3.2 Thief-like Coming of Christ?
There has been much confusion over the 'thief-like coming of Christ'
mentioned in 1 Thess. 5:2. The context is concerning the state
of the ecclesia in the last days, and is shot through with allusions to
the parable of the virgins. The sleeping virgins represent
the unworthy amongst the believers who will live just prior to the second
coming. Paul's allusion to this fills out the details:
the coming of Christ to this category of 'believers' will be like a thief
in the sense that their privacy and spiritual house will be invaded by
the reality of the second coming. This will be due to their
attitude of 'peace and safety', which they will actively promulgate -
'Everything's great within the household, we're going from strength to
strength spiritually, there's no need to fear failure in any form!'
That "they shall say, Peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:3) suggests
that this is an attitude which they publicly disseminate amongst the brotherhood.
Bearing in mind the many prophecies and indications that there will be
a massive spiritual collapse within the latter-day ecclesia, it is reasonable
to assume that the faithful minority will speak out against this - to
be met by a barrage of 'peace and safety' reasoning.
Those who will stand ready for their Lord will be in the light, in the
day, self-aware, spiritually sensitive and realistic, and therefore
not saying "Peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:3-8). Christ's
coming as a thief to the unworthy is therefore in the sense of His
coming being unexpected by them, rather than being as a thief to
the world. The frequent application of the 'peace and safety cry'
to the world of the last days never ceases to amaze the present
writer. Prophecy after prophecy describes a time of global cataclysm
around the time of the second coming, even though this may be mixed
with a fair degree of material prosperity. In no way will it be
a time of "peace and safety" for the world; and their ever-increasing
escapism shows that they don't exactly see it like that either.
Biblically speaking, their hearts are failing them for fear, apprehensive
concerning whatever is going to happen to their planet earth (Lk.
21:26, see modern versions).