Paul did not provide a detailed outline of the “signs and seasons.” Instead, considering the future, he exhorted believers to live righteously now.
Did the Apostle Paul instruct believers to know the “times and seasons” so they could calculate the timing of the “end” and the return of Jesus? In fact, considering that Christ will arrive “like a thief in the night,” he exhorted the Thessalonians to live righteously as the “sons of the light,” and to “watch and be sober.”
Certainly, Paul wrote about the “coming” of Jesus. His return is foundational to the faith, and salvation remains incomplete until he returns to resurrect the dead and ushers in the New Creation. And the Apostle did describe key events that will coincide with that day, including the resurrection of dead believers, the consummation of the kingdom, the cessation of death, and the judgment of the wicked – (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
But his list of “signs” that will precede the coming of Jesus is brief. Paul’s descriptions of sin and deceivers “waxing worse and worse” and similar warnings are too general to pin to specific events and chronologies. Every era of Church history has been plagued with false teachers, false teachings, and apostasy – (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
The closest Paul came to providing a list of recognizable “signs” was his warning to the Thessalonians that the “Day of the Lord” would not come before the arrival of the “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” But his purpose was not to present specific “signs” by which Christians could calculate the nearness of the “end,” but instead, he was arguing why that day had NOT yet come. The fact that the “lawless one” had not appeared demonstrated that the “Day of the Lord” was not imminent. How much time would transpire between these two events and the arrival of that day he did not say – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
In only one passage did Paul discuss the “times and seasons” in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
- (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) – “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that anything be written to you; For you yourselves perfectly well know that the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night. As soon as they begin to say, ‘Peace! and safety,’ then suddenly, upon them comes destruction, just as the birth pains unto her that is with child, and in no way will they escape.”
This statement followed the paragraph where Paul provided needed explanations about the “coming” of Jesus that was necessitated by the Thessalonian’s incomplete knowledge of final events. But in the present passage, he expressed that there was no need to provide details about the “times and seasons” because they already knew “accurately” that the “Day of the Lord” would come like a “thief in the night.” The point of the analogy was the necessity to be ready always for that day. No one could know where and when a thief might strike, and so would be the case with the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Lord – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Luke 12:37-40).
Paul was certain that the Thessalonians would not be taken by surprise by the arrival of that day, not because they knew all the “signs and seasons,” but because they were “children of the light” and lived accordingly. Therefore, they were prepared for his sudden arrival, and that day would not overtake them “like a thief in the night.”
As for the wicked, they would continue to live as if nothing out of the ordinary would ever occur until it was too late, and thus, “sudden destruction will overtake them.” The analogy used by Jesus to the “days of Noah and of Lot” is echoed in Paul’s statement.
The point made by Jesus was not that life before his return would replicate the conditions before the Flood, but that men women would be going about their daily routines until the “day of the Son of Man” arrived suddenly, resulting in their destruction. What will matter on that day is not detailed knowledge about “signs and seasons,” but being in a right relationship with Jesus in the present.
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