Sons of Light

The day of the Lord will mean salvation for the sons of light who remain ever vigilant and prepare for its sudden arrival – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. 

Rather than provide a list of “signs” by which believers can calculate the date of the “day of the Lord,” Paul gives instructions on how they must live in anticipation of that day’s sudden arrival. It would not overtake disciples because they “are not in darkness,” but instead, they are “sons of light” and “sons of the day.

Unlike the unrighteous, watchful believers who live in the light of the gospel will not be caught off guard when the day arrives, whether they know its timing or not.

Paul’s concern is that the “day of the Lord” does not “overtake” believers because they are unprepared.  They avoid “destruction” by being prepared spiritually for its arrival. For them, that day will bring salvation, but for the unprepared, it will result in their destruction.

  • (1 Thessalonians 5:4-7) – “But you are not in darkness, that the day overtakes you as upon thieves. For all you are sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of night nor of darkness, hence, then, let us not be sleeping, like the rest, but let us watch and be sober; for they that sleep by night do sleep, and they that drink by night do drink.


Paul makes several contrasts between the prepared and the unprepared.  Unbelievers are in “darkness” and belong “to the night.”  They are asleep, and therefore, unprepared.  In contrast, believers are “not in darkness.”

There is a verbal link between this passage and the preceding section where Paul expresses his desire for the Thessalonians not to be “ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as do the others who have no hope.”

Here, he exhorts them not “to sleep as others do but let us be alert and sober.” Both passages refer to unbelievers as “the others” (hoi loipoi), and both refer to “those who are asleep.”

In the previous passage, those who “sleep” are dead Christians, but here, Paul commands Christians not “to sleep” as “the others” do. Instead, they must “watch” always for that day’s arrival.


  • (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11) – “But we, being of the day, let us be sober, putting on a breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. Because God did not appoint us for wrath, but for acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus, who died for us that, whether we are watching or sleeping, together with him we should live. Wherefore, be consoling one another and building up each the other, even as you are also doing.

Next, Paul encourages believers to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” The same triad of virtues is given in the opening passage of the letter - “work of faith, a labor of love and steadfastness of hope” - (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Of great relevance is the theme of “hope.”  For Paul, “hope” is realized “before our God and Father,” and the saints will be his “hope…before our Lord Jesus at His arrival” - (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2:19).

In the preceding chapter, Paul declares that believers are not “without hope” because at his “arrival” the dead in Christ will be raised first, then they will join their living compatriots, and all will “meet” Jesus as he descends from heaven.

In the present passage, the “hope” is the “acquisition of salvation,” and thus, the avoidance of the destruction that will overwhelm the unprepared. In both passages, this “hope” is realized at the “arrival of Jesus.”

At that time, the "wrath" of God will be executed on the disobedient. Here, “wrath” is contrasted with the final “salvation” that the faithful will receive when Jesus “arrives.” Those who persevere in living  faithfully will “obtain salvation through Jesus Christ,” but the unprepared will find that they have been “appointed to wrath.”


Paul describes Jesus as the one “who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we will live together with him.”  In the previous section, Christians who die are called “those who have fallen asleep.”  Once again, he refers to two different groups of believers - those who are awake and those who are “asleep.” Both acquire salvation at the same time, and both “will live together with him” forevermore from that day.

The clause “together with” concludes both this and the preceding section about the “arrival of Jesus from heaven.” Christians who remain alive when Jesus “arrives” will be caught up “together with” the “dead in Christ.” Likewise, whether alive (“awake”) or dead (“asleep”), believers “will live together with him.”

As before, the assurance of salvation is grounded in the past death and resurrection of Christ - (“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again”).

Previously, Paul told the Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.” Likewise, here, they are to “comfort one another and build up one another.”  This is another verbal connection between the two sections. The Greek words translated as “comfort one another” in both passages are identical (parakaleite allélous – 1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Another link is the promise that believers will be with Christ after he arrives.  After the saints meet Jesus "in the air," they will be “with the Lord evermore.” Likewise, “whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”

Both sections refer to unbelievers as “the others.” Previously, Paul stated that they mourned over their dead loved ones.  Here, he refers to those who are spiritually asleep, and therefore, unprepared for his “arrival.”

The verbal links demonstrate that the same event is under discussion in both sections, the “arrival” of Jesus “from heaven.” The previous section concerned the future resurrection of dead saints when Jesus “arrived from heaven.” The present one describes how that event will overtake the unprepared. And in the present section, Paul connects the “arrival of Jesus” with the “Day of the Lord.”

Paul has let the Thessalonians know how and when the “day of the Lord” will come. First, it will arrive unexpectedly “like a thief in the night.” That is something the Thessalonians already know, and therefore, Paul has no need to write further regarding “signs and seasons.”

Second, for believers, his “arrival” is always imminent. It is an event for which they must always prepare. It remains imminent precisely because its timing is unknown.

For those anticipating that day and living accordingly, though they remain ignorant of its timing, it will not overtake them by surprise or overwhelm them with destruction because they are the “sons of light.” It will mean their salvation.


Son of Destruction

Unsealing the Scroll