42 “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
43 “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
44 “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Every few years, regardless of what our Lord Jesus Christ said concerning not knowing what hour or day He is coming, someone claims to know the time of His return. And they are always wrong.
30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Is that clear enough? There will be no mistaking the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, by His own declaration, there will be NO PREDICTING His return. Yes, there will be signs of His imminent return, but, just as He said, we will go on marrying and working and doing what we usually do, and then–BAM!–He will return.
The point of all the prophecy in the Bible concerning Jesus’ return to judge the world is not so much to keep us waiting expectantly for His return, not to get us to drop everything and watch the skies. The point is to help us be READY for His return, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Jesus uses all sorts of parables to illustrate this readiness–e.g. the parable of the virgins waiting with their oil lamps ready to light His way upon His return. (Matthew 25:13) The point in all those parables is to put our lives in order NOW, so that whether He returns today or next year or a thousand years from now, we will be ready as His good and faithful servants.
In chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks at length about His return to judge humanity, warning us that when He returns it will be too late to change our ways. After all, His first incarnation was as the Lamb of God, offered for the sins of the world. But when He returns, He will not be the meek Lamb but the very Lion of Judah, coming on clouds of glory to take with Him those whom He knows as His own. And what of those others, those who refused Him or merely gave Him lip service? To them He will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23), and cast them into the outer darkness. (Matthew 25:30)
In today’s verses, Jesus speaks to His disciples of His future return, but when He mentions the metaphor of the thief in the night, He speaks in the past tense. It is as if He is telling us that the thief has already come into our homes!
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
The thief is Satan, and he HAS stolen into our homes already. He lurks about our lives, watching for the times when we are not watchful, coming to us in the dead of night. Jesus is, as my pastor often says, the perfect gentleman, because He stands at the door and knocks. (Revelation 3:20) Satan, on the other hand, breaks into our lives, seeking nothing more than to steal and kill and destroy. Our best defense, of course, is to always be watchful, to always be aware that the thief is somewhere out there seeking to ruin our lives.
But Jesus isn’t just talking about Satan. Yes, we should indeed always be watchful, having our eyes peeled, keeping a wary eye open in our lives. But is that all we are to do? That borders on paranoid behavior, seeing Satan lurking around every event in our lives. Some people DO live that way, blaming Satan and his demons for every ill under the sun, constantly watching their own and others’ behavior for signs of Satan’s influence. That, my friends, is religion, not faith. We need a different kind of watchfulness.
Let’s go back to those ten virgins I mentioned earlier:
3 “Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
4 “but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.”
The ALL slumbered. But how is it that the five wise virgins were ready if they slept until the bridegroom’s return? They were ready because their lamps were full and wicks trimmed, and they were always ready to light their lamps even in the darkest hour of the night. You see, it’s not just about being watchful for the attacks of Satan, but also about preparing our lives for the imminent return of our Savior. It’s not about what we avoid doing, but about what we choose to do, how we live in the Spirit from day to day.
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
37 “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
38 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”
How is it that a man working in a field would be taken up with Jesus and His angels? How is it that a woman will be grinding her flour and be taken up? Were they not watching for Jesus’ return? They didn’t know when He was coming, so how could they have been prepared?
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
1 Peter 2:11-12
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
We are indeed to be watchful over our lives, not just to keep Satan out but to LET JESUS IN. We prepare our lives by living according to the pattern and commandments of Jesus Christ. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul. We are to love our neighbors–even the non-believers!–as ourselves. We are to live our lives in the Spirit, not the flesh, to fulfill the will of God in our lives rather than our own worldly wills. If we had been watchful from the beginning, the thief Satan would not have entered our lives and homes. But the deceiver has come in, and he has stolen and destroyed precious things. But Jesus has come that we may have life, and that more abundantly than we could ever imagine.
Also, we are not just to prepare our own lives for the imminent return of our Lord, but we are also to help others prepare. Jesus commissioned us all to share the gospel and make disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Living our lives as if Jesus is returning now is not about crying out that the sky is falling–which, if you do too often, no one will believe–but to live such good and CHANGED lives that when we preach the gospel to every creature, they will see our lives and believe.
Doomsayers may come and go, and heaven and earth may pass away, but the Word of God endures forever. (Matthew 24:35) Those who point to Jesus falsely are not just misleading believers but they deceive the whole world. The cause of Christ is not served by predicting His imminent return in every generation, but in reminding the world that we must change our lives NOW because we DON’T know when He will return. We missed out on keeping Satan out of our lives, so now it is time to watch over our lives and let Jesus in. Let us allow His Holy Spirit to so reign in our lives that, no matter when Jesus comes again in glory to judge the world, we are ready to light His way.
Holy Father God, let Your Holy Spirit prepare me for Your Son’s return. Let my life be so lived that I bring You glory among the unbelievers. And let me ever be watchful not only to keep Satan out but to let You in, so that I am prepared for Your return no matter when that may be. Amen.