The Meaning of "Like A Thief in the Night"

Published: Jan 24, 2022
The Meaning of "Like A Thief in the Night"

What does it mean that the Lord will come "as a thief in the night"? Study the Bible verses and the meaning of this phrase.

"Thief in the Night" Bible Verses

"For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2 NKJV)

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10 NKJV)

1 Thessalonians 5 'Like a Thief in the Night' Meaning

The Thessalonian Christians had been speculating about the return of the Lord and making their own predictions. Paul tells them, you have no need (1 Thess 5:1) for that kind of information (because it is not available.) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36)

Does a thief in the night announce his coming? The disciples had gotten the same kind of answers to their questions on the Second Coming from Christ Himself (Matthew 24:36, Acts 1:6-7).

And suppose we knew the end; what is this to us? Christians are called not to set dates but to make themselves ready to meet the Lord by being watchful and sober. Our place is to be ceaselessly aware of the primacy of God's Kingdom and to have full control over our spiritual faculties.

How to Await His Coming

"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-7

Purified by Waiting

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ~ 2 Peter 3:10-13

2 Peter 3 Meaning

Because this world will pass away, we ought to be holy and godly, living as citizens of the new heaven and earth. Christians can actually hasten the coming of that day. Through evangelism (Mark 13:10), prayer (especially the Lord's Prayer), holy living (1 Peter 2:12), and repentance and obedience (Acts 3:19-21).

The new heavens and earth will be the same ones transfigured for the better. For a beautiful prophetic description of the new heaven and earth see Revelation 21 and Revelation 22.

The New Heaven and Earth

"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, And their offspring with them. "It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," Says the Lord." ~ Isaiah 65:17-25

Bible Verses about Thieves and Night

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. ~ Ephesians 4:28

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. ~ Matthew 27:38

He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” ~ Matthew 21:13

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ~ 1 Peter 5:8

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place. ~ Psalm 8:3

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. ~ John 12:36

A Prayer for Jesus to Return Soon

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. ~ 1 John 3:3


There are days on this earth that we yearn for Jesus come, now. Come, Lord Jesus, reigns paramount in our hearts and plays as the anthem to our souls. The compassion and grace of Christ’s presence in our lives causes us to crave more and more of Him. And on the days, Father, when the world is . . . well, the world . . . we pray for Him to come soon.

Your creation is majestic, and Your miracles manifest in our lives in gloriously faithful ways. You blow us away with Your faithfulness, Father, with Your true and perfect love and personal care for each and every life. Thank You for going before us. Thank You being the God of our memories, breaker of every chain, and forgiver of all sins through Jesus.

The more we know You, the more we want to come home. The most blessed life on this earth is only a shred of the happiness we will feel in heaven, in the presence of the Holy Trinity. Some days, imagining the initial embrace when we arrive home in heaven helps us to keep breathing. We trust in Your will and pray for Your will over all else and everything we desire. Father, we pray, Come, Lord Jesus. Come now. Come soon. Bring us home.

In Jesus’ Name,


(Excerpted from "5 Powerful Prayers for the End Times" by Meg Bucher)

Further Reading

What Does it Mean That God Will Return Like a Thief in the Night?

Why Will Jesus Come "Like a Thief in the Night"?