As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:
8but we, being of day, let us be being level-headed putting on a breastplate of faith and love and a helmet, hope of salvation 9because God did not destine us into wrath but into acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10the One who died on our behalf in order that we might live together with Him, whether we should be awake or whether we should be sleeping. 11Wherefore, be encouraging each other and be building up into the same, just as you also are doing.
Verses 8 tells us the Lord wants us to be level-headed people who live faith, hope, and love, then verses 9&10, in effect, draw back the curtain of God’s heart. And what do we see? He did not destine us into wrath. Note again how, in verses 6&7, He sees us as “children of light” and as being very different than an unbelieving world which is (toward Him) sound asleep and slobbering drunk. We are objects of grace. We know we’re rotten, but He has chosen to make us His children and “children of light,” at that. “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God …” We of course are naturally in fact “children of wrath.” In the passage before us, the “wrath” in view specifically is the Day of the Lord. He has already warned that just when the sleeping, drunken unbelievers of this world are mumbling about “peace and safety,” that Day will come upon them very suddenly “and they shall not escape.” “But you …” He says in v4.
There are children of darkness destined for wrath, but God calls you and me “children of light.” And to what are we destined? Verse 9 answers: “Into acquiring salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Salvation. Deliverance. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain …’” (Rev 21:3,4). And this isn’t based on what we’ve done but it is “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The entire panorama of grace is an infinitely kind God offering up His own Son to purchase us undeserving, ruined sinners to redeem us out of all this darkness and “translate us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Someone pointed out that, given all of this, it is unthinkable that the same God would allow us to share in the wrath to which an unbelieving world in destined.
Dispensationalists take this as an assurance that Church-age Christians will be raptured before the seven years of the Great Tribulation. I am persuaded they are right, but whether or not anyone agrees with that particular application, we believers can rest assured our God has good plans for us. He may in fact be planning a Day of the Lord that is to others “sudden destruction,” but for us even that Day will be a day of salvation and deliverance.
Having said all of that, He circles back to the whole discussion at the end of chapter 4 about believers “sleeping” or being “alive and remaining until the Day of the Lord.” There His “sleep” was referring to death, of course, so here when He says “Whether awake or sleeping,” He means whether dead or alive. And whether awake or asleep, our destiny is to “live together with Him.” Note that, in English, those four words can simply mean that you or I will “live together with Him.” However, in the Greek, it is more likely the “together” is referring to “us.” It’s emphasizing that it will be us, that we together will live with Him. I have to say for myself, as hopeful and exciting as it may be to think I will live with Him, it is enormously encouraging and hopeful to know I won’t be alone in it, that we will all be there, together, with Him.
We are people of hope. In a very dark, frustrating, and sometimes frightening world, we are free to live lives of faith, hope, and love because we already know our destiny. And what should we do with that? Verse 11 says we should “be encouraging each other and be building up into the same, just as you also are doing.”
Because we are people of hope, we should be encouraging others and “building up.” I’m sorry to note that most people today are very negative. They can’t seem to say anything positive about anyone. They say things to each other that only discourage. And too many people are experts in tearing down. Us believers, because we are ourselves objects of grace and children of hope, ought to be resolved to be different. We should be the encouragers and the ones who build up, not tear down all the time. It starts with each other. Though we are children of grace, we certainly most days don’t feel it. We all need often to be reminded that we are people of hope. May you and I resolve that even today, we will very deliberately try to say encouraging things to other people, to be people who build up, not tear down. And why not? We are people of hope!