1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.
2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
3 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.
but (v.1) — marking a change in emphasis from salvation for those in Christ to judgment for those who aren’t
the times and the seasons (v.1) — These words, chronos and kairos, are synonyms, and while they have much in common and are used interchangeably on occasion, when they are used together they supplement each the other and hence are to be distinguished in meaning. In the New Testament they appear together again only in Acts 1:7, and in LXX only in Daniel 2:21.
Broadly speaking, chronos, “time,” a) implies duration, whether longer or shorter, or b) refers to the date of an occurrence, whether in the past, or in the future. Kairos, “season,” refers to the characteristics of a period.
Here, “times” refers to the length of the interval before the Parousia takes place, and to the length of time it will occupy; “seasons” refers to the characteristics of the periods before, during, and after the Parousia. — Vine, page 71.
you yourselves know (v.2) — “know” is knowledge gained by observation, or, in this case, by listening to Paul’s teaching when he was in Thessalonica
perfectly (v.2) = accurately
The closing verses of chapter 4 deal with a “mystery,” a secret, first revealed through Paul (4:15; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51), while the opening verses of chapter 5 deal with prophetic truths which had been proclaimed for many centuries. Indeed, the first two verses contain three familiar prophetic phrases: “the times and the seasons,” “the day of the Lord,”and “a thief in the night.”
The Thessalonian believers needed more light on the truth of the Rapture (3:10; 4:13-18), where as they understood “perfectly,” or accurately, the truth about “the day of the Lord,” so that Paul could say to them concerning this subject: “Ye have no need that I write unto you” (5:1-2). — Stam, page 84.
Day of the Lord (v.2) — Generally speaking, the term refers to the time when the day of man, or “the times of the Gentiles,” will be brought to an end and “the Lord alone shall be exalted” (Isaiah 2:11, 17). But it will include more than the actual return and reign of Christ. It will include the prophesied tribulation period, during which God will bring Gentile rule to an end.
The seven years of the Tribulation will begin with the ride on the white horse (Revelation 6:1-2), evidently Antichrist (cf Revelation 19:11), who goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” Like Antiochus Epiphanes, he will “come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Daniel 11:21). All will go well for him and he will bring to the world a kind of peace that will win him universal allegiance. “Peace and safety”! the world will exclaim.
But of the rider on the next horse we read, “and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4). Then follow war, famine and death (vs. 3-8). — Stam, pages 89-91.
as a thief in the night (v.2) — the word “night” is connected to “thief,” not to “Day of the Lord” and so has nothing to do with when the event will occur — 2 Peter 3:10
They knew accurately that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief — that nobody knows when it will come (Matthew 24:36).
they (v.3) — those who have not trusted in Christ
Paul’s careful alternation of the pronouns “they” and “ye” throughout this passage is sufficient to show that he never conceived of the Church, the body of Christ, as remaining on earth during the time of wrath in the Day of the Lord. — Scofield, page 1293.
safety (v.3) = security from disturbance, mental or physical
Peace and safety (v.3) are not meant to describe the period prior to the Day of the Lord, but instead describe what those who have rejected God’s Word are saying about the period and their freedom from God.
destruction (v.3) — olethros = ruin, occurs in the New Testament only in writings of Paul. In 1 Corinthians 5:5 it is used of the discipline of an erring believer with a view to his spiritual profit; in 1 Timothy 6:9 of the consequences of the indulgence of the flesh; here and in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, of the effect upon men of the calamities which are to accompany the revelation of the Lord Jesus at the opening of the Day of the Lord. The word means, not the destruction of being, but of well being, not annihilation, the putting an end to the existence of a person or thing, but its ruin so far as the purpose of its existence is concerned. — Vine, pages 74-75.
comes upon them (v.3) = lit. “to stand over,” suggesting violence, as when an armed man stands over a defenseless victim.
as labor pains upon a pregnant woman (v.3) — indicating suddenness and inevitableness (Jeremiah 13:21; Luke 21:34)
The woes preceding the inauguration of the Messianic age are called in Jewish literature heblo sel masiah (“the birthpangs of Messiah”). — Guthrie, page 1160
escape (v.3) = flee away
but you (v.4) — “you” has the place of emphasis in the Greek, marking the contrast between “you” and “they” — Reversing the “but” in v.1, this marks a change in emphasis from judgment for those who aren’t in Christ to salvation to those who are.
darkness (v.4) — spiritual darkness
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, with its “day of the Lord,” coming as “a thief in the night,” bringing “sudden destruction,” is strikingly like our Lord’s predictions in Matthew 24 concerning the “great tribulation” and His return to earth to reign.
But this was not the problem that troubled the Thessalonian believers. At this point, certainly, they were not concerned with Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. Their concern was over their loved ones who had died in Christ. Would these now miss the Rapture? And Paul’s answer is that these shall rise first to join them “who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” for His saints. Hence, concerning this blessed event he says, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18). — Stam, pages 85-86