What does 1 Thessalonians 5:6 mean?
ESV: So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
NIV: So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.
NASB: so then, let’s not sleep as others do, but let’s be alert and sober.
CSB: So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled.
NLT: So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.
KJV: Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has been discussing the rapture: a future, abrupt moment when Christ will retrieve believers from the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). This moment is one the Thessalonians are prepared for, so they won't be caught off guard the way unbelievers will (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3). Paul emphasized this point in the prior verse by referring to these Christians as "children of light, children of the day."

Because the Thessalonian believers had come to know the Light of the world and the truth of the gospel, Paul calls on them to stay alert and self-disciplined. He urges them not to "sleep," appealing to them not to be apathetic or uncaring. Believers need to be alert and self-disciplined as they watch for the Lord's return to take them to heaven.

Paul issues a similar appeal to the Christians at Ephesus. In Ephesians 5:15–16 he writes, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." If believers fail to be alert to the times and the hopeless condition of the children of darkness, how will they win the lost to Christ? In Ephesians 6:18 he admonishes believers to "keep alert with all perseverance."

The apostle Peter also appeals for sobriety—meaning self-discipline—and watchfulness. Similarly, Peter writes: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Verse Context:
First Thessalonians 5:1–11 informs believers about the day of the Lord. This phrase refers both to the moment of the rapture as well as the seven-year tribulation period that follows the rapture. The passage assures us that believers will not experience the tribulation. The day of the Lord will commence unexpectedly, like the arrival of a thief at night. It is described as a time of darkness with dreadful consequences. Unbelievers, identified as those who belong to the night, will be overtaken by destruction. But believers are, symbolically, of the day not the night. They are not the objects of God's wrath, but are destined to receive a full rescue from the day of God's wrath. In view of their exemption from the day of the Lord, believers ought to encourage and edify one another.
Chapter Summary:
First Thessalonians chapter 5 reiterates that the rapture will occur quickly, catching the unbelieving world unprepared. In contrast, Paul presents faithful Christians as those who are aware and ready for this event. This passage uses the contrast of day versus night to highlight those differences. Paul also completes his letter by offering various practical instructions. These include the need to be peaceful, hardworking, and forgiving. He also commends constant prayer and an attitude of joyfulness, before closing his letter with a command for this letter to be read aloud.
Chapter Context:
The end of chapter 4 discussed the nature of the rapture: a sudden, physical ''taking away'' of believers from the earth. Here, Paul continues to refer to this event's sudden and dramatic nature. A key analogy used in this passage is that of daytime versus darkness, and the concept of being awake and alert. As with many of Paul's letters, practical instructions make up the bulk of his closing statements. In particular, Paul adds a command that this letter be read aloud among all of the people of the Thessalonian church.
Book Summary:
The apostle Paul's second missionary journey included a visit to the prominent Greek city of Thessalonica. This stood alongside a major land route and boasted a busy seaport. A number of individuals believed Paul's message (Acts 17:1–4), but an angry mob forced Paul to leave the city after his brief stay. Later, while in Athens, Paul received a glowing report: the believers at Thessalonica were growing spiritually and serving God fervently. However, they had questions about the Lord's return, including what happens to a believer who dies before that day. And, as all churches do, they had some areas in which they were falling short. In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, written about AD 51, he addresses these developments. Paul expresses gratitude for the Thessalonian believers' spiritual progress, and frequently makes references to Christ's impending return.
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