1 Thessalonians 5:1-2,
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."
The day of Lord will come like a thief in the night. Okay, but is this going to be a thief in our own human understanding? Why would the Lord give this example, or analogy, to represent His day, the awesome day of His appearing? There must be something more to this. We read in John 10:10 where Yeshua told us, talking about the devil, that ''the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy'. Yeshua then told us that He came in order to give us life and that we may have it more abundantly. There must be more to what the Apostle Paul is writing about and there is!
“A thief in the night” is a Hebrew idiom. It does not refer to a criminal thief that you and I might be familiar with. He is referring to someone who may come in the middle of the night and take people by surprise. The main point to understand is that the people weren't watching and were caught unaware. Because they were caught unaware they were caught in a position to lose everything they held dear. The thief could steal all their belongings and could be in a position to even take their life. The irony is that this 'thief' Paul is writing about is actually someone with a high calling and an honorable task to fulfill. He's talking about Yeshua the Messiah, the Lord of Glory!
"Behold, bless the LORD,
All you servants of the LORD,
Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!"
In the days of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, a priest was posted every night on duty to ensure the last sacrifice for the current day was completely consumed. His task was to guard the fire on the altar so that it was kept burning throughout the night ready for the next morning’s sacrifice. The fire was not supposed to go out for any reason.
Although it was his duty to stay awake, the priest on duty would naturally become tired and sleepy. You can imagine how groggy you might feel if you were staring at burning embers all night. However, if the last sacrifice was consumed and the flames were still burning, he might be able to catch some moments for a nap while waiting. He might wake up every now and then to fuel the flames by adding wood, but under no circumstances could the flame go out. This would go on through the night until the rising of the sun. Unfortunately, it was highly possible for the priest on duty to fall asleep totally; thus failing to perform his responsibilities of tending to the fire, and the fire would go out. Enter, 'the Thief in the Night'.
The High Priest was known to those working in the Temple as 'the Thief in the Night'. At times during the night watches, the High Priest would enter the Temple very quietly like a thief. He would check and ensure the priest on duty was fulfilling his duties. He might be accompanied on occasion by an assistant. Firstly, the High Priest would check the fire to see whether the flames were still alive. If necessary he, or his assistant, would add some wood and work to fan the flames. Remember, under no circumstances was the flame on the altar to go out.
If the priest on duty was sleeping, the High Priest would take an ember of coal from the fire and sneak quietly around his napping subordinate. He would then place the burning coal on the garment of the sleeping priest, causing his clothes to ignite. Priestly garments were highly flammable by the way. They were made of 100% cotton. When they got dirty they were torn into strips and sometimes used as wicks for the Menorah or swaddling clothes for infants.
Now, without even the benefit of rubbing his eyes, the dozing priest was aroused by his clothes on fire. The first thing he would do would be to rip off his torched clothing. Upon realizing he was now naked in Temple of God, and in the presence of the High Priest, he had no alternative but to run. He would run from the Temple to his home embarrassed, naked, alone and disgraced. Everyone in and around life in the Temple were well aware of who the 'Thief in the Night' was. No one felt very sorry for the sleeping priest either because he was, above all else, required to stay awake. The sleeping priest experienced the most humiliating thing imaginable to someone in his line of work. This is what the Apostle Paul was telling the Thessalonians.
The great point to remember is that the 'Thief in the Night' was the High Priest coming to check whether the priest on duty was awake and carrying out his duties. This is highly significant in our current situation today. Are you awake? Are you napping? How is it with your soul? Are you ready for the entrance of the 'Thief in the Night', Yeshua HaMashiach, the Holy One of Israel?
Always remember, the Lord Himself is our 'High Priest'.
He is the 'Thief in the Night'.
And, He is probing the corridors of our temple!
What is the condition of the fire on your altar?
So what are you doing on your watch? Those who sleep now, as we find ourselves so obviously in the season of the His coming will be caught unawares, punished, and they will lose out. However, those of us who remain faithful, and awake in this dark time looking for our Lord's return will be rewarded.
Now you can undertand Yeshua's message to His people in this verse:
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."