Paul, Signs and Seasons

Paul does not provide a detailed outline of the signs and seasons that will precede the End. Instead, he exhorts disciples to live righteously now

Does the Apostle Paul instruct believers that they must understand the “times and seasons” so they may calculate the timing of Christ’s return? In fact, considering that Christ will arrive “like a thief in the night,” he exhorts the congregation in Thessalonica to live righteously as the “sons of the light,” and to “watch and be sober.”

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

And the Apostle describes 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 15:20-282 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

SIGNS?

But his list of “signs” is brief, and his descriptions of sin and deceivers “waxing worse and worse” and similar warnings are too general to pin to specific events and timetables.

For that matter, every era of Church and human history has been plagued with false teachers, false teachings, rampant sin, and apostasy - (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The closest Paul comes to providing a list of 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 this warning is not to present specific “signs” by which Christians may calculate the nearness of the “end.” Instead, he argues why that day had NOT yet come.

The fact that the “lawless one” has not appeared demonstrates that the “day of the Lord” will not arrive momentarily. And how much time will transpire between these two events and the arrival of Jesus he does not say - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

TIMES AND SEASONS

In only one passage does Paul discuss the “times and seasons,” and it is found 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 KNOW PERFECTLY WELL 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.”

His statement follows his explanation about the “coming” of Jesus, and that was necessary because of the Thessalonians’ incomplete knowledge of the final events surrounding his return.

Yet in the present passage, he expresses that he has was no need to provide them with details about the “times and seasons,” and this is BECAUSE they already understand “accurately” that the “day of the Lord” will come like a “thief in the night.”

And the point of the analogy is the necessity to be ready always for that day’s sudden arrival. No one can know where and when a thief might strike, and so it will be with the 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 on that day, not because they know all the “signs and seasons,” but because they are “children of the light” and live accordingly. Therefore, they are prepared for that day’s arrival.

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.” And, so, the analogy used by Jesus to the “days of Noah and of Lot” is echoed in Paul’s statement.

The point made by Jesus is not that life before his return will replicate the conditions before the Great Flood, but that men and women will go about their daily routines until the “day of the Son of Man” arrives suddenly and unexpectedly.

For the unprepared, that day will result in their destruction. What will matter then is not detailed knowledge about “signs and seasons,” but whether a man or woman has responded to Jesus in faith and with obedience in the present. How one lives today will determine his condition on the “day of the Lord.”



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