1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11
1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
I am a child of the 70's and 80's. As such, I had long hair, like -- (see photo)
Along with long hair, if you went to church as a youth, you also watched a movie called, "A Thief in the Night." Made in 1972, the movie must have been shown to every evangelical youth group in America. Even as a kid, you could tell the quality of the movie-making was so-so, but it was still pretty scary. Those of you who want to watch the movie, please click on: https://vimeo.com/70157897
Late 70's and throughout the 80's, talk of Jesus' return, the rapture, the judgment, and the fate of those left behind after the rapture were heavy-duty stuff for young, earnest believers. Youth retreats, lock-ins, the itinerant evangelist who came to your church on hot August weekends all drove home the point that Jesus will come back "like a thief in the night." The tone of all this was concern, fear, and worry. I can't recall any element of joy or anticipation. Everything about the movie and the messages were about "what are you going to do? when are you going to share about jesus? aren't you concerned about your non-christian friends?"
The point of "like a thief in the night" is that when you are most unsuspecting, something big and scary will swoop down and change this earthly life forever.
Fear sold in the 70's and 80's, no matter how cheesy and amateurish the delivery and content. We were young and sincere; naive and sweet. Not so now. What worked in those past decades, we all will laugh our faces off these days. We are way too sophisticated, way too skeptical, and way too politically sensitive to react the way we did when we were young.
But we are missing something ...
What is missing in many of our churches is the basic conviction that Jesus will return. And, though it will be a happy day for many, it will also be a terrible day for many others, if judgment is real. It is impossible to return to years gone by and impossible to replicate the cultural ethos and attitudes of the past. Yet, we can still return to the Biblical teaching about the Return of Jesus. We can still soak our minds with truths of Scripture and the very promises from the lips of Jesus of his imminent return. In the end, our hope is ultimately about Jesus making all things right. This sorry story of human sin and folly, the greed and lust, the damage and the devil all point to a time of full redemption, the righting of wrongs, the healing of all things broken and torn apart.
We say, Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20, He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Let's pray: O Lord, we await your return, not as an escape from our problems but as a way of anchoring our hope ultimately in your making everything right. We confess that hope in you is warranted. Hope now, hope future. We ask that you would instill in us the truth of a new heavens and a new earth, the truth of judgment, the truth of full restoration. We thank you that you do not leave loose ends but in all things there's resolution. In your name, amen.