Characteristics Of A Watcher
Rock of Offence Commentary
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Heb 9:28 KJV)
Four years ago I woke up to the idea that Jesus' return is imminent. Nearly a third of the Bible relates to endtime prophecy. One in every 25 verses (on average) in the New Testament address the subject of Christ's return in one form or another. As I read the Scriptures concerning this great endtime event I noticed that something was terribly wrong in the modern church. First of all, I was shaken by my own apathy when considering the "signs of the last days". After accepting Jesus Christ in 1969 I was taught by Christians around me to be watchful for the Lord's return. Yet, as years went by I went to sleep. I subtly took the attitude, "Jesus will come--when He comes". Most in the church today take this posture. When you talk to them about the return of Christ they almost always say, "Well, I've heard that all my life" or, "We're not to concern ourselves with knowing the time" or, "The Bible says that no one knows the time of His return" and so on. Yet, these are only excuses for NOT WATCHING. I've discovered that actively watching for the return of our Lord takes spiritual effort. Why? Because if you really believe Jesus is returning you MUST keep your spiritual house in order--and that's an uncomfortable place to live.
What transforms the body of Christ into a company of non-watchers? It's usually the endtime doctrine (or lack thereof) taught in modern churches. I came to Christ in the late 1960's. During that time many evangelical Christians (including full gospel folks) held to a pre-tribulation/pre-millennial endtime belief--meaning that Jesus will return to remove His Church (an event commonly known as the rapture) BEFORE the coming wrath of God (7 year Tribulation period)...and He returns with His Church (at the end of the Tribulation--7 years later) to establish His millennial kingdom on earth. In the early days this belief seemed "main-stream" even with Baptists and Charismatics (two theologically diverse groups). Yet, today the situation is far different. Other "teachings" now permeate the modern church with "post-tribulation" and "pre-wrath" rapture teaching being the most popular and the most damaging. Post-trib teachers believe that Christ only returns "once" at the end of the tribulation period...and only then does the "rapture" or the "catching away" of the Church occur. If you're paying attention--this means you (if you're alive at the time) will go through the tribulation period--the most destructive, horrifying period in the history of planet earth (The destruction and horror is usually downplayed). The Old Testament models for the future tribulation period was Noah's flood and Sodom. Jesus said...
"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." (Luke 17:26-30 KJV)
In contrast, the pre-tribulation view teaches that Christ's Second Coming occurs in two phases. The first phase is His return IN THE AIR to gather His Church before the tribulation because the Church is not appointed to judgment, punishment or wrath. The Second Phase is His physical return with His Church TO THE EARTH seven years later. Through a careful examination of Scripture you can see that Jesus only returns ONCE TO THE EARTH--His earlier return for the Church occurs IN THE AIR. I've found that the pre-trib view is the only one that fits the New Testament Gospel of grace and all other Scripture on the subject.
So, if you're one of the many "Tribulation saint wannabes" you really don't have to watch since the Tribulation hasn't started yet and the Second Coming of Jesus is at least 7 years away. Or, you just might be indifferent about Christ's return--Whatever will be will be! Either way, these beliefs do not match Jesus' definition for a "watcher".
Jesus Told Us To Watch
I've found that after the doctrine of salvation, watching for the imminent return of Jesus Christ is among the most important topics in the New Testament. Actually, the Second Coming of Christ is very much a part of our salvation. It's the completion of our redemption--the redemption of our bodies. It's so important that I'm tempted to think that watching for Christ's return is a characteristic of a true believer. Yet, I know that you can be in a condition of not watching and still be an authentic, heaven-bound Christian because the Church's salvation is by grace. The reader should understand that watching IS NOT a fundamental requirement of salvation. But, Jesus seems to indicate that there are consequences for being caught off-guard by His return. A Christian's core belief is--that our Lord Jesus Christ died and was resurrected on the third day. If you don't believe in Christ's resurrection--you're not going to watch for His return! You watch for His return because He said He was coming back and His resurrection from the dead makes that a fact.
Jesus was clear about the importance of watching. He repeats this imperative making it something that we should give careful and unqualified attention to.
Below, Jesus tells his disciples about the importance of watching...
"And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." (Luke 12:36-40 KJV)
"But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." (Luke 12:45-46 KJV)
Jesus warns his disciples to watch...in order to escape the coming period of wrath...
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:34-36 KJV)
"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." (Mark 13:33-37 KJV)
Below, Jesus speaks to the Church of Sardis in the book of Revelation about watching...
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Rev 3:2-3 KJV)
Paul instructs Titus to look for that "Blessed Hope"--the appearing of Jesus Christ. If you're watching you're also LOOKING!
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:11-14 KJV)
What To Do As A Watcher?
There is massive misinformation in the modern church about how Christians should watch for Jesus in the last days. For example, in several places Jesus tells his disciples that the day or hour of His return can't be known. Some well-meaning teachers have taken this as a command for his disciples not to attempt to figure out the time for His return. They conclude that to do so is sin. I've read the articles of these teachers that use labels such as "false prophet" for anyone who tries to set dates. Yet, there is something in Jesus' words that are commonly missed. He said that the day or hour couldn't be known--but He didn't say the week, month or year couldn't be known. If you think about it...at any one given time the earth is in TWO different days depending on what part of the planet you're on. This makes setting a specific day impossible. Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for not recognizing the "signs of the times" for His first coming. Yet, the Bible records a select group of watchers did recognize the time.
Jesus tells us there are signs that point to his Second Coming--and He tells us to observe the signs. These signs are for watchers only. Many of these signs are found in endtime prophecy from the Scriptures (esp. Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelations). He also gives signs as natural disasters increasing in frequency--and signs in the heavens (Sun, moon, stars). Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians that the Church must be removed before the man of sin (anti-christ) can be revealed. The reign of anti-christ is during the seven-year tribulation period ending with the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Saint Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians contain the strongest proofs of a pre-tribulation rapture. The Bible also teaches that Christ's Second Coming will be patterned like his first coming. Set times corresponding to Jewish feast days governed His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The coming of the Holy Spirit to begin the Church age occurred during the feast of Pentecost. Set times were important then--and they will be again--yet only to those who watch. There are also types and shadows in the Old Testament. Enoch is a shadow of the Church and was raptured or "caught up" to heaven before the great flood of Noah. Most Christians take the words of Jesus about not being able to know the day or hour as an excuse to be non-watchers. Watching is work.
One student of endtime prophecy, Tom Stewart, attempted to defend a Christian's ability to know certain spiritual mysteries. The time of Christ's return qualifies as one of these mysteries. Tom then quoted Jesus as saying...
"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:15 KJV)
Jesus sees us as his friends and members of God's family (his brothers and sisters)--not as slaves. I've known this truth for years. It's so easy to forget these things when there's so much false teaching, legalism and condemnation floating around the church. The premise of Tom's statement is that Jesus reveals secrets to his friends. The first step in being a watcher is to know that Jesus not only loves you--he likes you. He's far more than your Lord--He's your "Kinsman redeemer"--He's the lover of your soul. He established a new covenant at the cross that made you far more than just a servant or slave--it made you a trusted friend and a member of His family. The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world--entirely took away your sin. Sin no longer obstructs your relationship with God. If you start to think this way, Jesus will tell you about things to come. He may even give you some "inside information" about the season of His return. This is not an unbiblical expectation because Jesus said that he reveals such things to his friends.
Next, become a student of endtime prophecy. Make it a passion. Remember that approximately one third of the Bible concerns itself with this subject. Get books that can help you navigate through some of the basics. Authors I can recommend are Chuck Missler, Charles Capps, Thomas Ice, and Dr. David Reagan. I highly recommend a book by Charles Capps entitled, "End Time Events" as a great starting point. Articles by Thomas Ice and Dr. David Reagan (Lamb & Lion Ministries) are available on the Internet. Be careful and selective about who you listen to. Even with these teachers--agreement is not 100 percent. False teaching appearing to be based on Scripture generates much fear and torment among God's people. As strange as it seems, fear-based teaching is very popular among some Christian groups.
Read the Word, especially the book of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation. Because of the depth and complexity of the information you may want to get a structured bible study in your study of Revelation.
Watch the signs of the times and don't be afraid to set approximate seasons for Christ's return. Also, be open to what other like-minded students of Bible prophecy are saying. I've gained valuable insights from those I don't agree with on every point. Jesus does not want you to be in the dark about this event! Right now all the Biblical signs are converging on this decade, which is convincing proof that the departure of the Church to meet Jesus in the air is imminent. When Jesus removes His Church the Tribulation period begins. Billy Graham recently made comments about how time is running out. Because endtime prophecy is "progressive revelation" it's easier now (as the end draws closer) to see the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. Because of the increased revelation available from the Holy Spirit, we have insight that wasn't available even 100 years ago. Jesus is coming!
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." (1Thes 5:1-6 KJV)
What Are We Looking For?
God always warns before judgement comes. Saint Paul reveals the "warning sign" for the Church of Jesus Christ in his first epistle to the Thessalonian Church.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1Thes 4:16-18 KJV)
When the time for the departure of the Church arrives Paul tells us that "the dead in Christ" will be resurrected FIRST...and this event occurs BEFORE Jesus takes the righteous who are alive and remain. A time gap obviously exists between these two occurrences. Scripture presents this event in a way that contradicts a majority of popular "rapture" teaching that says that all Christians disappear "in the twinkling of an eye". Nowhere does the Bible say that the Church departs (or is raptured) "in the twinkling of an eye". Yet, it does say that we will be changed "in the twinkling of an eye". There's a BIG difference between these viewpoints.
Those of us alive and watching are looking for something extraordinary. We're looking for the graves to open and the dead in Christ to rise. That's our warning that we're next! No other prophetic event needs to occur before this happens. The departure of the Church is next on God's calendar. It's the event that sets the stage for the start of the tribulation period. Saint Paul taught that we (the Church) must go up before the devil (as the anti-christ) is revealed. Belief in this event is what separates those who only profess Christianity from those who have real faith in Jesus Christ. It's the same kind of faith that drove Noah to obey God and build an ark in the middle of the desert. People would come from miles around to see the "crazy old man" and his sons building a boat and preaching about the coming judgement (the flood). They laughed and mocked right up to the day that Noah and his family entered the ark and the first drops of rain began to fall. Jesus said the same conditions would exist when He returns.