“… for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42(b)
As I ponder the odd times at hand and find myself mentioning my biblical Jesus-is-coming-soon conclusions to friends, coworkers, and church folk, someone always mentions Christ’s quote noted above.
Ah, it’s true. We do not know the day or hour of our Lord’s return.
Why then–which seems to be the sentiment of those quoting this part of Matthew 24:42–are you concerning yourself, Laurie, with His return?
I’ve got two answers for the return-of-Christ skeptics: 2 Timothy 4:8 and the first part of Matthew 24:42 (as well as all of Matthew 25:13).
In their New Testament books, both the apostles Matthew and Mark cite Jesus telling His disciples what to watch for concerning His return. I love the whole of Matthew 24 and all Jesus reveals about the future of the church and Israel. If you haven’t lately, I encourage you to read through it. Good and bad things are underway around our world and I think a few red flags will wave as you go through these words of Christ again.
But back to our subject: When Christ spoke of no one knowing the time or hour of His coming—not angels, not even Himself—He encouraged us to being alert and watchful.
In Matthew 24:42, Jesus explains the situation of not knowing the timing but precedes with the revealing word therefore. When we see therefore in Scripture, it is a signal to us that there is reason for a specific situation and a call to action about that situation is at hand. In the case of Matthew 24:42, the call to action about the lack of knowledge concerning the timing of Christ’s return is to be alert to what’s happening around you. Here’s the whole verse:
Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
In Matthew 25, Christ uses a parable about ten virgins to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like and how some people who think they are headed to the wedding supper of the Lamb will miss the entry into the celebration. Here’s the revealing last portion of that parable, followed by Christ’s therefore command again. Matthew 25:11-13:
Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.”
Christ takes great care to explain what His disciples (and all of His followers) are to do as we see the last days approach. Because we don’t know when He will come, we are to be watchful and alert for that day.
According to Matthew 24:44, He repeats His intention for us to be prepared.
For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
Throughout Christ’s end-times discourse, He exhorts us to be alert and ready for the explosive signs that will accompany His return. We will not know the exact moment, but should be able to discern what is going on when the time is near (see fig tree illustration Christ uses in Matthew 24:32,33).
Why? Because He also told His faithful followers that if it were possible, even the elect (committed believers) would be deceived (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). Your king doesn’t want to find you deceived by the awful rulers that are at hand or find you caught unaware, distracted by things of the earth. He wants you engaged. He wants you off the bench and in the game.
And this brings me to an awesome promise. As the Lord who sees all and knows all, He is pleased with our faithfulness to be watchful and ready. Look at what Paul writes to His mentee, Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:8:
in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
If you follow Christ and love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, then you are among all who have loved His appearing, and look forward to His return. Though a crown is not our motivation for watching for His return, it is our reward.
The Next Command
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul explains the details of the rapture of the church–the occurrence Christ eludes to in the parable of the ten virgins. As Paul assures this body of believers they have not missed this mysterious event which precedes the wrath coming to the whole earth, He goes on to tell the faithful to encourage one another with the hope of the rapture. Here’s Paul’s exhortation found in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11:
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake [alive] or asleep [died], we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
The writer of Hebrews also wrote that we should encourage one another, and all the more as we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
All the more. This means increase. We are to increase our encouragement (and assembling together) as we see the day drawing near.
What day? Because the writer spoke about an event earlier in verses 12 and 13, we see that “the day” is a referral to the time when Christ’s enemies will be made a footstool for His feet. In other words, when Christ is reigning on earth and His enemies are put away.
This is such good news! Anyone tired of the corruption in our government? Anyone long for an authority we can trust? Have the promises of utopia on earth fallen short?
Even though as Christians we have blessings here and now, do you ever experience the mysterious haunting that something is not quite right? There’s more to life and you haven’t grasped the more yet?
That’s because when your Maker designed you, He made you to walk with Him in a garden. Not in a broken and sin-filled culture.
These are the things I ponder when I consider the rapture is near. I don’t focus on what’s going to be left behind, but what’s ahead! I’m one of those who buys—hook, line and sinker—the Hebrew account that everything here is a shadow of things to come. Leaving earth will not be so much leaving the blessings we know, but giving those blessings an opportunity to reach full light, full bloom; our blessings’ intents finally realized and fully!
I think about this: If the love and contentment I experience when I am with my family now is a blessing, what will that love and contentment be like in heaven when I’m with my people group there? Love and contentment times 10? Times 100? Times 1,000? If shrimp tacos are awesome on earth, how awesome must they be in heaven? If the Lord strengthens me when I’m in the shadow lands, then what will He do when I’m living in the full light of His love? Be super caring? Super friend? Super servant? If I love my husband in this broken down, old world, what will my love for him be like in wonderland? How exciting will it be to truly love without selfish thought?
I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to get to the new place Christ has prepared for me and meet the Author of Love face to face. Oh, how I want to chat with the One who made the awesome galaxies, but also put tiny black dots on the Lady Bug’s back.
What a conversation that will be!
Are you encouraged? I sure am.
A while back, I read an article on Matthew 24 and the writer explained more on why Jesus warns us to be alert. Though I’ve long misplaced the link to that article, the author wrote something like this:
Jesus told us of the signs of His return so we would be heeding. These thoughts should provoke us to looking and seeing: listening and hearing. We are given warning after warning to pay attention to false doctrines and all of the end-times signs while adequately managing our lives in godliness.
I want to encourage you.
Here goes: Jesus will return for us. Yes, it’s been a long time, but there’s a reason and we can trust that the timing will be perfect. Bride’s keep themselves pure and ready for the Groom by focusing on His coming and other coming attractions that are going to be spectacular! (Colossians 3:2; John 14:2, 3)
Be encouraged and be brave.