Jesus has just warned His disciples that while His coming and the end of the age that will follow the signs He has given in the Olivet discourse are as certain as the summer that follows the signs of spring, the exact day and hour when these things shall happen is unknown to any except the Father. He has also warned that His coming / parousia will be just like the days of Noah. For as the light of His presence was manifested in the righteous preaching of Noah that men rejected to go about their daily business with no regard for their souls so that they were driven deeper and deeper into the darkness of sin by their own choices until the flood came and took them all away, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. This was the case in the days leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple as the light of the gospel went forth through the righteous preaching of Christ’s gospel that drove the unbelieving Jews deeper and deeper into the darkness of their sins by their rejection of the light of Christ until they too were taken away in a flood of destruction. In this same way because the word of God is eternal and will never pass away (Mat 24:35), we believe Jesus’ words in Mat 24 are just as important in our own day and age. For as people refuse to come to the Lord’s feast He has prepared in His word and go about their daily business in the world with no regard for their eternal souls (Mat 22:1-5) supposing things will continue as they always have (2Pe 3:4), they too are slowly being driven into the darkness of sin, which like leaven spreads surely but imperceptibly throughout their whole lump. At the same time, God’s hands are wide open, stretched out (Rom 10:21) even to the offering of His only Son upon the cross to receive any who might turn to Him and be saved—even a dying thief in the last breaths of his life (Luk 23:39-43). In this way, as men today or in any age continue to reject the great love of God and harden their hearts against the light of the truth they fall deeper and deeper into the darkness of their own self-delusion, storing up wrath for themselves in the day of God’s wrath, until nothing remains for them too but to be swept away in the Lord’s judgment that will come upon them like a thief, and like a flood, just like in the days of Noah, just like in 70 A.D.
Recall that the intent of the disciples’ original question about Jesus’ coming was that they might not be caught up in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple; in answering their question what does Jesus now conclude for them that they must do in order to avoid being swept away along with His enemies in that day? See Mat 24:42. What does it mean to “be on the alert”? Notice that the Greek word used means to be awake (ESV, NRS) or keep watch (KJV, NIV), and implies a time of darkness and danger; see Mat 24:43-44, 25:13, 1Th 5:6, Rev 3:2-3, 16:15; cf. 1Ma 12:27. Again, what was the darkness and danger of the approaching night for which Jesus says His disciples needed to be awake and alert so as to not be taken by surprise? See Mat 24:38-39. What does this remind us about our Christian walk in this world not always happening during times of day when everything is plain and evident spiritually because the light of the truth is shining brightly? Cf. Joh 9:4, 12:35-36. Although we are living in the most technologically advanced time in all of history and the wonders of our modern age abound all around us, is this necessarily a time of spiritual day, or is it possibly a time of spiritual night? Cf. Mat 24:24-25.
What does Scripture teach is the spiritual counterpart to keeping watch physically for a physical danger such as a thief? I.e., how does one keep awake spiritually so as to not be taken by surprise? See Mat 26:38-41, Eph 6:18, Col 4:2; cf. Luk 21:36. What does Scripture teach is the spiritual counterpart of being alert physically in the presence of physical danger? See 1Th 5:6,8, 1Pe 5:8. As a person cannot effectively keep watch without being alert, what are we to understand is essential if we are to pray effectively? See 1Pe 4:7. What is the opposite of being physically sober? As physical spirits make one physically drunk, what is the spirit that makes people spiritually drunk? See 1Co 2:12. What is the opposite of being filled with the spirit of the world, and what does this teach us about what it means to be of sober spirit or sober-minded? Cf. Eph 5:18-19, Col 3:15-16. As one who is physically drunk with wine or liquor cannot be alert to keep watch, what are we to understand about those who are spiritually drunk, being full of the spirit of the world? Is it possible for them to be alert to keep watch in the spiritual sense they need to be in order to not be taken by surprise at the Lord’s coming? Cf. 1Jo 2:15-17. If one loves the world and the things in the world, will he be able to discern the worldly messiahs Jesus has warned about that will mislead, if possible, even the elect? What do these things again teach us about the nature of the Lord’s coming? Would Jesus have warned His disciples to be on the alert if His coming was like a surprise trip to Disneyland as so many imagine?
1. NRS 1 Maccabees 12:27 So when the sun had set, Jonathan commanded his troops to be alert and to keep their arms at hand so as to be ready all night for battle, and he stationed outposts around the camp.↩