Study 10 DARK DAYS AHEAD!
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1: 6-12; 2: 1-17
Our last study was about the rapture of the Church – the next great event that will take place. This aspect of the Lord’s coming is the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13); it is to be our daily prospect and anticipation, and the cry in our hearts should be Revelation 22:20!
But the coming of the Lord into the air to remove all His saints will be a most terrible and solemn time for the world, for the unbeliever, for there will then break upon the world a period of great distress, suffering and warfare. This fearful and dark time is called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22, 29-30; Mark 13:24; Revelation 7:14); “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:9; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18,20; Zephaniah 1:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Revelation 6:12-17). It will be the darkest period of the world’s history, in comparison with which the cruelties of the Assyrians, the fearful sieges of Jerusalem, the tortures of the Inquisition, the campaigns of Napoleon, the bloodshed of two World Wars, and the atrocities perpetrated under the Nazi regime will fade into insignificance. It will be the darkest night before the dawning of the day of millennial glory, for when “the day of the Lord! culminates in the fearful battle of Armageddon and the Great Tribulation has run its course, the Lord will return to set up His glorious kingdom, and this will begin earth’s golden age!
Paul refers to this time of sorrow and judgment in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Notice three truths:-
1. The coming of the Lord FOR His Saints
This is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (as we saw in our last study), but in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Paul has more to say.
- (1) What will it mean to the unsaved?
- It will be a time of surprise and alarm; in verse 2 we are told that the Lord is coming “like a thief in the night” – suddenly and unannounced. See also what verse 3 tells us! We hear much talk today of “peace and safety”, but it is at such a time as this that there will be great sorrow for the unsaved.
- There will be absolutely no escape (verse 3) – every Christian will have been removed from the earth; just as in Noah’s day those who were outside the ark remained outside (God had shut the door), so when the Lord comes, those who do not belong to Him will be left behind (Genesis 7:16).
- (2) What will the coming of Christ FOR His Saints mean to the Saved?
- He may come at any moment (verses 2,4,5). If He comes as a thief, unannounced, it means that we cannot fix the date (Matthew 24:36); but we are prepared when He does come, as verses 4, 5 and 8 remind us.
- The believer has an escape (verses 9-10). As we think of the dark days ahead for this world and for the unsaved, we may thank God that a way of escape has been made (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
2. The coming of the Lord WITH His Saints.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12 we read of the time when Christ will return with His people in judgment to set up His earthly kingdom and millennial reign.
- (1) What will it mean for the unsaved?
- The Lord will come in mighty power (verses 7-8). At His first coming He came in weakness, was cast out, mocked and crucified; how different it will be when He comes in glory (Matthew 25:31).
- He will come in judgment (verse 8). Remember that this is God’s revealed truth of what is going to happen at some not very distant future time.
- He will come to punish and banish those who do not belong to Him (verse 9). Think about these solemn words prayerfully and compare Matthew 25:46.
- (2) What will it mean for the saved?
- The adjustment of all injustices (verse 6). The wicked seem to prosper and get away with it, but look up Psalm 73:12 and 17.
- The Lord will be glorified in His saints (verse 10). When we return with the Lord we shall be a spectacle to the whole world of what the grace of God has brought about in us!
- Those who have won souls to Christ will rejoice (verse 10). This is surely indicated here – look up and compare 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.
3. Happenings on the earth between the comings of the Lord.
Two most dreadful things will happen after the Church has gone and before the Lord returns in power (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12):-
- (1) The Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth (verse 7). He is at present resident within the Church and lives in all believers, and is here in the world to restrain sin and evil.
- (2) The Antichrist will be revealed and will reign on the earth. He cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is taken away, but once He has been removed this fearful, powerful and sinister figure – a great statesman and a religious leader, but a deceiver – will be energised by Satan, and will be the Devil’s counterfeit of Christ (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5, 8-12). These will be dark days indeed!
Finally, what should be our attitude as we await these events?
- (1) We are to rejoice that we are the Lord’s (verse 13).
- (2) We are to look forward when we shall be with Christ (verse 14; 2 Timothy 2:12).
- (3) We are to stand fast (verse 15). We must not be disturbed as conditions worsen – look up 1 Corinthians 15:58.
- (4) We are to comfort and encourage ourselves in the Lord (verses 16-17).
- (5) We are to “rescue the perishing”. Our cry should be – 2 Corinthians 5:20.