For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them . . .
– 1 Thessalonians 5:3a
A time will come when wars may die down and natural disaster subsides. The world will think, At last, “peace and safety!” But Paul warns us not to be taken off guard or lulled to sleep by this time. Read what he states: “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-7).
Destruction will come suddenly. It will be like labor pains coming on a pregnant woman. First a slight twinge. Then a little bit sharper pain. Then a knee buckling dagger; then labor is on.
The world lives in darkness. The world is asleep spiritually. They avoid change and accountability by ignoring or rationalizing away any absolute truth. They commit idolatry by creating “God” as they would like Him to be; One who condones their sinful practices. They are drunk with subjective relativism where anyone and everyone can do anything and everything they feel like doing just as long as it doesn’t “hurt” others. It is a repeat of the book of Judges in many ways. People do what is right as they see it (Judges 21:25).
The world lives a philosophy of so-called “tolerance.” The only problem is the world is not tolerant of those who disagree with what they tolerate. The tolerance police can be pretty harsh and unforgiving to those who hold to absolute truth or the thought that God is real and does indeed know what is best for His creation. That’s too intolerant for them. They would rather hide in the dark and use the darkness to cover sordid sin and self-indulgence. The world lives in a fog of denial and fantasy. They are disregarding the traffic signs not understanding that eventually ignoring the signs lead to a fatal crash.
The world or unbelievers (5:3 - i.e. “they”) speak of “peace and safety.” “Peace and safety” here points to a sense in the world that all is well, a belief that the God who has been rejected will not judge them or bring consequence of their sin upon them. They have mistaken the patience and longsuffering of God for His complacency. They have misread His patience as condoning their sin. Some even doubt His inexistence. God’s patience is meant to lead the sinner to repent not to indulge further in sin (cf. Rom. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:1-9).
Those who speak of such peace and safety will find out very quickly that such peace and safety is false and will fade fast. It is exactly when people in the world speak of peace and safety that “sudden destruction” comes upon them from which they will not escape (5:3). The word “sudden” means unaware, unexpected. “Destruction” refers to ruin, death, punishment, or destruction. The point Paul makes is that believers should not be surprised by future End Time developments (5:4). Believers need to be sober and awake, not asleep (5:5-7; see Matthew 25:1-13).
Because they live in darkness unbelievers misinterpret God’s patience and see it as either God not caring about sin or even condoning it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). God is of purer eyes than to look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13). And there is not a just person on the earth who does not sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20). God is light; there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). God created humanity upright, but humanity has “sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). The darkness of sin unsaved humanity live in is authored by the devil (2 Cor. 4:4). Living in darkness is as dangerous as being thrown into a dark room with a ravenous lion (1 Peter 5:8-9). In darkness you will either be deceived or devoured; most likely both. And because this darkness leads one to deny their culpability of sin, it will also lead to damnation (1 John 1:8, 10). Come to His light and be saved!
The world lives in a darkness composed of proud personal opinion, self-reliance, and spiritual fantasy. Instead of receiving the light of God’s revelation in His word they willfully choose to disregard it and all its proofs. They choose to live in the darkness of their own making. The consequence is that they will fall prey to the disarming cries of “peace and safety” that will prove deadly both literally and spiritually. Unbelievers very well might see a peace brokered by a charismatic diplomat and put their confidence in him. And that may very well be a fatal decision. Antichrist will be a very influential politician who is able to appear to work out a Middle East peace plan. Let me share one possible scenario.
Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of an End Times attack on Israel by a confederacy of Islamic nations led by Russia. This confederate force will come down against Israel hunting for natural resources and ultimately be destroyed by the LORD. This will evidently put a severe dent in Islamic world influence. A charismatic world leader like Antichrist could then steal the credit (from God) for thwarting this Islamic force. With Islam weakened, this world leader might seize an opportunity to broker a world peace. How?
Revelation 11:1-2 speaks of a rebuilt Tribulation Temple whose design leaves the outer court to the Gentiles. If Antichrist could get Islamic and Israeli officials to accept two religious structures side by side as a symbol of such “peace and safety,” it would be a pretty incredible achievement. Daniel 9:24-27 refers to Antichrist confirming an existing covenant of 7 years with God’s people Israel. Antichrist will require all people to take his mark in order to buy and sell in a world economy (Rev. 13). To get that mark you will have to worship him. And in taking the mark you will be forever lost and separate from God.
Antichrist will gain world rule economically. He will also create a one world religion. He will do this no doubt under the deceived idea that world conflict is religiously based. By eliminating religions, or forming a one world religion, the world can have peace. Antichrist will promote a master false prophet to help him in this effort. This religious system will ultimately be based on worship of “the Beast” or Antichrist himself (2 Thess. 2). And ultimately this is the plan backed by the devil who creates his own evil incarnation in Antichrist. Satan will seek the world’s worship through Antichrist. And this will lead to the spiritual death of many.
Deception, destruction, and damnation, all of this may be part of a season of “peace and safety” that leads to an inescapable “sudden destruction.” That’s a very brief scenario. But it’s possible because unbelievers are so much in darkness that they might be deceived into falling prey to the lies of a Satan-backed Antichrist.
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief.” Those who live in darkness will be robbed of eternal life in Christ. They will suffer the greatest of thefts by the enemy. Those that know Jesus as Savior however aren’t in the dark about this. We have been warned of the dangers impending. We have been rousted awake in the dark night of this world. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Come to Jesus the Light of the world. Confess your sins and be forgiven (1 John 1:9). You don’t have to live in the dark anymore.