How do we awaken, watch and prepare for the end?
Jesus' return is as real as the flood was in Noah's time
In a prior post, we discussed what Jesus said about the signs of the end.
Some Christians are reluctant to study end times prophecy or to consider the signs of the times. Perhaps they believe, since nobody knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we should just go about our day and ignore the world. In their minds, why bother with end times prophecy, just live a good Christian life, and let God worry about the rest.
Then there are Christians who are so focused on the end, that they live in a constant state of anxiety. They look for end times significance in everything and spend exorbitant amounts of time and money stockpiling supplies to survive the apocalypse. They spend too much time worrying and not enough time joyfully living the Gospel.
One is dismissive and the other is obsessed.
Neither will be prepared for the end, so what should good Christians do to prepare?
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner 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 unexpected hour. Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 24:42-51)
Mark the Evangelist writes a similar message.
“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mk 13:33-37)
As does Luke.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21:34)
The Greek words used in Jesus’ warnings are:
ἀγρυπνέω (agrupneō), meaning to be sleepless, keep awake, watch; to be circumspect, attentive, ready.
γρηγορεύω (grēgoreuō), meaning to watch; metaphorically give strict attention to, be cautious, active; to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.
φυλακή (phulakē), meaning guard, watch.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, 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 Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mt 24:36-39) See also Mk 13:32.
Make no mistake, Jesus tells us to be vigilant and watch for the signs of the end because his return is as real as the flood was in Noah’s time, which caught almost everyone by surprise. His return will be swift and unexpected, like a thief in the night, but neither presumptuous indifference nor obsessed despair are proper ways for Christians. Rather, we must do what Jesus said. Awaken, watch and prepare, but do so only in a spirit of peace and trust in the Lord and with loving joy for the Gospel.
That means, while being wise and attentive to the world around us, we pray continuously, worship devotedly and serve others lovingly by doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy until God calls us home.
Truly live each day as if it were our last.
Aguilar Chiu, Jose Enrique, Richard J. Clifford, Carol J. Dempsey, Eileen M. Schuller, Thomas D. Stegman, Ronald D. Witherup, eds. The Paulist Biblical Commentary. New York: Paulist Press, 2018.
Attridge, Harold W. ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible, Including Apocryphal Deuterocanonical Books. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
Harrelson, Walter J., ed. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.