“Now, brothers, 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, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–6, NIV 1984).
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42–44, NIV 1984).
My Musings – We “do not know on what day [our] Lord will come.” So, “about times and dates [I] do not need to write to you.” But that does not mean we should live our lives “in darkness so that this day should surprise [us] like a thief.” On the contrary, “because [we] do not know on what day [our] Lord will come,” we must “be alert and self-controlled,” “keep watch,” and above all else “be ready.” It must not be said of us that “the thing we never saw coming is here.”
But one might ask, “be ready” for when? “Keep watch” for what? How can we make sure we see it coming?
The when is not about trying to predict the day or the hour. If anyone tells you they have it figured out, they are a fraud. The when, is about being ready for the “season.” Jesus said, “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. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:32–34, NIV 1984).
The what is no mystery, because Jesus told us what to look out for in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. It’s a little lengthy to re-print here, but it is definitively worth you taking the time to read. And, “when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
The skeptics among you might scoff and say, “where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4, NIV 1984). In other words, there have always been wars and rumors of war. There have always been famines and earthquakes in various places. There has always been betrayal and hatred. Love growing cold isn’t new. Increased wickedness comes and mankind has always risen against it. What kind of signs are those?
Paul gives the clue, which is really a paraphrase of something Jesus said. It will “will come on [us] suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman.” Jesus said it this way: “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:8, NIV 1984). Like labor pains, all the signs Jesus tells us to watch for will increase in frequency and intensity —“and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Do not be among the scoffers. Do not be among the unprepared. In the above comic strip, we all know what happens next if “you are here,” and the “the thing you never saw coming is [also] here.” It’s too late to change the outcome. And here’s the thing. We all have a tendency to believe we will have more time to be prepared. Jesus said, “there will be great distress, unequaled [frequency and intensity] from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21–22, NIV 1984). Are you among the “elect [born again]?” When God says “enough!,” and the “hour” comes, it will be too late to make preparations. Even then, we have no assurance of making it through to that “hour.“
“There’s no time to change your mind,
The son has come and you’ve been left behind.”
— “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” by Larry Norman.