[idou] I come [erchomai] as [hos] a thief. [kleptes] Blessed [makarios] is he that watcheth, [gregoreuo] and [kai] keepeth [tereo] his [autos] garments, [himation] lest [hina me] he walk [peripateo] naked, [gumnos] and [kai] they see [blepo] his [autos] shame. [aschemosune] KJV-Interlinear
("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and
keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.") NASB
Too often people look to this passage as a Rapture passage, and ignore the context of the chapter. But as we have already studied, the Rapture will have already occurred.
Believers in the Church Age are to be spared from living during those last days of history, Rev. 3:10. The last days is the expression for the seven year Tribulation.
The expression 'end times' is a reference for our entire Church Age, which Paul has defined for us. So do not confuse these two phrases.
A thief is one who comes at a time that is not known to the owner of a home. In ancient times, and in current times as well, for sure, thieves do not announce their arrival or their theft. They check out their target, watch when the home owner comes and goes, and then when the owner least expects it, they sneak in and steal and then leave.
The home owner knows nothing of the theft until he returns, and/or discovers the break-in after it has already occurred. It is all a complete surprise. If the home owner knew of the theft before hand, then he would wait for the thief and then prevent the robbery.
In our passage, the homeowner is a reference to the believers that are awaiting Christs return. The thief is a reference to Christ, and the unknown event of the robbery is His Second Advent.
Now, there is not going to be a robbery. The emphasis here is on the timing of the Second Advent. It is unknown as far as those who are on the earth, and waiting for Him.
Review the state of the world. Believers who are going to survive, are in hiding. Some perhaps for several years.
The world is in turmoil. Calendars and watches, the date and time, will easily have been confused and lost as far as keeping track of time. The best that they can do is keep track of the seasons, but then stress and time would probably make that difficult to keep track of as well.
All they have to go on are the judgments, and especially the fifth bowl judgment of darkness which we just finished studying. They may or may not have operating radios, but then what news media would be broadcasting the truth anyway?
Knowing that (the darkness), believers in hiding would know that the time was very close, but there still is the final battle of Armageddon which needs to play out. That would take some time for countries, to be deceived and convinced, for armies to be assembled and equipped, for transportation to the Middle East and then the assault from all directions to be executed.
The actual sequence of events of the last battle are addressed in Exe. 38-39.
But here we have the final warning to believers who are in hiding. They will be weary and tired and stressed out from their concealment and difficult life that they have been forced to live in hiding.
'Do not come out too early, lest you get caught up in the final judgments and get yourself killed or captured, and then certainly killed.'
'Do not allow your stresses to get the best of you and do not give up on your waiting.'
For certainly there will be some of those who will reach their breaking point, and will not want to hide any more. They will want to believe the loud speakers, 'Christ has returned. Come see Him.' Or they will simply not want to live in the caves anymore.
By coming out, they place themselves in jeopardy, as well as others, whom they were with, that remain in hiding.
And so the warning, keep your clothes on and keep them clean.
This is not a wedding feast directive while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive, but is spoken in the language of military preparedness. Stay on the alert.
This is not an order to stay awake either.
It is a warning that instructs people to keep up with their doctrine. For doctrine is their only defense against giving up, or becoming deceived. Spiritual alertness means sticking with doctrine, sticking with ones daily study or review (as in their case), of the promises that especially apply to them in that future time.
With doctrine, you will never be disappointed, never become dismayed, never have doubts, you will never give up.
Doctrine is the clothing wrapped around your soul that makes you whole and presentable both to God and to the general public.
Lack of doctrine is the nakedness of ones soul, the lack of preparation, the lack of faith, the lack of discernment. The lack of doctrine exacerbates ones attitude and stability. It exaggerates ones frustration and lack of patience.
Therefore, to be spiritually alert, you have to be current and consistent in your daily studies. The soldier maintains his post in an alert state. He watches for the enemy. He constantly watches the horizon for trouble. And that is the function of doctrine in your soul. You study, you learn, you confess in order for your spiritual life to function properly.
To fall asleep is to fail in the function of your spiritual life, to become lax or lazy or inconsistent in your daily studies, to slip in the application of doctrinal principles to your life.
Our context in this chapter is the final countdown of judgments to the Second Advent. Though that date will be unknown to those who will be anxiously waiting for Christ. They will have been waiting for probably what will seem like an eternity, but they will in fact be in the final weeks or days. It will be no time for giving up, when they have come so far, and are now so close to the expected promise of Christ's return.
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