Sons of Light
Paul provided the Assembly in Thessalonica with instructions on how believers must live in anticipation of the “Day of the Lord.” It will not overtake them since they “are not in darkness.” They are the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of the Day.” Unlike the unrighteous of this fallen age, the watchful believer who lives in the light of the Gospel will not be caught off guard by that Day’s sudden arrival.
The disciple of Jesus will avoid “destruction” by remaining spiritually ready for that Day. It will bring salvation to the righteous, but for the unprepared and the sinner, it will result in “everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord.”
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- “But you are not in darkness, that the day overtakes you as upon thieves. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of night nor of darkness, hence, then, let us not be sleeping, like the rest, but let us watch and be sober; for they that sleep by night do sleep, and they that drink by night do drink” - (1 Thessalonians 5:4-7),
Paul makes several contrasts between the prepared and the unprepared. Unbelievers are in “darkness” and belong “to the night” - They are asleep. In contrast, believers are “not in darkness.”
There is a verbal link between the present passage and the preceding literary section in Chapter 4 where Paul expressed his desire for the Thessalonians not to be “ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as do the others who have no hope.”
Likewise, in the present paragraph, he exhorts them not “to sleep as others do but let us be alert and sober.” Both passages refer to unbelievers as “the others” (hoi loipoi), and both refer to “those who are asleep.”
In the previous passage, those who “sleep” are dead believers, but in the present paragraph, Paul commands living saints not “to sleep” as “the others.” Instead, they must “watch” always for that Day’s unexpected appearance.
PUT ON GOD’S ARMOR
- “But we, being of the day, let us be sober, putting on a breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. Because God did not appoint us for wrath, but for acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus, who died for us that, whether we are watching or sleeping, together with him we should live. Wherefore, be consoling one another and building up each the other, even as you are also doing” - (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11).
Next, Paul encourages believers to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” The same triad of virtues was given in the opening paragraph of the Letter - “Your work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope” - (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Of special relevance is the theme of “hope.” The believer’s hope will be realized when he finds himself standing “before our God and Father” at the “arrival” of Jesus from Heaven - (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2:19).
In Chapter 4, Paul declared that believers were not “without hope” since at his “arrival” the dead in Christ would be raised first. The “hope” is the “acquisition of salvation” and the avoidance of the destruction that will overwhelm the unprepared.
When he does “arrive,” the "wrath" of God will be manifested on the disobedient. Paul contrasts “wrath” with the final “salvation” that the faithful will receive. Those who persevere in faithful living now will “obtain salvation through Jesus Christ,” but the unprepared will find that they have been “appointed to wrath.”
Paul describes the Lord as the one “who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we will live together with him.” In the previous section, saints who died before his Parousia were described as “those who have fallen asleep.” Once again, Paul refers to two different groups of believers - those who are awake and those who are “asleep.” Both acquire salvation at the same time, and both “will live together with him” forevermore.
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The clause “together with” concludes both this and the preceding section about the “arrival of Jesus from heaven.” Disciples who remain alive when Jesus “arrives” will be caught up “together with” the “dead in Christ.” Likewise, whether alive (“awake”) or dead (“asleep”), believers “will live together with him.”
As before, the assurance of salvation is grounded in the past death and resurrection of Christ - (“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again”).
Previously, Paul told the Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.” Likewise, here, they are exhorted to “comfort one another and build up one another.” This is another verbal connection between the two sections - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Another link is the promise that believers will be with Christ after he arrives. After the saints meet him "in the air," they will be “with the Lord forevermore.” Likewise, “whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
The verbal links demonstrate that the same set of events is under discussion in both literary sections, especially the “arrival” of Jesus “from heaven.” The previous section concerned the future resurrection of dead saints when Jesus “arrived from heaven.” The present one focuses on how that event will overtake the unprepared.
For those who eagerly await the “Day of the Lord” and live accordingly, though they remain ignorant of its timing, they will not be overwhelmed by its sudden arrival because they are the “Sons of Light.” Followers of Jesus prepare for that momentous day by right conduct and living in the light. For them, that Day will mean nothing less than final and complete salvation.