“LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT” is a very curious phrase. It portends danger. It calls for action. It is even almost scary. Yet, this is the expression that the Bible uses several times to describe the imminent return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Jesus used this phrase (Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15). Apostle Peter used it (2 Peter 3:10). Apostle Paul used it (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
It is common knowledge that the return of the Lord will catch the world by complete surprise. But interestingly, whenever Jesus used the phrase ‘LIKE A THIEF’ – it was NOT in reference to the world. It was in reference to His own people. His own Church. In warning His church against the deception and distraction that will precede His return (Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39). And so, LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT is a phrase that speaks clearly and eloquently to the church of today.
Believers that are asleep when the Lord returns will suffer the same fate as the unbelieving world that are children of darkness. BOTH WILL BE CAUGHT BY SURPRISE. BOTH WILL BE SEVERELY PUNISHED (Luke 12:46). And that will be a very deadly situation.
This perspective is even clearer in these two passages: “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. IF YOU WILL NOT WAKE UP, I WILL COME LIKE A THIEF, AND YOU WILL NOT KNOW AT WHAT HOUR I WILL COME AGAINST YOU.” (Revelation 3:3). Please note the phrase ‘AGAINST YOU’. He was not addressing unbelievers here, He was addressing a church! Furthermore, He also said, “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about NAKED AND BE SEEN EXPOSED!” (Revelation 16:15).
Friend, how prepared are we for the sudden return of the Lord? If He comes tonight as we go to bed, are we really ready for Him? Will we be raptured with God’s saints in the twinkle of an eye? Here are the words of Jesus in Luke 12:35-36: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, THEY MAY OPEN UNTO HIM IMMEDIATELY.” Loins girded. Lights burning. Ready to open IMMEDIATELY. Is this the state of your preparation for the return of the Lord?
To help our preparation, here are the words of Jesus to His disciples in Luke 21:34-35, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and CARES OF THIS LIFE, and that day COME UPON YOU SUDDENLY LIKE A TRAP. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
For many believers, it is the CARES OF THIS LIFE that will cause that day to spring upon them like a trap. This speaks about the everyday distractions of life that give us little or no time to pay attention to matters of eternal value. Excessive long working hours that give us no time to read the Bible. ‘BUSYNESS’ that gives little room for prayers and fellowship with the Lord. Unfulfilled ministry and calling. Anxiety. The myriad entertainment and pleasure of life that quietly devour our spare time.
Above all these considerations is the false sense of hope/security given to us by many of the blind churches that exist in our days. In their blindness, these churches have lowered the high standard by which God evaluates His people. Thus, in the dimness, believers that are spiritually dead will have the false impression that they are alive (Revelation 3:1). Believers that think they are rich and prosperous will not know that they are indeed ‘wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked’ (Revelation 3:17). In truth, God’s standards are radically different from the standards used by most churches of today. Please read Revelation 2 and 3 to get an idea of how the Risen Messiah views and evaluates His church.
Brethren, we need to be watchful. We need to be prayerful. We need to be prepared. The return of the Lord is a once-forever opportunity. We dare not toy with this opportunity – if He will indeed return in our generation. We need to be truly and thoroughly prepared.
This is why we have selected the theme of MARANATHA DAY 2016 to be ‘AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT’. It is to give us the opportunity, as a church or as a family or as an individual, to deliberate and look VERY CLOSELY AT OUR PREPARATION for the return of the Lord. MARANATHA DAY is a day set aside for believers to pray, sing, and reflect on the second coming of Jesus Christ. More information is available at www.maranathaday.org. (On Facebook, pls click – www.facebook.com/maranathaday )
On MARANATHA DAY, specific areas we can deliberate upon include: What precisely does it mean to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ? In specific terms, what should I do? What should I avoid? Particularly, how do I avoid distraction in these Last Days? What does it mean to be awake and watchful? Why did Jesus frequently use the term WATCH and PRAY in relation to His return? There are many more similar angles that we can discuss as a church or as a family on MARANATHA DAY. And, as an individual, these are also issues we can reflect on as we await the sudden and imminent return of the Lord. On this page, we also hope to write on these issues in coming days.
Spiritually speaking, we live in perilous times, and we cannot afford to be left out in the thrilling, joyous procession as the Lord meets His true people in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). All we need to do is to LIVE READY. The Bridegroom is on His way. And our days of reigning with Him in glory are just around the corner. Please let us LIVE READY.
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
This article was first written on Church Watch in Nigeria
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