Watching for Jesus to Come Includes a Warning
While we look for the rich reward of eternal life in God’s coming Kingdom, Jesus uses another parable to show that watching for his return includes a warning:
Luke 12:39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)
We could appropriately title this, “The Parable of the Thief at Night.” This parable, which is more of a parabolic saying, is also recorded in Matthew’s account (Matthew 24:42-44). While Luke merely implies the hour that the thief would come, Matthew specifically says night time.
The teaching of this parabolic saying is rather simple. While the owner of the house is sleeping during the night, a burglar breaks in. The burglar digs a hole into the wall made of brick, enters the house, and steals the owner’s valuables. If the owner knew at what time the thief was coming, he would have kept watch to prevent the burglary.
You don’t have to live in Bible times to understand this parable. Burglars still break into homes and steal people’s goods. Sometimes it happens right under their noses.
Fortunately, today we have sophisticated alarms and surveillance systems as well as watchdogs to help prevent such crime from taking place. But if someone isn’t paying attention to these devices or if their watch dogs somehow do not notice what a very sneaky thief is up to, then all the protection in the world isn’t going to help. In some cases, security guards can also be effective providing they are not distracted or if they don’t fall alseep. Actually, it’s much better just to watch and be on guard against burglars ourselves.
Now, what lesson do we learn from this parable? According to Jesus, in the days before the Lord’s coming, people will be living with a total disregard for impending judgment. Jesus’ return will be a total surprise to those who fail to pay attention to the signs of his return. In a sense, they will be asleep, feeling secure under their own power and the provisions they have established for themselves.
In the meantime, they will be unconscious of what’s taking place right under their noses—all the fulfillment of signs in the Bible indicating the nearness of Jesus’ coming. Finally, when they wake up to reality and realize what is really going on, it will be too late. The intruder will have come and they will have blown their chance to be prepared.
Interestingly, this scenario is repeated in letters written by the apostles Peter and Paul, and in John’s writings in Revelation. Peter writes, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare,” (2 Peter 3:10). John adds by quoting the words of Jesus, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed,” (Revelation 16:15).
Think about it: What could be more embarrassing than to be caught asleep without a stitch of clothes on while a stranger breaks into your house at night! Talk about awkward! The point is, if we don’t have our sins forgiven by giving our lives to Christ, be sure that we will feel mightily ashamed that we weren’t ready when Jesus enters through the doors of heaven. Those who are not prepared will be exposed for neglecting to follow Christ and rejecting him as Lord and Saviour of their lives.
Time and again the Bible tells us to put on Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism so as to be clothed with his protective salvation. Then, as our lives are growing in his Spirit, we will not be ashamed at his coming. Instead, we will rejoice with great joy, clothed in his glory, and reigning as co-rulers with him in his Kingdom.
Now, some might be offended to think that Jesus would compare his coming to a low-down, dirty, conniving thief. After all, isn’t a thief the bad guy? But Jesus is the good guy. While this is true, it’s also true that to anyone who is NOT ready for Jesus to come—someone who is walking in worldy pleasures and has taken no time to seriously follow Christ—well, Jesus really IS a thief to them.
He is coming to invade their world and disrupt their sinful lifestyle. To them, Jesus is intruding upon their privacy. And they would just as soon ignore him now rather than let him enter their lives. It’s like hiding under the bed covers hoping this Person will just go away so they could go on without letting him into their home.
So many in this world are sleeping in the darkness of sin, and not prepared for the One who wants to break into their lives now. Well, the fact is that Jesus WILL come breaking in, right through the clouds someday soon, ready or not!
Let’s look at Paul’s comments in regard to Jesus’ coming as a thief in the night:
1 Thessalonians 5:1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.
The apostle was writing to Christians who were familiar with the scriptures. He complimented them by saying that he didn’t need to tell them the signs of Jesus’ return, especially the sign that people will be saying, “peace and safety [security]” even while sudden destruction is threatening their very existence. They were enlightened enough to know that these things would come to pass before the great day of Jesus’ return.
Friend, we’re well aware of this, too. We see this very thing happening today as world leaders are looking for solutions toward achieving peace and security in the Middle East. Deals are being made with the promise that peace will come even while threats of a nuclear holocaust loom large before us. This is a sign to us that Jesus’ coming is getting closer.
We’re not in the dark concerning these matters. We believe that it may not be too long until the labor pains Jesus spoke of will soon give way to the grand entrance of Christ into the world. Praise God! As we look forward to this glorious day, we are reminded of the warning Jesus gave in his parable: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him,” (Luke 12:40).
Interestingly, after Jesus said those words, Peter inquired as to whether Jesus was speaking this parable to the apostles or to everyone else. The apostle seemed curious to know if Jesus was implying that even his closest followers might not be ready for Christ’s coming. Instead of answering his question directly, Jesus left it up to Peter to figure out the answer for himself as the Lord proceded to tell another parable about being watchful. We will cover this parable in Part 3 of WATCHING FOR JESUS TO COME.
Good News to you!