Here we have one of the most recognized symbols regarding "the day of the Lord", "the coming of Christ", and "the end of the [world]". To many, this simile of the Lord coming as a thief in the night symbolizes the need to always be ready because none know when the end of time will be, when Christ shall return, the trumpet sound, and the resurrection of the just and unjust happen. It portrays to many traditionally the idea of being pure and holy in their lives always because the end of time could come at any moment. To many, it is about being prepared...and ignorant.
Matt 24:36-43 - 36But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
I just want to go over a few basic things concerning the thief in this passage.
1. A thief comes in the night cause its dark. 2. Most people are sleeping in the night and caught unawares of the thief. 3. Darkness/night here is a metaphor for ignorance.
The idea here is that Christ will come upon those who are ignorant and unprepared for his coming.
We see this symbol of the thief used again in 2 Peter 3:10:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
We referred to this verse last time and I promised to explain the metaphor of the thief in the night at a later time. So let's do so. Here is the bomb I need to drop on your heads for those of you who think the thief reference is one concerning the end of the kosmos.
1 Thess. 5:1-5: 1But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
What?! Christians were not in darkness? The day of the coming of the Lord would NOT overtake them as a thief? What this passage implies is that Christians would not be ignorant (in the dark) of the time of the coming of the Lord! And, if we interpret the Olivet Discourse the way I presented it, this lines up exactly with "the days of Noah" and "the days of Lot". In those times, only the wicked were ignorant of the coming judgment against them. Noah and his family knew of the coming Flood. Lot and his wife, and two daughters knew of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And just like those days, the righteous (Christians) would know of the coming judgment because God gave them warning and a way out.
This image of the thief, then, cannot be about the end of time. Christians are still ignorant of that particular day. Christians have no warnings to watch for, no information that the wicked of the world don't have. Yet Paul explains that Christians would not be in the dark about the coming of the Lord as a thief. Proof positive that the Olivet Discourse and other places that reference the thief in the night are not about the end of time, but some other coming of the Lord.
But what does that do to Matt. 24:36 where Jesus said that only the Father knew of that day [the end of the age]? Is there a contradiction or did something change? Since no contradictions exist in scripture, what changed between Christ saying that only the Father knew to the disciples on the Mount of Olives and Paul writing that Christians would not be ignorant of the day of the coming of the Lord?
The answer is, more information was presented to the Christians that gave them a better grasp on the timing so that only the wicked that then lived would be taken unprepared and unawares. I will leave it to you to come to the conclusion of what that information was, though I believe it to be rather obvious. :-)
In Truth and Love.