1 Thessalonians 5

Watch for the Day of the Lord

Measuring Time

But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers . . . (1 Thessalonians 5:1)

The word “time” (Gk. chronos) refers generally to the sequential occurrence of events. Paul’s specific reference, revealed in the following verse, is to the day of the Lord. Time was marked in the Greco-Roman world in a variety of ways. The Tower of the Winds, also called the Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes, dates to the 2nd or 1st century BC and is located in the forum of Athens. This octagonal structure was used as a combination sundial, water clock, and weathervane.

Grave Robbery

For you yourselves well know that the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

It is well known that thieves prefer the cover of night for carrying out their nefarious activities. A common practice of ancient thieves was to rob graves, since sometimes valuable items were buried with the deceased. The inscription shown here, known as the Royal Steward Inscription, was taken from the bedrock over the entrance to a tomb in the Silwan neighborhood in the Kidron Valley, east of the Old City of Jerusalem. It warns prospective thieves that there are no valuables within and invokes a curse on anyone who chooses to enter anyway.

Sudden Trouble

As the birth pains of a woman with child, and they shall certainly not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The emphasis of Paul’s metaphor is the quickness and perhaps unexpectedness of the coming day of the Lord. Just as birth pains come suddenly at the appointed time, so Paul states that destruction will come suddenly on those who do not know the Lord. This relief, depicting the birth of Apollon, was photographed at the Hierapolis Museum in Turkey.

Paul's Armor Metaphor

Having put on the breastplate of faith and love (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

This verse is reminiscent of Paul’s longer description of the “full armor of God” (Gal 6:13-17). In this case, he only mentions the breastplate and helmet, whereas in Galatians he mentions six different items (belt, breastplate, sandals, shield, helmet, and sword). This bronze statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian depicts his upper body in a muscled cuirass, with the addition of embossed figures across the chest.

Roman Construction Techniques

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The Greeks and Romans were masters at building large structures using very large and heavy stones. One of the most amazing buildings of the ancient world was Herod’s temple, renowned for its beauty and sheer size. The large stones used to build it were moved with implements such as the one pictured here. This was photographed at the Davidson Center south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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