Paul, Signs and Seasons

Paul did not provide a detailed outline of the “signs and seasons.” Instead, considering the future, he exhorted believers to live righteously now

Flowchart - Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash
Did the Apostle Paul instruct believers to know the “
times and seasons” so they could calculate the arrival of the “end”? In fact, considering that Christ will arrive “like a thief in the night,” he instead exhorted the Thessalonians to live righteously as the “sons of the light,” and to “watch and be sober” - [Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash].

Certainly, Paul wrote about the “coming” of Jesus. His return is foundational to the faith, and salvation remains incomplete until he returns to resurrect the dead and ushers in the New Creation.

And the Apostle did describe key events that will coincide with that day, including the resurrection of dead believers, the consummation of the kingdom, the cessation of death, and the judgment of the wicked - (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

SIGNS

But his list of observable “signs” that will precede Christ’s coming is brief. Paul’s descriptions of sin and deceivers “waxing worse and worse” and similar warnings are too general to pin to specific events and dates. Every era of Church history has been plagued with false teachers and apostasy - (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The closest Paul came to listing recognizable “signs” is his warning to the Thessalonians that the “Day of the Lord” will not come before the arrival of the “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.”

But his purpose in writing the Thessalonians is not to present specific “signs” by which Christians can calculate the nearness of the “end,” but to explain why that day had NOT yet come. The very fact that the “lawless one” has not appeared demonstrates that the “Day of the Lord” has not arrived - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

In only one passage does Paul discuss the “times and seasons” in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
  • (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) - “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that anything be written to you; For you yourselves perfectly well know that the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night. As soon as they begin to say, ‘Peace! and safety,’ then suddenly, upon them comes destruction, just as the birth pains unto her that is with child, and in no way will they escape.”

This statement follows the paragraph in which Paul provides needed explanations about the “coming” of Jesus necessitated by the Thessalonian’s incomplete knowledge of final events.

THIEF IN THE NIGHT

But in the present passage, he explains that there was no need to provide details about the “times and seasonsbecause the Thessalonians already know “accurately” that the “Day of the Lord” will come like a “thief in the night.”

The point of the analogy is the necessity for constant readiness in anticipation of that day. No one can know where and when a thief might strike, and so also is the case with the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Lord - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Luke 12:37-40).

Paul is certain the Thessalonians will not be taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of that day, not because they know all the “signs and seasons,” but because they are “children of the light” and live accordingly. And since they are prepared for his arrival, that day will not overtake them “like a thief in the night.”

As for the wicked, they will continue to live as if nothing out of the ordinary will ever happen until it is too late, therefore, “sudden destruction will overtake them.” The analogy used by Jesus to the “days of Noah and of Lot” is echoed in Paul’s statement.

Christ’s original point is not that life before his return will replicate the conditions before the Flood, but that men will go about their daily routines until the “day of the Son of Man” arrives suddenly and destruction overwhelms them.

What will matter on that day is not detailed knowledge about chronologies, “signs and seasons,” but that one in a right relationship with Jesus, beginning in the present.



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