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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Pelagianism in the Formation and Reformation of the Church- C. R. Biggs | Main | Photography- C. R. Biggs »

    Children of the Day

    Children of the Day

    1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

    Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

    "The day of the Lord" (5.2) is a strong theme in Scripture. Paul has much to say about this Day in his letters to the Thessalonians, the Day when Jesus Christ will return at the end of history to judge the living and the dead. The Greek word parousia (coming or presence) occurs six times in these two short letters with reference to the Second Coming, which is a quarter of the total usages in the New Testament.

    Generally speaking, the Old Testament references to the Day of the Lord were not comforting thoughts (Is. 13.6, 9; Jer. 46.10; Ezek. 30.3; Joel 2; Amos 5.18-20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1). The Day of the LORD (YHWH, God's covenant name) is a day of judgment against sin… the sins of the nations and the sins of God's people. Doom and gloom. Wrath and destruction. Great and awesome and unendurable.

    Most people would rather not believe that such a Day is coming, for fear. The very idea of it threatens one's independence with strict accountability before a holy God. So we ignore, avoid, deny, reject, twist, revise and mock the doctrine of Christ's return. Anything to maintain the illusion of our autonomy, to polish up the idol of self-sufficiency.

    Even Christians sometimes do these things. We believe that God has reconciled us to himself through his Son, but we look to the Day of the Lord with a subtle fear that we won't have lived up to his standards, and maybe he'll turn away from us in his anger. What happens if Jesus descends from heaven just as you're committing some grotesque sin? Better be safe than sorry and clean yourself up a bit, first. Or maybe, like me, you simply neglect the stark fact that you could have already had your last meal, because you're too busy preparing the next one to stop and think about it. It's easy to get caught up in the grind, and to question the relevance of the Day of the Lord to your daily existence. The thought is so other-worldy that we can struggle to connect it in a meaningful way to the life we live in the world.

    But Paul says that we're supposed to be ready, so as not to be caught off guard (even though no one knows when That Day will be). Somehow, the Future Day is to influence the way we live our lives in the present. Let your faith be informed by the Word of God regarding the Parousia:

    God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. [Acts 17.31]
    God has given Jesus authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. [John 5.27-29]
    Christ Jesus is to judge the living and the dead. [2 Tim. 4.1]
    Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. [Mt. 24.30]
    The Lord will descend from heaven with a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. [1 Th. 4.13]
    On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. [Mt. 12.36]
    We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. [2 Cor. 5.10]
    On that day God will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [Rom. 2.16]
    Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. [Isa. 13.6-13]
    For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord. [Jer. 6.13-15]
    Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? [Amos 5.18-20]

    The good news is,

    All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.… This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. [John 6.37, 40]
    We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. [1 John 4.16-19]

    Augustine said,

    Be assured that the One Who is now our defending lawyer will then be our judge. Can it be that we have Him as our defender and yet fear Him as our judge? No! By the fact that, fully confident, we sent Him ahead to defend us, let us preserve our hope in Him when He comes to judge.

    Jesus already suffered God's wrathful judgment for those who believe in him. When Jesus comes to judge his people, he will see his Spirit in them, marking them as having been bought with the price of his own blood. God would be unrighteous to then punish again the sins for which Christ already suffered. And so his people will be with him forever in joyful love. Believers can look forward to the Day of the Lord with expectant hope, because it will be the inauguration of the eternal presence of God with his people. It will be the end of all things, but a new beginning, a new creation that in every way surpasses this present world.

    In a sense, we are marked by That Day. Paul calls believers "children of the day," which likely refers to more than just the time when the sun shines on a certain portion of the planet, but even to the Future Day. In ancient Semitic and Greek usage, to be a child of something meant to take on characteristics of that thing. Somehow, then, being "children of the day" means that we are defined or marked by the Parousia. We are not people who neglect something that makes us who we are. We are not caught off guard by the return of Christ, because we long for it. It will be the fulfillment of all our desires for wholeness and unity with the God who loves us and gave his Son for us.

    So we remain awake, sober, watchful, waiting for our good Lord. And we're to encourage one another with words of hope about his return, in order to build one another up in faith and love.

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. [Heb. 10.23-25]
    Posted by Eric Costa on July 18, 2007 03:23 PM

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