Although the complete fulfillment of Christ’s words following the signs He has given in the Olivet discourse are as certain as summer following the signs of spring, He has also warned that the exact day or hour is unknown, even to Himself. Hence in summary to everything He has said in answer to His disciples’ question about the destruction of the temple and the sign of His coming and the end of the age, He has warned that they must be on the alert. To be alert they must not be drunk with the spirit of the world but filled with the Holy Spirit of God in order to be of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. In this way only are they able to keep watch in a spiritual sense lest they be overcome by evil—as are the false messiahs of the world—rather than overcoming evil with good (Rom 12:21). Even if the head of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, He would have been on the alert and not allowed His house to be broken into—much more would he be on the alert not knowing what time the thief was coming, as Jesus Himself demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hence how especially important it is for those whom He has left in charge of His house to be on the alert and keep watch lest a thief break into their master’s house.
How was it that thieves would break into first century houses? Notice that the word means literally to dig through, and refers to the manner in which thieves would tunnel through the clay brick walls or under a dirt floor to gain entrance to a home, rather than entering through the door as might be expected and so guarded against. How is this like those who secretly break into the Lord’s spiritual house? See Joh 10:1, Gal 2:4, 2Ti 3:6 (NAS text note creep into, NIV worm their way into), 2Pe 2:1, Jude 1:4. What does this remind us about the sneaky nature of the false prophets and false messiahs Jesus has warned about who like their father the devil by sophistry and subtle deceit justify evil as good, and the manner in which they break into the Lord’s house to rob it of the treasure of His kingdom—which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17)? How does it also help us to understand how those whom the Lord has left in charge of His house are to resist such thieves? Cf. Act 20:28-31. Whereas thieves of physical things must be resisted with physical force, with what must thieves of spiritual things be resisted? Cf. 2Co 10:3-5 and think: how many spiritual thieves did the first Christians have to kill to prevent the Lord’s house from being broken into? Rather than seeking to save their lives by killing their enemies, how is it that by laying down their lives as Christ did are His disciples able to find the true nature of eternal life and prevent the treasures of their Master’s house from being taken from them?
In Joh 10:10 Jesus says that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but that He came that we might have abundant life. And yet, here He likens His coming to a thief; see also Rev 3:1-3, 16:15. Notice also that on another occasion while teaching similarly He not only warned His disciples about being alert to prevent thieves from breaking in, but encouraged them that by keeping awake with their lamps alight to answer immediately when He knocks, He would gird Himself to serve them and they would be blessed; see Luk 12:35-40. In what sense does Jesus come both as a thief to destroy and as a Savior to grant eternal life, and how is it that both are true and may be accomplished at the same time? See Mat 24:35, Joh 1:1, Deut 28:1-6,15-19. What does this remind us about the two-fold nature of His coming both for the destruction of His enemies, and for the salvation of those who love and obey Him? See Mat 3:11-12.
Recall that Jesus’ disciples had specifically asked “when will these things happen”, the answer to which is marked by uncertainty: “of that day and hour no one knows”. Although the day and hour are uncertain, what does Jesus say in Mat 24:44 is certain about the time of His coming? Do we realize that every time we engage in sin and imbibe in the spirit of the world, supposing we are safe and that the Lord will not come at such a time, that it is precisely at such a time when the Lord said He would come? Is it possible that He does in fact come at those times with His winnowing fork, and is sifting our hearts through the choices we make, either drawing us closer to Himself, making us a vessel fit for heaven, or hardening our hearts, and making us a vessel fit only for destruction? So then, when confronted by temptations to sin, what must we do? See Heb 4:16, Jam 4:7; cf. 1Co 10:12-13. What then is His conclusion for His disciples in Mat 24:44? What does everything that we have learned teach us about what it means to be ready? See Mat 25:3,10, 2Ti 2:21, Tit 3:1, 1Pe 3:15, Rev 19:7, 21:2. How important was it to God for His people to be prepared at Christ’s first coming? See Luk 1:17. How was it that John the Baptist made ready a people prepared for the Lord? See Luk 3:3-4,7-14. Should we suppose it will be any less important for God’s people to be prepared at Christ’s second coming? See Mat 25:10-13. As God’s people prepare themselves for the return of their Lord so they are ready, what is their Lord also doing for them? See Joh 14:2-3, 1Co 2:9, Heb 11:16.