…That the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. So Paul writes to the Thessalonians, just a few words after he has explained again how the Lord will come and meet the believers in the air and so will they be together with Him. These are verses in I Thessalonians 4:16 to 5:4.
Given the timelessness of the acclaimed Word of God, the words of this article’s title would apply to this generation. Do we—those of this generation—“know perfectly that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night”? Paul also reminds them, and us, in verse one of Chapter 5, that they are fully aware of the “times and seasons”, indicating recognition of events that Jesus and other New Testament spokesmen have described that will be coming upon the world in increasing magnitude as man’s redemption draws near.
Those with whom I mingle and read about do not seem to exhibit very openly those two attributes—awareness of the “times and seasons” and a perfect expectation that Jesus is coming “as a thief in the night”. Luke reports of Jesus’ portrayal of the coming of the Son of Man: “And as it was
in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man, they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark…likewise as it was also in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but
on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-29). We have generally thought that “they” in this passage are those of the world, not believers, and clearly Jesus meant tose left in the city, then, and in the world, when the Son of Man comes to take His righteous ones out of the way of judgment. However, we are told to watch and be ready for His coming. (The historical accounts of Noah and Lot are, respectively, found in Genesis 6-8 and Genesis 19.)
Paul actually picks up on that idea in I Thessalonians 5:4 where he declares, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” What seems to be profoundly missing in the lives of many believers is that expectancy of the nearness of the coming of the Lord. Have we become so engaged with the world that we will be taken by surprise? Do you know many Christians who are not engaged in the social and economic activities described in Luke 17? That is just a fact of life in this world. The challenge is not to be engulfed by them.
We are not done with the I Thessalonians 5:1-4 passage, however. Some have seemingly taken a dart and thrown it at a calendar, and where it hits, they declare it as the day of the Lord. And the world, and believers, as well, laugh and mock at the “date-setter”, breathing a sigh of relief that he was wrong then push the idea out of their minds once again.
Paul, however, mentions “times and seasons” in the context of the coming of the Son of God, as the circumstances and events happening at that time. He names one specific event that he identifies with the coming of the Son of God. Look at verses 2-3 of I Thessalonians 5 again: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon
them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” We know that a pivotal event in end-times prophecy is the “confirmation of a covenant among many”, described in Daniel 9:27, and that it has to do with Israel, according to its context. That event sets up the seven-year period of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), and the Church, the body of Christ, will not be in the world during that time.
Paul writes in verse 1, “But concerning the times and the seasons,
brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.” We know that “times” in prophetic writing means “years”, and our calendar and climates tell us that “seasons” are generally three months each, but here he seems to be making a point of our knowing and understanding the events and circumstances that are occurring in those years and months and weeks. But the day of the Lord will be on a day and an hour which only the Father knows, thus coming like a thief at night, without announcement.The tell-tale event, Paul says, however, is the issue of peace. And the only place that is anticipated is in and for Israel. We are called on to pray for the peace of Israel, and world leaders have kicked that can down the road repeatedly. In September, 2009, Russia was transferring and installing radioactive rods in Iran’s nuclear plant and the Jewish Feast of Trumpets was at hand. President Obama hurriedly called a meeting for peace agreement discussions between Israel and the Palestinians. It was a call for immediate discussions, without delay. That “panic-like” appeal, or really, demand seemed to portray an unspoken issue that underscored the prevailing circumstances. [I also thought at the time that it was quite interesting that it was U. S. President Obama, not the United Nations leadership, who called for the meeting!]
After some days of discussion, President Obama directed the two sides to work out their differences during the coming year and have an agreement ready by September, 2010. In September, 2010, there still was no agreement, and the parties were admonished to have an agreement put together by September, 2011. It did not happen then, either.
Neither did it occur this past September, 2012. It was hardly mentioned, having, early on, met with strong resistance by Israel against the demands of the Palestinians. Are the “times and seasons” of events and circumstances coming together for that to happen? The focus of the world is on the Middle East and Israel, with Jerusalem at the heart of it. Has Jerusalem become a stone too heavy for the nations (Zechariah 12:3)?
Paul indicates that the trigger that culminates this age of grace is that cry of “peace and safety”, and suddenly, everything turns upside down in this world. For three years the proposed peace agreement has pointed to the month of September for its culmination, which is also the month in which the Feast of Trumpets is on the calendar. One must remember the “day or the hour” issue and the differences in time zones around the world, as well as the actual changing of time within a time zone. That is, a change in the setting on your watch is made when you pass over a time zone division line, but the actual movement oif time has not stopped during the width of that time zone. Thus, it seems clear that only God, who is eternal and outside of time restrictions, can know the actual moment when the Rapture will take place.
One clear wrinkle in the timing is that a day date starts on the Jewish
calendar at sunset of the prior day so that “today” on non-Jewish calendars is on a Monday, for example, it will actually begin on the evening of the prior day in Jerusalem. Then is when the three sets of trumpet blasts to announce the Feast of Trumpets will be sounded, ending with “the last trump”, as it pictures the coming event of the Rapture in some future opening of this annual festival.The Feast of Trumpets is a clear picture of the departure of the Church, the Rapture. Paul writes of it this way: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). The Old Testament laws foreshadowed the reality that was to come and fulfill the portrayal. (See also Hebrews 10:1.)
Will that foreshadowing event be fulfilled at this time? “Times and seasons” events clearly indicate that the day of the Lord will be soon.