To Watch or Not

Red Sky

I recently had a conversation with a longtime and devout Christian. I was shocked that she felt it not necessary to be aware of prophesy and where we are on the prophetic time clock. I said, “We get a crown for watching.” And she responded with some hazy concept that these crowns aren’t real crowns, but an allegorical picture of the Lord being our head. I’ve thought about this for several days and think it’s important to point out all the places we are told to be watching and be aware of the times we are living in.
First, Jesus said,

“You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Matt. 16:3

He admonished the religious leaders of His day for not looking up, not realizing they lived in days of prophesy being fulfilled. I’ve heard at least a third of the Bible is prophesy yet unfulfilled. Why would God give us so much advance warning of what the world will be like when Jesus comes to gather His people? From what Jesus said to the Pharisees (middle class businessmen; considered oral tradition equal to the Word of God and turned tradition into religious law) and Sadducees (aristocrats and ruling class; often chief and high priests; more concerned with politics than spiritual things), He indicated they understood everyday events, but invested no thought or consideration of what God told them would come to pass and the signs to watch for. Does that not sound a lot like today?
Oh sure, there are lots of folks with their heads down, eyes on themselves and their lives. And they are leading good Christian lives, yet they are failing to follow Jesus’ instructions to watch. What did Jesus say about watching for His return? When the disciples asked,

What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? Matt. 24:3

Jesus spoke several times about watching (bold emphasis is mine).

So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:28
“Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Matt. 24:29–32
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. Luke 13:28–29

So when we see false messiahs, wars and threats of wars, famines, earthquakes in various places we can know the Kingdom of God is at hand. Hmm, that suggests we know what to look for, watch for evidence of His Word becoming reality, and then we can know the Kingdom is near. But Jesus doesn’t stop there.

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! Matt. 24:36

And what does stay alert mean?

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Matt. 24:42

That we continue to watch was so important to Jesus He wanted to be sure we understood what His expectation. So he gave us a parable.

“The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” Luke 13:32–37

That seems very clear – not only are we to be about His work, but we are to know the signs to look for and to be watching for the signs of His nearing return.

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11

You know how late it is? How could we be expected to know unless we are paying attention to the signs of the times? Okay, so let me challenge you a bit more. Part of our life here is to build our faith, share the good news, and be eagerly awaiting His return. Still not convinced we are really meant to be watching for signs and knowing how close we are to His return?

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27–28

So we are to hope! Pray! AND expect His return!
I have a few more verses to press my point.

And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

Many think there is a crown for right living, but this is very clear. The crown is for right living AND eagerly looking for His return. Don’t be caught up in the cares of your life. No, we are to be looking up, eagerly watching for His return. We are to know the signs of the times and know, like a red sky in the morning, we are to take warning. Time is short before God steps in and intervenes in an awesome way with this world and gathers to Himself those who love Him.
One more point. He also instructed the Jewish people, the apple of His eye, to be watching as well.

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. Luke 12:35–38

You might be thinking that Thessalonians 5:1–3 says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. Lots of people use that as an excuse for not watching. But read the next verses!

But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 1 Thess. 4:4–6

Very clear words. If you are Christian, you are of the light and should not be taken by surprise. Further, in verse 11 we are told to encourage one another by knowing the signs and letting people who come to us concerned about their future and the fearful things happening. We have good news in the face of the world spiralling out of control with global economic distress, increasing earthquakes, wars and religious wars declared and executed, massive droughts and floods leading to famines, the skyrocketing cost of food. So much is going on. The signs are everywhere. Time to look up! Time to watch! Time to eagerly look for His return.

Christian, do you know the signs of the times? Can you talk with unbelievers knowledgeably about what God told us in His Word and follow that up with the good news of salvation? Can you speak of current events from a Biblical perspective?
Do you know once Ezekiel was called to watch, he was held accountable to know the signs and warn people (Ezekiel 33:1-6)? We are called to watch by Jesus Himself. What do you do with the third of God’s Word that gives us the signs of the times of the end? Will we too be held accountable to know the signs and warn our friends?

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