Stay Awake

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

The last day will come suddenly and without warning. Here’s how to be ready.

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On September 11, 2001 at 8:46 am, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the Northern tower of the World Trade Center. Within an hour and a half both towers had collapsed killing thousands of office workers and many of the rescuers who had come to their aid. What had begun as a beautiful day in early fall, had become a day of terror for the whole nation. 

The end of this world will come with similar suddenness. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica 

“The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying “There is peace and security” then sudden destruction will come upon them.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3

Like the Thessalonians you have no need for anyone to tell you when this will occur. You already know that there will be no countdown clock. The timing of this day of wrath is unknown and will remain so until the day comes. You know to ignore anyone who predicts that Jesus will return on some specific day or at within some stated period of time. History is full of such people and they have all been wrong for Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour when this will happen except the Father.

Further, knowing when this day will come is unnecessary. You can be well-prepared without knowing, for God himself will deliver all those who trust in Jesus from that day.

A fallout shelter will be useless. Guns and caches of food and ammunition will not spare you. Only faith in Christ can save you from the wrath of God and Christ has been preached to you precisely so that you might hear and believe and so be saved.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that 

“God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ who died for died for us so that whether we are [living or dead when he comes] we might live with him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

You and I are also part of the group that Paul calls “us.” You and I have been recipients of God’s grace and mercy. We have heard of the destruction that is coming upon the world, but we have also heard that God has provided a way of escape through the cross of Jesus.

One we were children of wrath, headed for destruction, but the Gospel has come to us so that we might be saved. You and I know that Christ bore the sins of the world upon the cross so that those who hear of his sacrifice and accept the grace God offers to all who believe might escape God’s wrath through the forgiveness of their sins. 

That forgiveness has been communicated to us through words as the writings of the apostles have been read and explained to us. The same grace and forgiveness were given to you in the waters of your baptism. For the baptism you received wasn’t mere human ceremony. Your baptism was a gift given by God to you and all who will receive it. 

John the Baptist preached repentance and baptism as the means by which sinful people should prepare to meet a just and holy God. Christ consecrated your baptism, by being baptized himself, and then after his resurrection, he commanded his followers to take the gift of baptism throughout the world so that men, women, and children of every time and place would be able to prepare for his return. You have received that gift and the promise of salvation attached to it. You are no longer children of wrath but beloved children of God. You have been called out of the world so that you might be God’s forever through your faith in Christ Jesus.

That same grace has been confirmed to you through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s body given has been given to you so that you may know that his work upon the cross was done for you. You also have received his blood so that you will know because of his great love for you he shed his blood to atone for your sins. 

And so, by God’s Word and the sacraments that Christ has instituted, you have been prepared for the day of the Lord. You have been washed with cleansing water, fed with holy food, and you have been sanctified by the Word of God. And it is by continuing in these things that you remain ready for Christ’s return and the events that will accompany it.

Paul called upon the Thessalonians to stay awake and sober, that is to refrain from the common sins of this world, and to should prepare for the days to come by arming themselves with faith and love and the hope of salvation.

In my sermon this morning, I have tried to arm you with all three. Let Christ be your hope of salvation, for God has given no other name to people by which they can be saved. Put your faith and trust in him, for he gave himself for you.

He did this out of great love for you. Now, through the apostle’s letter, he urges you to awaken to that love and to busy yourself with works prompted by such love as you await his return.

Long ago, I heard of a preacher who visited a Scottish manor with a marvelous garden. The Lord of the manor was away, but the gardener was there and said he did not know when he would return. The visitor remarked that the garden looked like it was ready for the Lord to return the next day. “Nay, sir, not tomorrow, but today,” the gardener replied.

May the Christ who loves you and has called you to faith and destined you for salvation, find you just as ready on the day he returns. Amen.

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