“Overtake you like a thief”

by Sandy Simpson, 11/13/15


1 Thessalonians 5:4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;


How serious will it be for a person to be overtaken in “that day” like a thief overtakes a household when he slips in and steals?  Will it just be a surprise for those who claim to be Christians who will get a slap on the wrist by the Lord but still proceed to heaven?  Will they simply lose rewards but still gain the ultimate reward?  What is this darkness that the brethren are not in? 


1 Thessalonians 5:3-5 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or of darkness;


Those who claim they are sons of light and sons of day will not be caught unaware of the coming of the Lord because they see things clearly in the Light of the Son.  Those who claim to be in the light but are actually in darkness are either asleep …


Mark 13:36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep.


or unaware of the danger of being caught off guard.


Luke 21:34 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;


Many today assume they are in the Light but have accepted darkness as light including false teachings, false apostles and false prophecies.


I think 1 Thes. 5:4 is being taught out of context in some circumstances and not as the serious admonition it represents repeatedly through Scripture.  It seems to have lost its significance at a time when it should have the utmost significance.  Most Christians seem to think that it will just be a situation where they are continuing to live their lives in at least partial disobedience to the Lord but will be going to heaven because they believe they are “once saved, always saved”.  It is good to believe you are saved based on having tested yourself to see if you are in the Faith and living in obedience to Jesus Christ.  But it is not good to be saying you are born again when you are “practicing” sin (1 John 3:4, NASB) instead of “practicing” righteousness (1 John 2:29, NASB) and just expecting that when the Master comes He will forgive you.  When Jesus comes it will be too late.  The Groom will come and those who do not have oil in their lamps will not be invited into the marriage supper of the Lamb (Matthew 25:1-13) no matter their protests to the contrary.  If you don’t think that parable is applicable to 1 Thessalonians 5:4, go directly to verse 13.


Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day or the hour.


Where have we heard the phrase “I do not know you” in the Bible before?  It is what the Lord says to people who claim to be believers on judgment day, the foolish virgins who do not have the Holy Spirit (oil).


Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’


This is not an issue about OSAS Calvinism, it is an issue about people who claim to be born again but are not.  They are either self-deceived or do not care about obeying the Lord. Obedience to Jesus Christ is the mark of a truly regenerate person.


John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.


The Lord requires that a person be born again and, thus, Spirit filled in order to enter heaven.  People can claim they are born again all they want but they prove they love the Lord by obeying the Lord.  If they do not they prove they are not really regenerate and will be caught unprepared when the Lord returns.  They will try to sneak in with wearing filthy rags instead of the wedding clothes that come from being part of the Bride of Christ.


Matt. 22:11-14 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”


The “Rapture” and the return of Christ in His Kingdom with the “raptured” saints will not be a surprise to those who are ready.  Of course when the Lord comes in the Rapture for His saints it will be a “surprise”, a good surprise like a wonderful Christmas gift.  A person waiting to open a Christmas package is waiting for Christmas day and knows there is a gift under the tree. When they open it they are “surprised” and delighted by the contents (if it is something they wanted).  But they are not taken by surprise by the gift.  The person who is claiming to be a believer but is living life as if Jesus is not coming back or will delay His coming is in for a rude awakening.  When will they have time to confess and repent of their sins when Jesus comes back in the twinkling of an eye?


1 Corinthians 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


They will be left to try to buy oil when it’s too late like the five foolish virgins.  But there will be no time left.  This is why it is IMPERITIVE to live a life in Christ, fully committed, fully believing, and fully surrendered to His will. Nor will the return of Christ for those who say they are ready but are not simply penalize those who have no oil while they are still accepted into heaven.  The Lord says, over and over again, that He does not know, never knew, those who claim to be believers but are not “in Christ” on His return.


Matthew 25:12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

Luke 13:25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’

Luke 13:27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’

Matthew 7:23  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’


How can you be assured that the Lord knows you?  Paul gives good advice.


2 Corinthians 13:5  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?


How does one test oneself to see if they are saved?  Remember that only God knows who is saved from beginning to end, who will finally believe and repent and who will not.  Here is a section of an article I wrote on this subject called “Examine Yourselves to See Whether you are in the Faith”:


So how should we test ourselves to see if we are in the Faith?


(1) Do you believe that God came in the flesh, Jesus Christ?


1 Tim. 3:16  Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. 
1 John 4:2  This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,


This means that if you believe that Jesus Christ was merely human, or was human till he received the Spirit as Word of Faith teachers claim, or was never human but only Spirit as the Gnostics such as Christian Science teach, or that we can be everything that Jesus Christ was, then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.


(2) Do you believe that God is One God eternally existing in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?


Mt. 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
Gal. 4:6  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."


Further reading on the subject of the core doctrines is here.  The doctrine of the Trinity is essential to understand God and to understand that Jesus Christ added humanity to Himself at the Incarnation, thus becoming the God-man for all eternity which then hinges on believing that God came in the flesh.  That is part of the information necessary to believe and be saved.  Only God can save. We must believe when the Holy Spirit gives us a chance by convicting us of our sins (John 16:8) and accept the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.


(3) Do you believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone?


Eph. 2:8-9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast. 
Rom. 5:1-2   Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 
Ac 4:12  Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."


If you believe that salvation is by works, as the Catholics teach their adherents to perform certain rituals for salvation or the SDA teaching bringing their adherents back under part of the Mosaic Law, then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.  The New Covenant (Heb. 9:15) and new Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), which is love for God and love for our neighbor, fulfills and does away with the Law of Moses, the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).  If you subscribe to works salvation then you need to test yourself as to the Faith. If you believe that God gives us our faith as the Calvinists teach instead of Him being the Object and Author of our Faith then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.  Read Hebrews 12:2. It is good to cross reference other translations on this verse because you will see a depth of meaning.  The translation of words used in the NIV and elsewhere, translated as "author" and "finisher" is also rendered as "guide and end", "source and goal", "leader and completer", "leader and perfecter" and "leader who will award us the prize".  Jesus is the "Object" or "source" of our Faith archegos or "prince, leader author, pioneer" and "goal" or "example" teleiotes meaning "finisher, perfector, prime example".  So the true meaning of this passage is not that God gives us a gift of faith, but that Jesus Christ is the Object of our faith and the goal of our Faith as the prime example of the concept of faith. 


The other verse used by Calvinists to say that both grace and faith are a gift of God is this one:


Eph 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—


But this is an example of pulling one verse out that they like and not looking to see that elsewhere the gift is talking about the gift of grace, not a gift of faith.


Eph 3:7  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 
Ro 5:15  But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!


Nowhere does the Bible use the words "gift of faith".  When you teach that God gives you the gift of faith then the next conclusion is that a person does not have to believe to be saved because God gives him/her the gift of belief, which is what hyper-Calvinists teach.  Then finally you end up with the teaching that we can be faithless yet still be saved because God is faithful.  If you believe that then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.  It is true that God is always faithful and we are not (2 Tim. 2:13), but we cannot practice sin and say we know God.


1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 
1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 
1 John 3:7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 
1 John 3:8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.


Are you still "practicing" sin, or living a lifestyle of sin?  Then your god is not the Son of God.


1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 
1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (NASB)


I like the NASB translation because it translates "commits sin" to "practices sin". What John is talking about in context is continuing in practiced, lifestyle sin as opposed to sinning sometimes.  That is exactly what people do ... they are either practicing to be sinners or practicing to be righteous.  If your practice is not going the direction of righteousness, then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.  By the way, true Christians do sin but they do not “practice” sin. When they sin they have a Savior to whom they will confess their sins Who is faithful and just to forgive their sins.  The following verses were written to Christians.


1Jo 1:8  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 
1Jo 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.


If you believe that we can have faith in God because we can believe in Him without the convicting of the Holy Spirit because there is enough good in us to do so, as the Arminians teach, if you believe that you can be made right with God by worshipping Him in the names of the supreme beings of the nations as the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People and Emerging Church teach, then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.


(4) Do you believe that the Bible is our highest authority in all matters of faith and practice?


Though this is not required to be saved, it is evidence that you are saved.  Also if you cannot believe the Bible to be true as our authority to know what God is like and what He requires of us, then on what basis have you believed the Gospel?


Jude 1:3   Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 
2 Tim. 1:14  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 
Rom. 6:17  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 
Tit. 1:9  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.


The true teaching of God comes to us in the Bible in the written account of what Jesus Christ, the Apostles and prophets wrote as they were led by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16).  We are to hold to those teachings in the Written Word, not follow the new teachings of false teachers and false prophets.  Those who go after new revelation that is not consistent with the Word of God need to test themselves to see if they are in the Faith.  Be careful because many popular teachers today like to belittle the Bible and true believers who still obey it.


(5) Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again?


1 Cor. 15:3-4  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,


This was and is the criteria for salvation ... to continue in the belief that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead that was passed on as a mystery (Rom. 16:25) to those who would believe by the Apostles.  If you belittle the sacrifice of Christ by believing in Universalism, Inclusivism, or the teaching by the WCGIP and Emerging Church that there are many ways to God, other gods who are God, that the Gospel is in the stars and/or there is salvific truth in all religions … then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith.  Christ is the only sacrifice for sin.


Joh 14:6  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. 
Ac 4:12  Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved


Since the Bible talks about worshipping YHWH and Yeshua (Jesus) in their names, which is why we often end our prayers as believers with "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", why would He accept worship under the name of Baal, Ammon, Hadad, Osirus, Marduk, Allah, Vishnu, Krishna, Amenominakanushi, I’o, Wakan Tanka or any other "supreme being"?


(6) Do you display the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure?


Again, this is not the criteria to be saved but is the evidence of being saved.  If you have the Holy Spirit in you as a result of the second birth, then He will cause you to grow to maturity and the fruit of the Spirit will become increasingly evident in your life.


Gal. 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 
2 Pet 1:5-9  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.


If you do not see these qualities increasing in your life, then you need to test yourself to see if you are in the Faith, because if you are in the Faith you will be effective and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If you are not growing in these things then you are blind, and though you claim you are cleansed from your past sins, you are effectively just like an unbeliever ... wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.


2Co 4:4  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 
1Jo 2:11  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.


Those who claim to be Christians, but are really lukewarm and blind, need to repent and be saved.


Rev. 3:16-19  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired

wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent


Those who claim to be Christians, but do not display the fruit of the Spirit, need to repent so that they will be truly born again and begin to see the fruit of the Spirit operative in their lives.  Those who say they are Christians yet do not have the fruit of the Spirit also do not have wedding clothes to wear and without those you cannot enter heaven.  Also those churches that claim to love the Lord yet are full of false teachings and blasphemous practices have already had or will have their candlesticks removed in heaven, just as Laodicea did, which is evident historically and prophesied to happen in the end times.


(7) Have you increasingly grown in maturity and not floated away with every wave of doctrine?


Growing to maturity is not a criterion to be saved but a result of it.  You will see increased maturity in the Lord if you are truly born again.  I see many who claim to be saved today who remain as babies spiritually.  If the wind and the waves get rough (the world and the powers of the demonic world) and you throw a baby into that, he or she will drown.  That is why God will bring us to maturity as we submit to the Spirit as our teacher and the written Word as God's way to speak to us.


Eph. 4:11-14  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 
Heb. 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


We are to move from baby food to solid food.  If you are still eating baby food and have not moved on to solid food, better examine yourself to see if you are in the Faith.


(8) Do you increasingly live in the law of Christ, which is love?


No one who is not spiritually reborn can follow the law of Christ.


Eph. 4:15  Insteadspeaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 
Gal. 6:1-3  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.


When you see preachers on TV and elsewhere who are full of themselves, proud, greedy and scheming, you are likely not seeing a regenerate person.  I am not the final judge of them, but I can tell if they are walking in the law of Christ right now, just as the Bible tells us we can.  We are to balance the concepts of truth and love equally.  Some end up erring on either side of that equation, but it is just as important to know the Truth, speak it and live it as it is to do so out of Love.  If you find that you are not growing in love and compassion for others, and are not able to stand up for the Truth of the written Word, sometimes against persecution, then you need to check your relationship to the Lord.


2Co 13:5  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test? (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/examineyourselves.html)


True brethren in Christ no longer live in darkness but live in the Light.  They, in turn, act as a reflection of the Light in this world.


Matthew 5:14  "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.


We are also to be salt in the world.


Matthew 5:13  "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.


If you are hiding your light or your salt is watered down with false teaching or sin, then you cannot be a witness for the Lord in this life.


Those who are waiting for the return of Christ with their oil ready will be in the wedding supper of the Lamb.


Revelation 19:9  Then the angel said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’" And he added, "These are the true words of God."