Vol. 11 No. 8 August 2009
Imagine receiving a letter that contained the following information. The writer is leaving on a vacation. He will not tell you when he is coming back, but he is leaving you very specific instructions. While he is gone you are to water and feed his two dogs, Scarlet and Gray, twice a day. He needs you to clean out his gutters because the weathermen are forecasting storms for the coming week. Finally, you should collect his mail and retrieve his newspaper from the driveway each day. Again, you do not know when he is coming back, but when he returns, these tasks must be completed.
Now, imagine receiving a similar letter, but this one gives a definitive date for the writer’s return. You’ll know the exact date and time. All the tasks are the same—no more, no less.
Human nature dictates that you will respond quicker to the first letter than to the second letter. If the writer will return at any moment, you will diligently perform the tasks. However, if the writer tells you the exact time of his arrival, you will let your responsibilities lapse until the final moments. In the mean time, the gutters will clog, newspapers will pile up in the driveway, and poor Scarlet and Gray will be hungry and thirsty.
In Scripture, Jesus’ Second Coming is compared to a thief who does not announce his arrival. It will be a surprise. Man cannot mathematically calculate Christ’s return (although some have tried). Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). There are no secret, coded messages in Scripture that only the lucky few will be able to decipher, and therefore, know when Christ will return. It will be sudden and marvelous. Were we to know the exact time of His arrival, we would have a tendency to live for ourselves until the determined date—and the world around us would suffer.
The Thessalonians completely misunderstood Christ’s return, so Paul penned two inspired letters to them in order to clarify the subject. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6, Paul not only explains the sudden nature of Jesus’ return, but also how we should live knowing that Christ will return at any moment: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
Jesus has given us many responsibilities. We must be diligent to obey Him each day. We must remain alert and sober. We must be ready!