Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Leading Question: How do believers retain a sense of urgency and immediacy after a time of long delay?
Already in the first century, some were losing their sense of urgency about the advent. Paul addresses their situation and ours in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
1. “A quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11), “peace and safety” (1 Thess. 5:3); “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38). Today, how does the Christian live in the tension between the call to carry on life as usual, on the one hand, and the sense of the immediacy of the end, on the other? How is it possible to retain both?
2. Like a thief. Both in Matthew 24:43 and here in 1 Thess. 5:2, 4, the suddenness of the advent is compared to the surprise intrusion of a thief. There is no warning. How does that correlate with an emphasis on “signs” in Matthew 24:1-35 which is followed immediately in 36-51 with an emphasis on “surprise”? How do we live successfully in that tension?
3. Threat or encouragement? Paul concludes his message on the unpredictability of the advent by declaring his message to be one of “encouragement” (1 Thess. 5:11). Why is the end sometimes presented as a hope and other times as a threat? Can the mature believer live without threat? Or does the reality of this world mean that all of us will sometimes need to hear the “warning” or the “threat?”
4. Setting of dates. Some Adventists are still tempted by date setting. What was it about the setting of 1844 that led to the specific setting of a date for Jesus’ return. Do similar conditions exist today? Why is it that some Adventists are still strongly tempted to join date-setting movements?
Note: Some years ago I had a very bright and very devout student who had once been in a date-setting movement. One day he told me, “Thompson, you just can’t imagine the incredible excitement that comes when you are actually a part of a date-setting movement.” “I also can’t imagine,” I responded, “the incredible disappointment that comes when the date expires.” Somewhat more sober, he agreed.
How can we live so that there is a proper mix between urgency and expectation, on the one hand, and abundant, joyful living in Christ in the here and now, on the other?