1 Thessalonians 5:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
1. But of the times and the seasons ] Better, concerning the times and the seasons. The Greek word for “times” denotes stretches of time, that for seasons particular times; the question as to the former was, “How long before the Lord comes? what periods will elapse before the final establishment of His kingdom?” as to the second, “What events will transpire meanwhile? how will the course of history shape itself?” These enquiries our Lord put aside. “It is not for you,” said He, “to know times or seasons, which the Father has put within His own province” (Act 1:7); and previously Jesus had declared respecting the end of the world, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, only the Father” (Mar 13:32). Such knowledge, it appears, is outside the province of human thought. Speculations of this nature have been repeatedly ventured on since the Apostle’s day; they have proved invariably worthless, and afford so many confirmations of the Lord’s warning. Chrysostom remarks on this passage somewhat severely: “Our nature is officious and greedy for the knowledge of things invisible and hidden from us. This comes of our conceit, and from having nothing to do. Often therefore is the mind in haste to learn and understand these things before the time.”
ye have no need that I write unto you ] Lit., that aught he written to you (R. V.). The phrase is a repetition of that of ch. 1Th 4:9, except that there the emphasis lies on you as persons not needing this instruction, here upon the writing as a thing in itself needless. On the topic of the last paragraph, viz. the position of Christians dying before the Lord’s return, it was needful that something should be written; as to the “times and seasons” nothing need be written, for the readers already knew so much as could be known (1Th 5:2).
Section VI. (continued): 1Th 5:1-11
The first part of this Chapter stands in close connection with the last six verses of ch. 4. Together they form the most distinctive and the weightiest section of the Epistle. The two paragraphs of the section touch upon two different aspects of our Lord’s Coming, viewed first as it concerns departed Christians, and then in its relation to men living on the earth. The former passage supplies comfort respecting the dead in Christ, the latter enjoins watchfulness and preparedness upon the living. See note introductory to ch. 1Th 4:13.
From 1Th 5:1-2 it appears likely that the Thessalonians had been enquiring from St Paul “about the times and the seasons” of Christ’s return and the Day of Judgement.
Section VI. The Coming of the Lord Jesus
This solemn topic, as we have already seen (note on ch. 1Th 1:10, and Introd., pp. 18 21), is the principal theme of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. It is not treated by way of argument or indoctrination, but as a matter already familiar to the readers; on which, however, further explanation and admonition were needful. The Apostle’s teaching about this event had been on some points misunderstood, while new and anxious questions had arisen respecting it. Death had visited the Christian flock at Thessalonica since St Paul left them; and this had aroused in the survivors a painful fear lest those who were thus snatched away should have lost their place and their share in the approaching advent of Christ. This apprehension the Apostle proceeds to remove; and we may entitle the remaining verses of the chapter: Concerning them that fall asleep.
St Paul (1) bids his readers be assured of the safety of their departed fellow-believers, 1Th 4:13-14; and he makes the revelation (2) that these will have the first place in the assembling of the saints at Christ’s return, 1Th 4:15-17. He goes on to remind them (3) of the uncertainty of the time of His coming, ch. 1Th 5:1-3; and (4) exhorts them to be always ready for the event, like soldiers on guard and fully armed, 1Th 4:4-9.
Consult other comments:
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".