Introduction: We left our study last week with Paul’s glorious
description of the Second Coming of Jesus and the instruction
“therefore encourage each other with these words.” After hearing the
fabulous news that Jesus was coming again, and He would save both the
living and the dead, the next obvious question is, “When?” When will
Jesus come again? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible because
that is something we all want to know!

  1. When?

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1. What is Paul talking about?
      This is exactly what we want to know! Why does Paul dodge
      this important next question by saying “we do not need to
      write you” about when?

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:2. What do you think of this
      answer? (Paul says he does not need to tell us about the
      timing of the Second Coming because we know that we are
      supposed to be surprised.)

      1. I don’t know about you, but I would like to know
        when, during the night, a thief was coming to visit
        me! Would you agree that the timing of a thief’s
        night visit is something that you need to know?
        (Think about this a minute. You want to repel a thief
        because you know he only has harm in mind. Isn’t
        Jesus’ Second Coming more like a hidden police
        officer with a radar gun checking our speed? If you
        are not speeding you don’t care where or when the
        officer is hiding, right?)

    3. Read Acts 1:6-7. Is this a popular question? How does
      Jesus handle the answer? (Like Paul! Jesus says we do not
      need to know.)

    4. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Who should care about the
      timing? (Those who are destroyed. Those who deny that a
      judgment is coming.)

      1. Paul has chosen a very odd illustration for his
        argument that the Second Coming will be a surprise.
        Is a pregnant woman taken completely by surprise by
        labor pains? Whoops, I just gave birth! Now that was

      2. If I were writing this, I would say, “Just as a
        person strolling along the path is killed by a
        falling meteor, so is the destruction of the wicked
        at the Second Coming.” Why do you think Paul chose
        his illustration instead of mine? (Because it is not
        a complete surprise. Paul is telling us that we do
        not need to know the specifics, and people will be in
        denial, but we are given general warnings of the
        approach of the Second Coming.)

  2. On Alert

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4. What is the difference between
      the brothers and the world when it comes to the timing of
      the Second Coming? (Paul says that we are not in darkness,
      we are not surprised.)

      1. How do you explain the apparent contradiction between
        1 Thessalonians 5:2 (“you know very well” Jesus will
        come like a night thief) and 1 Thessalonians 5:4
        (“you are not in darkness” and should not be
        surprised)? Is Jesus coming like a night thief or
        not? (This gets back to our pregnant woman. Paul
        tells us that if we are paying attention, we will not
        be surprised – even though it is a surprising event
        to the world. However, we still need to deal with the
        fact that both Paul and Jesus tell us that we really
        do not need to know the precise timing.)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6. What is the key to
      anticipating the night thief so that we are not surprised,
      even though we do not have precise information about
      timing? (The problem with night thieves is that it is dark
      (so they are harder to see) and we are sleeping (we have a
      low level of awareness). Paul says live like it is day and
      keep your level of awareness high.)

    3. Read Luke 21:34-36. When Paul was talking about the light,
      day, night, sleeping and drunkenness, he was speaking in
      generalities. It was clarity versus obscurity. What does
      Jesus tell us are the practical barriers to clarity? The
      barriers to being in the light and being alert? (The
      anxieties of life that cause us to look away from

      1. My guess is that most of the readers of this lesson
        are not running around drunk all the time. Did you
        know that texting while driving is like drinking
        while driving – in terms of driver alertness? What
        about texting, surfing the Internet, and television
        watching while living? Does this make us less alert
        to reality? Are we distracted from what is going on
        around us?

      2. How do you handle anxiety? Do you try to distract
        yourself or look to God for help?

      3. For most Americans, “judgment” comes in the form of a
        speeding (or some other kind) of traffic ticket.
        Think of your last ticket, were you alert or
        distracted when the police pulled you over? (Paul and
        Jesus tell us not to live a distracted life. Pay
        attention to God things and pay attention to signs of
        His Second Coming.)

    4. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:7. Do you spend most of your waking
      time during the night or the day? Do you think that could
      make a difference in your behavior?

    5. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Paul again uses some interesting
      illustrations. What do a breastplate and helmet do? (They
      protect you against attacks.)

      1. How can faith, love and hope protect us against
        attacks? (Recall that the problem, according to
        Jesus, is being distracted by anxiety. Faith, love
        and hope guard against anxiety. Faith, love and hope
        help us to keep from being distracted by the world.)

      2. How does “self-control” play a role in the goal of
        not being distracted? (If you want to avoid being
        distracted by the problems of life, pay attention to
        how much of your problems you create! A little self-control goes a long way toward living a more peaceful

  3. Wrath Avoidance

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. What is God’s appointing for
      us? (Salvation, not wrath.)

    2. Re-read 1 Thessalonians 5:10. According to this verse,
      when it comes to living together with God, does it matter
      whether we are awake or asleep? (This text rather clearly
      says, “no,” it does not matter.)

      1. What does this mean?

      2. I looked at a number of translations to see if the
        NIV was unique in conveying the idea that we live
        with God whether we are awake or asleep. The NIV is
        not unique in this. It seems to me there are three
        ways to understand this:

        1. Jesus died for everyone whether they are part
          of the darkness or the light.

        2. We are saved by grace, and whether we are
          sleeping or alert, we are saved. The difference
          is that the alert people will not be shocked by
          the Second Coming.

        3. The NLT looks back to the discussion in the
          prior chapter about what happens to those
          Christians who died before the Second Coming
          and says we are saved by Jesus whether we are
          “alive or dead.”

        4. Which one (or more) of these possible
          explanations do you think is a correct
          understanding of this? (We have previously
          discussed that the Thessalonians had some
          serious sin issues. Paul calls them (v. 5) “all
          sons of the light.” I think that is the grace
          message. Like the Thessalonians who chose God,
          we wrestle with sin without losing our
          salvation. However, since Paul says that those
          who “belong to the night” (v. 5) are not only
          surprised, but that “destruction will come on
          them suddenly” (v. 3), I do not understand
          verse 10 to mean that those who sleep, and who
          are part of the night, will be saved.)

    3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Last week when Paul told us
      about the Second Coming, and that all who believed in
      Jesus, whether living or dead, would go to heaven with
      Him, he ended with “encourage each other with these words
      ( 1 Thessalonians 4:18). Paul did not need to explain why
      this was encouraging news. Explain why 1 Thessalonians
      5:11 is encouraging news? (The verses that we studied in
      this lesson are the heart of the gospel! Jesus died to
      give both the good and the bad the possibility of
      salvation. If we choose to be sons and daughters of the
      light, by accepting grace, then we will not be surprised
      by the Second Coming and we will not be destroyed by it!)

    4. Friend, are you encouraged by that news? If you have not
      given your heart to Jesus, and chosen to become a child of
      the light, will you do so right now? Why be surprised and
      destroyed when Jesus returns?

  4. Next week: Church Life.