1 Thessalonians 5:2-4
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
The one idea to be impressed upon us by this striking image is that of unexpectedness. The thief succeeds in making his entrance when he is least expected. So will it be on "the day of the Lord." The idea is derived from the teaching of Christ, in which it is more fully expanded (see Matthew 24:43, 44). The "day of the Lord" which is to come thus suddenly is often referred to in the Old Testament. There it is a dreadful occasion of Divine manifestation for judgment, to be hailed with gladness when the judgment falls on the enemies of Israel and brings the chosen people deliverance, but to be regarded with terror by sinful Israelites (Amos 5:18). St. Paul regards it as the day of Christ's second advent. But the general use of the expression in the Old Testament justifies us in applying the warning concerning it to various forms of the parousia.
I. THE DAY OF THE LOUD WILL COME UPON THE BENIGHTED AS A THIEF.
1. The day is unexpected. What did the heathen fellow-citizens of the Thessalonians know, or think, or care about the glorious advent of Christ, with its angel-summons and its trumpet-blast for which the Christians were watching so eagerly? The Jews did not expect the coming of the Son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem. The world does not think of the great judgment-day. Worldly people do not contemplate death.
2. No signs are given to the world of the dawning of this dread day. No lurid twilight betokens the tempestuous morning. It bursts suddenly upon a world slumbering in darkness. Science, philosophy, ordinary signs of the times, give no hint of it to the unspiritual. The biblical arithmetic of our modern prophets is always proving itself at fault. No bare intellectual calculation will ever discover the "day of the Lord."
3. It is best for the world that no natural signs should herald this day.
(1) Christian people are better without the common signs which could be discerned by ordinary observation. To possess them would be to walk by sight. They are not given in order that faith may be exercised.
(2) The world at large is better without these signs. They would disarrange all the necessary pursuits of life. Some would cry abjectly for mercy without really repenting at heart. Some, as when plagues raged in cities, would fling off all restraints and plunge into a reckless course of debauchery. Some would coldly calculate the time allowed for sinning before they would need to bethink them of preparing for the end.
II. THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL NOT COME UPON THE ENLIGHTENED AS A THIEF. St. Paul makes an important distinction here - one that is not always recognized: "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."
1. No men are enlightened as to the date of the second advent. Even Christ did not know it. This he distinctly says (Mark 13:32).
2. Christians are enlightened as to the fact and the character of the second advent.
(1) They know that Christ will come again, which is more than the unbelieving world knows. They have Christ's own promise to rely upon (Matthew 24:30).
(2) They know that Christ will come unexpectedly. At least, they ought to know this if they read the teachings of Scripture on the subject.
3. The enlightenment of Christians will prevent the second advent from coming upon them like a thief. When we are prepared for a surprise, it is no longer a surprise. If we know a thing may happen at any time, its occurrence will not give us the shock of an unexpected event. Christ, longed for, eagerly desired, fondly expected, will come at an hour when his people know not, but not when his true disciples are unprepared to welcome him. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.