New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:1 the times and the seasons. The phrase “times and seasons” occurs elsewhere only in Acts 1:7. The “times” have to do with the chronology of future periods, the “seasons” with the characteristics of those periods.
5:1 no need. There was no need for Paul to write of these matters, for he had already conveyed all this information concerning the future to them, both the teachings of Christ, those of the apostles, and also what he himself had received by revelation.
5:2 day of the Lord. This is the first written mention of “the day of the Lord” in the New Testament, although Peter had quoted the phrase from the Old Testament (Joel 2:31) in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:20). This phrase is used over thirty times in the Old Testament. In context here, it refers to the coming of the final period of God’s judgment on the earth.
5:2 thief. Although the day of the Lord would be a period of great judgment on God’s enemies, it would begin unexpectedly and quietly. The Lord Jesus had also used the figure of the thief coming secretly, and the Thessalonians already knew this from Paul’s teachings (see Matthew 24:42-44; also note II Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15). Therefore, we should be constantly watchful for the Lord, not for various signs preceding His coming. Paul was watching throughout his life (II Timothy 4:8), and here he urges: “let us watch and be sober” (I Thessalonians 5:6).
5:3 Peace and safety. “Safety” means “security.” The day of the Lord will burst suddenly on an unsuspecting world at a time when there is great worldwide concern with peace and security, possibly when such a condition is finally achieved by a great charismatic world leader. This is the development being planned and vigorously promoted today by the many New Age cults and movements seeking a new world order. If this is a sign, however, it applies to the day of the Lord, not to the rapture, which could occur at any time and, in principle, could have occurred at any time in the past, even during the apostolic period. Otherwise, there would be no point to Paul’s exhortation to watch for Christ’s return. Note the contrast between “they” and “we.”
5:3 as travail upon a woman. The day of the Lord is as unexpected as a thief, but once it begins, its destructive consummation is as inevitable as birth after travail.
5:5 children of light. Even “children of the light” may become careless in this world and be sleeping when they should be watching. Hence the exhortation to “watch and be sober (I Thessalonians 5:6). We should constantly “abide in Him,” that we not be “ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).
5:8 love. Here again is a juxtaposition of faith, hope and love. See note on Colossians 1:4, 5.
5:8 helmet. This introductory suggestion of spiritual armor in the Christian warfare was later greatly amplified in Ephesians 6:11-17. See also Romans 13:12; II Corinthians 6:7.
5:9 to wrath. In the context, Paul is discussing the coming “day of the Lord,” which will be the great “day of His wrath” (Revelation 6:17) on an ungodly world that has rejected both His law and His work of redemption and forgiveness. It is not intended to be a time of chastisement and purification of believers, but of judgment and tribulation on the ungodly. The world, long under the dominion of Satan, “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4), must be reclaimed by God, and the rebels purged out of it. Thus, before these purgings begin, those who have believed on the Lord and received His salvation must be taken out of the way by Christ’s rapture of His people.
5:9 obtain salvation. “Salvation” can refer to any “deliverance” (same Greek word). In this case, it refers to deliverance from the world before the wrath of God is visited on it. If any should object that the last generation of Christians does not really deserve to be delivered out of the tribulation, they should remember that this salvation, like that of individual soul salvation, is a matter of grace through faith, not works. Previous generations of Christians also were delivered from the coming day of wrath, so that “whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (I Thessalonians 5:10) when He comes again. See also I Thessalonians 1:10.
5:10 died for us. Since this may be the first epistle written by Paul, it is possible that this is the first clear statement in writing of the substitutionary death of Christ.
5:11 comfort yourselves. There would be very little “comfort” in these words, if Paul’s readers were caused thereby to watch for the tribulation instead of Christ.
5:14 feebleminded. This is better rendered “faint-hearted.”
5:16 Rejoice evermore Many think that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) is the shortest verse in the Bible, but this verse is actually shorter in the Greek original. In a sense, the two verses complement each other. Because Jesus wept over sin and died for sin (Hebrews 5:7-9), we, as saved sinners, shall eternally rejoice in heaven.
5:17 Pray without ceasing. See note on I Thessalonians 1:3.
5:18 every thing. Note that the Scripture does not exhort us to give thanks in this verse for everything, but in everything (however, note also Ephesians 5:20). Compare Job 1:21; Job could give thanks even after losing all his possessions and even his children. Note also Habakkuk 3:17,18: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat: the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” This kind of thankfulness is God’s will.
5:19 Quench not. In its other New Testament occurrences, “quench” refers to putting out fire. When the Holy Spirit is clearly using a Christian in a ministry to which He has called him, he should be encouraged and assisted, not criticized and hindered, assuming, of course, that it is really the Spirit’s work and not of the flesh. The best test for this, of course, is fidelity to the Scriptures (Isaiah 8:20).
5:20 prophesyings. At this time of writing, the New Testament was not yet given; in fact, this epistle was quite possibly the first New Testament book written. Consequently, the Spirit gave the gift of prophecy to chosen individuals in the churches for divinely inspired instruction of the different congregations. This gift was considered next in importance to that of the apostle (I Corinthians 12:28), because of the need for establishing these early churches on a strong Biblical and Christ-centered foundation, free from the influences of both paganism and legalism. Evidently, however, some of these prophetic revelations were uncomfortable—just as is sound Bible teaching today—and there developed a tendency for the churches to pay more heed to those with spectacular gifts such as gifts of miracles, healings and tongues. Hence it was necessary for Paul to admonish the Thessalonians to “despise not prophesyings.” Later he also gave a mild rebuke to the Corinthians for putting too much emphasis on the gift of tongues: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:39-40). For “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (I Corinthians 14:3). Prophesyings were thus vitally important in the apostolic churches, but they would soon cease, evidently after the New Testament was completed (see I Corinthians 13:8; Revelation 22:18-19). The gift of teaching would then take over this type of ministry, for this gift is needed in all churches of all times to convey, explain and apply the full and complete teachings of the Scriptures. The message of this verse for today’s church, therefore, is: “Despise not the teachings of the Word and those who teach them.”
5:21 good. The Christian’s faith is not based on credulity, but on sound evidence (note I Peter 3:15). This exhortation applies to both doctrine and practice, especially as taught and tested by Scripture.
5:22 appearance of evil. A Christian’s testimony is vitally important, for it may well affect the eternal destiny of others. His question about a given act should not be: “What’s wrong with doing this?” Rather, he should be guided by this question: “What’s right and positive about doing this?” Both wrong behavior, and behavior which could appear to be wrong should be avoided by the conscientious Christian (note Romans 14:21; I Corinthians 6:12; 10:31-32; etc.).
5:23 spirit and soul and body. This verse proves that man is a tri-unity of soul, body, and spirit, patterned in a sense after the divine Godhead, in whose image he was both created and made (Genesis 1:26,27). The spirit and soul often seem to be the same, in many contexts, but that they are not the same is evident by the fact that the Word of God can divide them asunder (Hebrews 4:12). They are both invisible, representing the reality of which the body is only the outward expression. The fact that it is so difficult to distinguish between them has led many to assume they are synonymous; but this verse and others (especially Hebrews 4:12) make it certain they are not identical. Perhaps the non-physical part of man could be called the soul/spirit complex. Although probably too simplistic, it is convenient to think of the soul, body and spirit as representing the mental, physical and spiritual components of man, respectively. Another way is to look at the human tri-unity as one’s essential nature, his bodily person, and his spiritually influencing personality. In any case, all three aspects of our being—soul, body, spirit—are eternal.
5:28 grace. In this possibly first-written of the New Testament epistles and in all his later epistles, Paul began the practice of praying God’s grace, through Christ, to be with all his readers.