1 Thessalonians 5

Chapter five concludes with two final teachings. Regarding the Day of the Lord, Paul noted that the Thessalonians did not need any more teaching (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2), because it is a frequent topic in the Hebrew Scriptures, which they studied in the synagogue (both the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles). The Day of the Lord will consist of the Tribulation wrath and judgments followed by the Messianic Kingdom. Because of this, Paul instructed the believers to live properly now, so that they would not become spiritually lethargic (“sleep” is not the same Greek word as in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and be caught off guard by the Rapture, which will occur before the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:3-8). It is important to note the distinct shift in emphasis between “we/us” in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to “they” in this section. If “we” are living according to the apostle’s instructions in chapter four, we will not be caught off guard like “they” will in chapter five.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 provide the explanation that pulls this section together. Why can we stand in faith, act in love, and expectantly look forward to our future? Because believers are not destined for the coming wrath. We are destined for opposition in this world (1 Thessalonians 3:4), but we will not go through the wrath of the Day of the Lord, because Jesus is “our deliverer from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). This is an obstacle for those who believe that the Church will go through the Tribulation period.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ends this section ends like 1 Thessalonians 4:18 did the last one. The Rapture is a wonderful truth that we should use to encourage one another. The teaching about the Day of the Lord should also encourage us, because we will not go through it, but it should also cause us to “sober up” about what is important in this life and drive us to grow in our spiritual lives, even pushing one another so we don’t become lethargic.

In the final section of his letter (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) Paul focused on the congregational life of the church, and he gave four sets of commands. First, they were to highly respect the elders of the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Some writers see the lack of specificity in the phrase “those who labor among you and preside over you” to mean that there was no formal structure to the congregations yet. However, Paul had already begun appointing local church elders during his first missionary tour (Acts 14:23), so the structure was established. It is more likely that he did not know exactly who those elders were, because he had left so quickly. Silas and Timothy probably appointed them in his absence. Additionally, the concept of “presiding over” and “admonishing” clearly indicates a leadership structure within the congregation. Second, they were to maintain a balance of unity, discipline, and mutual care for one another within the congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Third, they were to intentionally hold attitudes of joy and gratefulness, which was important because of their ongoing afflictions (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Finally, they were to keep themselves open to prophecy from the Holy Spirit, not extinguishing his work in their meetings, yet practicing discernment in what they accepted as truth (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

Paul concluded his letter with a benediction, praying that they would be ready for Jesus’ return (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), his constant focus.