Is the wrath spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 the tribulation or the future judgment in hell?
There are three occasions in 1 Thessalonians where the word “wrath” is mentioned. These references are 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16, and 5:9. We will focus on the last reference in the book.
In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul is giving teaching relative to the day of the Lord. This is the time period following the coming of Christ to the air for His Church (1Thes 4:13-18). This period commences with the man of sin stepping onto the stage of history (2Thes 2:3). The Lord will then institute His prerogatives of judgment and will put down all organized authority against God. Paul describes how the ungodly will be overtaken by the swift and sudden events of that day. He contrasts believers with those who remain on earth; they are in darkness, but believers are children of the day. The ungodly are overtaken by events because they are sleeping; believers are expected to be watchful. Unbelievers are drunk and have their senses dulled, but believers are self-controlled.
In this context we read, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The question which we need to address is what is the salvation to which Paul is referring? Salvation is presented in the New Testament in three aspects: we have been saved (2Tim 1:9), we are being saved (Rom 5:10), and we will be saved (1Peter 1:5). The future aspect is what is being referred to in this text. This can be clearly established as those to whom Paul was writing had received the Word of God and had already been saved from eternal judgment (1Thes 1:6). This is confirmed in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 by the reference to “the hope of salvation.” This hope will be realized at the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church. Contextually, then, the wrath in question must be the tribulation wrath. Those of this era who are saved will not enter this tribulation wrath but will be delivered from it by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at the rapture.
Is the “sleep” spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 death or careless Christian living?
As we consider this question we notice that there are a number of contrasts drawn in the preceding verses. The ungodly are in darkness, believers are sons of the day. Unbelievers are overtaken by Christ’s unexpected coming, believers will not be caught unaware. The ungodly are not expecting the coming of Christ because they are sleeping. Believers are exhorted to be self-controlled and vigilant.
We can also contrast the closing paragraph of 1 Thessalonians 4; on three occasions in this paragraph we read of believers being asleep, sleeping in this context being a reference to death. It appears that questions had arisen in the minds of the believers in Thessalonica about those who had already departed to be with Christ. Paul assures them that those who have died are not at a disadvantage and will rise first at the rapture. Those who are asleep are mentioned first, then the living are introduced. When the Lord Jesus returns, both dead and living will be caught up to meet Him in the air.
In chapter 5 the order is reversed, with the emphasis placed on watchfulness; then the possibility of being asleep is introduced. The sleep in question is a lack of vigilance, or, as the questioner intimates, carelessness in our Christian living. One thing is to be noted in the verse. My lack of watchfulness will not prevent my rising with Christ at His coming. Notice that in chapter 4 there is mention made of being “caught up together with them.” In this chapter, when the Lord comes we shall “live together with Him.” May the Lord help us to wait for His coming with expectancy and watchfulness.
Is it appropriate to use the phrase “Jesus didn’t die for His own sins”?
This is one area of Bible doctrine that necessitates clear teaching and preaching. Some teach that Christ did not sin, others that He could not sin and while both of these statements are true, such was the inherent perfection of the Lord Jesus that He could not even be tempted by sin. The Lord Jesus is presented in Scripture as being impeccable. This means that He was not liable to sin; He was not able to sin.
The sinlessness of Christ is demonstrated in the gospel records. We recall the words the Savior stated at the end of His ministry, “the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me” (John 14:30). The devil also tested Him for 40 days at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:1-13). We consider Him returning from the temptation in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14) and learn the impeccability of His person. Some will question why He was tempted. It was to prove that He could not sin. His holiness was attested by demons (Luke 4:34), by Pilate (Luke 23:4, 14, 22), by the thief who was crucified beside Him (Luke 23:41), and by the centurion who witnessed the crucifixion (Luke 23:47).
The sinlessness of Christ is declared in the epistles of the New Testament. Recall that Peter wrote “Who did no sin” (1Peter 2:22); Paul reminds us “Who knew no sin” (2Cor 5:21); and John tells us “in Him is no sin” (1John 3:5). We read that He “was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin” (Heb 4:15), “Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Heb 7:26). Scripture is unified in its testimony to the impeccability of Christ.
In our teaching and preaching it is our responsibility to use clear language to present Biblical truth. Imprecise language will be misleading to those newly saved and to the unsaved. When men employ these imprecise terms publicly, they are then repeated by others without thinking of the implications. We have no better recourse than the language of Scripture (2Tim 1:13). If we use this we will avoid causing any unnecessary confusion to those who listen to us.