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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 3

Verse 3. For when they shall say, Peace and safety. That is, when the wicked shall say this, for the apostle here refers only to those on whom "sudden destruction" will come. Compare See Barnes "Mt 24:36"

and following; See Barnes "2 Pe 3:3,4.

It is clear from this,

(1.) that when the Lord Jesus shall come, the world will not all be converted. There will be some to be "destroyed." How large this proportion will be, it is impossible now to ascertain. This supposition, however, is not inconsistent with the belief that there will be a general prevalence of the gospel before that period.

(2.) The impenitent and wicked world will be sunk in carnal security when he comes. They will regard themselves as safe. They will see no danger. They will give no heed to warning. They will be unprepared for his advent. So it has always been. It seems to be an universal truth in regard to all the visitations of God to wicked men for punishment, that he comes upon them at a time when they are not expecting him, and that they have no faith in the predictions of his advent. So it was in the time of the flood; in the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jerusalem; in the overthrow of Babylon; so it is when the sinner dies, and so it will be when the Lord Jesus shall return to judge the world. One of the most remarkable facts about the history of man is, that he takes no warning from his Maker: he never changes his plans, or feels any emotion, because his Creator "thunders damnation along his path," and threatens to destroy him in hell.

Sudden destruction. Destruction that was unforeseen (aifnidiov) or unexpected. The word here rendered sudden, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Lu 21:34, "Lest that day come upon you unawares." The word rendered destruction oleyrov —occurs in the New Testament only here and in 1 Co 5:5; 2 Th 1:9; 1 Ti 6:9, in all of which places it is correctly translated destruction. The word destruction is familiar to us. It means, properly, demolition; pulling down; the annihilation of the form of any thing, or that form of parts which constitutes it what it is; as the destruction of grass by eating; of a forest by cutting down the trees; of life by murder; of the soul by consigning it to misery. It does not necessarily mean annihilation—for a house or city is not annihilated which is pulled down or burned; a forest is not annihilated which is cut down; and a man is not annihilated whose character and happiness are destroyed. In regard to the destruction here referred to, we may remark,

(1.) it will be after the return of the Lord Jesus to judgment; and hence it is not true that the wicked experience all the punishment which they ever will in the present life;

(2.) that it seems fairly implied that the destruction which they will then suffer will not be annihilation, but will be connected with conscious existence; and

(3.) that they will then be cut off from life, and hope, and salvation. How can the solemn affirmation that they will be "destroyed suddenly," be consistent with the belief that all men will be saved? Is it the same thing to be destroyed and to be saved? Does the Lord Jesus, when he speaks of the salvation of his people, say that he comes to destroy them?

As travail upon a woman with child. This expression is sometimes used to denote great consternation, as in Ps 48:6; Jer 6:24 Mic 4:9,10; great pain, as Isa 53:11; Jer 4:31; Joh 16:21; or the suddenness with which anything occurs, Jer 13:21. It seems here to be used to denote two things: first, that the coming of the Lord to a wicked world will be sudden; and, secondly, that it will be an event of the most distressing and overwhelming nature.

And they shall not escape. That is, the destruction, or punishment. They calculated on impunity, but now the time will have come when none of these refuges will avail them, and no rocks will cover them from the "wrath to come."

{b} "travail" Jer 13:21

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