Title: Aspects of Trust: Vigilance
Text: Matthew 24: 36-44
FCF: We often struggle keeping watch for the Son’s return
Prop: Because His return is immanent, we must trust Him by being vigilant.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 24. As we continue through chapter 24 and into chapter 25, we will continue to talk about eschatology, or the study of the end times. However, most of the disagreement between differing eschatological positions is behind us. What remains is Jesus’ application of all that He has said, particularly in reference to His second coming.
Last week we saw how His coming was both certain and soon. These truths had devastating effects on those who’s spiritual status is unknown. The time for them to wake up is running short, but even now there is time for them to respond to God’s offer of mercy with repentance.
We concluded by applying the certainty and immanency of our Lord’s return to His followers. The elect. I cheated a little last week and told you to come back for the next 5 weeks if you wanted to know what it meant for us. But then I threw you a bone and told you that broadly it means we must trust our King. Being ready for His coming depends on whether our trust in Him is enduring.
So today we will begin a little mini-series on the aspects of trust. What does it mean to trust our Lord?
The first aspect of trust is that we remain vigilant.
Look with me in verse 36 of Matthew chapter 24. Today I am reading from the NIV but you can following along in the pew bible on page 1123 or in whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible, please take a pew bible for your own.
[Slide 2] How many of you are familiar with the movie Home Alone? It has become a Christmas time classic. A young 8 year old boy is left at home, alone, as his entire family goes to Europe. At first this is the exact thing little Kevin McAllister hoped would happen. But eventually he starts to miss his family. That feeling is only amplified when a couple of, not so brilliant thieves decide to rob his home. Kevin overhears their plan to come at a specific time to rob his house and he prepares for their arrival by setting up various traps. Hilarity ensues as the bad guys are outwitted by an 8 year old. Through his advanced planning, and some outside help, Kevin is able to defend his home, the bad guys go to jail, and his family returns early from their vacation to reunite with him.
As crazy as it may sound, Jesus tells a very similar story in the text today, and it all has to do with who we trust, and how that trust materializes in our everyday lives.
I.) The wicked will be completely unprepared for His coming, so we must trust Him by being vigilant.
a. [Slide 3] 36 – But about that day or hour no one knows,
i. The exact moment of Christ’s return is unknowable. This is not the first time we have seen this stated.
ii. But in answering the disciples’ questions, Jesus has both said that the exact timing of his coming is unknowable (like a lightening strike)… but then gives clear signs of it up to his actual coming, meaning that a general knowledge of the timing of His coming could be observed (conditions being right for lightening,.)
iii. It is as if Jesus is speaking in riddles. Something He never does. J
iv. Maybe we should press on in the context and see if we can understand where Jesus is going with this.
b. [Slide 4] not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
i. There is some debate over whether the phrase “nor the son” should be put in after the angels of heaven.
1. Many manuscripts omit the phrase
2. Many manuscripts have the phrase
3. Mark 13 is the synoptic equivalent to Matthew’s account, and there Mark includes the phrase with virtually no manuscript question.
4. Either way you look at it, the next phrase makes Jesus’ meaning plain. ”The Father Alone”
ii. No Spirit beings, no one and no thing that dwells in the spirit realm, except God the Father, alone, knows the exact moment the Son of Man will return. That is a pretty short list. And yes, that would include the Son. Somehow, equal in essence, and being omniscient, the Son is still not privy to the information God has – And while that may be difficult or even impossible for us to grasp how exactly that works, we can know with certainty that if must be an act of the sovereign will of the Father and an ongoing act of humble submission and obedience of the Son to the Father.
iii. What a beautiful example of how the Son demonstrates for us that it is not necessary for us to know all that God has planned in order for us to submit to Him. We could probably stop right here…
c. [Slide 5] 37 – As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
i. Jesus draws a comparison now between the events of the Days of Noah and the coming of the Son of man. The difficulty then, is in knowing how far the comparison goes.
ii. This comparison extends through verse 41, but there are some things that are clear about this comparison and others that are not.
d. [Slide 6] 38 – For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark.
i. Many people have taken Jesus’ statement in verse 37, and as if 38-41 do not exist, they start drawing their own comparisons between the end times and Noah’s day.
ii. Some examples include:
1. Noah’s day was very violent, so violence will prevalent in the times leading up to the Coming of the Son.
2. Noah’s day was where every thought of every person was evil continually, so it will be before the coming of the Son of Man.
3. Noah’s day was full of debauchery where people worshiped demons, and so will be the same in the time of the coming of the Son of Man.
iii. And all these applications, perhaps, are not strictly wrong. But Jesus compares His coming and the days of Noah, not vaguely, but specifically. Jesus Himself tells us how the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah, and surprisingly it has nothing to do with how wicked society becomes.
iv. So what is the point of comparison?
v. People lived as if life would continue as it always had, all the way up to the flood. They ate and drank. They married and gave in marriage. There were people who were probably having birthday parties, wedding celebrations, buying property, building houses, making alliances, political agreements, wars beginning, wars ending, going to work, taking baths, brushing their teeth, sewing their clothes – all the way up to the point that the door was shut to the ark… and the rains began to fall.
vi. They were completely oblivious to the fact that the world was going to be destroyed. But they were not without warning.
vii. Although the flood account in Genesis never overtly mentions Noah warning anyone that a flood was coming… Something I found interesting.
viii. In II Peter 2:5, Peter calls Noah a preacher or a herald of righteousness. Meaning that it is probable that Noah went about warning people that the boat he had been making over 100 years, was their only hope at escaping the imminent wrath of God. That they should repent and obey God.
ix. And yet…
e. [Slide 7] 39 – and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.
i. They knew nothing. They were unaware. They didn’t have any idea that the judgment was coming until when?
ii. Until the flood overwhelmed them and took them away.
iii. Took them away is an interesting phrase that I want you to put in the back of your mind.
iv. And it may be interesting to note, and you can double check if you want to, but God in Genesis 6 gave mankind 120 years before He would destroy them. Also in Chapter 6 he tells Noah that He will do this, and instructs him to build an ark. But when did He tell Noah the exact day the flood would happen? Genesis chapter 7, 7 days before it happened.
v. Now I don’t tell you that to try to support one view or another of the end times – but I do tell you that to inform you, that the one’s God planned to save from the flood got the same warning as everyone else that it was coming – but it was only when the event was 1 week away that God let Noah know. What if Noah had waited until then to build the ark? Do you think he would have made it? He and His family, although not knowing the exact day for most of the 120 years, they trusted God and were vigilantly prepared for Him to fulfill His word.
f. [Slide 8] That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
i. Specifically, Jesus is not talking about the wickedness of Noah’s day, but rather, the general ignorance and lack of concern of the event by all but Noah’s family.
ii. The same will be true when the Son returns. The unrighteous will be caught completely unaware.
g. [Slide 9] 40 – 41 – Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
i. So question… does “taken” mean salvation or judgment?
ii. Because if Jesus is comparing the events of Noah to the events of the coming of the Son of Man, the people in Noah’s day who were taken, were taken to judgment.
iii. But perhaps Jesus has ceased his comparison with Noah altogether. And is talking about the elect being gathered together, taken from where they were to be with Him.
iv. Or perhaps Jesus is not emphasizing the mode of judgment or salvation, but rather, simply the suddenness of the event, and the clear separation of the two kinds of people.
v. In my estimation it is very difficult to try to determine if being taken is salvation or judgment… but to be honest I don’t think it matters all that much.
vi. The point of the passage is clear… Everyone will think life goes on as it always has, until it doesn’t. Until something happens and the sheep and goats are divided.
h. [Slide 10] Passage Truth: So what is Jesus teaching in this passage to His disciples and Matthew to the Jews ? Very clearly the truth of this passage is that no one knows the exact moment of the Son of Man’s return. In so much, that the wicked are found completely unprepared for its coming.
i. Passage Application: Although Jesus has yet to overtly give us an application, it is obvious that Jesus wants His disciples to be the opposite of the people in Noah’s day, and rather, be Noah. Noah who was prepared for the event. Jesus wants His followers to be prepared.
j. [Slide 11] Broader Biblical Truth: Broadening this out to a whole bible truth we can conclude that from this context and others, that even now only God the Father knows when all of this will end. When He will send His Son to judge the earth. Therefore to try to speculate what day and time it may be is pointless.
k. Broader Biblical Application: The most obvious bible application, which will be expanded on in our next point, is that we who are of Christ, ought not to be unaware. We have been given the signs of the coming of the Son of Man, and must be ready. However, as an additional aside to those who are not of Christ, I must warn you that if you are waiting until you see the sign of the Son of Man, if you are hoping that He will give you a chance at his judgment. If you are banking his hand moving to strike you down but then asking if you might repent, then you are woefully mistaken. God will not pause His plan for you. You too will be swept away on that day. And what is infinitely more horrific, is that it will be a day like any other day. You’ll be on your way to work, going about your business, and the wrath of the Lamb will be upon you.
So the primary focus in the first half of this text is on the unpreparedness of the unrighteous. And Jesus’ implied hope is that His disciples will not be like that. Now in the second part of our text this morning, Jesus will make that hope plain.
II.) His elect ought to know that His coming is soon, so we must trust Him by being vigilant.
a. [Slide 12] 42 – Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
i. Jesus’ application is right there on the surface. We need not overcomplicate it.
ii. Keep watch! Stay alert because you do not, and will not know the day of the coming of the Son of Man.
iii. Again, we may know the general time of His coming… but not the specific time.
b. [Slide 13] 43 – But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
i. Jesus wants His disciples to understand where He is going with this, so they can be ready.
ii. So he gives them an illustration and we need to understand what Jesus is saying so let’s unravel this story.
1. If the owner of a house had known, and depending on your translation you probably have: time, hour, part of the night, time of the night or watch. This is interesting because the word is actually watch. Meaning the KJV is probably the best translation here.
2. We’ve talked about this before, but in Jewish and even Roman reckoning, night began at 6PM and went to 6AM. 12 hours. And the night was divided into 4 watches. 4, 3 hour time periods of guard duty.
3. Basically Jesus is saying that if a home owner knew which 3 hour window a thief would come in, what would he do?
4. He would have been alert, not allowing his house to be broken into.
iii. I have wrestled back and forth with this. I am going to give you an interpretation of this parable that was not supported by any commentator that I consulted. So already, I know I am on thin ice here. But let me explain what I am thinking.
1. Jesus says – stay alert. Keep watch. Why? Because you don’t know the day that your Lord will come. Jesus uses a 2nd person plural pronoun, y’all, so he is clearly talking to His disciples. Not a 3 person (they) as he does to the unsaved – as he did with the wicked in Noah’s day. So – Believers need to stay alert and keep watch because they don’t know the day Jesus will return.
2. Then the illustration. He says that if a homeowner knew, not the exact moment, not the precise hour, but the watch. The 3 hour window of the night that the thief would arrive, what would he do?
3. He would be alert and not allow His house to be broken into.
4. Now most commentators say that since thieves don’t announce their coming, Jesus is saying that we need to always keep watch. Ok I would agree with that. We need to always be ready. But, is that what Jesus is saying? I don’t think so. Because in
5. [Slide 14] I Thessalonians 5:1-6, which is up on the screen, Paul seems to tell the Thessalonians that the day of His coming should not overtake them like a thief would.
6. Jesus is saying to be alert, not because we have no idea when the thief is coming, but because like Noah, and like the homeowner, we KNOW the 3 hour window that the thief will come. We know that we are IN that 3 hour window. We know that the time is ripe. We know that His coming is soon.
7. And that point should cause us to rise up, stay alert, and keep watch! Not because we might be surprised, but because We have seen the signs!
c. [Slide 15] 44 – So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
i. But even knowing the 3 hour window a thief is coming, does not mean you know exactly when. Even knowing The Son of Man is coming soon, doesn’t mean we know the exact moment.
ii. Even for the elect the exact moment remains unknown. Why? Because we are in Christ… and even the Son doesn’t know!
iii. So we must be ready. Because we are already in the night my friends.
iv. We are already the homeowner poised for the thief’s coming
v. We are Noah, who has been told that in 7 days the flood will come.
vi. The homeowner doesn’t know the second, Neither Noah the hour, but we have been given enough to know, that we must be ready!
d. [Slide 16] Passage Truth: So what is Jesus teaching His disciples and Matthew the Jews? Specifically we see Jesus reminding His followers that they have been told the signs. They have been given what they need to be ready.
e. Passage Application: And in knowing the signs they are implored to trust Him. Trust Him that He is telling the truth to them. And what does trust look like? Being ready. Staying alert. Keeping watch.
f. [Slide 17] Broader Biblical Truth: So for us we must understand that for we who are alive with Christ, we are not ignorant of the signs of His coming. We are not kept in darkness. We have been given enough to know that it is soon.
g. Broader Biblical Application: Therefore as an expression of our faith in Christ, in His words and His person, we keep watch. We stay alert. We make ourselves ready. We must be vigilant.
[Slide 18 (blank)(end)] So what does this mean for us? What does it look like to be vigilant in everyday life?
With the image of two in the field and one taken one left, and two grinding grain, one taken and one left, we can surmise that it would be inappropriate for this “vigilance” to mean cashing in all our stocks and bonds and giving everything away, and moving to the Mount of Olives so we can be there when He gets there. Whichever one was saved, they didn’t quit their day job. Remember we know the signs but not the exact moment.
Vigilance rather is the state of keeping watch. Actively being prepared. Vigilance speaks more to attitude than action. Perspective rather than practice. Mindset over Activity.
Vigilance is not something that we can go do, but is something that we are.
Vigilance has nothing to do with what the world around us looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like, but rather on the dependability of the Words of our King.
What is your disposition toward this world? Is it perishing? Is it a foreign land? Is it dry? Is it weary? Is there anything that will remain in this life that you are hoping Jesus comes after?
In my youth I hoped Jesus would come after The Phantom Menace came out so I could see it… After I saw the Phantom Menace I wished He would have come before George Lucas wrote it. J
But you get my point right? What is your disposition toward the Kingdom of God? When you say, let your kingdom come, do you mean it? Are you eagerly anticipating the end of all that is your life now, so you can start a new one with Him?
Or do you ever think about His coming at all? Is it ever on your radar? Does me even talking about it cause you to say – whew not ready for that.
I think Jesus summarized it best when He said – Seek God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness First. What does it look like to trust Christ? It is to remain vigilant. To remain prepared for His coming. It is a state of mind, a state of your soul, a state of your being where the end of this world and beginning of His reign is your shadow following you through this life reminding you of the brilliance of the sun above you. Making plans, but knowing that they could be interrupted at any time. Having priorities structured around the coming of the Son of Man. Living life as if we are one breath away from everything being made right again.
Do you think that would change how you live? How you make decisions? How much time you spend on this or that? Would that change how you view retirement? Leisure? Family? Life in general? Would you pray more fervently for your unbelieving family members?
The greatest and most terrible day in human history will begin like every other before it. By all standards of measure, it would be described as ho hum, boring, or normal. But in a moment… it will all change.
Don’t be swept away my friends. Be vigilant.