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1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When 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! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But 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. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.


This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 28, the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost. This will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, November 19, 2017. It is important as it echoes the theme of being prepared for everlasting life, as was seen in the parables of the Ten Bridesmaids and the Rich Fool.

The selected reading from the fifth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Christians of Thessaly begins with the capitalized Greek word “Peri,” followed by the conjunction “de.” This has been translated as, “Now concerning,” which is a reversal of the written words’ order, rather than literally translating, “Concerning now.” Certainly, this translation reflects translation via standard syntax; but standard syntax misses the subtle intent of capitalization, which places a need to focus some importance onto the word “Peri.”

The word “peri” means, “about, concerning,” and “around,” which “denotes place, cause or subject.” Its implied usage infers, “consideration where ‘all the bases are covered.’” As such, the important focus by the capitalization of this states, “Circumstances now” or “Conditions on top of.”

Because 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (reviewed in the Proper 27 lesson) ended chapter four with a plea to continue teaching the value of being in possession of the Holy Spirit, prior to death, chapter five is then referencing that plea and that message.  This beginning is then stating these are the “Conditions on top of” that prior statement. This next chapter is then adding focus on the “Circumstances now,” which were surrounding Apostles who were filled with the Holy Spirit. While that is also reflected in stating, “Now concerning,” there is something lacking in such an, “Oh, by the way” introduction.

This introduction then refers to “the times and the seasons,” which sounds reminiscent of the song found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, made popular by The Birds, with their song “Turn, Turn, Turn” (1965).

The two key words her are “chronōn” and “kairōn” (rooted in “chronos” and “kairos”), which can also state, “durations” and “opportunities.” This means the “Circumstances” that are “next” for those in their positions as Apostles is to look at how long (“times”) they have to serve the LORD, with their new purpose being to seek new believers to bring to Christ (the “opportunities”). Thus, this chapter places focus on that “time” and “purpose’ each Apostle has, relative to preaching the Gospel, and does not reflect an estimation of when one’s “time” is up.

Because Paul then addressed the whole body of Christians in Thessaly as “brothers,” then “the times and the purposes” or “the durations and the opportunities” were those only held by bodies holding the risen Lord (Christ Jesus) within (meaning male and female Thessalonians were “brothers in Christ,” as Jesus reborn). That holy presence, coming with the Christ Mind, means there was “no need to have written” a checklist of “Apostle To-dos” or a schedule for what “times” one should go to church and what “seasons” does a Church recognize, denoted by when it is appropriate to wear robes of green, white, red, purple, black, pink (rose), gold and blue.

Above all, Paul (via the Holy Spirit) was not indicating the Christian Thessalonians thought someone should tell them when they would die and write that in a letter. The deeper meaning is the written Mosaic Laws are no longer external to them, for them to memorize and forcibly follow. The presence of God in their hearts has written His acceptable ways in their hearts.

The translation, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” is shown to be three segments in the Greek text. The dividing points come after a statement that confirms the presence of the LORD within, such that is states, “Yourselves fully know that day of the LORD.” The love of God and His marriage to them, in their hearts, has become “that day of the Lord,” meaning there is no need to follow “cookbook” rules that will make “that day” be in the future. Thus, following a comma (written or implied) is the statement “as a thief in night.” This becomes read separately, as the day of the LORD being when they had their darkness of night was stolen from them.

The final segment of this verse concludes, “in this way comes.” That “manner” is then the “stealth” in which God transforms one from a mortal born of death (“the night”), to a soul with the promise of eternity that become “known” on “that day of the LORD.”

Of course, the double entendre (dual meaning) speaks of “night” as the “time” of death, which is not foretold “in writing.” The “day of the LORD” becomes the “light” of awareness when the soul meets face-to-face with God, who takes the soul “like a thief.’ The factor of “night” becomes representative of the “time” of death.

In verse 3, where the translation is “When they say, “There is peace and security,” the second segment (in quotation marks) is “Eirēnē kai asphaleia,” where the capitalization leads to those referenced (as “they”) saying, “Peace and security.”The presence of capitalization is important to recognize.

It is also worthwhile to know that “eirēnē” was used as an “invocation of peace [as] a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraistic sense of the health (welfare) of an individual.” Capitalizing this word then infers someone pronouncing “I am healthy and well.” This becomes similar to the common thoughts of mortals, as stating, “I am so good that God has rewarded me physically, with good health.” The word “asphaleia” then adds to that proclamation of physical health the “reliability, firmness, and safety,” which (again) are thought to be from the good graces of YaHWeH.

For Paul to write that to Christians in Thessaly, who undoubtedly were a mix of former Jews and former Gentiles, such words were understood to be those commonly expressed. They were catchphrases, rather than deep beliefs. People of professed faith, who think they have been blessed by God (due to the comfort of their status and position) can then pretend to be a god with a catchy farewell.  This gives the impression: “As I have peace and security, I give you a pinch of that peace and security to keep as your own.”

The same can be said as happening to this day, especially when an Episcopal service comes to the point of “The Peace.” The priest motions everyone to rise, and says, “May the peace of the Lord be with you,” to which the congregations replies, “And also with you.” I expect we do it today because they did it yesterday.

Now, that is all well and fine, IF everyone knows what that means and means what that says.

Myself, not being a “cradle to grave” Episcopalian, I was not confirmed in the Episcopal Church until the ripe old age of fifty-something. After the ceremonial proceedings, the Bishop spoke with me privately, while the others were leaving the nave. He shook my hand and said, “May the peace of the Lord be with you.”

When I heard that, I was thinking, “Wow. That was so nice of the Bishop to say that … to wish me well.” So, I replied, “Thank you.”

As he was walking up the aisle to leave it struck me, “Idiot, that was an Episcopal catchphrase.” As soon as I realized my mistake, I hollered out to the Bishop, “And also with you!”

He didn’t look back; but he kinda waved his left hand to the side, letting me know he heard. Maybe he didn’t want me to see him trying not to laugh?

That becomes symbolic of what Paul was writing; as people think saying the right things is all they have to do to get to Heaven. However, Paul then wrote, “Then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” This says that talking a good game is no replacement for sacrificing your Big Brain for the love of God and the Mind of Christ.

When that self-sacrifice is done, then” you do not need to have anything written to you” to memorize as a farewell.  A catchphrase is an automatic statement that comes without out deep thought and meaning.  “Peace and security” implies “I already have this, which only works when that is the truth.

To follow that up with, “sudden destruction will come” means “ruin, doom, destruction, and death” has just been wished upon oneself, simply from thinking one is prepared to enjoy life because God loves him or her, and not doing the will of the LORD. That meaning of “destruction” comes from the Greek word “olethros,” which also “emphasizes the consequent loss that goes with the complete “undoing.”’ One is thus undoing all of their pleasant thoughts of health and safety by boasting about you being well-to-do.  All the counting of one’s chickens before they have hatched will have been “undone” by having the gall to think God loves you so much that He is your slave.

Now, in the verse where it says, “as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman,” this too is spoken with dual meaning intended. First is the obvious, which is “labor pains” come suddenly, when a “pregnant woman” is due to give birth to a baby. Their onset becomes a ‘drop everything’ mentality, with going into rush mode an immediate response. For a lot of married couples who are pregnant, the parents-to-be practice for that time when action needs to be quick. When it is time to react swiftly, looking up something in a book or calling someone to ask what to do is not the best way to get moving.

Second, which is a deeper meaning, relates to my having said prior that all mortal human beings are called to be the brides of God. God wants to impregnate both males and females with His Holy Spirit; but God is not going to rape anyone that refuses to get engaged and become married to Him (in Spirit). Therefore, the metaphor means the “destruction” of death will come suddenly, because mortal human beings (males and females) became “pregnant” from their own rejections of God and Christ.

There is a vulgar saying that involves a word beginning with “F” and involves “yourself.” Consider that the secret second meaning here.

Still, the Greek words only imply a “pregnant woman,” which is the translation provided by the New American Standard Bible (NASB). The actual Greek text says, “ōdin en gastri echousē.” The closest that comes to “labor pains upon a pregnant woman” is as “the pain of childbirth to her [feminine “the”] in the belly holding.” The actual birth of a baby or child is implied, but not said.

A viable alternate translation can be, “the acute pain to her in the stomach having.” This then becomes a reference to a woman that has not become pregnant, as the sudden announcement from “her belly” that mensuration is about to begin sloughing and unused egg. As metaphor, males can know this “sudden pain in the gut” after eating some bad food.

The point is to not get caught up in looking for ways that, “This cannot be a worry for me,” as Paul was not trying to tell of pregnant women suddenly dying. The comparison is to how the state of “death comes so quickly” that “there can be no escape.”

In verse 4, Paul again refers to the recipients of his letter as “brothers.” The translation as “beloved” recognizes a familial relationship, in the same way that John wrote that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene, Martha, John, and Lazarus. The actual identification as “brothers” says Jesus had been reborn in each and all.  The new persona became their escape from the sudden throes of death.

Paul then stated Apostles (males and females) “were not in darkness.” That means they had been elevated from the level of mortal sinner (where darkness always exists) to righteous Saint, where the light of Christ was surrounding them.  This can be seen as the halos depicted above a Saint’s head in art.  This light was brought upon them by God’s Holy Spirit, so that God had snatched away (good translation of “katalabē”), “like a thief,” their souls from Satan.

The presence of this light that removes all possibility of darkness from the Christians of Thessaly is said above to be due to them being “children of light and children of the day.” The actual Greek states, “huioi phōtos” [comma] and “huioi hēmeras.” The word “huioi” is repeated, lending it an importance of identification. Those repeated word are rooted in the singular word “huios,” which properly means “sons.”  The Biblical implication of “huios” as “sons” means it can state (as understood use), “Anyone sharing the same nature as their Father.” (Helps Word Studies for “hyiós“) Certainly, “their Father” has to be understood as God, the LORD.

According to the Helps Word Studies explanation of the Biblical meaning, this word is expanded further by this definition: “For the believer, becoming a son of God begins with being reborn (adopted) by the heavenly Father – through Christ (the work of the eternal Son).” Therefore, while it can be assumed the Christians of Thessaly included men and women, husbands and wives, this use of “sons” clearly identifies them all as the “sons of light” and the “sons of day,” as those embodying the Mind of Christ, Jesus the Son.

By Paul stating “we are” (“esmen”), he was writing as one of those “sons of light,” “sons of day,” so he knew the same as the Christians of Thessaly, because they all were filled with the Mind of Christ as the same Son. Still, “we are” is actually led by the capitalized “Ouk,” meaning “Not.”

The importance of that negative says the voice in Paul’s mind spoke loudly, “Not are we of night nor of darkness.” Paul knew all the writers and addressees had escaped death and the dark night of the soul after death.  They had been saved by each being a reborn Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) “Follows” means be the next Jesus.

The translation of verse 6, “So then let us not fall asleep as others do,” can seem like Paul was giving a pep talk, urging them not to drift off and die, when they have “light” and “day” on their sides. In reality, the Greek text literally states, “So then not we should sleep like the rest.” The “conditional” form of “katheudó” implies that none will reach death and have a soul lost in darkness because they are “sons of light” and “sons of day.” This conditional form reminds us of verse 1, which said this chapter would address “Conditions on top of” (“Peri”) being tasked to spread the Gospel of Christ.  One condition is Apostles should not sleep like the rest.

Paul then stated the additional responsibilities Apostles have, which is stated where he wrote, “but let us keep awake and be sober.” The word translated as “awake” is “grégoreó,” which is the conditional form of the root word “grēgorōmen.” The proper translation states, “but we should be vigilant.” This is then followed by the word translated as “sober,” which has “néphó” as its root, from the conditional form written– “nēphōmen.” The completion of the statement is then “and we should be free of illusions,” where “not being delusional” is a viable substitute for “sober.” Again, Paul spoke in the conditional form, which maintains the theme set in the introduction of “Conditions on top of” preaching the word of God.

The translation that says, “for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night” is actually shown in the Greek text for verse 7 as having four segments, with a semi-colon splitting this verse in the middle. Those language ‘road signs’ say pause and reflect on each segment before proceeding to the next. The four segments literally translate as, “those indeed sleeping,” “by night sleep,” [semi-colon] “and those becoming drunk,” “by night get drunk.” Each segment has its own separate idea that needs to be grasped, before one can run and toss everything together in one quick breath of reading.

To begin with, “those indeed sleeping” recognizes the need for an Apostle to remain alert and free of illusions because (“gar” = “indeed,” => “cause”) the rest of humanity is “sleeping,” as mortals born of death. Only those who are alert and awake can rouse those asleep from their slumbering lives. The separate segment that says “by night sleep,” is a focus being placed on the absence of light that night brings. That, in turn, maintains how ‘dead’ humans of normal life sleepwalk towards a dark end. Following a longer pause for reflection on those statements (the intent of a semi-colon), the next segment then continues (“and”) by placing focus on this life of darkness assisting a sleepwalker because mortals born of death have “become drunk.”

This state of “intoxication” is not caused by drinking alcoholic beverages (as if drinking was the only sin of darkness, only done after nightfall).  Instead, it projects all the artificial “highs” and addictive “lows” that one gets from the excesses of the material plane. Excessive drinking can be representative of anything the world has to offer that places the user in an altered state of being, incapable of “seeing the light.” This is then supported in the final segment, “which states “by night get drunk.”

Because “drunk” represents the illusions of life (they used to say drunks saw hallucinations of pink elephants), “sober” is the opposite, where one is “free of illusions.” Paul then encouraged the Thessalonians (in the conditional) to remain “sober,” as those who are led by the light “of day.” That ability to remain focused on helping those who are still in darkness, is then stated as if an Apostle should dress like a ‘Christian soldier’, with a breastplate and helmet.

Halloween – Almost normal All other days of the year – delusional

That ‘armor’ of protection is then a reference back to the Holy Spirit being the truth of “Peace and safety.” Because a “breastplate” covers the heart area, it becomes the armor of one’s “faith and love” of God. The “helmet,” as the crown of one’s “hope of salvation,” is then the “security” an Apostle receives from the Mind of Christ (with a helmet covering one’s Big Brain of ego).  As visual as the verbiage seems, this armor is invisible and comfortably worn by all Saints.

The translation of verse 9 above (NASB), “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” is again set without the pauses Paul indicated. There are four segments here, which literally say, “because not has destined us God to wrath,” followed by “but for obtaining salvation,” and then “through the Lord of us.” The final segment states “Jesus Christ,” which is the entity that true Christians become. “Jesus Christ” becomes the author of our “salvation,” when God changes one’s assignment from mortal born of death to a soul allowed everlasting life in light.

When the translation sums this identity of “Jesus Christ” as, “who died for us,” millions of Christians think: Because Jesus died and went to Heaven, anyone who believes that will also go to Heaven.  This is wrong, because that it an over-simplification of that which was written. The literal Greek says of “Jesus Christ” that he is “the [One] having died for us.”

The word translated as “for” is that word “peri” again, so “Jesus Christ having died” was conditional “(condition on top of”). Further, the singular number of the word “the” (implying “One,” as “the [One]”) is then followed by the plural pronoun “us.” The plural number says “Christ Jesus died so there could be many Jesus Christs.” As One (the singular), Jesus was limited to only being that guy from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem. However, by him “having died,” then “Jesus,” as the “Christ” “could be us.”

Verse 10 then continues in the conditional (not shown in the NASB translation) saying, “that [a reference back to the death of Jesus leading to Christ in us] whether we might watch or we might sleep.” This is saying that by having Christ be one with an Apostle (the same in all Apostles), then the human being that becomes the risen Lord has nothing to worry about in life (“we might be alert and watchful”) or our body’s eventual death (“we might fall into the sleep of death”). We do not have to worry because (the next segment says), “together with him we might live.” The conditional statements then speak of being filled with God’s Holy Spirit, bringing about that ‘living together’ arrangement.

Verse 11 then ends this selected reading with the Greek text showing three segments. The first says, “Therefore encourage each other.” This is what Paul’s letter is doing. It is a statement that Apostles and Saints “console, send for, invite, beg, admonish, and comfort” one another (from “parakaleó”). This is as opposed to Christians glad-handing for five minutes during “the Peace,” and then silently slinking off, never to call upon a fellow Christian otherwise (unless there is money to be made).

The next segment says, “and build up one another,” which says to add strength to the ones who may be older, or sicker, or (in those ancient times) put in jail for being Christian. To “build up one another” is like “encouraging one another,” as it means a compliment here and a handshake there, with going out of one’s way to recognize the works of faith in one other than oneself. It means sharing, because you want others to share with you.  This recommends a fulfillment of the command, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Finally, Paul ended with the assurance, “just as you are doing.” The Greek word “poieite” (“you are doing”) is the present infinitive of “poieó.” That is a verb stating “action.” It means “manufacturing, making, constructing, acting and causing.” It is an encouragement to “keep up the good works.” That says Paul knew their “works” and wanted them to know he knew.

This act of kindness, as a written ‘pat on the back’, is what being Christian is all about. If you cannot compliment another Christian for their good deeds, then perhaps some are actually standing in a tunnel of darkness, looking at the light at its end. Depending on how big and bright that light appears, some might still be afraid to step out into that light. Once one does, one will stand with other Saints and Apostles, turning back to the tunnel, so all can be reaching out to someone else who was also lost and afraid.

Come into the light, brother and sister.

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