other words, you should know this already.
All right, let’s get going here. Living in between, number 1: the uncertainty of the time of Christ’s return, chapter 5, verse 1: “Now as to the times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just a like a thief in the night.” The phrase, “as to the times and epochs” the exact phrase is used in Acts 1:7. This phrase is chronos and kairos. Chronos sounds like what? Chronology; that’s exactly what it is. We talk about a chronometer on our wrist. Chronos and kairos, Acts 1:7, “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the epochs [this is Jesus speaking] which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” They want to know if this is when Christ is rebuilding His kingdom.
You’re not to know the times and epochs, so that’s the same thing that Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5. In other words, they know this. Jesus talked about this. You’ve heard this before. This isn’t new information. We have no need to tell you this, brethren, for you should know about these times and epochs. Both words are plural. They are somewhat interchangeable, but the word chronos probably has more to do with a specific period of time. But the word kairos is more, we would say, like during the time of the great depression. We would say maybe during the time surrounding Pearl Harbor. The time of terrorism. Now that’s not a specific time, but we get the character of a time. So the first word “times” and “epochs,” chronos and kairos, and so it’s a nice little device Paul uses with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to talk about the specific times and the epochs.
Why am I hammering this? Because Jesus says, you’re not going to know the time or even the season of My return. It’s a strange argument in a way. He’s saying you should know that you can’t know. That’s what he’s saying in 5:1. You should know that you can’t know. You should know this because we’ve talked about it before.
“You have no need of anything to be written to you.” And that opens up some good questions for the careful Bible student. You know that most of the Bible was transmitted through oral, speaking, tradition, be it later on. Now the letter we hold to the Thessalonicans was certainly written and read to them, but the stories were told of Jesus and the idea of the gospels being transcribed and written and disseminated freely is a big assumption. There were certainly copies of the gospels floating around, but the letters were more accessible to the churches of Thessalonica. So they’d heard of Jesus’ teaching through the apostles, that we call the New Testament, the apostolic teaching. Why? Because the apostles wrote it. So they’d heard this apostolic teaching and we have no need to be written to you; implication—you’ve heard this again and again and again. But Paul’s going to write it to them now so they understand.
When anyone gives you a time or a date you can be sure it’s wrong. Dr. Charlie Dyer, many of you know, a great friend, is at Moody now, taught at Dallas for many years. He’s the provost at Moody. And Dr. Dyer has this little quip he always says, “When anyone picks a time of Christ’s return know that that’s definitely not the day Christ is going to return because Christ said no one knows the day.” So if someone says I know the day, you know He’s not going to come. So I asked Charlie one time, well, should we just say we’re going to pick every day and that way Christ won’t come for a while? He didn’t think it funny either.
There’s always somebody buzzing around with some new thing. Several people in our church sent me a link in the past 10 days of a very professionally done YouTube piece about numerology and a certain president of the United States right now and the conclusion that he’s the bad guy. And they’re all spun up about this because it’s done pretty well. And again, I mentioned this morning, in the ‘40s I’m sure many people believed Hitler was the Antichrist. I remember even as a boy when they said Kissinger was the Antichrist. Remember that? David Letterman might be the Antichrist for that matter. I mean, I don’t know, but you’re not going to know. Verse 1 of chapter 5 says, you don’t need for us to write because you know that you can’t know. “You yourselves know full well.” He’s stacking up terms. You already know this. Anything else is speculation. Why are you worried about this? You don’t know the date. You won’t be given the time. So don’t listen to those who speculate about the time.
Let’s look in Matthew 24. I invite you to turn over there. Matthew 24:43-44. We do know that they would be aware of Jesus’ teaching, and this is another reference. “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
This enters into the discussion of the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is a huge topic, and I can’t even do justice, but I’m going to give you a fly by. It starts in the Old Testament as the day of Jehovah, the day of Yahweh. It became later known as the day of the Lord. You know in your English Bible there are three primary words for God used—there are many, but three primary—God, LORD and Lord. God is always translated from the word Elohim. And in that word Elohim is the God of all gods. There’s also a hint of the Trinity there, the him ending. Yahweh, YHWH, the King James would write it “Jehovah.” We don’t know how to punctuate it with vowels because there are none in Hebrew, so Yahweh. Yahweh takes on a little more literal rendering. We don’t know, one rendering. And then the word, whenever you read the word Yahweh in your Bible it will have capital “L,” and then small caps “O-R-D.” And then when you read the word Adonai, your English Bible tries to help you out and they use the capital “L,” lower case “o-r-d.” So every time you see those words there’s a reason for those because of the context. And when they talk about the Lord, Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim, they have to do some other things and that’s why it’s so important.
I know the first thing you did when you bought your Bible was you read the introductory notes on how to read your Bible, didn’t you? Sure, absolutely, yeah, you lie. They’re really good and they’re very short too, which is good for a good fat book. But they will tell you things like this. And in this case the reason I’m ranting on this is because of the day of the Lord, Yahweh. And it becomes known as the day of the Lord in the New Testament. Every one of the prophets, Isaiah, Joel, Zephaniah, on and on, talked about the day of the Lord.
Number 1: it indicated the time God will intervene history. There are lots of different ways to talk about it, but this is what I’m going to suggest to you they are, it is the time He will intervene history. Number 2: He will vindicate His chosen people. Number 3: He will destroy their enemies. And number 4: He will establish His kingdom. This is the day of the Lord in the Old Testament.
Now this day also, it’s a genitive phrase, it belongs to Yahweh. It’s not just the day He comes, it’s a day He owns. It’s the day of the Lord. And so the possession of the word is important. He will display His full character, His full vindication when He comes. The prophets, remember they always talked about when the Messiah would come, and the Jew longed for Messiah to come and fix things and remedy things. And when Jesus comes on the scene and John’s disciples were scratching their heads, John’s in prison and he sends his disciples and asks, “Are You the one? Because You’re not doing the things we thought You would do?” “Well, if You’ve interrupted history, but You haven’t vindicated Your chosen people yet, let’s get on with the program,” John was saying.
And Jesus’ response is powerful. He says, “Go back and tell John all the miracles that He’s doing.” And the real tipper is He says, “and the blind receive sight.” Why was that an important miracle for John to tell about the coming of the Lord? It’s the only miracle reserved for Messiah. No one else had ever given anybody new eyes. There’s all sorts of spiritual dimensions there about the eyes to see spiritually, but that was a miracle reserved for Jesus. And He says, “Go back and tell John all these things; and the blind receive their sight.” He had a smile when He told his disciples that.
F.F. Bruce says in addition to being called the day of the Lord it becomes the day of Christ, the day of the Lord Jesus, the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the context when it’s very clear it’s as, known as the day or as that day. Now William Barclay observes, “It comes suddenly. It’s a cosmic upheaval and it’s a time of judgment.” So as we study the day from the way the old prophets anticipated it to the way the New Testament teaches about it, it’s an event that occurs; times and seasons, epochs; but there is a definitive mark when He enters time to do these things, the day that belongs to Him, the day He comes to interrupt history, to vindicate His chosen people, to deal with His enemies and to establish His kingdom. So you see the Old Testament harkening, and the anticipation of the new kingdom of the millennium and why this phrase is so important.
As to the prophetic period the day of the Lord will be inaugurated, I think—others will disagree; I’ll pray for them—I think it begins at the great tribulation, and that’s what we looked at yesterday and this morning. And that’s covered in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 if you slept through that. The day of the Lord is inaugurated with the rapture of the church. So the tribulation scheme that I’m suggesting, the tribulation, the pre-trib; you’re taken out, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, if you’ve trusted Christ and Christ alone for your salvation, you’ve put your faith in Him, then before that begins you’re taken out of here. Then this tribulation period begins prior to the thousand year millennial reign, and this is when the day of the Lord begins.
So if you looked at that chart from last night, you know, the rapture takes us up and Jesus comes back down. And this is the day of the Lord where He inaugurates His kingdom. He starts to vindicate the righteous. He puts in play His historical salvation for all of us. His return to earth will begin His messianic reign. And that, again, if you want to look at the chart, “Like a thief” is another phrase that draws a lot of attention. Young translates it, “The day of the Lord, the day of the Lord as a thief in the night doth so come.” I like that. “The day of the Lord, as a thief in the night doth so come.”
There was a church in Dallas when we lived there on Preston Road, near Hillcrest on Preston Road, Northwest highway, and it had one of these beautiful old, it looked like a clock you’d see in a Dickens story or in downtown London in the 1800’s in the way the clock was designed. And it said “Night cometh” on it, and it lit up at night you know. It was beautiful, old clock tower. The day of the Lord comes “as a thief in the night so doth it come.” The comparison between the day of the Lord and the thief, Jesus isn’t coming to steal. That’s obviously missing the little symbol he’s using here. What does a thief do? He comes suddenly and unexpectedly. That’s the point. The day of the Lord will be sudden and unexpected. You cannot predetermine it. You can’t plan for it.
And a thief usually does his work under the cover of night. So this is going to be a matter of surprise. And for those that don’t know Christ it’s going to be a shock. For those that do know Christ it’ll be a surprise, but it will be a pleasant one. So the surprise will be unhappy if you’re not ready, but it’ll be happy if you’re living in anticipation. The point of “like a thief” is that it’s sudden and unexpected.
“In the night” is another phrase. If you read scholars and those who sort of diss the rapture and diss these subjects will say, “Well, see, the whole world can’t be night at one time so Jesus can’t come back like a thief in the night.” Well, that’s true because half the globe is illuminated at some particular time. That’s not what the verse is saying. What it’s saying is the thief comes in the cover of night when you least expect it. You can’t see him coming because he doesn’t do very well if he comes in the daytime when he’s seen. It’s quick. It’s secretive. It’s unexpected and you won’t know when it’s going to happen. The day of the Lord will come like a thief.
So you can’t know when it’s going to happen. You can’t know the time or the seasons around it, which again pushes quite strongly against the notion of looking for certain events to take place before certain things happen. Now sure, as they happen they’re intriguing and they’re interesting, and we go, “Oh, maybe this is the time,” and I think that’s living in anticipation. But to say when the cornerstone is laid, or when the rabbis uncover the Ark of the Covenant. When you go to Israel and you should go to Israel, and if you can get through the so-called “Rabbi’s Tunnel,” you will go down under the largest piece; it’s actually the foundation stone outside the so-called Wailing Wall.
But you go down there and there’s a spring that weeps and they call it the Rabbi’s tears and they will tell you that if you could go back about another 30 feet and up, that’s where the holy of holies would have been, and that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was. And so you’re standing in pretty good proximity; if it’s not 50 feet, say 200 feet, you’re standing where the Ark of the Covenant was once above your head. And they call it the Rabbi’s tears. It’s just a spring, but that’s the Rabbi’s tears. They’re crying because the ark is gone. And you stand under there and it’s pretty amazing. And some friends I know who are better archeologists than I’ll ever be, say, you know, it’s probably not far from right where we’re standing, because the rabbi’s certainly wouldn’t have let Titus plunder it in 70 AD. They would have hidden that thing. And if the Egyptians can build pyramids and hide all sorts of gold and riches, why couldn’t the Jews have built some chambers interlocking underneath that land over there? And that gets all my juices flowing. Maybe Steven Spielberg has it in a box in D.C. somewhere. I don’t know.
Living in between; the point is He’s going to come suddenly. He’s going to come unexpectedly. It’s going to be a surprise. For those who are unprepared it’s going to be horrible. For those who know Christ it’s going to be a shocking, but pleasant surprise. Number 1: living in between. How do you live in between? You live in anticipation. You don’t live in fear. You don’t live obsessed about the latest prediction of what the end times are going to be or in the latest book on now I’ve got it all figured out. “Jesus is coming back in 2010.” You don’t believe all that nonsense.
Number 2: you live unprepared. What happens? Chapter 5, verse 3: “While they are saying ‘Peace and safety,’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” The fatal result of living unprepared is that the day of the Lord now vividly portrays an unvarnished picture of judgment. This unbelieving world, this vast population of unregenerate men and woman, are depicted as saying, “Peace and safety, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
The comparison goes on; it’s like in the days of Noah and during the time of Lot. Everything’s fine. When in the days of Noah they are drinking and they’re marrying and they’re partying. Everything’s fine. They don’t believe this nut who’s building this big square thing they’d never seen before. During Lot’s time when they’re going to get Lot, when Abram has to go down and rescue his nephew and his family, they don’t believe it. And he’s trying to pull people out and save them and Lot’s wife wants to go back to what? She doesn’t believe it.
And the comparison is, it’ll be like that, in that people unprepared and people soaked into the world’s system won’t want to go. They won’t see any point in it. Everything’s fine. Why should I be interested in this nonsense about this rapture and this resurrection? Why should I believe in that? The contrast and the comparison is clear. Now instead of living in anticipation they’re living saying, “Peace and safety.” That’s the point of Paul’s phrase here. They’re saying, “Peace and safety,” and destruction is right around the corner.
Peace and safety suggest a couple of things. They feel secure from outside and internal danger. If you are at peace with yourself, if you’re at rest and you don’t have any anxiety in your stomach and you don’t worry and you’re just a person who just never loses his cool. And you know why? You’ve probably got enough money and you’ve got enough health and you live long enough and you’re just kind of, you know, I’m okay, I’m secure. When your health is iffy, when your finances are iffy, when your marriage is iffy, when you have troubles on the job, or the markets changed, it’s affected your portfolio, then you have anxiety and you’re not saying, “Peace and safety.” You’re whoa! You’re Chicken Little, the sky is falling.
And all of us have some sense of…; I remember when I was in college. I had to work my way, I had to. I mean, that was the only way I could go to college. We had no money. I went to a state school and I worked as a mechanic and worked my way through college. And after I paid my bills with the four guys that I rented with, if I had a $10 bill left over on Friday I was happy. I was happy because that meant I got to eat Friday night. And I would go out to the Bonanza Steakhouse for $2.99 salad bar, all you could eat, and I would eat about $18 worth of salad off the salad bar at Bonanza Steakhouse in Nacogdoches, Texas. Never could afford a little steak, a little cutlet thing. That was too much money. But if I had $10 in my pocket, I was happy and secure.
Now somewhere along the line I said, “You know, I should probably have $100 in the checking account.” So for several weeks I got my little paycheck from Ford Motor Company and I’d deposit a little. I saved and I had a $100 in my checkbook. And I was so proud I had a $100 in my checkbook. I mean, how many of us could go out of the house without $100 in our pocket today, or a credit card? So then I started dating Cindy and it got serious and I thought, you know, I probably should have a little more money than $100. So I thought, I know, I’ll have $1,000. That was a big goal, you know, because I’m paying for school. I’m working part time pushing wrenches, trying to pay tuition and rent and all that stuff, no help from anybody. Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s how God made me. And so that’s fine.
So I got $1,000 in the bank. I remember that. And I thought, man, I’m invincible! I’ve got $1,000 in my pocket. And then I remember when we had our first child. I thought, wow, how much money do you need now? And we set this thing in our head, I guess we need $10,000. That’ll take care of everything. Well, when you’re making $20,000 a year, $10,000 takes a long time to save. Hendricks said, “Don’t get in the ministry for money.” I didn’t know what he meant till I was in ministry. Don’t get in ministry for money. And so it took a long time. We got $10,000 set aside.
A couple years ago we had enough money that we saw, I mean, just like many of you did, we could have retired in seven years. And with the way things change—and it’s okay, it’s all paper money anyway—I tell Cindy, I say, “Honey, invest it and knock yourself out playing with it, because I’m going to go first anyway. It’s going to be yours when I’m gone, so just have fun with it.” And she sort of gives me this funny look. But it doesn’t matter to me anymore. But we have about a third of what we had, just like a lot of you. Peace and safety; that’s nonsense. You can’t have enough to be at peace and safe.
So here’s the question: why did the first century Thessalonican, why did they think they could find peace and safety? They weren’t worried about insurance or pensions, I guarantee you. Turn over to Revelation 13. I want to show you something. From what did they draw the source of peace and safety that Paul’s talking about? While they’re saying peace and safety, “then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child and they will not escape.” That’s our text. Look at Revelation 13:3, about the middle of the verse: “And the whole world was amazed and followed after the beast.”
Stop right there. The globe has been deceived by this character. Think about that for just a moment. A global leader has come on the scene that’s captured every vote. “The whole world was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast and they worshiped the beast, saying ‘Who is like the beast and who is able to wage war with him?’” What are they saying? There’s no power on earth that can tangle with the beast and the dragon. As long as the beast and the dragon are in power and control we have peace and safety because there’s nobody with a bigger bat. There’s nobody more powerful and stronger. “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.”
So I think what Paul is alluding to is there will be a time in the eschatological program when this world power—and I’m not putting a time and a sequence of looking for Jesus now; this is too late—when this individual has so much power: peace and safety. There’s nothing to worry about. So instead of things getting worse and worse thinking about the Lord’s return, it may be when it gets better and people are running around saying, “Peace and safety.” The beast is so strong they live under a veiled illusion that no one can attack them. Their consciences are seared. They ignore the warnings of the gospel again and again and again, and they’ve got this leader saying don’t worry about it.
Health care will be free and affordable and everyone will have it and you won’t have to wait in line and won’t have any death panels and we won’t have anyone tell you can’t live and it’ll be better and we’ll save money because the government knows how to do it better. I’m not saying he’s the Antichrist. I’m saying that’s a notion of peace and safety. It’s a fatal delusion. We can’t put our hope in an individual.
“And destruction will come,” 1 Thessalonians 5:3, “suddenly.” “Destruction will come suddenly like labor pains upon a woman.” Now, who could have anticipated 9/11? Every one of us in this room remembers where you were on 9/11. I remember sitting in our pastor’s conference office at the church I served in, in Washington DC, the northern Virginia area. I remember every Tuesday morning we had a pastor’s meeting at 9:00, and we were sitting around. We would go through a list of prayer requests that the church had given us, and someone said, “There’s a fire at the Pentagon.”
Now, the Pentagon was maybe 10 minutes from where our church was. We probably had, oh, easily 500 people that worked at the Pentagon that day. And someone wheeled in a television on a cart and plugged it in. We didn’t have cable, and we were getting the antennas going. And they showed this one video shot from a camera crew and there was smoke coming out of the Pentagon. And so we pulled out our cell phones and we called some people we knew who worked there, and they said, “What’s going on?” And everything was still working then, they said, “Were not sure. We’re not sure what’s happened.” And then the next thing the news cut over and they saw the Twin Towers, and the first one had just been hit. Now, even when that happened how many Americans thought we’re being attacked by terrorists? It took a long to time to figure out who even originated these plans, even with the intelligence we had.
I think the same would have been felt on December 7, 1941. And we didn’t have the information access like we did today. And so they would, they bombed Pearl Harbor. What, 300 Japanese bombers. This is impossible. How could they fly over Pearl Harbor and bomb our fleet? The day of infamy; never be the same after 9/11. I don’t know what’s next.
But the point is you could not have prepared for 9/11. I don’t care what the inquisition shows, I don’t think you could ever prepare for 9/11. I don’t think you could prepare for people taking box cutters on planes. And now every time you stand at TSA I think about these people that took box cutters on planes and murdered thousands. Every time I go through TSA I go, I do this because some evil people murdered thousands of innocent people. Now our life has changed forever because of that. It came like a thief in the night. That’s the way the rapture will be. That’s the way the end times scheme will be. You won’t be able to get enough intelligence to be ready for the next terrorist attack, if you will. It’s going to happen suddenly.
The metaphor he uses here is “like labor pains,” which is a fascinating use of a metaphor. It’s used a number of times in the Bible. Now my wife had one child biologically. The other three were easy pregnancies. She didn’t gain a pound because we adopted them so she didn’t have to put on any weight. But that first one she carried through term and Cindy did it without anesthesia, without an epidural. She is woman; hear me roar. That was back in the day when you did the whole, you know, the breathing. What’s the breathing stuff called? I’ve repressed all that. But we did all the Lamaze. Was it Lamaze? It was Lamaze. That’s kind of a cult I think. But anyway, we did the Lamaze stuff you know, weird stuff. And so she Lamazed her way through, and Hanna was born.
And the greatest day of your married couple’s life is that first born child, right. And she was, boy, I remember labor pains. And in the Lamaze class they had this little picture of this smiley face. It was like six or seven little faces and they went and they called them transition and different,… again I’ve repressed it all. I’m amazed I remember that much. But the last one, it’s got this real angry face, you know. And they go these are different stages of labor, you know. And this is when, or did that hurt a little bit? Oh, it’s okay you know. And then it gets worse and worse. Now what happens with a contraction? It gets more painful and more intense and closer together, right. Is that a fairly accurate description? I haven’t done it myself, you women who have.
This text says “it will come suddenly, like labor pains.” Now, wait a minute. That kind breaks the metaphor. Because the point is the pain is inescapable. It can’t be a mixed metaphor here. It can’t be suddenly like labor pains, in the sense that they come suddenly. No, the point is the pain is going to get excruciating, but it will come like this and it will be unstoppable. You cannot stop labor pains. I mean, you can with medication, but you understand the point of the illustration. It would come suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child and they will not escape. You can’t stop that baby from coming. So once you’re engaged, once the transition has occurred, once that baby’s crowned, he or she is coming out whether you are ready or not. And it’s painful. And that’s the illustration, the metaphor he uses, the doom is unforeseen. It will catch them unprepared.
Dr. Hebert, again, says; in fact, turn over to 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and look at this. Dr. Hebert points this out. He says, “It’s clear that this destruction does not mean physical annihilation,” remember we talked about annihilation today, “but rather eternal separation from Christ.” Second Thessalonians 1:9 we read, “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction.” Why would you have eternal destruction if they were annihilated? Eternality means there’s no end to it. “Eternal destruction,” look at this, “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Why wouldn’t the text just say these will pay the penalty and be destroyed or annihilated? Because it is the eternality of what they face. So it’s interesting that the argument and the issue they ask in the first letter weren’t all resolved, and they’re still asking about this in the 2 Thessalonians.
Well, go back to 1 Thessalonians 5. It’s inescapable. It’s fatal in its nature. It’s illustrated by the days of Noah and the days of Lot. It’s going to come. You cannot stop it. It also dismisses any notion of universalism there. But it’s going to,… “in the end Jesus is going to say, ‘Oh, I love you, let’s go to heaven’.” That’s a bunch of nonsense. And it’s a figure of a thief who come quickly, suddenly. You can’t plan for it. You can’t expect it.
The solemn and inescapable truth of this text is the unregenerate world that has not come to trust Jesus Christ is going to be destroyed and they will enter into eternal torment, the eternal destruction. Again, D. Edmond Hebert, “Inescapable will be the doom falling upon the unbelieving world in the eschatological day of the Lord.” This day is big theologically. When He comes back to interrupt history, to vindicate His people, to deal with the enemies and to set up His kingdom, if you’ll forgive me, all hell is going to break loose. And there’ll be no other day like it in history. It’ll be the day that belongs to, that is owned by, the Lord.
Number 1: living in between; number 2: living unprepared; number 3: living watchful and vigilant, verses 4-8. “But you brethren, you are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.” Remember how I read about the different uses of “the day”? We’ve already established the day of the Lord. Here he just references it as “the day”, “that the day will overtake you like a thief; for you are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of love, and faith and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” So, living watchful and vigilant. number 1; not in darkness, but sons of light.
Now here we have again; look at the contrast. “But you, brethren,” you’re not like those who are going to be peace and safety, don’t worry about it. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness.” You are sons of light. And that again is just an underscore of the believer. You don’t live in darkness. You live in light. And again, I think this harkens even more to a pre-trib rapture than any of our text, because the day won’t overtake you like them. Does that mean they’re going to be prepared and run away from the day of the Lord? You can’t escape the day of the Lord. There’s no place to hide. So you must be taken off the scene; otherwise you’re going to go through it with them. There go the mid-trib or post-trib view of people that are going through the tribulation.
Verses 6-8: be on the alert. And again we have a positive and negative exhortation. Be wide awake; don’t sleep. I was, early in my Christian life I used to read these passages. How do You do that, Lord? I can’t stay awake all the time. And I used to worry about nonsense like that. I don’t know why; that’s kind of silly. But when Cindy and I were first went to graduate school we lived with her oldest brother’s in-laws. And for about six weeks while our little house got ready for us to move into in Dallas, and they were a dear, dear couple, Al and Pam and they were retired and he drank coffee all day long and he smoked Camel no filter cigarettes all day long. He was a great guy.
And he would get up every morning about 3:30 or 4:00. And in the morning we’d get up and Pam would cook a breakfast of bacon and eggs and pancakes. She was an amazing cook. And she cooked three meals a day. In fact, when we moved into our apartment I looked at Cindy and go, “What’s the deal? Come on, you know, Pam did that six weeks. Come on, get to work.” It didn’t go over. But Pam would cook these breakfasts and every morning they had this very exchange. “Al, how’d you sleep?” “Not very well.” “When’d you get up?” “I don’t know.” “I heard you at 3:30.” “Yeah, maybe so.” “Al, your problem is you have a guilty conscience.” And without skipping a beat, Al would say, “Pam, you’re problem is you have a bad memory.” I love that story.
Wide awake, not asleep. What’s he saying here? Sleep here refers to morally inert. It’s that idea of being anesthetized by sin. We live under this presence of, yeah, I’m indifferent. It doesn’t really matter. I’m just asleep. And again this is referring to the believer: to be aware and alert, not of the times, but of the reality it’s going to happen. I appreciate the phrase, “then let us.” Why? He’s talking about himself. The apostle’s saying, hey, we need to. “Brethren, we are not in darkness that the day would overtake you like a thief, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness, so then let us not sleep.”
You know, the apostle’s human. He’s not without error and he’s not without sin. The apostle sinned. Hog and Vine comment, “Jesus never identified Himself with His readers, nor the multitude of His disciples,” because Jesus didn’t struggle with sin the way they struggled with it. Jesus was tempted, but He didn’t fail in the way Paul failed. He didn’t worry the way Paul worried.
It’s an interesting part. Alert and sober are the opposite then, of course, of sleeping. Alert to the danger of sin here. Alert to His return. Sober so that we know sin when we see it. Sobriety keeps us from getting into sin. “Those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” It’s a simple metaphor, saying, the normal person sleeps at night so you can be awake and alert in the day. But the person who is deceived gets drunk at night and then it’s going to affect the way you are the next day. You’re not going to be sober and alert. And so it’s just a simple metaphor.
Verse 8 he says, to be armed and he moves to be sober, or some Bibles say to be self-controlled. That’s also a good rendering. And he does this by two parts of the armor, the breastplate and the helmet. You know, Paul likes the military metaphors and he talks about armor in other passages. Here, just two. The breastplate was the most important. It went from just below the neck to just below the waist. There are arguments about it being two pieces on each side of the breast, perhaps with a mesh in between. Some believe there were two pieces, front and back, that were with a mesh on the side. We have evidence of both, not that it’s critical which one, but that’s where you could sustain the death blow. A sword was not likely to pierce armor around your vital organs if you had the armor, the breastplate, on.
The helmet, of course, which in antiquity is quite interesting. The word “helmet” just means around the head. But if you look back at any period film that does a good job of homework, the helmets were always shiny, bright and big, which later military experts would say, “You don’t want the head being big and shiny and bright.” You know, they needed an early, a first century camo is what they needed. Instead they put their head, you know the big red stuff the Romans put on their head, they attracted attention. Let’s see if I can hit that red thing, you know, and, you know, march in a straight line and wear red as Bill Cosby used to talk about. No, no, no, no. You want to be hidden.
Anyway, the helmet here was metaphorical, the helmet of salvation, the helmet of hope, and probably that we lift our head toward heaven because we have the helmet of salvation. The breastplate can sustain the blows. And even though we risk exposure of the neck, the helmet of salvation saves us from the peril of the enemy. This is probably the picture he is giving us.
When I study things like eschatology and other doctrines that I have strong convictions in; you know, you might be at a different place, but when I read this, I have no doubt, I believe this wholeheartedly. I believe He will come like a thief in the night. He will come unannounced. It’ll be quick. It’ll be violent. It’ll be sobering. But I’ll be whisked out just in time and I’m not worried about it. I also believe in the eternal security of my salvation—some of you perhaps don’t—that when I trusted Christ and Christ alone for my salvation that I no longer worry or fear will I be saved when I die.
When I first came to Christ I didn’t believe that. When I first came to Christ I worried about how do you know if you’re good enough? I mean, I believe it; but how do I know for sure if I die if I’ll be able be okay? Could I lose my salvation because I was raised in a tradition where you can lose your salvation? And then you have the quandary, on a good day you might be saved. On a bad day, whoa! So you, you know, pray and to do penance, read the Bible and do some good things to overcompensate the bad things you’ve done. You live with this nauseating, am I ever good enough? And it’s a great fear and control of religion, will control you and make you worry if you’re saved.
Boy, it’s a powerful thing for a person that’s spiritually interested. So you trust Christ and you realize nothing to the cross I bring. I was chosen. I was plucked out of the brand of the fire. By grace I’ve been saved, through faith, not of myself, not as a result of works. Why? So no one can boast. Now I’ve rehearsed it. I’ve studied it. I came to the place to understand my eternal security was cemented because of what Christ did for me. If Christ had to die for me and I have to do a whole bunch of more stuff, what was the point of Jesus dying for me? If His death was not sufficient, then why did Jesus, why did God the Father put Him through it? So the security of the believer, we call it, our assurance of salvation, is nailed to the cross of Calvary and the resurrected tomb, not what we do.
Now that brings license to sin, and I could do all this nonsense, and you have to navigate through that. Every Christian who comes to Christ has to sort through those doctrines. But, you know, the day I understood that my assurance was based on Christ’s work, not my work, I understood my response to Him was to live by faith, not by works, and that my life should be a thank you back to Jesus Christ for what He’s done for me, not because of the religion and law, but because I get to do these things. I can freely be a slave in the Old Testament. I can freely be a bondservant and subscribe myself to a Master who has taken care of my sin. When I understood that I never doubted it again.
And even when I sinned, and I felt guilty and miserable, I knew I was still saved. The relationship was marred. I still sin all the time. My relationship gets marred, so I confess. I ask God to help me. I try to be a student of my sin and ask, why did I do that again? But the reason I’m sort of digressing on this is when we believe certain things soundly, like maybe my view of eschatology or your view of eschatology and we have a confidence in that, here’s the question. Why don’t we believe Him for today and tomorrow?
You see, I find it ironic and very confusing personally that I trust Him to save me at the end without a whimper or a doubt or a whim or a nuance that He won’t pull me out of the death grave. I trust Him explicitly, but I don’t trust Him for tomorrow. I don’t trust Him with my kids. I don’t trust Him with my money. I don’t trust Him that my daughters will marry the right boys, that my son will marry the right girl, God help her. I worry about those things. I worry about where’s my back going to be in a year or two or three? What if I have to have this huge surgery that they keep telling me I have to have? What’s it going to be?
And I worry and I fret and I get anxious. And I pray and I ask God to take away the anxiety. You know, why don’t I trust You for the big thing and I don’t trust You for the all the little things in between now and then? Is this backwards, or am I the only one who thinks this way? So when it comes to your end times scheme, do you trust Him for the little things? He’s the God of the hairs on your head. Some of us are easier to count than others, but He still knows.
What’s the point? He knows everything about us, which naturally fits and moves into the next subject of living for salvation. Verses 9 and 10: “For God has not destined us for wrath.” Would you underline that in your Bible? God does not want man to perish and to be in wrath. “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” What a powerful notion.
Let’s talk about this in three layers. The nature of our salvation, first of all; what is the nature of our salvation? The nature of our salvation is that God did not destine us for wrath. The word “destined” here is remarkable. It’s a reflexive word meaning it was God’s own interest and He said, He said to Jerry, “I’m not sending you to hell.” That’s what that phrase means. I am not destining you to wrath. What did Jerry do? Nothing. He just responded and said yes, I accept; I believe.
The power of this verse is so overlooked. God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation. It was God’s interest. He was the principle agent. He acted first. You did not find Jesus on your own. You did not study world religions and come to the conclusion, “Oh, I think Christianity is the best one. It makes the most sense.” Nonsense! He chose you. He picked you. He destined you for this.
I’m reminded in Isaiah and Ezekiel many times over in my study the last few months about how many times we read the phrase “for His name’s sake.” You know that He forgives our sins for His name’s sake. Think about that. He doesn’t forgive it for us. I mean, He does, but the primary motivation is for His own name’s sake. “If My people who are holy, who are called by My name, who are called out, elect from among all the world, My people will be holy because I am holy, so I have to make you holy cause you’re not holy, and it’s about My name, not your name.” So every time He forgives us it’s for His name’s sake. We’re the beneficiary; we’re blessed because of it. But it’s the same here. He destines us not for wrath, “but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It also seems very clear to me here that believers are not going to be in the tribulation. Again, you have to read the Bible carefully. If believers are going to go through this horrible period, how do we say then they’re not destined for wrath? I mean, wouldn’t He say you’re going to go through wrath for a little while and then I’ll save you? The whole context of this rapture question is, no, you’re not going to go through that.
Number 1: the nature; number 2: the agent of your salvation—through our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the principal. He is the first action who died for us. I mentioned it before, good to remind us again. Substitutionary atonement; He died in your place, on your behalf, instead of you. When He hung on Calvary He took all of our sins upon Himself. This is why the Father separates from Him. This is why He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” I still argue that crucifixion, the physical suffering of the crucifixion, was nothing compared to the separation from His Father. The brutality, ala Mel Gibson’s Passion, was probably over the top and the most excruciating physical punishment you can inflict upon a human being. That was secondary to His being forsaken. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His substitutionary atonement.
You know, I mentioned I grew up in the Catholic Church, and Jesus still hangs on the crucifix in the Catholic Church. And as a boy you know they would go, look, look it, you put Jesus on that cross. This is what you did to Him. And, you know, that’s right. Now that can be, you know, abused, and you can certainly rub a person’s nose in it a little too much, but it’s truth. The agent of our salvation was Him, and look at it, for us: “who died for us.” He died for you.
I often tell this story about my kids. One of my kids has gone through some extraordinary medical challenges when she was little and she had to have a particular test. I won’t give you the details of it. It’s quite cruel and gruesome. But I would have crawled on this table and taken this test 100 times to prevent my poor daughter from having gone through this test. I’d die 1,000 deaths for her, any of my kids. And if you or I had a friend who needed an organ, and you know people give them a kidney, whatever, you know, half of a liver. People do this. And I contemplated giving a person one of my organs and, you know, went through the whole process, the whole tests, the whole nine yards, ready to do it. And I would do that for maybe even some of you in here in this room, maybe. I’d do it for my wife. Of course they don’t let you do that. I’d do it for any of my kids. I’d crawl up on the table and give them half of my liver or kidney without even thinking twice, match it up, if it works it’s yours baby. You’ve got it.
And I would die for my kids. I don’t say that cavalierly. You’re a parent, you’re a grandparent, you’d die for your grandchild. But I would not give you one of my kids for your life, no way in the world. If it was you or Devin, I’m sorry, you’re going to die. If it’s you or Hannah, I’ll pray for you as you die. You’re not getting my kid. You can have me. I’m not giving you my son. And He gives us, He underscores it, His one and only, His unique Son, His perfect Son. He gives Him for us. Don’t miss it when you read over it so quickly. Your salvation came at an inestimable cost, as did mine. Without the redemption work from Calvary we are hopeless, we are futile, we are in our sins still. And the amazing news is He died for us.
If you’re here and you don’t know Christ, listen, The Cove is all about this message. It doesn’t matter anything else you hear the three days you’re here, you need to know Christ, that He loves you, He took your sin on Himself on Calvary. He paid for it. He died and they killed Him. It was duplicitous act. They killed Him; but He had to give up His life willingly. They buried Him; three days, to prove He’s dead, dead, dead; and then He disappears and He shows up to one, to three, to 12, to 500, estimates conservatively in the New Testament 3,000 people saw the resurrected Jesus. And He’s changed the world forever. If you trust Him He gives you eternal life. Don’t let religion keep you from a relationship. Don’t let the do’s and don’ts cloud what He did for you. He’s not destined you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us.
Then he goes back, “So that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” Don’t worry if you’re sleeping when He comes back. That’s what Paul says. If it’s night time where you live, it’s okay, He’s going to take care of His own because He did everything else to prepare the way for you.
The goal of salvation is seen in verse 10, “that we will be together with Him.” Very important, “with Him.” You know, we bury a loved one and you miss them. When my mentor died I can’t tell you how many times I went to pick up the phone to call Floyd. Hundreds of times. Something would happen, Oh, I’ve got to Floyd about such and such. I have friends who have lost their husband, their wife, their kid, the same experience. You know, Oh, I’ve got to tell, Oh, she’s not there.
A friend of mine lost his wife very quickly and he left all of her, you know, just the way she’d left the stuff on her dresser, her house shoes, where she’d left her, everything was just the way it was. And his two sons kept saying, “Dad, you need to get rid of all mom’s stuff.” And he played golf every morning. He was a retired guy and he drove by the church that I served and you know so he’d come in and come back to my office. And he’d just finished playing golf and he’d sit down with a cup of coffee. And he’d sit there and talk to me about you know, been the third week, been the sixth week, been the tenth week. Today was the anniversary of the first day we…, you know, just reliving that with me. And I was happy to walk with him. I learned a lot from him.
And one day he said, “Do you think I should get rid of all her stuff?” And I said, “What do you think?” “I don’t think I should.” I said, “Well, I think you shouldn’t then.” “I think you’re right.” Okay. “My sons say I should give it all to the Goodwill. What do you think?” “What do you think?” “I don’t think I should.” “I think you’re right.” You know, we had this, over and over we had this conversation. One day he came in and says, “Michael, guess what? I got rid of it all.” I said, “You did! What made you do that?” “Well, I decided last night.” I said, “That was the right decision.” He missed her. Somehow those things reminded him. Somehow it was her. You don’t take that and just brush it off.
Why do you go to a grave site on an anniversary of a death? Why do you go on Easter and stand by your loved one? That’s a box of bones down there in a cheap suit. Why are you there? Because you miss them. You miss them. It rips your heart out. The anniversary, the birthday, first grandchild, the first time you met; I mean, all the firsts come back 1,000 times. Because you’re not with them. The desk is empty. They’re absent but they’re present somewhere else.
And the goal of your salvation is you would be with Him. Don’t miss this. We talk, some of the Q and A about, you know, age and what people will be like. I have this crazy sanctified imagination that gets me in trouble often. But I truly believe when you first go to heaven; remember when John sees the angel of the Lord and it’s in Revelation 1 or 3, I forget, and he sees the angel of the Lord and he falls on his face like a dead man. Remember that phrase. I’m going to write a book one day, Like a Dead Man. I want to write a book. When you see Christ you’re going to fall on your face like a dead man, even in glory.
This is my sanctified imagination. The Cove can stop the tape at this point. I’m going to way off on the heretical edge. I think when you see Jesus you’re going to fall on your face like a dead man. And one of the reasons we’re going to be there for millennia and millennia and millennia is because Jesus has to keep lifting us all up as we fall down. Oh, you fell down. I’ll be back in a minute. He’s got to go through and pick everybody up again because we’re going to, every time we see Him, we’re going to fall flat on our face and worship like dead men, saying, “How did You save me? Why did You love me? I’m unworthy to be here yet. Why?” “I took care of that. Stand up you idiot!” Why did You love me? He’s so perfect. He’s so holy. He’s so pure. He is so everything.
You’re not going to be—don’t hear me wrong—your son, your husband, you wife, your dad, your mom, your friend, they’re not going to matter that much. You’ll be so overwhelmed with being with Him. And once the first 20 or 30 millennia go by, then you’re going to say, “Hey, where’s my husband? Hey, where’s my son? I’ve been wanting to see him.” That’s the kind of picture of heaven I think you need to have, not what you leave behind, but that you’re with Him.
This is the goal of our salvation: that we will be with Him together. Living in between, living unprepared, living, watching, and vigilant living for salvation. Finally, living to encourage. Quickly, “Therefore,” verse 11, “encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” You all know the old cliché? When you read the “therefore” what are you supposed to ask? What’s the “therefore” there for? It’s a very important transition word that Paul uses more than anybody. The “therefore” is on account of these things about the nature of our salvation, on account of these things and what’s going to happen to those who don’t know Christ. On account of you being ready, living in anticipation, being alert, being sober, on account of these things you want to be with Him. On account of these things encourage one another.
I showed you the five “one another”s earlier today. I won’t show them to you again, but this is the two stacked together. Encourage one another and build up one another just as you are doing. Cheer one another’s hearts. Build up one another. Paul likes the architectural metaphor. I went and looked it up today. Forty-four times we have the