Jesus will return one day soon. No one knows when that day will be, but to many it will be a surprise, while to many others, it will be an expected event that they anticipated and planned to see.

As Paul was writing to the Thessalonians in chapter 4, he starts a contrast that carries over into chapter 5. First, in chapter 4, he says that when Jesus returns, he will come as the result of a loud command, with the voice of an arcangel, and with a trumpet call of God. That in no way, of course, seems subtle, nor hidden. There is nothing that will be hidden about Christ’s return. He will come with a shout and with the sounding of a trumpet. Everyone will know that he is coming and there will be no doubt as to what is happening.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16

Paul was explaining this so that the Thesslonians wouldn’t be worried that people who had died between the time that they had believed and the time when Jesus will return would miss Christ’s return. No, in fact, Paul explained that they will go on to be raised first from the dead and then those who are still alive at Christ’s return would then be taken with Jesus.

On the other hand, looking forward into chapter 5, Paul says that Jesus’s day to return will come like a thief in the night. That day will, in fact, sneak up on people like a thief. It won’t come shouting. It won’t come blaring trumpets. It won’t come with a loud voice.

So, wait a minute… How can these two things be true? How can, on the one hand, Jesus come with the sound of the trumpet, and on the other hand, his day comes silently, like a thief in the night.

The difference comes in our preparedness. The difference is us. We can be prepared for Christ’s return, or not. We can find ourselves ready to be judged or not. As Paul says, we can choose to live in the light, or not.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

We must be prepared for Christ to return. Not only must we believe in him, place our faith for our salvation in him and call him Lord, but we must be living for him and doing what he has called us to do. Not distracted by the things of the world. Not looking to other things that are not of God. Not living in darkness, but walking completely in light of Christ. Only in this way can we be ready for Christ’s return.

Jesus talked about this same type of scenario in the parable of the ten virgins. He said that some of them kept oil in their lamps, and also carried extra oil along with them, even though they didn’t know when the bridegroom would return. In this way, they would be prepared.

And wouldn’t you know it, the bridegroom arrives in the night! Since the virgins don’t have extra oil to light their way to where the bridegroom is, they have to go buy extra oil, the oil that they should have been carrying with them along the way already, as the other ones did. In the end, they arrive late to the wedding banquet and aren’t allowed to enter. The bridegroom simply tells them that he doesn’t know them.

So if we understand what Paul is saying to the Thessalonians and we understand that aligned with Jesus’s parable, we can understand that there will be no mistake about Jesus’s return. The return itself will not be hidden. It will not be like a thief in the night. It will be loud and Jesus will come with power.

However, what will be hidden is the indication that he is coming. There won’t be more and more warning. There will not be additional flashing light nor sound to draw your attention to the fact that Jesus will be coming, or that his day will arrive within X amount of time. No, in fact, just at the time when people think that all is fine, that they are at peace, that all is well…then is the time that Christ will return. And it will be loud because the king will be coming in all of his glory. And there will be no more excuses.

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