For our time this morning in the Word I want you to go back to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. For those of you who may not have been with us recently, we are looking at the return of our Lord, the second coming of Jesus Christ as seen by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians. We are in 1 Thessalonians. We started in chapter 4, verse 13, and we’re going to come down into chapter 5, verse 11 and finish this section on the return of our Lord. This message this morning will take us into verses 4 to 11; but we won’t be able to cover it all, so we’ll finish up this section next week. And then subsequent to that we’ll go to 2 Thessalonians where he has much more to say about the Lord’s return.
Now the title of the message is, as you may have noticed, is “Night People, Day People.” That is basically drawn from this text itself, as you will see when I read it in a few moments. However, it is interesting to me – doing a little bit of research on that – that there are many scientific studies, or at least they purport to be scientific. Sort of scientific psychological studies that look at the characteristics of people who are night people or night owls and people who are day people who are early birds. It gets very psychological. But here is how, quote-unquote, “psychologists” characterize typically, generally night people: antisocial, temperamental, extravagant, more likely ADHD – whatever that is, addictive, have mental struggles, creative, less faithful, smarter, higher batting average, bad habits, procrastination, frustration, difficulty, anxiety, and depression. That’s a pretty sad list, to be honest with you. If you’re not playing baseball there’s no hope.
On the other hand, day people are characterized typically by persistence, cooperation, agreeableness; they are proactive, conscientious; they get better grades; they’re responsible, and they’re perfectionists. That study was obviously written by a day person. But I’m telling you, I’m going to go to bed at 6:30 from now on.
The scientific studies even went so far as to say there are biological differences between people who are up late and night and those who get up early in the morning. Whatever that means – and be that as it may – spiritually speaking, there is a very great difference between day people and night people, a very great difference. And, in fact, the entire human race is divided into those two categories. You are either a day person or a night person. That is what the apostle Paul is going to show us in the text before us. So let’s go to chapter 5. I’ll start reading at the beginning and we’ll read down to verse 11.
“Now as to the times and the 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 like a thief in the night. 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. But you, brethren, 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 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 faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For 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. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
Night people. Night people are associated with darkness, with sleep, and with drunkenness. Day people are associated with light, alertness, and soberness. Paul is making a very simple distinction between believers and nonbelievers, that’s what this is. People who have received salvation and been given light and life in Christ, and people who have not and thus remain in darkness. Paul has written this for a specific purpose, and that is encouragement.
Back in chapter 4 and verse 18, at the end of the chapter on the rapture of the church, which we learn says that the next event on God’s prophetic clock is the snatching away of all believers from the earth. The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a shout. The voice of the archangel, the trump of God, and the bodies of dead saints are going to rise out of the grave to be joined with their spirits already with the Lord. And then we who are live and remain are going to all be caught up into heaven to be with the Lord forever. That’s the rapture of the church.
In verse 18 Paul says, “Comfort one another with these words.” He’s giving this to comfort them. They had been told they were going to go in this event, the rapture. In fact, they knew about it. That’s why in verse 1 of chapter 5, he says, “Brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well.” They had been well-taught that the rapture was going to come, and the Lord in the rapture’s going to snatch believers out of this world. We saw that same promise in John 14, and we saw that same promise in 1 Corinthians 15.
But also, they were not only anxious for the rapture that they were concerned as well about the day of the Lord, because they had been taught about the day of the Lord. And we learned that the day of the Lord is a term that appears in the New Testament several times and many times in the Old Testament, and it refers to divine judgment – severe, cataclysmic, divine judgment from heaven.
They also have been taught about the day of the Lord, that there would be a day when man’s day ended and it was the Lord’s day. And it would be a day of judgment, a day of fire, a day of burning, a day of destruction across the face of the earth. It is laid out in detail, we know that by some of the prophets, as well as our Lord in the sermon on the hillside looking back at Jerusalem that we call the Olivet Discourse from the Mount of Olives. It is also laid out in very careful detail in the book of Revelation, what the day of the Lord is going to be in terms of specific judgment.
The Thessalonians were concerned about two things. One, the believers who died already, did they miss the rapture? And could it be possible that even the ones who were alive had missed the rapture, or the Lord had changed His mind about the sequence, because they were being so severely persecuted that it might feel like they were in the day of the Lord? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if believers who haven’t been taught a proper biblical understanding of the end times all over the world today might think they are in the day of the Lord. More Christians are being massacred today than any time in human history.
So the Thessalonians wanted to know about whether dead Christians would be included in the rapture, and Paul in chapter 4, verses 13 to 18 said absolutely they will. Their bodies will be joined to their already glorified spirits. And then we who are alive and remain will all go to heaven to be with the Lord. And that’s when we have the marriage supper of the Lamb because the bride is complete, and receive our reward.
And as far as the day of the Lord goes, you’re not in the day of the Lord, because the day of the Lord is not for believers. That’s the answer that Paul wants to give them. “Don’t fear that the saints who have died will be left out of the rapture, and don’t fear that you might go into the day of the Lord. That is not going to happen.”
The point of these two lessons in eschatology is the same, verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” Verse 11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” This is encouragement to the believers. “Your future is secure. Your future should comfort you, encourage you, and strengthen you.”
So Paul has talked to them about the future, the rapture, the day of the Lord. And now he wants them to understand that the rapture is for the people of light, the children of the day; and the day of the Lord is for the people of night, the children of darkness. And so the contrast is between believers and nonbelievers, salvation and wrath, life and death, hope and no hope, day and night, darkness and light; being asleep, being awake; being drunk, being sober; being separated from God forever or being with the Lord forever. It is a very stark and crystal clear revelation that there are only two kinds of people in the world: people of the night and people of the day, children of darkness and children of light. It is so carefully and inescapably laid out that we cannot miss the point.
Now he wants to encourage these believers in Thessalonica and us as well, so he’s saying to us, “Don’t fear, you will not be a part of judgment.” That’s really what they believed. Back in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul said, “You are waiting for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” They didn’t expect to be in the coming wrath, and certainly that includes eternal wrath; but it doesn’t skip over eschatological wrath either.
We have nothing to fear as believers about the future. Nonbelievers, everything to fear. Believers, nothing to fear, and he gives three reasons, three reasons. Reason one, because of our nature, the distinctiveness of our nature; reason number two, the distinctiveness of our behavior; and reason three, the distinctiveness of our promised destiny. We are distinct as to our nature, we are distinct as to our behavior, and we are distinct as to our future in the promise of God.
So let’s talk a little bit about the first one. He says, “You should be comforted looking ahead and understanding the judgment of God will come. It will come.” It is called, in verse 3, destruction. “But you should be encouraged because of your nature.”
Let’s look at verses 4 and 5: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day” – the day of the Lord – “would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” We don’t have any part with the darkness. We don’t have any part with the wrath of God. We don’t have any part then with the day of the Lord.
Notice how verse 4 begins: “But you, brethren.” Contrast that with the end of verse 3: “They will not escape.” Who are they? “They are the ones saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ when destruction comes on them suddenly like labor pains on a woman with child, and they will not escape.”
The day of the Lord, the judgment of God comes on the unbelievers. “But you, brethren,” – this is where the contrast begins – “they shall not escape, you will. You are part of a different family. You are part of a different people.” The contrast here, by the way, is emphatic and repeated all the way down through verse 7.
Believers will never experience the wrath of God on them because they are people of a different nature. They belong to a different kingdom. Believers are not in darkness. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness.” The people just described as the target for the wrath of God in the day of the Lord are the people of the darkness. Verse 2 says, “The Lord will come, and He’ll come like a thief and He’ll come in the night.” He comes to judge the night people. This refers to spiritual darkness obviously.
Spiritual darkness that characterizes and marks the very nature of unbelievers. It speaks of two things, and there are two kinds of darkness laid out in the Bible: mental darkness and moral darkness. They’re in the dark in terms of knowledge, and they’re in the dark in terms of behavior.
The world left to itself, and all of us before we came to Christ, could be characterized as those people in the dark. We were night people. We were darkened in our minds to the truth and we were darkened in our behavior by the pervasive blackness of unrelieved wickedness described as I read in Romans 3. The darkness of the mind cuts them off from understanding the truth of God, the darkness of their conduct makes them rebels against God.
Now in John chapter 1, just to lay this out by way of illustration, we read these familiar words, John 1:5, “The Light shines in the darkness,” – that refers to Christ; He comes into the world – “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,” did not overpower it. In fact, the darkness did not even respond to it. He was in the world, the world was made by Him, the world knew Him not. The Light came, the darkness didn’t embrace the Light. Why? Why was Christ rejected?
Over in chapter 3 of John He says why, verse 19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” The Light comes into the world, the world does not receive the Light because, simply stated, they love the darkness. That is characteristic of sinful man. In the eighth chapter of John, again this same theme comes from the lips of our Lord, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, we read this, speaking of the world, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So they have a natural, fallen blindness, all of humanity; there is a pervasive darkness; and they are double-blinded in their minds by the god of this world who is Satan. Thus, the darkness is profoundly deep.
In Ephesians chapter 4, a couple of verses, verses 17 and 18, so helpful. “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer as the nations walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding,” – that’s the first kind of darkness – “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” They are dark at the very depth of their comprehension, their mind. And as a result, “They have become callous, and given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” The darkness of the mind shows up in the darkness of their behavior. Wickedness.
In chapter 5 of Ephesians, we read in verse 8, “You were formerly darkness, now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” Or verse 11, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them.” Once we were the children of darkness and the children of wrath and the children of Satan. But we have been delivered from the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness, into the glorious light of the gospel kingdom.
Jesus called Satan by this title, Luke 22:53, “the power of darkness, the power of darkness.” He sums up the power of darkness. He is the god of the darkness. He is the ruler of the darkness. He oversee the domain of darkness – in the language of Colossians 1:13. When we were in that domain, Ephesians 6:12 says, we were under the control of the spiritual forces of this darkness, and we were headed for eternal darkness, what 2 Peter 2:17 calls the black darkness that has been reserved forever, what our Lord referred to in Matthew 8:12 as outer darkness where there’s weeping and grinding of teeth. So the darkness is the metaphor for the domain of ignorance, sin, wickedness, and rebellion, the realm in which all fallen human beings live and move and have their being. That is the target for the judgment of the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord comes in the night at the darkness.
But notice verse 4 again: “But you, brethren, 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’re not of night nor of darkness.” We’re not in the darkness mentally, we’re not in the darkness morally, we won’t be in the darkness eschatologically, and we will never be in the darkness eternally. The day will not overtake us like a thief in the night. The day of the Lord is not for us.
Listen to a verse from the prophet Amos chapter 5, “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” That’s the day of the Lord. It’s the day of darkness, and it falls on the kingdom of darkness.
Believers have nothing to fear. We’re not in the darkness. Go to verse 5: “You are all sons of light and sons of day.” The term “sons of light” first came from the lips of Jesus: Luke 16:8, John 12:36. We’re not night people, we’re day people. We’re not darkness people, we’re light people. And by the way, the “all” is there: “You are all sons of light and sons of day.”
Now what does it mean to be the son of something? Well, it’s a Hebraic kind of expression. A man or a woman would be said to be the son of any influence that dominated that person’s life or characterized their nature. In the Old Testament you have sons of Belial, Belial being a term for Satan. Certain people are called sons of Belial because they have behaved in a way that is consistent with Satan.
You remember that James and John were called by our Lord sons of thunder because their behavior was thunderous, judgmental assault on certain people in a village with whom they were unhappy for the lack of hospitality. That was not the only time. Sons of thunder wasn’t a new name for them, they’d had it for a long time. A kind of thundering brashness and boldness characterized them.
In Acts chapter 4, verse 36, you meet a man who is called a son of comfort, a son of consolation, which is to say that the dominating characteristic of the man is comfort. Whatever characterizes your nature, whatever influence sort of dominates your life, you can be identified in Hebrew terms as the son of that. You could be a son of love, a son of kindness. You could be a son of anger.
We as believers live in the realm of light. We are destined for eternal light. We are destined for heaven’s glorious light. And just to give you a preview of that, listen to Revelation 21, and we can pick it up in verse 22. John has a vision of heaven. “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practice abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the well-being of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His slaves will serve Him; and they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will have no need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”
We’re headed for eternal light. We are the people of light. We are the children of light. This is our nature. And when we finally become everything that we are designed to be. It will be forever living in the kingdom of light. As if to double-down on the idea, the apostle Paul says, “and we are sons of day.” We are day children. We are light children, we are day children. Therefore, we are not of night nor of darkness.” Very emphatic.
We live in a completely different sphere of life than those who will be caught in the day of the Lord and suffer the wrath of God. Sin has no dominion over us. We have been brought into the light by Christ who is the Light, who has taken up presence in us; and therefore the Light shines in us and through us. We have seen the light of the glory of the gospel shining in the face of Jesus Christ, and He lives within us. We are now the children of Light who are letting our light so shine, that men may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We are lights shining in the world, Paul says to the Philippians. We are the light people.
The day of the Lord has nothing to do with us. We’re different. We have died to the old kingdom and the old life. We used to be slaves of sin, Romans 6, and now we’re slaves of Righteousness. “If any man is in Christ he’s a new creation.” Second Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15 says, “We are a new creation.” Ephesians says we’ve literally been recreated for good works. Colossians 3:3 says we’ve died in Christ, and now we’ve risen, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
We are people of the light. We are the light people, sons of light, sons of the day. So don’t be anxious. Don’t fear the coming of the day of the Lord in judgment; it’s not going to be your experience. We’re going to be caught up before that happens, before that begins, into glorious heavenly light.
So the distinctiveness of our nature is his first reason. There are two more. Let me just introduce the second one – we’ll finish it up next time: The distinctiveness of our behavior. The distinctiveness of our behavior.
This follows very obviously, “So then,” – verse 6 – “so then” – since we are sons of light, sons of day, since we’re not of the night, not of the 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 faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
He says, “Let us,” several times. Now that we know what our nature is, let’s talk about our behavior; “so then we need to act like children of light.” We are in the light, the light is in us. We are in Christ, and in Him there is no darkness at all. First John 1, “We walk in the Light, as Christ is the Light.” So we are people of the Light. Because we have been delivered from the domain of darkness, rescued out of the night of sin and ignorance and rebellion, it would be ridiculous for us to behave like the night people. There’s no place for night life among day people. There’s no place for night life among day people.
Turn to Romans 13, and that will be a good place for us to wrap up this morning, Romans 13:11. And we’ll talk a little more about this next week, this same text; but I want to introduce it to you. Romans 13:11, “Do this,” – very direct instruction – “do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us that when we believed.” In other words, the Lord’s coming or our death is nearer than it’s ever been.
“The night is almost gone, the day is near.” That’s the day when either we’re in heaven or the Lord comes to set up His kingdom. “They day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” What does that mean? What do you mean by that? “Let us behave properly as in the day,” – like day people – “not I carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
When you are in the darkness, when you are part of the night people, you did whatever your lust told you to do. The darkness is where the deeds of darkness take place. The darkness is where carousing and drunkenness and sexual promiscuity and sensuality and strife and jealousy take place.
We’re children of the light, we’re not children of the darkness. So he reminds us in verse 12, “Put on the armor of light. Wear the uniform that fits your nature.”
“What do you mean put on the armor of light?” Pretty clear. Go down to verse 14: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” What does it mean to put on the armor of light? To put on Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means to act like Him. He is the Light. The armor is Christlikeness. Behave as He would.
There’s no place, again, for night life among day people. “Put on the armor of light,” which is to say, “Put on the one who is the Light, the Lord Jesus Christ.” And as a result, you will make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
We are the day people. We are the people of light. We need to live like it so the world can see that light.
Father, we thank You for leading us this morning in such a rich and wonderful time of worship together. Thank You again for songs of praise and worship. Thank You for Your precious Word above all things which shows us Your person, Your character; which reveals in fullness the Light. We know You are light. Christ is light, and that He has brought us into the kingdom of light to be the children of light to shine as lights in the world. We are those who know the truth and are called to live holy lives. May our light so shine, that men may see our good works and glorify our Father who’s in heaven.
We’re so sad about those who claim to be Christians and whose lives are characterized by night life; those who claim to be day people, but live like they were in the darkness. How they dishonor You. Lord, may we be truly children of light, manifestly children of light. That’s what You desire of us. That gives you glory.
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