And now you can open your Bible to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. Now we are talking about the future coming of our Lord; and for those of you who have not been with us, there are two events ahead of us in this world. The first is the snatching away of all Christian believers. That is discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 18, we looked at that. It’s often called the rapture of the church, when all Christians will be snatched out of this world by the Lord to meet Him in heaven to the place where He has prepared for us. There will be a resurrection of the bodies of all believers who have died. They will come out of the graves; new, glorified bodies to be joined to their spirits already in the presence of the Lord. And then those who are alive will be gathered, and all of us will go to heaven where we will forever be with the Lord. That’s the most important part of that event. We will always be with the Lord, as verse 17 says at the end.
Following that catching away of all believers there will come to the world a time of severe judgment. It is identified as the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord, as we’ve been telling you, is a term that sweeps across Holy Scripture from the Old Testament into the New Testament and essentially defines divine judgment, and in particular, divine judgment at the end of human history. The ultimate final day of the Lord of the Lord is the end of man’s day. It’s the end of Satan’s day. It is the Lord’s Day to bring judgment. Believers will be removed, and judgment will break loose in the world. This is prophesied in many places in the Old Testament, declared by our Lord during His ministry, and detailed in the book of Revelation.
But we find ourselves having already discussed that event, which is a signless event, it could happen at any time, where the Lord snatches believers out of the world. We’ve come to chapter 5 now to talk about the day of the Lord, and we’ve essentially looked at the opening three verses that introduce the day of the Lord to us, and we’ve expanded from there to see how it’s basically described throughout all of Scripture. Now I want you to pick up the text back at the beginning of chapter 5 because I think it all important to be in your mind.
“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” That was because Paul had given them full instruction on the rapture and on the day of the Lord. “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” It comes in the night in an unexpected way. The day of the Lord is that cataclysmic, final, ultimate judgment of God on this world.
“While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ – they will be apparently in a time of security and safety, which is laid out for us in the book of Revelation – “then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” Now at this point we get the picture that this is not for believers. There is no place for believers in this event. We’ve already been taken out in the rapture; then comes this event, and that is affirmed in verses 4 through 11, which is our text for this morning.
“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.”
Paul says here there are two kinds of people in the world. There are night people and there are day people. There are people of the darkness and people of the daylight. There are people who are drunken and there are people who are sober. It’s about the night people and the day people. This is not a new theme in Scripture. In fact, it’s a very old theme. I would take you back into the Psalms at Psalm 107, one of the great salvation psalms. It calls for thanksgiving for salvation. But listen in particular to Psalm 107, verse 10 and following, down to verse 15.
“There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they had rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help.” Verse 13, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!”
The psalmist says there were those who dwelt in darkness, in the shadow of death; that’s the night people. All of us at one point were among the night people. Prisoners in misery and chains, rebels against the words of God and the counsel of the Most High. But there was a time by the prompting of the Holy Spirit when we cried out to the Lord in our trouble, and He saved us out of our distress, and brought us out of darkness and the shadow of death. For that reason we give Him thanks for His lovingkindness and His wonders to the sons of men. We worship because we have been delivered from the darkness.
So that is an Old Testament concept. I want you to see it in the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 9 there is a wonderful promise given about the coming of Messiah, and it attaches it to the appearance of light in the darkness. It speaks in verse 1 of Isaiah 9 about the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. This is by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
And then it says about those people sometime in the future, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” This is a direct prophecy that the light is coming to the darkness and it’s coming to the land of Galilee, specifically the land of Galilee.
What is this light? Or better, who is this light? Go to verse 6 of Isaiah 9: “A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” That is no other than the Messiah. So Isaiah prophesies the Messiah’s going to come to Galilee, and the Messiah is going to be a light shining in the darkness.
When you come into the New Testament in Luke chapter 1, Zacharias the father of John the Baptist has received a message from heaven that he is going to be a father, along with Elizabeth his wife the mother, of the prophet that’s going to announce the arrival of this light, the Messiah. Zacharias praises the Lord for what the Lord is going to do in giving him a son who will be this prophet.
Go down to Luke 1:76 and hear the words of praise from Isaiah speaking of John the Baptist. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Zacharias knowing the prophecy of Isaiah that the light would come identifies the light as the Sunrise from on high, the Messiah, who will shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
In Matthew chapter 4 we read in verse 12 a wonderful promise fulfilled. “When Jesus heard that John” – John the Baptist – “had been taken into custody,” – his ministry’s over – “He withdrew into Galilee.” Jesus goes to Galilee. “Leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea,” – the Sea of Galilee – “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,” just as the prophet Isaiah said. The light would come from Galilee.
“This was” – verse 14, Matthew 4 – “to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.’” You can see that God speaks in terms of Messiah’s coming as light in the darkness. Even the psalmist understood salvation as being delivered from the darkness into the light.
In John chapter 8, a very familiar and oft memorized words 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.” Jesus is light.
Paul was on the Damascus road. The ninth chapter of Acts records the account. Light comes out of heaven, blinds him, knocks him to the ground. The Lord delivers him from blindness and sends him to preach the gospel. Paul described his calling this way in Acts 26, verse 18 – powerful, clear understanding of his calling. “What is your calling?” The Lord says to him, verse 17, “I’m sending you to open their eyes” – Jews and Gentiles – “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
The prophet says the Messiah will be light. John the Baptist says the Messiah will be light. The Messiah says He is light. The apostles preach that He is light and He brings light. Colossians 1 tells us that He rescued us from the domain of darkness. Ephesians 5 says we were formerly darkness, now we are light in Him.
First John chapter 1 identifies us with those same terms, verse 5: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you; God is Light, and in Him there’s no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” All of that just to say God distinguishes throughout Scripture between the people of the night and the people of the day, the people of the darkness and the people of the light. Only two kinds of people in the world. My grandfather used to say just two kinds: the saints and the aints. From a biblical standpoint, it’s the night people and the day people.
In this passage before us in chapter 5, we see the night people associated with darkness, associated with sleep, associated with drunkenness; and we see the day people associated with light and alertness and soberness. Paul is making this distinction, he’s identifying the people of the day.
What is his point here? Why is he doing this? He’s doing this to encourage believers. What was happening was this: the Thessalonians were aware that Jesus was coming, they had been instructed about the rapture. Some of them were worried that perhaps they had missed the rapture somehow or God had changed His plan. Because there was a lot of persecution, life was difficult. Maybe they were in the day of the Lord. Maybe they were in the time of God’s judgment.
In fact, there had been a letter written that was purported to be from Paul, though it was a deception saying the day of the Lord had come. They are concerned about that. Are they going to have to go through this time called the day of the Lord? Are they in it already? Paul writes this to comfort them. Look at the end of chapter 4: “Therefore comfort one another with these words about the rapture. You’re going to be taken away before this starts; be comforted.”
In chapter 5, verse 11, same word: “Therefore comfort one another, encourage one another, build up one another, just as you also are doing.” This is written as encouragement, encouragement to them and encouragement to us.
Now they knew about Christ coming. In fact, they knew it so well, verse 1 of chapter 5 says, “You don’t need anything taught to you now, you’ve already been taught this. You know the Lord is going to snatch His church out and then bring judgment on the world. You know all of that. Let me remind you why you should not fear that you’re going to be caught in the day of the Lord, the future divine judgment. Let me do this to comfort you, because the judgment of the Lord is horrific on the world.” It’s laid out in detail starting in Revelation 6 all the way to Revelation 19.
This is not the first time such comfort was necessary. Go back to the last book of the Old Testament. This is a parallel experience of believing people. The prophet Malachi is telling people about the coming day of the Lord, and it’s a terrifying reality.
Malachi 3:2, “Who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? Who’s going to survive? He’s going to come like a smelter and purifier of silver. Ind it’s going to be a time of burning. It’s going to be a time of judgment,” – verse 5 – “swift judgment against sorcerers and against the adulterers and those who swear falsely and those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed,” and He calls on them to return to Him. “Be saved before the judgment comes.”
Judgment was going to be terrifying, extremely terrifying; and they were fearful. The judgment in chapter 4, verse 1, was going to come like a burning furnace. “All the arrogant, every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave nether root nor branch.” Complete consuming by the fire of the Lord in judgment.
Well, there were believing people among the children of Israel listening to Malachi’s message. You see them in chapter 3, verse 16: “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another.” What were they saying? They were saying, “Whoa, wait a minute. What’s going to happen to us? What’s going to happen to us? Are we going to get caught in this judgment?”
“And they talked about it to each other, and the Lord gave attention and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name.” Those who belonged to Him He wrote their names down in His book. And verse 17, “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Verse 18 says, “God will distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”
Down in verse 2 of chapter 4, “You who fear My name,” – this is so beautiful – “the sun of righteousness” – the Light, the Messiah, the Sunrise, as Zacharias called Him – “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing, with health, eternal health; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing.” The Lord always remembers His people. He has a book and their names are written there. God always promises to the righteous that they will escape His wrath.
So we have this same kind of fear, as in Malachi’s day among the Thessalonians believers. And Paul is comforting them, as he says at the end of chapter 4 and verse 11 of chapter 5. This is for encouragement for them and for us. He makes the distinction between the rapture of believers and the day of the Lord on unbelievers, between being caught up to heaven to be with the Lord and being destroyed in hell forever away from the Lord, between deliverance and wrath, between life and death, hope and no hope, day and night, light and darkness, being awake and being asleep, being sober and being drunk – simple contrast.
The description shows the absolute distinction between believers and nonbelievers. But this is written to comfort us. Any fearing Christian who knows what is coming in the day of the Lord in the future can look deeply into this passage and have their fears calmed. There are teachers of the Bible who say believers are going to go through the day of the Lord, we’re going to go through the time of tribulation and we’re going to have to take all of that fury from heaven. I think this passage says something very different than that. We will not in the day of the Lord because we will not experience His wrath.
In chapter 1 and verse 10, it was part of the faith of the Thessalonians that they were waiting for His Son, God’s Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. They had been taught by Paul that they would be rescued from the wrath to come, and that rescue is the rapture; and then comes the day of the Lord.
And I told you last time – and we’ll get back into that outline now – there are three reasons way day people don’t end up in the night of the day of the Lord. Reason Number One: The distinctiveness of our nature. The distinctiveness of our nature. We looked at this last time, verses 4 and 5, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.” “The day of the Lord will come” – verse 2 says – “like a thief in the night.”
You’re not part of the darkness, you’re not part of the night. Verse 5, “You are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” He says it about four times over. We have been delivered from the darkness. We are the people of the light.
The domain of darkness is the domain of the unbelievers. They are dark in their minds, the darkened mind; and they are dark in their conduct. They’re dark mentally and they are dark morally. But we are in the light. We have been enlightened by the truth, and we have been given the Light of life, who is Christ, and with Him has come righteousness, virtue.
The day of the Lord is not for us. We are not people of the darkness, we have nothing to do with that. We’re in the Lord’s book, His book of remembrance. Sin has no dominion over us, it has no condemnation on us; we have no place. We are day people, not night people. We have no place in the day of the wrath of God, because the distinctiveness of our nature.
Secondly, the distinctiveness of our behavior; and we started looking at this in verse 6, “So then, so then, since we are different by nature” – people of the day – “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.”
Now he’s talking about our conduct. Identity and conduct are inseparable. If you’re a true believer it’s going to manifest itself. You’re not everything you should be, but you have been given a new nature. You are a new creation. Old things have passed away, and new things have come.
That’s what Paul essentially was saying in Colossians 3 that I read to you earlier. Since you are heavenly people, since you died in Christ, you rose in Christ, you’re seated at the right hand of God in Christ. Since heaven is your home, you ought to act like it. You have the power to act like it. You have the new nature to act like it. Don’t fall back into the old patterns. The commands that Paul gave in Colossians 3, the commands that are given to believers anywhere in the Bible are basically to live in a way that’s consistent with your identity in Christ. Your pattern of behavior is very different.
Verse 8 puts it this way: “Since we are of the day, since we are of the day.” There’s a certain way for us to behave and it’s completely distinct from the darkness, the sleep, and the drunkenness of immoral ignorance. That is not our pattern of conduct. We’ve been delivered from the domain of darkness, rescued from the night of sin and ignorance, rebellion, unbelief, disobedience.
I want to go back to Romans 13 where we ended last Sunday and just touch lightly on it. Paul says in verse 11 of Romans 13, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” That is the final aspect of salvation. When you believed in Christ you were saved from the penalty of sin because you were forgiven. You are now being saved from the power of sin as your sanctification overpowers sin. One day you will be saved from the presence of sin. That’s the final aspect of salvation, and that’s what he has in mind here, your final salvation, when you’re saved not only from the penalty and the power of sin, but the very presence of sin is nearer than when we believed.
Every day you get nearer to your final glory. “The night is almost gone,” – we’re still surrounded by the darkness and the night, even though we live and walk in the light – “the day is near.” – the day of our Lord’s coming – “Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness.” Stop doing deeds that were dragged in from the darkness of your former life. What do you mean? “Behave properly as in the day, not in” – here’s some samples – “carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, not in strife and jealousy,” – the end of verse 14 – “not operating in the flesh based on lust.”
Look, that’s still a problem with us, because even though we are people of the day and people of the light, we’re still human, we’re still in the flesh. Our flesh has not yet been redeemed; that won’t happen till the resurrection. So we can do the deeds of darkness. They aren’t going to be the dominating pattern of our lives, but we can certainly hang onto those things.
He’s saying, “Don’t do that. Put on the armor of light. Arm yourself, clothe yourself with light.” Verse 14 he adds, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s what the armor of light is. He is the armor of light. Put on Christ. Behave like Christ. Now you can go back to 1 Thessalonians. We are the people of the light and the day; that’s how we ought to act.
Three times he says, “Let us, let us, let us.” “Let us” – verse 6 – “not sleep. Let us be alert and sober.” Verse 8, “Let us be sober,” again. There is a certain conduct for us; it’s different than how other people live. Unbelievers are spiritually in the night, in the darkness, in the blackness of ignorance and immorality. We are not; we have been given life, and we have been given light. Sleep is natural to night people. Drunkenness is natural to night people, not to us. Godly behavior marks us.
Let’s look at a passage that will help with that. I’ve been reading a lot. That’s 2 Peter 1. Been reading a lot about the Puritans lately, and even about the Reformers and their emphasis in preaching. You go all the way back to the Reformation starting in the sixteenth century and you will notice that the preaching majored on not only the person of Christ and the gospel, but the application of that gospel preaching majored on the concern of the Reformers that people understand the difference between a true Christian and a false one.
That literally is all through Reformed preaching. They were very concerned about that because they were coming out of the, quote-unquote, “Holy Roman Empire,” which had engulfed the whole Mediterranean world baptizing babies. Everybody was in the church and everybody was, quote-unquote, a “Christian.” They were in a system where there were few true Christians and many false Christians; and many of the false Christians didn’t know they were false Christians. So they were constantly preaching about the difference between a true and a false Christian. This extended into the Puritan era, into English, and then English Puritans, even American Puritans.
If you follow great biblical preaching of sound doctrine you will find constant efforts to help people understand the difference between a true believer and a false believer, so that people don’t end up going to hell from the very portals of heaven. That was the first sermon I preached here. “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and I’ll say to them, ‘Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity; I never knew you.’” People who think they’re going to heaven who are not are ubiquitous in institutional forms of Christianity. And so all those great preachers majored on helping people understand what true salvation was.
I was reading one interesting sermon by a great American theologian and seminary professor named Archibald Alexander, and Archibald Alexander summed up the marks of a Christian, which they were constantly talking about, with three simple marks. He said true Christians will be manifest in these three ways. One, love: love for the Lord, love for His word, love for His people, love for the lost. That’s what will mark true believers. Jesus even said, “By their love you’ll know they’re My disciples.”
The second thing Alexander said is by their humility. Coming with that love is an eagerness to humble themselves before their Lord and God, and even to humble themselves among each other. There will be a desire to obey, to hear the truth and live the truth, and even to serve others the way Christ did in humility. And the third thing Alexander said is they will be marked by holiness. Their lives will be characterized by righteous thoughts and words and deeds.
Now we’re not saying that we’re going to be marked by perfect love or perfect humility or perfect holiness, or even anything close. Those will be, however, the trajectories of our life as a true believer. You will love the Lord and you will need to, and you will long to love Him more. You will humble yourself willingly, but you will need to humble yourself more. You will seek holiness, but you will need to seek it more your whole life long. You might say, “Well, look, if I’m already secure and I’m already headed for heaven, why would I worry about that?”
You don’t worry about that if you’re a believer. That’s not alien to you, that’s the real you. You don’t have to conjure up love for the Lord, love for His word, and love for His church, and love for the lost; that’s your nature if you’re a true believer. You don’t have to beat yourself up, pound yourself down to be humble, there is just an element in that new creation that bows the knee before the Lord, and even others. And you don’t have to look at holiness as if it’s some Everest that you have to climb by yourself; it’s the longing of your new heart.
So let me say at the beginning then that you don’t need to fight to muster these things up if you’re a true believer. If you’re fighting to muster them up, then they’re not spiritually natural. You’re not a believer. What you have to do is fight against the things that mitigate against those impulses, things that fight against your love and your humility and your holiness.
You say, “Well, why would I bother fighting?” Peter gives us a great answer to that in 2 Peter, 2 Peter 1, verse 4. “The Lord has granted to us precious, magnificent promises; and by those promises we have become partakers of the divine nature.” We are new creations, we have a new nature. We have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust, delivered out of the darkness into the light. “Now for this very reason,” – because of who you are – “applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
Work hard so that those virtues can triumph over the temptations that come against it. Why? Verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” – which assumes they’re never going to be perfect – “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here’s the first thing. If you’re pursuing love and humility and holiness, if you’re pursuing these elements of godliness, you will be useful, and you will be fruitful. Since you have the true knowledge of the Lord, the biggest disappointment in your life or my life ought to be that I’m not useful, I’m not fruitful to the one who redeemed me. So you apply all diligence in the direction of righteousness, so that you can be useful and fruitful, not useless and unfruitful. That’s the positive.
The negative is this, verse 9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” Here’s the statement: if these things are not characteristics in your life, you will not enjoy the security of your salvation. You will not have the confidence that you’re a Christian, you’ll live in fear, you’ll live in anxiety, you’ll live in doubt. And the more you know about the coming day of the Lord and horrific judgment and the fires of eternal hell, the more fearful you will be.
So verse 10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling in choosing you.” He knows; you’re not giving God the information. He knows He called you. He knows He chose you. The question is, “Can you enjoy that knowledge?” You can. As long as you practice these things you will never stumble into doubt and fear. If you’re to be comforted, if you’re to be encouraged, if you’re to be strengthened in living in this world, you have to follow the path of righteousness.
Now go back to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. “So we do not sleep” – verse 6 – “as others do, so let us be alert and sober.” Alert means awake, grēgoreō,from which the name Gregory comes. It’s the idea of watching to rightly assess what is going on. Sometimes you use it with a view to the future. Sober, free from the influence from intoxicants; but more than that, free from the influence of distractions. It’s talking about being able to settle on priorities. “Keep your focus clear.”
So, focus on what matters. Be alert. Get your priorities right. Live in a calm, consistent, balanced, steady spiritual way. As you live like that, you’re going to enjoy the assurance of your salvation. You’re going to receive that as a gift from the Holy Spirit. You need have no fear, for you’re not part of the night people, you’re not part of the darkness. The day of the Lord has nothing to do with you.
He says that essentially in verse 7. Those who sleep do their sleeping at night. Those who get drunk get drunk at night. “But” – verse 8 – “since we are of the day,” – he says it again – “let us be sober.” That means get your priority right; think clearly about what matters.
Be watchful. Picture of a vigilant soldier given a responsibility to be on duty: be alert, be awake, be wise, be armed. Yes, be armed. Look at verse 8, “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” There’s no sword here. This isn’t Ephesians 6, we’re not fighting demons with the sword of the Word here. The picture here is of a defensive armor. “Put on a bulletproof vest,” – that essentially would be the modern counterpart to a breastplate – “having put on the breastplate of faith and love,” – it’s something you already have, you’re already wearing it – “and the helmet is the hope of salvation.”
The breastplate of faith and love; what is he talking about? Faith in the Lord and love to the Lord. That’s what protects your confidence. That’s what protects your assurance. If you are trusting the Lord that means you’re trusting His word, you’re obeying His word. If you are loving the Lord, delighting in devotion and obedience to Him as the one who is the object of your affection, it is in the midst of that complete trust in the Lord that shows up in obedience, that full love to the Lord which also shows up in obedience and worship. In that situation, you have on a bullet-proof vest. And no enemy, not Satan himself, can take away your confidence, your assurance, your comfort about the future.
And then you have as a helmet the hope of salvation. We have salvation, yes, in the sense that we have been forgiven. I said that earlier. The penalty of sin has been dealt with and we are forgiven because of the death of Christ. The power of sin is systematically being dealt with in the process of sanctification. But he’s talking here again about the hope of salvation, the third and final phase of our salvation. Hope really is bright and produces joy when we walk in obedience, in faith and love. Then you’re protected from fear and doubt. You’re protected from being shot here, from being hit in the head with anxiety, fear.
Hope is certain where love flourishes; love flourishes where faith is strong. That’s the armor you need to be protected against things that would frighten you about the future. Where faith is weak, love is cold and hope is lost. Where faith is strong, love is zealous and hope is bright. We need have no fear. But we will only enjoy that hope if our life is marked by following the distinctiveness, the distinctiveness of our new nature.
One final thought. We’re not night people because of our nature, because of our behavior, and thirdly, because of our destiny. Verse 9, “For God has not destined us for wrath.” It couldn’t be simpler. “God has not destined us for wrath.” That’s not our future. That broad statement has really no qualification there, it’s just a blanket statement; and how wonderfully encouraging is that.
Listen to Romans 5:8 and 9, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining that final salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ – salvation, meaning deliverance from the darkness.
Once we were children of wrath; now we’re children of God, because we have believed in Christ.
It’s that simple in John 3:36. This is a verse to keep in mind, John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” All of humanity divided: those who believe the Son, Light, and Life. Those who do not believe the Son – and, consequently, demonstrated in obedience – the wrath of God abides, rests, remains, and stays forever on them.
These texts about the wrath of God are spread throughout the New Testament: Romans 1, Romans 2, Romans 3, Romans 4, Romans 5. Again, Romans 9, Romans 12, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Revelation 6, Revelation further, all the way into chapter 14. And the wrath of God is looking at this terrifying future – temporal and eternal judgment on unbelievers.
But that’ll never happen to us. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 10, died for us. He died for us, for us. We are saved from the wrath of God through Him. He became sin for us, that we might know the righteousness of God in Him. He died for us. That is a specific death: for us, on our behalf, with reference to us. Or John 10:11 puts it this way: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
It was an actual atonement, procuring as God’s peculiar people, His chosen, to enjoy the ultimate destiny of eternal salvation. All the rest of the world is plunged into the wrath of that future day as well as everlasting hell. He died for us. It was a specific death for a specific group of chosen people. We’re not destined for wrath.
So, he says in verse 10, “Whether we are awake” – that is still alive; that’s what was bothering the Thessalonians – “or asleep,” believers who had died, and they were worried about what’s going to happen to them in the rapture – “we will live together with Him.” And he explained that in the rapture passage, didn’t he. We’ll all be together. The dead in Christ shall rise first; those that are alive and remain caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and we’ll ever be with the Lord.
We are people of the day, not people of the night. We will all be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, and we will never ever feel the wrath of God. It’s alien to our nature, it’s alien to our behavior, and it’s alien to our destiny. So verse 11 says, “Therefore comfort one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Is that not good news? We’re people of the day; and one day the Lord is going to come and take us out before the judgment falls on the darkness.
Father, we thank You that You have led us to the truth, that the light not only was shining in Galilee, but the light is shining throughout the world with the glorious gospel of Christ. We thank You that You brought us out of the darkness, the domain of darkness, into the light, that we who once were darkness are now light in Christ. We thank You for the promise that as the world gets darker and darker on its own, the darkness getting darker only sets the backdrop for the moment when the light shines. We look forward to that time when we meet You in the air and go to be with You forever in that place You’ prepared for us. We look forward to that.
And at the same time, what is joy to us is also sadness, because the events after that are going to be horrible. So, Lord, may we be useful and fruitful in proclaiming the gospel, the gospel, the good news of rescue from divine wrath. What an amazing message. We are telling sinners and people of the darkness that God desires to rescue them from Himself, to bring them under His love and grace, so that they will never know His wrath and judgment. Press the message of truth to every heart as You would see fit, we pray in our Savior’s name.
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