Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13: 35-37 NKJV)
Do we know how to watch for Jesus’ return? What does this command mean and what are it’s implications? The commands to be observant, to see and to watch occur over thirty times in the three versions of Jesus’ primary teaching about his return, the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21, Mark 13 and Matthew 24 and 25.) It is also mentioned numerous other times throughout the New Testament. I discuss these in detail in Chapter Five of my new book Are We Ready for Jesus? due out in early 2015. This command is so central to preparing for his return however, I’d like to briefly discuss it this week.
The Greek word translated “watch” is “grégoreó” which properly translated means to be vigilant and alert as a guard on a night watch. This word is most often used in relation to Jesus’ return but was also used by Jesus when scolding the disciples after falling asleep on the night in which he was betrayed, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (Matt. 26:40 NKJV)
Notice how watching is the opposite of sleeping? This concept is repeated numerous times throughout the Bible. In addition to the passage at the beginning of this post, here are a few more examples.
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. (1 Thess. 5: 1-6 NKJV)
If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. (Rev. 3: 3 NKJV)
Both of these references are extremely interesting. Notice how both of them say that if we don’t watch, Jesus’ return will surprise us. The passage in 1 Thess. goes even further. It states that the Day of the Lord (the wrath of God that occurs after the rapture) will not take us by surprise because we are Christians. It will not come upon us as a thief in the night if we “watch.”
So how do we watch for Jesus’ return? The Bible is clear we are to watch for something, and when we see it, we will not be surprised by Jesus’ return. This does not mean we will know the day or the hour of his return, but that we won’t be surprised. It implies that there will be “signs” to watch for. If we see them we will not be surprised.
This very clear teaching of the Bible is contrary to the view held by the majority of Christians: that the return of Jesus is imminent. Thomas Ice (one of the world’s leading proponents of a Pre-Tribulation rapture) states that, “imminence carries the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before the imminent event, but nothing else must take place before it happens. ”
The concept that if we “watch” we will not be surprised by Jesus’ return like the unsaved contradicts this completely. This other famous verse is commonly quoted as proof that the rapture is imminent.
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Matt. 24: 42 NKJV)
In the NKJV, the word translated “know” actually means “have seen.” This famous verse actually means that we are to watch because we haven’t “seen” what hour our Lord is coming (yet.) This is revolutionary. We are to be watching.
Could it be that the teaching that “nothing else must take place” before the return of Christ is a portion of what is causing the church to sleep? Are we being unobservant of what is happening all around us because we don’t know what to watch for?
I can’t wait to be able to share my new book with all of you. In that book I explain all these concepts and also detail how we are to watch for Jesus’ return.