1 Thessalonians 5 Study Notes


5:1 Times and seasons mentioned together refers to the end times (Ac 1:7).

5:2 The phrase day of the Lord often signifies a time of God’s wrath and judgment poured out in an uncommon way. Here the day of the Lord refers specifically to the end-time period of God’s judgment on the unbelieving world known as the great tribulation (Mal 4:5; Ac 2:20; 2Th 2:2; 2Pt 3:10). The description of the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night emphasizes that it will come unexpectedly (5:4; 2Pt 3:10).

5:3 Just before the day of the Lord when people think they have peace and are secure, sudden destruction will come upon them. The comparison of this destruction to the labor pains of a pregnant woman speaks of the increasing intensity of God’s judgment and the certainty of its coming (Mt 24:8).

5:4-6 Paul contrasted brothers and sisters in the faith who are children of light and day with the rest of the world who are of the night and darkness. Physical sleeping and drunkenness normally occur at night while it is dark, so Paul issued an encouragement for Christians as sons of light to be awake, meaning alert and morally ready. One’s readiness is described with the military analogy of a soldier who prepares himself for war.

5:6-7 The Greek word for sleep in these verses (see also v. 10) is different than that in 4:13-15. In 5:6-7, “sleep” refers to moral lethargy. Some interpreters take “sleep” in v. 10 as a euphemism for death, but a good case can be made that the same Greek word in this context refers to moral lethargy as well. Thus Paul is saying in v. 10 that whether believers are alert or not for the day of the Lord, we will still “live together” with the Lord.

5:8 Although Christians belong to the day, we live in a world of darkness and must be prepared for battle.

5:9 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that as Christians they were not appointed to God’s wrath but to salvation. The day of the Lord will be a great outpouring of God’s wrath from the very start (Rv 6:17), and Christians will be kept out of this worldwide hour of testing (Rv 3:10).

5:12-13 To give recognition means respect for the authority and work of church leaders.

5:14 Brothers and sisters elsewhere in the letter refers to the whole church. So it likely does not refer only to the leaders here. All Christians are to warn . . . comfort . . . help and be patient.

5:15 Not to repay evil for evil but to pursue what is good reflects back on Jesus’s teaching not to follow a retaliatory “eye for an eye” ethic but to give a blessing instead (Mt 5:38-42).

5:16 Verses 16-22 deal with religious duties as opposed to interpersonal behavior. Rejoicing has its source in God. This verse is parallel to Gl 5:22; Php 4:4; Jms 1:2. “To rejoice always is to see the hand of God in whatever is happening and to remain certain of God’s future salvation. Without such conviction joy would not be possible in the face of affliction, suffering, and death” (Charles A. Wanamaker).

5:17 To pray constantly does not mean continuous, uninterrupted prayer but humble submission to God in the details of life.

5:18 This verse is closely related to 5:16 (cp. Col 3:17).

5:19 One can stifle (lit “quench”) the Spirit by not submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading or by committing other sins that would grieve the Spirit. In this context Paul may have had in mind listening to or allowing for prophecies (v. 20) that were not Spirit-given.

5:20-21a Test all things probably refers to the content of the prophecies that had to be evaluated with God’s known truth as expressed by the OT, Jesus, and the apostles (1Jn 4:1-3).

5:21b-22 These two commands are two sides of the same coin.

5:23 The prayer for spirit, soul, and body to be kept sound and blameless teaches that God sees the whole person as important in living a life pleasing to God.

5:24 What God will do is not specified. But the context is his sanctifying and his keeping (v. 23).

5:25 Paul’s request for prayer is striking. It’s a model for every believer.

5:26 Greeting one another with a holy kiss, probably on the cheek, was a common first-century greeting that expressed love (Rm 16:16). This ancient custom is still widely practiced in the Middle East.

5:27 Paul usually ended his letters in his own hand (2Th 3:17). He was insistent that all the brothers and sisters needed to hear the contents of the letter, even if it entailed reading it several times in different places.

5:28 Paul’s closing benediction is almost identical to Rm 16:20 and 1Co 16:23.