Though an old song, ‘Like a thief in the night, he will come—–‘ is one of my favorite songs, where Cliff Richard captures the essence of the Lord’s 2nd coming.
1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5)
The context of this verse is found in the preceding verses where Paul talks about the reality of the rapture.
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1Thessalonians 4)
A Christian does not need to grieve or worry about death because the risen Christ will return and raise those who have believed in him. Unlike others, such a person has a strong hope that secures his life. How meaningless life is when death portrays the end of it all! How desperate men become when staring at death knowing that it plunges them into a world of unknown and uncertainty! Recalling the hope we have is an important part of the Christian pilgrimage.
So while the ‘thief in the night’ concept of the rapture educates us about the unexpectedness of his coming, it begins with and is written in the context of a certainty of his coming.
There are two aspects of the 2nd coming that the thief in the night calls our attention to. Firstly, it conveys that we cannot set a time or date to the 2nd coming of Christ. California based, radio evangelist, Harold Camping made news when he analyzed Biblical events mathematically and predicted that the world would end on May 21st, 2011. On May 21st, he revised ‘the end of the world’ date to October 21st, 2011. Many of his followers resigned their jobs and spent their life savings to travel around the world spreading Camping’s message. The dates came and went and the social media had a field day mocking Biblical prophecies and the naive Christians who believe fairy tales. A simple look at the Bible will make it clear that no man can decipher the end date.
36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man——— 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24)
You can read more about this in one of my previous posts here.
The ‘thief in the night’ concept also points toward the unpreparedness of man with regard to receiving the Lord.
3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5)
There are several pointers in this passage to that which can prevent us from being prepared to receive the Lord. A false sense of security from the worldly support structures that we build around us can lure us to thinking that all is well and safe. The stability and prosperity that we experience could very easily be lost and there can be no peace and safety if we have no hope in Christ. The passage also talks of drunkenness with the material pleasures of this world and being asleep, failing to be alert to the times and circumstances around us. The three pillars of Christian faith- faith, love and hope are indicators of a healthy relationship with Christ and if these are absent or minimal in our lives, we are likely on shaky ground.
Like a thief in the night he will come—-will we be ready to receive and welcome him?
Thanks for reading, encourage others with your comments.
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