“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.”
Both Jesus and most of the writers of the New Testament share a common motif, which is the need for watchfulness, especially as the earth moves toward its close. Matthew says, “Watch therefore …” Matthew 25:13; Mark records, “Watch ye therefore …” Mark 13:35; Doctor Luke documents, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always …” Luke 21:36; Acts 20:31; John, recording the words of the true witness, says, “Be watchful …” “If therefore thou shalt not watch …” Revelation 3:2, 3; The apostle Paul counsels, “Watch ye, stand fast …” I Corinthians 16:13; “Continue in prayer, and watch … .” Colossians 4:2; “… watch and be sober.” I Thessalonians 5:6; “But watch thou in all things …” II Timothy 4:5; Peter states, “… watch unto prayer.” I Peter 4:7.
So, in this message I desire to address the urgency that is placed upon a Christian to watch, within the context of the end of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
If ever there was a time for every Christian to watch and be ready, it is now! What did Jesus mean when he admonished us to watch? Let’s read again Jesus’ words found in Mark 13:35–37: “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.”
The Greek word gregoreuo is word number 1127 in the Strong’s Concordance and means “watch,” “to keep awake,” “be vigilant,” “be awake,” “be watchful.” This word, gregoreuo, comes from word number 1453 which is egeiro, which means “to waken from sleep, sitting or lying, from disease, from death, from inactivity,” etc. Hence, we understand that this is a call to soberness and constant alertness on the part of the Christian; a constant state of readiness!
In commenting on the meaning of Mark’s account to “watch ye therefore,” God’s servant states, “Jesus has left us word, ‘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.’ We are waiting and watching for the return of the Master, who is to bring the morning, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping. What time is here referred to? Not to the revelation of Christ in the clouds of heaven to find a people asleep. No; but to His return from His ministration in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, when He lays off His priestly attire and clothes Himself with garments of vengeance, and when the mandate goes forth: ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.’
“When Jesus ceases to plead for man, the cases of all are forever decided. This is the time of reckoning with His servants. To those who have neglected the preparation of purity and holiness, which fits them to be waiting ones to welcome their Lord, the sun sets in gloom and darkness, and rises not again. Probation closes; Christ’s intercessions cease in heaven. This time finally comes suddenly upon all, and those who have neglected to purify their souls by obeying the truth are found sleeping. They became weary of waiting and watching; they became indifferent in regard to the coming of their Master. They longed not for His appearing, and thought there was no need of such continued, persevering watching. They had been disappointed in their expectations and might be again. They concluded that there was time enough yet to arouse. They would be sure not to lose the opportunity of securing an earthly treasure. It would be safe to get all of this world they could. And in securing this object, they lost all anxiety and interest in the appearing of the Master. They became indifferent and careless, as though His coming were yet in the distance. But while their interest was buried up in their worldly gains, the work closed in the heavenly sanctuary, and they were unprepared.
“If such had only known that the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary would close so soon, how differently would they have conducted themselves, how earnestly would they have watched! The Master, anticipating all this, gives them timely warning in the command to watch. He distinctly states the suddenness of His coming. He does not measure the time, lest we shall neglect a momentary preparation, and in our indolence look ahead to the time when we think He will come, and defer the preparation. ‘Watch ye therefore: for ye know not.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 2, 190, 191.
To whom is this warning addressed? We read in the following gospels these words: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” Matthew 24:4; “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any [man] deceive you.” Mark 13:5; “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived.” Luke 21:8.
We are told, “The Saviour’s instructions to His disciples were given for the benefit of His followers in every age. He had those in view who were living near the close of time, when He said: ‘Take heed to yourselves.’ It is our work, each for himself, to cherish in the heart the precious graces of the Holy Spirit.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 102, 103.
“To illustrate the importance of being alert, Jesus spoke six parables: the Porter, which is here condensed into one verse, the Master of the House, the Faithful and Unfaithful servants, the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and the Goats. Christians are not to await their Lord’s return in idle expectancy. While waiting and watching they are to be vigilant in purifying their own souls by obedience to the truth, and to be earnest in working for others. It is their privilege ‘not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God.’ ” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 504, 505.
Jesus uses three phrases in admonishing us to alertness; they are: “take heed,” “watch,” and “be ready.” He who is sincerely looking for the coming of Jesus will be ready whenever his Lord may appear.
We can then conclude that Christ’s warning to “watch therefore,” although applicable to the whole world, is especially addressed to His end-time church—Laodicea.
So why is it addressed to the Laodicean church? The Scripture tells us concerning the Laodicean Christians. Revelation 3:14–17: “Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” The Laodiceans’ problem is self-deception, and as a consequence of this attitude they have failed to follow the counsel of Jesus—to watch. Thus they have become blinded and deluded by Satan to their true spiritual condition. Luke tells us the warning that Christ left the Laodiceans: “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.
“When the Saviour pointed out to His followers the signs of His return, He foretold the state of backsliding that would exist just prior to His second advent. There would be, as in the days of Noah, the activity and stir of worldly business and pleasure seeking—buying, selling, planting, building, marrying, and giving in marriage—with forgetfulness of God and the future life. For those living at this time, Christ’s admonition is: ‘Take heed to yourselves … watch and pray always.’
“The condition of the church at this time is pointed out in the Saviour’s words in the Revelation: ‘Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.’ And to those who refuse to arouse from their careless security, the solemn warning is addressed: ‘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.’ Revelation 3:1, 3.” The Great Controversy, 309, 310.
The beloved apostle John, writing verily to us, emphatically pleads: “Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” I John 2:15, 16.
The messenger to the remnant church points out that “the love of the world and the deceitfulness of riches eclipse our faith, and we do not long for, and love, the appearing of our Saviour. We try too hard to take care of self ourselves. We are uneasy and greatly lack a firm trust in God. Many worry and work, contrive and plan, fearing they may suffer need. They cannot afford time to pray or to attend religious meetings and, in their care for themselves, leave no chance for God to care for them. And the Lord does not do much for them, for they give Him no opportunity. They do too much for themselves, and believe and trust in God too little.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 196.
“Men and women professing to be waiting and loving the appearing of their Lord are shut up to self. The noble, the godlike, they have parted with. The love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, have so fastened upon them that they are blinded. They are corrupted by the world and discern it not.” Ibid., 197.
Here we see four problem areas that cause Christ to give warning to Laodicea—His church living in the period just before the end of the world.
- The love of the world
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eyes
- The pride of life.
Let us take a closer look at these four areas [table below]:
- The love of the world—this has to do with those things that are alien and hostile to God, or worldly affairs that lead away from God. It has to do with everything and anything that is contrary to the words of God, its teaching and lifestyle.
Accordingly, when John bids his readers, ‘Love not the world,’ he is not thinking of the earth as it came from the hand of God, but of the earthly elements, animate and inanimate, that Satan has marshaled in rebellion against God. John knows how attractive these things can appear, and bids Christians to beware of them and to resist their seductive power.
- The lust of the flesh—this has to do with the sensuous nature of man, in which, “dwelleth no good thing” and which lusts to evil. The lust of the flesh is the craving of the flesh for indulgence in evil. It includes all strong desires for indulgence contrary to the will of God. Those strong desires may very well include perverted sexual desires, perverted appetite, crave for power or fame, excessive desire to control, diabolical motivation to make self prominent, etc.
- The lust of the eyes—If “lust of the flesh’ applies particularly to sins arising from the body, ‘lust of the eyes’ may be understood to refer to mental pleasure stimulated through sight. Much of the sinful pleasure of the world is experienced through the eyes. Many who would hasten to disclaim and intention of indulging in open sin themselves are eager to read about sin, to study it in a picture or to watch it depicted upon a screen. The word of God declares, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28. Also, “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.” Proverbs 6:25.
- The pride of life—This has reference to boastful display. It implies a materialistic satisfaction with worldly goods, a state of mind that substitutes the material for the spiritual. Some take pride in their work, other in their possessions, still others in their own beauty of their children. Some other pride themselves with educational and academic accomplishments.
The warning of Christ is relevant for us living in these closing days of probation to take heed, watch therefore, and be ready. This is so because we who are called by God’s name are totally absorbed in worldliness and are unaware that probation is about to be closed forever. These words stand as an indictment against us: “The cares of the world engross the mind to that degree that self-examination and secret prayer are neglected. The armor is laid off and Satan has free access to them, benumbing their sensibilities and causing them to be unsuspicious of his wiles.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 126. “Many have partaken so largely of the spirit and influence of the world that they act like the world.” Ibid., 127.
What should the remnant people be doing now as evidence that they are watching? As a people of prophecy we know that we are now living in the antitypical day of atonement. As it was in the sanctuary system of the Old Testament that on the day of atonement the people were required to afflict their souls, they were to do serious self-examination, confessing and repenting of all sin in order to be in oneness with God. So now we must be doing the same work, for our sins must be blotted out or our names will be blotted out of the book of life forever. So we have a work of watching to do!
The prophet Isaiah declares, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” Isaiah 13:9.
“In view of that great day the word of God, in the most solemn and impressive language, calls upon His people to arouse from their spiritual lethargy and to seek His face with repentance and humiliation: ‘Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand.’ ‘Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children … let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar.’ ‘Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.’ Joel 2:1, 15–17, 12, 13.” The Great Controversy, 311.
“When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break this tie—to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this. But let us keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we ‘are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ II Corinthians 3:18.
“It was thus that the early disciples gained their likeness to the dear Saviour. When those disciples heard the words of Jesus, they felt their need of Him. They sought, they found, they followed Him. They were with Him in the house, at the table, in the closet, in the field. They were with Him as pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from His lips lessons of holy truth. They looked to Him, as servants to their master, to learn their duty. Those disciples were men ‘subject to like passions as we are.’ James 5:17. They had the same battle with sin to fight. They needed the same grace, in order to live a holy life.” Steps to Christ, 72.
The warning is clear: “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.” Mark 13:35, 36.
The pen of inspiration states, “The church of God is required to fulfill her night watch, however perilous, whether long or short. Sorrow is no excuse for her to be less watchful. Tribulation should not lead to carelessness, but to double vigilance. Christ has directed the church by His own example to the Source of their strength in times of need, distress, and peril. The attitude of watching is to designate the church as God’s people indeed. By this sign the waiting ones are distinguished from the world and show that they are pilgrims and strangers upon the earth.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 205.
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-822-3900.