Summary: What is it to be ready for His return

Parable of the watchful servants

Be Ready for His Return

Luke 12:35-48

In the New Testament , a phrase is used frequently with regard to the Day of the Lord or the return of Jesus Christ. Though it may vary slightly from verse to verse, numerous instructions are given to "watch, because the Day of the Lord [will come] as a thief in the night" "Watch" in such instances does not mean what many think it means. It is tied closely with our Savior's return, yet it has little to do with physical observation. Why is such watching important? What does it have to do with Christ returning as "a thief in the night?"

One oft-quoted "watching" verse is Luke 21:36: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." - KJV. It is frequently interpreted to mean that we should be closely watching current events so we know how close we are to Christ's return. The common paraphrase of this command is "watch world news, so that as you begin to see prophecy unfold, you can escape the horrors of the Tribulation."

This interpretation has led to a cottage industry of sorts within the church of God. A tremendous amount of effort is put into commenting on world events and tying them into biblical prophecy. The underlying assumption is that God wants us to have our finger on the pulse of the news, and this knowledge will make us worthy to escape all those prophesied things. But does this assumption agree with Scripture?

Now, the Greek word translated "watch" has nothing to do with looking at events or keeping world news under close observation. Even without examining the underlying Greek, we can tell from the context that Jesus has something else in mind. Verse 36 of Luke chapter 21 begins, "Watch therefore," signaling that it concludes or summarizes previous material. We cannot understand verse 36 until we know what preceded it.

Verses 34-35 provide the context for Jesus' command to "watch"


“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” –KJV.

Clearly, Jesus' message is not an admonition to watch world events so that we will know when He will return. Instead, His instruction is to watch ourselves, which is what "take heed to yourselves" suggests. He is talking about being vigilant about our own spiritual state, as well as being circumspect and spiritually awake as we go through life. The danger is that, if we do not "watch" ourselves—that is, continually take stock of our condition and responsibilities—self-indulgence and material concerns will distract us, and we will find ourselves spiritually unprepared when the end comes.

Luke 21:36, then, is not an injunction to be glued to CNN, FOX NEWS, or any other news source. In fact, a subtle danger exists in being too caught up in current events, as it can distract us from the more vital spiritual preparation. The upshot is that the Day will come, and we do not know when.

Watching events unfold is not what makes us "worthy to escape," on the other hand “watch therefore ” means our cooperation with God as He forms His character image in us. Thus, in addition to prayer, we have to be vigilant in our covenant with Him. We have to "take heed" to ourselves constantly, examining our walk and how we are seeking and imitating God underthe leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word translated "watch," at its most basic, means "to be sleepless," implying continuous and wakeful concern, such as being on watch when a loved one is ill. It means to be intent or to exercise constant vigilance over something, as a shepherd watches over against drowsiness or confusion. Watching signifies a state of being untouched by any influence that may cloud the mind; one "watching" is on the alert for dangers . Obviously, this state will not transpire from following—or even deeply analyzing—current events. Because if the Lord God will not tell His Son when He will return He will certainly not tell the news channels or for that matter any other person – Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36.

The setting of this particular teaching is somewhere along the way as Jesus traveled from Jerusalem back to the region of Galilee. It is in some population center because a large crowd has quickly gathered after Jesus had cast out a demon healing a mute man (Luke 11:14-26) and then had lunch with a Pharisee who had invited other Pharisees and some lawyers (scribes) Luke 11:37-53) . No doubt the combination of the news of this miracle and the contention between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees during their lunch has contributed to the crowd swelling to the point that Luke 12:1 describes it as “stepping on one another.”

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