Summary: Anticipation of the Master’s return generates a sense of anticipation in His people.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[1]

Of all the Gospel writers, the Evangelist Matthew devotes more verses to record what the Master said concerning the days preceding His return to reign over the earth. A large portion of Matthew 24 deals with signs that are not actually about Jesus’ return,[2] though they refer to conditions that will prevail on the earth in the days preceding that event. A very small portion of the chapter describes the return of the Master.[3] However, a large portion of the chapter[4] and all of chapter 25 (62 verses in total) are devoted to warning us to get ready since we do not know when He will return to reign. Put another way, the Master stresses the need for readiness through the use of seven historical references and verbal pictures—four in chapter 24 and three in chapter 25. The application should be self-evident: Are you ready? Christians should live in anticipation of the Master’s return, looking for this Blessed Hope.

There is a significant point of contrast between verse 33 and verse 36. In verse 33, Jesus says “You know,” referring to the fact that when certain events begin to unfold, the observant individual may know with certainty what is coming. On the other hand, in verse 36, He says “No one knows,” speaking of the precise timing of His return. “You know” arises from observing multiplication of various signs: “false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, apostasy and false prophets.” However, the timing of His return is hidden from men. Though many people—Bible teachers who imagine they have a foolproof method of calculating the timing of His return, modern Gnostics who imagine they have hidden knowledge, and outright charlatans who seek to dupe the gullible—attempt to set dates for His return, they always turn out to be wrong, and they will continue to be shown to be foolish and errant.

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