When will Jesus return?
Let’s learn that we do not know when Christ will return but that he will come back and we must keep watch.
Let’s discuss Matthew 24:36-44, prophecy and keeping watch.
Matthew 24:36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
End of an Era (vs. 36)
If Jesus is God the Son and coequal with the Father, how is it that he does not know the day or hour? Perhaps the Athanasian Creed can answer best, where it says that Christ is "equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood.” It is Jesus the man speaking here.
When is the end of the world? Jesus predicted two things, the fall of Jerusalem and that the Gospel would be preached in the whole world. He also said that no one knows the day or the hour of his return, a purposefully vague prophecy. We keep watch, because we do not know on what day our Lord will come.
Like Noah’s Day (vs. 37-39)
Jesus included a picture of apparent normality like in Noah’s day - meals, marriages, agriculture. In this outward sense of normalcy we can become deluded that we don’t need to keep vigilant watch in prayerful preparation for his return. It appears that in apocalyptic times there may also be periods of normalcy. During those times watching will be even more imperative.
Left Behind (vs. 40-41)
All our prophetic theories are inadequate. The so-called “left behind” theories have difficulties with this passage. Jesus compares those “taken away” with those evil people swept away in Noah’s flood. The natural reading of this passage seems to be the opposite of the “left behind” theories. We have enough clues to encourage hope, and enough left out to stimulate faith.
Watching (vs. 42)
One of the mandates in the passage is to watch. The task of a watchman is vigilance. In Matthew 26:41 we are encouraged to watch and pray that we do not give into temptation. Jesus encouraged us in this passage to be ready at all times, because he is coming at an hour when we do not think he will.
Shepherds watched their flocks by night to protect them. Jesus warns us to remain clothed (Revelation 16:15) and he warns us to watch and pray that we do not fall into temptation (Mark 14:38). Unlike the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) a good watch is always at the ready, always on guard lest the enemy tempt them.
Jesus Like a Burglar (vs. 43-44)
How is Jesus like a burglar, a thief in the night? In only one way - his coming is unexpected. The only way to deal with burglars is by being prepared and keeping watch. Most people will be uninterested in Jesus and unaware of the approach of his coming. Jesus challenges us to stay alert, be vigilant, prepared for his coming.
Rather than becoming sucked into the consumerism and materialism of this world, let us live out the kingdom of God here and now, like St Nicholas from Myra who gave away his life’s fortune so that others could be blessed. We cannot know when Christ will return but he will and we must keep watch. We need to watch and pray so that when he comes we will be ready.