1 Thessalonians 5:4

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.


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.

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness
It is universally admitted that the extent of our responsibility is to be measured by the amount of our privilege. Hence our Lord said, "To whom men have committed much, of him will they ask more." It is in harmony with this that the apostle makes the appeal in our text.

I. OUR PRIVILEGES AS A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. "Not in darkness," but in light as regards —

1. A knowledge of the true God. This lies at the foundation of religion. It is only by knowing God that we come to know ourselves. Had we no perfect standard of what is pure and lovely, were we allowed to frame some model of perfection, each would select that character for imitation, which reflected least discredit on his own. But tell us what God is, and you tell us what God loves; and what He loves man should love also. But the Thessalonians not only enjoyed through the gospel light a correct doctrine of God: they, as are all true Christians, were brought into an experimental knowledge through peace with Him.

2. The Word and ordinances of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:12).(1) By the use of these we foil the craftiness, which would "carry us about with every wind of doctrine"; we set at nought the schoolmen who would "teach for doctrine the commandments of men"; whilst we bind and fetter the discursive genius of infidelity, by allowing no objection to be valid unless founded on the Word.(2) Nor is it of use to vindicate our faith to others only; it serves much to confirm and strengthen it in ourselves. The humblest Christian who loves his Bible because he has felt its power, finds in it many things hard to be understood; but he can repose with child-like confidence in the thought — "Hard as these things may seem, the Lord hath spoken them;" and He would never have left a mystery where plainness would have made me happy. He has told me all that concerns my comfort here, and will reveal hereafter what I know not now.

3. We can understand now the propriety of this appeal. "Once ye had no knowledge of God and Divine flyings. This darkness has passed. Yours must be the fault, therefore, if the day should overtake you as a thief."


1. Their tendency to promote personal religion.(1) We are so much the slaves of habit, the mind so easily slides into the ordinary occupations of life, that without some periodical admonition that it has higher objects to seek, its power would be expended in considering "What shall we eat." We might know that "We have no continuing city" and that it is our duty to "Seek one to come," but if we were not occasionally reminded, every week would find us less punctual, and at last we should neglect it altogether. But how the hour of prayer, the Sabbath, etc., rouse us to the call of duty.(2) A disposition to slight these outward means is a concealed aversion to the religion which enjoins them. It is an index of that self-sufficiency which will only accept a blessing if obtained in a way of our own choosing.(3) Men ask "Why cannot I be religious without going to church? I can go forth into the fields and look through nature up to nature's God." Possibly you can, but will you?

2. The danger that we may suddenly lose them. The "day" here is the day of judgment, but practically for us that is the day of death. When that will come we know not; but lest it should find as slumbering, let us be on our guard always, and not flatter ourselves with a false peace.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

"I am taking a fearful leap in the dark," said the dying infidel, Hobbes. "This is heaven begun, I have done with darkness forever, nothing remains but light and joy," said the dying believer, Thomas Scott.

(Sunday at Home.)

When Gordon Pasha was taken prisoner by the Abyssinians he completely checkmated King John. The King received his prisoner sitting on his throne, or whatever piece of furniture did duty for that exalted seat, a chair being placed for the prisoner considerably lower than the seat on which the King sat. The first thing the Pasha did was to seize this chair, place it alongside of his Majesty, and sit down on it: the next to inform him that he met him as an equal and would only treat him as such. This somewhat disconcerted his sable majesty, but on recovering himself he said, "Do you know, Gordon Pasha, that I could kill you on the spot if I liked?" "I am perfectly well aware of it, your Majesty," said the Pasha. "Do so at once if it is your Royal pleasure. I am ready." This disconcerted the King still mores and he exclaimed, "What I ready to be killed?" "Certainly," replied the Pasha, "I am always ready to die, and so far from fearing your putting me to death, you would confer a favour on me by so doing, for you would be doing for me that which I am precluded by my religious scruples from doing for myself — you would relieve me from all the troubles and misfortunes which the future may have in store for me." This completely staggered King John, who gasped out in despair, "Then my power has no terrors for you?" "None whatever," was the Pasha's laconic reply. His Majesty, it is needless to add, instantly collapsed.

Paul, Thessalonians
Aren't, Brethren, Brothers, Catch, Dark, Darkness, Daylight, Overtake, Surprise, Thief
1. He proceeds in the description of Christ's coming to judgment;
16. and gives various instructions;
23. and so concludes the epistle.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Thessalonians 5:4

     5962   surprises

1 Thessalonians 5:1-9

     8211   commitment, to world

1 Thessalonians 5:2-8

     9220   day of the LORD

1 Thessalonians 5:4-5

     4811   darkness, symbol of sin

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

     6030   sin, avoidance
     6611   adoption, privileges and duties

1 Thessalonians 5:4-8

     8490   watchfulness
     8493   watchfulness, believers

Sleep Not
"Lord, when we leave the world and come to thee, How dull, how slur, are we! How backward! How prepost'rous is the motion Of our ungain devotion! Our thoughts are millstones, and our souls are lead, And our desires are dead: Our vows are fairly promis'd, faintly paid, Or broken, or not made. * * * * * * * Is the road fair, we loiter; clogged with mire, We stick or else retire; A lamb appeals a lion, and we fear Each bush we see's a bear. When our dull souls direct our thoughts to
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871

"Pray Without Ceasing"
Observe, however, what immediately follows the text: "In everything give thanks." When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures, representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link between those on either side. These
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 18: 1872

Awake! Awake!
"Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." Sleep God hath selected as the very figure for the repose of the blessed. "They that sleep in Jesus," saith the Scripture. David puts it amongst the peculiar gift's of grace: "So he giveth his beloved sleep." But alas! sin could not let even this alone. Sin did over-ride even this celestial metaphor; and though God himself had employed sleep to express the excellence of the state of the blessed, yet sin must have even this profaned, ere itself can be
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857

Fenelon -- the Saints Converse with God
Francois de Salignac de La Mothe-Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray, and private tutor to the heir-apparent of France, was born of a noble family in Perigord, 1651. In 1675 he received holy orders, and soon afterward made the acquaintance of Bossuet, whom he henceforth looked up to as his master. It was the publication of his "De l'Education des Filles" that brought him his first fame, and had some influence in securing his appointment in 1689 to be preceptor of the Duke of Burgundy. In performing this
Various—The World's Great Sermons, Vol. 2

Consecration: what is It?
The second step that must needs be taken by those of us who have been living without the Fullness, before it can be obtained, is Consecration, a word that is very common and popular; much more common and popular, it is feared, than the thing itself. In order to be filled with the Holy Ghost one must first be "cleansed," and then one must be "consecrated". Consecration follows cleansing, and not vice versa. Intelligent apprehension of what consecration is, and of what it involves, is necessary to
John MacNeil—The Spirit-Filled Life

Thirty-First Lesson. Pray Without Ceasing;'
Pray without ceasing;' Or, A Life of Prayer. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.--I Thess. v. 16, 17, 18. OUR Lord spake the parable of the widow and the unjust judge to teach us that men ought to pray always and not faint. As the widow persevered in seeking one definite thing, the parable appears to have reference to persevering prayer for some one blessing, when God delays or appears to refuse. The words in the Epistles, which speak of continuing instant in
Andrew Murray—With Christ in the School of Prayer

Early Afflictions
"Misery stole me at my birth And cast me helpless on the wild." The words of this hymn express my condition from my first advent into the world. My mother had overworked before I was born; and, as a result, I suffered bodily affliction from infancy. I was scarely two years old when I began having spasms. My eyes would roll back in my head, I would froth at the mouth, the tendons of my jaws would draw, causing me to bite my cheeks until the blood ran from my mouth, and I would become unconscious.
Mary Cole—Trials and Triumphs of Faith

Third Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Romans 12, 16-21. 16 Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. 19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. 20 But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. II

The Alarum
That is not, however, the topic upon which I now desire to speak to you. I come at this time, not so much to plead for the early as for the awakening. The hour we may speak of at another time--the fact is our subject now. It is bad to awake late, but what shall be said of those who never awake at all? Better late than never: but with many it is to be feared it will be never. I would take down the trumpet and give a blast, or ring the alarm-bell till all the faculties of the sluggard's manhood are
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871

Grace unto you and peace be multiplied. I Pet 1:1. Having spoken of the first fruit of sanctification, assurance, I proceed to the second, viz., Peace, Peace be multiplied:' What are the several species or kinds of Peace? Peace, in Scripture, is compared to a river which parts itself into two silver streams. Isa 66:12. I. There is an external peace, and that is, (1.) (Economical, or peace in a family. (2.) Political, or peace in the state. Peace is the nurse of plenty. He maketh peace in thy borders,
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Getting Ready to Enter Canaan
GETTING READY TO ENTER CANAAN Can you tell me, please, the first step to take in obtaining the experience of entire sanctification? I have heard much about it, have heard many sermons on it, too; but the way to proceed is not yet plain to me, not so plain as I wish it were. Can't you tell me the first step, the second, third, and all the rest? My heart feels a hunger that seems unappeased, I have a longing that is unsatisfied; surely it is a deeper work I need! And so I plead, "Tell me the way."
Robert Lee Berry—Adventures in the Land of Canaan

Exhortations to Christians as they are Children of God
1 There is a bill of indictment against those who declare to the world they are not the children of God: all profane persons. These have damnation written upon their forehead. Scoffers at religion. It were blasphemy to call these the children of God. Will a true child jeer at his Father's picture? Drunkards, who drown reason and stupefy conscience. These declare their sin as Sodom. They are children indeed, but cursed children' (2 Peter 2:14). 2 Exhortation, which consists of two branches. (i) Let
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

The Christian Prayer
Scripture references: Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13; John 17; Matthew 26:41; Mark 11:24,25; Luke 6:12,28; 9:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:17,25; 1 Corinthians 14:13,15; Psalm 19:14; 50:15, Matthew 7:7; 1 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 3:20,21; John 16:23; 14:14; James 5:16. THE PROVINCE OF PRAYER Definition.--Prayer is the communion of man with God. It is not first of all the means of getting something from God, but the realization of Him in the soul. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew
Henry T. Sell—Studies in the Life of the Christian

Paul a Pattern of Prayer
TEXT: "If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it."--John 14:14. Jesus testified in no uncertain way concerning prayer, for not alone in this chapter does he speak but in all his messages to his disciples he is seeking to lead them into the place where they may know how to pray. In this fourteenth chapter of John, where he is coming into the shadow of the cross and is speaking to his disciples concerning those things which ought to have the greatest weight with them, the heart of his message
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot

Be Ye Therefore Perfect, Even as Your Father which is in Heaven is Perfect. Matthew 5:48.
In the 43rd verse, the Savior says, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward
Charles G. Finney—Lectures to Professing Christians

Concerning Peaceableness
Blessed are the peacemakers. Matthew 5:9 This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of peace is a blessed work. Blessed are the peacemakers'. Observe the connection. The Scripture links these two together, pureness of heart and peaceableness of spirit. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable' (James 3:17). Follow peace and holiness' (Hebrews 12:14). And here Christ joins them together pure in heart, and peacemakers',
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

'For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.' I Thess 4:4. The word sanctification signifies to consecrate and set apart to a holy use: thus they are sanctified persons who are separated from the world, and set apart for God's service. Sanctification has a privative and a positive part. I. A privative part, which lies in the purging out of sin. Sin is compared to leaven, which sours; and to leprosy, which defiles. Sanctification purges out the old leaven.' I Cor 5:5. Though it takes not
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Hindrances to Mourning
What shall we do to get our heart into this mourning frame? Do two things. Take heed of those things which will stop these channels of mourning; put yourselves upon the use of all means that will help forward holy mourning. Take heed of those things which will stop the current of tears. There are nine hindrances of mourning. 1 The love of sin. The love of sin is like a stone in the pipe which hinders the current of water. The love of sin makes sin taste sweet and this sweetness in sin bewitches the
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Concerning Worship.
Concerning Worship. [780] All true and acceptable worship to God is offered in the inward and immediate moving and drawing of his own Spirit which is neither limited to places times, nor persons. For though we are to worship him always, and continually to fear before him; [781] yet as to the outward signification thereof, in prayers, praises, or preachings, we ought not to do it in our own will, where and when we will; but where and when we are moved thereunto by the stirring and secret inspiration
Robert Barclay—Theses Theologicae and An Apology for the True Christian Divinity

Letter cxx. To Hedibia.
At the request of Hedibia, a lady of Gaul much interested in the study of scripture, Jerome deals with the following twelve questions. It will be noticed that several of them belong to the historical criticism of our own day. (1) How can anyone be perfect? and How ought a widow without children to live to God? (2) What is the meaning of Matt. xxvi. 29? (3) How are the discrepancies in the evangelical narratives to be accounted for? How can Matt. xxviii. 1 be reconciled with Mark xvi. 1, 2. (4) How
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome

How Christ is to be Made Use Of, in Reference to Growing in Grace.
I come now to speak a little to the other part of sanctification, which concerneth the change of our nature and frame, and is called vivification, or quickening of the new man of grace; which is called the new man, as having all its several members and parts, as well as the old man; and called new, because posterior to the other; and after regeneration is upon the growing hand, this duty of growing in grace, as it is called, 2 Pet. iii. &c. is variously expressed and held forth to us in Scripture;
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life

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