A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
They shall enter in at the windows like a thief. Joel 2:9Howard Barnett
Paul stated that the brethren "know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."1
We know that a day in the Lord is a measure of light. It doesn’t have anything to do with our time tables, established by the earth’s rotation around the natural sun. We should know that Jesus is the beginning and that Jesus is the end. The fulfillment of His purpose determines the time of the end. As long as we remain in the light there will be no surprises to slip up on us.
But Paul evidently saw a problem with the church at Thessalonica, even though he saw their faith and charity growing.2 Paul’s first letter had caused the carnal minds, of some, to see themselves flying away to some worldly cloud. The first subject he addressed in his second letter indicated his desire to clear up a misunderstanding regarding the coming of the Lord. He began to address this misconception, by revealing that it is a "righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."3 Paul was clearing up the misconception regarding the tribulation and the cloud. He hadn’t intended for the church to create some escape doctrine from his earlier writing. He begins to make it very plain that this punishment with the fire (everlasting destruction) would come from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power. "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day."4 Paul went on to say that he continually prayed "that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power."5 This calling would fulfill and bring the pleasure of His goodness. But this goodness and pleasure would require those called to have faith for this coming. They needed to believe in the Fire of God and the indwelling of this Glory, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints. You brethren ARE HIS SAINTS!
The problem that Paul identified and corrected with his second letter to the church of Thessalonica was to crop up again though. In the early 1800's, Edward Irving, the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Scotland, began preaching a ‘rapture of the church’ based primarily from a vision of a Scottish lass by the name of Margaret MacDonald. Irving was excommunicated from the church, but his doctrine of ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ was spread by Darby, Scofield and Clarence Larkin. This teaching, based on a dream rather than Bible, recreated the problem that Paul had cleared up 1800 years earlier. This darkness, for it is not God’s word, will cause many that have believed this lie to miss the highest calling of the church. To them "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing them that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversations and godliness. Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."6
The elements (the orderly arrangements) of those who hold truth in unrighteousness and their works (every man’s work will be tried or tested with the fire) will be dissolved (loosened). This fervent heat (heavenly fire) will come from the presence of the Lord in those who have had faith for this calling. The Babylonian church will be as Jericho (city of the moon), under the feet of the true church. This old order must give way to the new, for John in the Revelation saw the Heavenly city coming out of the "new heaven to the new earth."7
Jesus had warned the church to "remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."8
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."9
This anointing that comes to the righteous askers will empower the church to prevail at the battle of Armageddon. The prophet Joel warned of this time, "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them."10 His prophecy made it plain that this generation would stand above those before and those behind it. The fire that they walked in would fight the battle for them. "They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?"11 This generation is already in the earth. The trumpet is blowing. Repent and make ye straight the way of the Lord.
He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.
1 I Thessalonians 5:2-4
2 II Thessalonians 1:3
3 II Thessalonians 1:6-8
4 II Thessalonians 1:10
5 II Thessalonians 1:11
6 II Peter 3:10-14
7 Revelation 21:1-2
8 Revelation 3:3
9 Revelation 16:15
10 Joel 2:1-3
11 Joel 2:9-11