Have you ever noticed that in the Bible it says that when Jesus returns, He will come as a thief specifically to those who are asleep and are careless? Consider the following passages of scripture:
“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” ~Revelation 3:3 (NIV)
“But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” ~Matthew 24:48-50 (NIV)
Interestingly, in the parable of the ten virgins described in Matthew 25:1-1…ALL of the virgins were asleep and were alarmed at the coming of the bridegroom! However, by comparison, the five that were considered wise were the ones that were at least better prepared for His coming.
Paul aptly makes the differentiation between those who are asleep and those who are not in I Thessalonians 5:1-5 (NIV):
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.”<br>
So, what should we be doing? Part of the answer we see in the Bible is that we should watch and pray. Jesus instructs us to watch and pray during these perilous times–just as He instructed the disciples during the perilous hours just before His death, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” ~Matthew 26:41 (NIV). It is interesting that He was asking for watchfulness and prayer during this hour of great travail before His death, and also during the hour of great travail of His return. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able [or strengthened] to escape [or flee away from] all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” ~Luke 21:36 (NIV). The prophet Zephaniah speaks of the Day of the Lord, “Gather together, gather yourselves together…seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” ~Zephaniah 2:1,3 (NIV). Paul continues his instructions above by saying, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Jesus warns us about how difficult those days will be–he says, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” Thankfully, He warned us ahead of time, told us what we should be doing and also shortened those days for our benefit! I like the simplicity of what He says in Matthew 24:25, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” But are we listening? How will we respond? Will we remain watchful? Or will we grow drowsy and careless?
I have heard someone refer recently to the house of prayer as the “house of the watchful and the wise”. I couldn’t agree more! Interestingly, in what appears to be a sign of the times, thousands of 24/7 houses of prayer have been popping up all around the world over the last 20 years! But, whatever the format or location we meet in, let us encourage each other to stay the course and continue to watch and pray!
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” ~Luke 18:7-8 (NIV)