Matthew 24:42, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
Matthew 25:13, “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour”
Mark 13:35 – “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.”
John Wesley was asked what he would do if he knew his Lord would return at that time the next day. He said in effect, “I would go to bed and go to sleep; wake up in the morning, and go on with my work, for I would want Him to find me doing what he had appointed.”
You see, the context of these parables is the return of Christ. Jesus is telling us in Matthew 24 and 25 that He’s going to return. The Lord is coming back at a time known only to the Father. But while He’s away, He’s given us things to do, things to care for, things to develop and grow as part of the way that we enjoy the world He created and the wonderful Christian life that He has won for us.
There is a balance in the Christian life between knowing that Christ might come back tomorrow, but at the same time, living as if He may not come back in our lifetime. If we go off on one extreme or the other, we end up with problems. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 4-5, Paul wrote that the Lord’s return was near, and so the Christians in Thessalonica should live with that in mind. But apparently, some of them thought that since the Lord’s coming was so near, they could quit their jobs, and sit at home fasting and praying and watching the sky for the clouds to be rolled up like a scroll. Paul heard about this, and so he wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians to tell them that although the Lord’s return was near and they need to live in light of that; they must also live as if His coming was far off. We must be laying foundations and fighting the good fight for future generations.
In response to the disciple’s question “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) – Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time, many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:4-14)
He made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and troubles. He issued warnings, because those times would be characterized by many who would seek to turn men’s attention and affections away from Jesus, the true Messiah.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:32-33)
The parable of the fig tree is meant to teach us that there are certain signs that indicate the “season” of Christ’s return, which verse 34 tells us is (one generation) in length. However, although we may know the signs and the season, we are not meant to know the day or the hour! This is consistent with God’s dealing with the world in days past;
“ Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”
Noah had spent many years building the ark. He knew that the season for divine judgment was near, but he did not know the day or the hour. Then God gave the order to board the ark; it was God who closed the door; and then He sent the flood. The people had no early warning that the flood was coming (except for the preaching of Noah) and when judgment came, it came quickly!
The same will be true in the last days; no one knows the “day or the hour,” however, we can know the signs and the “season.” One significant indicator is the “abomination of desolation” and the events of the Great Tribulation. (Matthew 24:29-31)
All three of these parables share the same message about being ready and alert. They also share some other things that we need to be aware of, like response and judgment.
The application is obvious; “two men will be in the field, going about their daily routine; one will be taken, the other left behind!” Two women will be “grinding grain” as they normally would; one will be taken and one left behind. No one knows the day or the hour, so we must be on constant alert!
So, next week I will take a look at all three of these in a little more depth. See you then, and don’t forget to follow my blog and enter your Email address.