Summary: We delve here into the concept of watching for Christ, watching for prophecy fulfillment, watching for our own taking away to heaven.
4. THE "WATCH" PASSAGES
Matthew 24 is key to our understanding of who comes when. Remember the questions of the disciples? "When will you come?" "When will the world end?"
Jesus goes into a long description, not of signs of the end, but signs that are not the end, so they will not be confused. Then comes a couple of clear signals.
a. The Gospel will be preached in all the world. And even more specific:
b. The abomination of desolation, described by Daniel and Paul, will occur in Jerusalem.
People living in the region will flee. Pandemonium everywhere. For three and a half long years, unprecedented trouble on earth.
Immediately after the tribulation, He comes.
Now, after all I have said, have you figured out the exact day and hour? No! And neither had the disciples. And neither will the people living in that time, per Jesus' words in verse 36:
"Of that day and hour no one knows."
You see how He goes from clear sign to general time in just a few verses?
Hidden in the talk of great tribulation and an abomination that desolates, is the teaching of the antichrist. Jesus says here in so many words, "Antichrist must come first. Then Me."
After all of this horrendous trouble, the words of Jesus, addressed to those remaining believers - and they do remain! - is the solemn command, "Watch!"
Our Father knew that scanning the skies for at least 2,000 years would be fruitless. But in that day, Watch! When you get that far in history, any day, Jesus will come. Be ready when He comes.
That doctrine of "any day", theologically known as "imminence" has been transferred to us in this pre-tribulation time. Perhaps wrongly. But let's examine some more "watch" passages.
I find the next occurrence in Matthew's next chapter, 25. It follows a parable about ten virgins. There is a sense in which this can be applied to any age, any believer, but you will note that chapter 25 begins with the word, "Then."
Then? When? In this time period of which we speak. Satan in the form of his antichrist, wreaking havoc. The Jerusalem temple inhabited by a man of sin. Unspeakable horrors everywhere. Then!
And yet, in some corners of the earth in that day, normal life is trying to surface. As we remember after 9-11, the call back to normalcy was immediate. People will live. They will survive. They keep trying to believe that all is and will be well.
Remember the stories of the period of the Holocaust? In the midst of the horror, there was a "normal life" going on.
For those Christians, reminded now of their duty to stay full of the Holy Ghost, the command again, to "watch!" You just don't know exactly when He is coming. You've endured this long. The temptation is great to join the "normal" folks who have sold out to antichrist and can eat and drink and buy and sell. Don't yield. Wait. He's really coming. Any day.
As I say, the applications for all time, all believers, are clear and real. But the specificity of this word, "Then" cannot be ignored either.
Once Antichrist has come, Christ is due any moment.
Yes, John in his day said there are many antichrists. Through history, many saw emperors and Popes in that role. The whole world system can be viewed as antichrist also. There are "many antichrists," says John.
But one day there will be a man. One man. Filled with Satan. Raised from the dead. Sitting in the Temple. Attempting to rule a planet. When you see that, Watch!
Jesus in verse 33 says that when we see all these things, and that includes antichrist, tribulation, all of it, then you know Jesus is at the very door.
Not until then.
So how must I watch? I must be ready to go to Jesus any minute of any day, through death.
Mark's Gospel records the words of Jesus that include everyone of all time:
"What I say to you (disciples) I say to all: Watch!" These words are spoken in the same context as Matthew 24. Now, Jesus has already said in Matthew that there are signs of His coming. Then he tells everyone of every generation to watch.
The Father, speaking through Jesus, knows that Jesus' coming is not imminent in every generation, but only one. Yet he has us all watching.
Watching for the coming of the Son of Man into our lives, into our world. Watching lest, like His sleepy disciples, we miss the main events of our lives. Watching, which is always accompanied by praying, so that our lives not be snatched away by the Enemy of our souls. Watching is a lifestyle.
But only the last generation will be watching the eastern sky for the revelation of the Son of God.