These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Inductive Bible Study
What “times” and “epochs” is Paul referring to?
If they have no need to be written to about this, why does Paul write to them about it? Why does he even say this?
What does the “day of the Lord” refer to?
What does Paul mean that it will come like a “thief in the night?”
Why might God have planned the last days to come suddenly and unexpectedly rather than giving a clear warning first?
Who are the “they” in verse 3?
Are there any warnings before a woman faces labor pains?
Are there any warnings before the “day of the Lord?” If so, what?
Who will face destruction and not escape?
What is different about believers?
What do the “darkness” and “day?” How about sons of light/day?
What applications does Paul lay out for the Thessalonians? What can we learn from this? How can we be alert and sober in the coming year?
How can we put on this spiritual armor? Why does Paul use the imagery of armor both in Ephesians 6 and here?
What plans does God have for us? How does verse 9 tie in with the rapture?
What do “awake” or “asleep” mean?
What is the final application Paul gives from this passage?
Verses on the Day of the Lord:
Joel 2:31, Amos 5:18-20, Obadiah 1:15, Zephaniah 1:7-8, 14, 18, 2:2-3, Malachi 4:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Philippians 1:9-10, 2 Peter 3:10
Verses on Living in the Light:
Ephesians 5:8, John 9:4, Romans 13:12, Philippians 2:15, 1 John 1:7
Mark 13:1-8 – The birth pangs before Christ’s second coming.
Ephesians 6:10-20 – The spiritual armor.
1. The times and the epochs – Remember that in the original letter to the Thessalonians there were no chapter and verse divisions. This follows directly after the passage at the end of chapter 4 and could/should be studied together with that passage. It would be natural for the Thessalonians to want to know whenthe things Paul described in chapter 4 would happen. When would this rapture occur? When would Jesus call up the saints on the earth to meet the Lord in the air? What else would happen after this? The word “epoch” means “a memorable date or event” or “an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development.” The end times is an “epoch” that is still yet future.
2. You have no need of anything to be written to you – Paul has used this same type of language in this letter more than once including in 1:8. This fits in with the overall theme of this letter. He is positive and upbeat. He affirms and encourages them for what they are doing well rather than rebuking them for any shortcomings they have. An obvious question is why would Paul write them about it if they didn’t need to be written about it? Well, Paul said “you yourselves know full well…” before he started teaching them about this issue. In other words this was notnew teaching for them. They had already been taught on these issues (perhaps Paul also had a basic course or at least basic topics which he followed up new disciples with.) Paul was simply giving them a reminder of what they knew already. Most of the time we too do not need new teaching. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything that needs to be taught has been taught before. But they needed to be reminded of the things they had already learned. We are like this too. We often need reminders. Let’s be open and teachable when those reminders come rather than pridefully saying “I already know that.”
3. The Day of the Lord – See cross-references. What does this refer to? The day of the Lord appears to refer to the general period of the end times. Why is this term used to refer to the end times period? Well, one could say that now is the day of Satan in this world. Or the day of sin or the day of evil. Satan sometimes appears to be winning. The world takes its stand against God. From the time of Adam and Eve rebellion has reigned. People hid from God. In the OT, the Israelites were afraid when God descended upon the mountain. They continuously rebelled against Him. Now people mock and scoff the very idea of God’s existence. One day all of that is going to change. The Lord is going to reveal Himself. He will again take an active and visible role in this world (rather than the behind the scenes role He more often follows today.) That will be His time, His victory. He will pour out wrath and judgment on those who mock Him. He will punish Satan and all of his followers. He will roll back the curse. Some people may say that the wedding day is the bride’s time to shine. It is time for the bride to take center stage. During the Day of the Lord, Jehovah will take center stage.
4. Like a thief in the night – Simply put, He will come suddenly and unexpectedly. There will be no announcement. While a friend will often call and say, “I’m coming over at 4:00, is that OK?” most thieves don’t do that. They want to catch their suspects by surprise. Thieves will sometimes even watch a neighborhood for a while to see who is leaving on vacation and intentionally rob them while they are out of town.
5. Verse 3 – “They” are saying “peace and safety.” They refers to unbelievers as a whole. People will feel safe and secure. Their wallets may be fat and their bank accounts racking up the zeros. People will feel like the rich fool in Luke who accumulates lots of worldly wealth and becomes satisfied and complacent with the riches he has stored up for himself. Culture will tell people to live for the moment and enjoy what they have worked for. Sin will be tolerated. People who give warnings about God’s coming judgment will be laughed at and derided or even worse. It will be something like the fall of Babylon. On the night when Babylon fell, what were the king and his nobles doing? They were throwing a party. They believed that nothing could penetrate the powerful walls of the city. But something did. The Persian army did a sneak attack by diverting a canal and coming in under the walls. They caught the whole city unprepared. This army did not announce it ahead of time. The feast turned into a nightmare as terrified people who trusted in their riches and might were instantly defeated.
6. Like labor pains – In Mark 13:1-8 we learned that Jesus’ second coming will be like a woman who suffers birth pangs before finally going into labor. So can you remember some of the signs in that chapter? Jesus’ second coming won’t be a completely signless event. A woman may have birth pangs before going into labor, but if she doesn’t pay attention she can still be caught unaware and unprepared when the baby finally comes. A wise mother may prepare many things when getting ready to have a baby including a room, clothes, bottles, diapers, a bag to take to the hospital, etc. Many mothers already have planned which hospital they will go to and the route and method they will take to get there. When they first experience some minor contractions in the weeks leading up to birth, they take the opportunity to make final preparations and get everything in order. But not every mother is prepared. Some (most on TV) are completely unprepared. They told themselves “I have time” and kept putting off preparations. The results of this can be disastrous.
Jesus’ second coming is like this. We already know it is going to happen. The time is getting closer and closer. Some signs are there for the observant to notice. Paul tells us that destruction will come upon all of those who are unprepared. At that time there will be no escape.
7. But – This is one of the most important words you will find in all of the Bible. It often contrasts what our lives would be like without Christ to what our lives are like with Christ. Without Christ we would face destruction and the intense fiery of God’s judgment. But we don’t have to face that. There is another option. We don’t have to live in the dark at the mercy of the thief. If we trust in Christ then we are sons of the light/day. This means:
A. We know the truth. If the light is on you can see clearly and know what to expect in front of you. If you walk in the dark, you will not know the danger right in front you and may fall into a pit.
B. God guides and directs us and tells us what we need to know so that we can make wise decisions about the future.
C. We are to live in the light of the truth and reflect the light of Christ to those around us by being a good testimony.
8. Application –Sometimes we need to come up with applications based on the principles we learn in the Word by ourselves. But sometimes we are given the applications. Here Paul gives us the most important applications we should make based on what we learn in this passage.
Be alert – We should be ready. Do not be caught sleeping. We must live with the right perspective and worldview. Do not allow the worries and business of the world to choke out your passion for Christ. Do not allow the worldly wisdom of our peers to influence the decisions we make or our life direction. Look at the culture around you with discernment. Do not grow complacent in your Christian life.
An army that is alert needs to conduct daily drills to make sure they are ready if an attack comes. Even where there is no visible enemy for thousands of miles or there has been decades of peace, they still need to be ready. This requires a great deal of self-discipline. Adequately defend yourselves against temptation. Root out any sin in your lives before it spreads. Disciple yourself to study and memorize the Word, to pray and to regularly participate in fellowship.
Be sober – Be serious minded. Jesus tells us that in the last days many will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Matthew 24:38. This portrays a relaxed and complacent lifestyle in which pleasure and desire are the most important aspects. We must think deeper. Form convictions from the Word and then follow through with those convictions. See also verse 8.
If we are sober that means we must prepare ourselves for the attack of the enemy. That requires putting on the spiritual armor. Discuss each aspect of the spiritual armor and its importance.
9. God has not destined us for wrath – This is one of the key verses why we believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The tribulation will be a period when God pours out His wrath/judgment on this world for its rebellion against Him. This verse tells us that God does not want us to face that wrath. Some would say that this “wrath” refers to an eternity of punishment in hell and it could, but based on the context it would seem that Paul has the more imminent judgment during the day of the Lord in mind.
And why should God pour His wrath out on believers? Does a father pour wrath out on his child? He certainly shouldn’t. A father will lovingly discipline his children, but that is different from a fierce wrath. This truth that believers can be spared the wrath of God is one of the most comforting doctrines in all the Bible. We can be saved, saved from an eternity in hell and saved from God’s wrath poured out during the tribulation. Verse 10 shows us that we can only be saved because of Christ’s death for us. He paid the price so that we could experience the freedom and the blessing. How will you thank Him in the coming year for His sacrifice?
10. Encourage one another and build up one another – How can you do this? What will you do to encourage and build up brothers/sisters in Christ during the coming year?
What will you do in the coming year to work while it is still light? What can you do throughout the course of the year to be alert and to be sober? What specifically will you obey in order to apply what we have learned today?