07. Coming as a Thief

Coming as a Thief —–Pre-tribulationists frequently cite scriptures concerning Christ’s return as a “thief in the night” to support their “doctrine of imminence.”  The reasoning behind the use of the “Thief” passages is to establish and promote the notion that Christ’s “coming as a thief”, in an hour and day that no man knows, supports their position of Imminence. Pre-tribulationists teach that the Gathering of the Church (Rapture) has been imminent since the establishment of the church at Pentecost, 30 AD.  Here are the verses commonly used in this position.

Matthew 24:42-44

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. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

MARK 13:32-33

“32 but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the SON , but the FATHER, 33 take ye heed ,watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is”

Luke 12:40

40Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

I Thessalonians 5:2

2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Revelation 3:3

3Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. 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  16:15

Behold I am coming as a thief, Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

These are, in fact, the totality of verses used in support of imminence regarding the gathering of the elect (the Church).  Is this the intent of those particular passages? Do these verses really suggest “imminence” in regards to the Gathering of the Church to meet Christ in the air.

Let’s see what the Bible really says about “coming as a thief”

 The Thief

                                         Matthew 24:44                                   

44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

The strong admonition of the Lord in this verse is to KNOW THE WATCH!  Jesus clearly uses the example of “The Goodman of the House” who “if he KNEW in what hour the thief would come, he would NOT allow his house to be entered.  What intent could Jesus possibly have in using this parable?  Is it to say that we SHOULD NOT or COULD NOT know the WATCH?  This is an absurd notion indeed. Can you imagine?  Pre-tribulationists would have us believe that  we cannot actually KNOW THE WATCH and identify the signs of Christ’s coming..  Let’s follow up with verse 44.

Matthew 24:44

44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

“Be ye also ready…” Let me say this more clearly,

BE YE ALSO READY

            Can it be truthfully proclaimed, by any stretch of the imagination, that Jesus is suggesting that there will be no signs prior to his coming for the church.  We must remember the context of this entire passage is in regard to “The Last Days.”  Pre-tribulationists would have us believe that Jesus suddenly, and without warning, departs from this discourse and crashes into another direction, i.e. “Imminence.”  This is an assault on common sense!  The only person who will be caught off guard in this passage is found in verses 48-51.  He is that “EVIL SERVANT!”  The “day” in this passage refers to the “time frame” of the passage, and the “HOUR” refers to the actual advent of the gathering of the “ELECT,” verse 31. (“31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”)

Luke 12:39

39And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”

The same reasoning is applied to this verse.  Pre-tribulationists simply disregard context to make their point.  Let’s read the entire context.

Luke 12:35-46

35Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

37Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching:

———————————-verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.

40Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. 41Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath [in the millennial reign of Christ]. 45But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware,

———————————- and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

Note in verse 38 that the Lord again refers to “the watch.”  This is a military term and it is never applied to a “momentary” point in time.  It is always speaking of “frames of time.”  Anyone who has served in the armed forces can easily understand the meaning of “THE WATCH.”  The watch begins at a predetermined point in time, and ends in the same way.  When Jesus uses the terms “2nd watch, 3rd watch” he is referring to “time frames” within the church age.  Once again Jesus points to the “Goodman of the House” as the example for “KNOWING the WATCH.”  It is simply amazing to me that “WATCHING” has been interpreted as “Being caught by surprise” by the pre-tribulationists.

Note verse 41-43: “41Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”

It is said in pre-tribulationism that the Olivet Discourse is pertinent to only those “left behind” and the “Jews.”  Look closely at verse 41.  Peter asks the question, “Are you speaking to us ONLY, or to ALL?”  Jesus’ reply answers the question unequivocally – This is meant for the Church of ALL AGES!  Pre-tribulationists emphatically claim that the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 and Mark 13 does not apply to the Church of all ages since the Church will be “raptured” prior to those events recorded in the Olivette, yet Jesus uses this SAME parable (the Goodman of the house) in this passage and clears up the question, “who does he speak to here.”  The answer is unquestionably ALL!

Mark 13:37
37 “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch”.

I Thessalonians 5:2

2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Interesting that only the first verse of this thought is used to support imminence in this passage.  Let’s take some time to develop the teaching that Paul is expounding to the Thessalonians.  This is the entire context of this thought.

I Thessalonians 5:1-11

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. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”

Verse 1:         the Thessalonians have already been informed of the times and seasons, of Christ’s return, by Paul’s prior personal teaching to this church.

v  . 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

  • It is the “day of the Lord” that comes as a thief and not a secret, silent rapture.

Verse 3:         speaks of “THEY” – the unbeliever.  “When they say Peace and Safety”.

  • Is this a sign?  Of course it is, and yet the pre-tribulationists declare “there are no preceding signs or indicators.”

Verse 4:         “4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”

  • Emphatically YOU WILL NOT BE CAUGHT OFF GUARD!

WHY?

v  Verse 4 “4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”

Verse 5  You ARE THE CHILDREN of LIGHT”.

  • the “light” of Paul’s teaching about “THE DAY OF THE LORD.”

Verse 6:         “. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

LET US WATCH!

Verse 9:“9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,”

This verse is frequently used to support a pre-tribulation rapture since the apostle guarantees the church exemption from God’s wrath, which they, in error, interpret as the alleged “seven years of tribulation”..

[see “Day of the Lord”]

II Peter 3:10

10But 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.”

  •   Isn’t it interesting to note that this passage regarding the “thief coming” is totally ignored in teaching on pre-tribulation imminence.  This verse simply does not exist for the pre-tribulationist!  Why?  Because the passage leaves absolutely no room for a “seven year tribulation” and speaks only to the Day of the Lord in which the elements melt with fervent heat, and the heavens pass away, the works therein are burned up! It is the DAY of the LORD that will come as a thief and not a secret, silent rapture.

II Peter 3:12

“…12Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”

  •  “Looking for”?  Need I say more regarding “the Watch?”  How does this “day” fit into a pre-tribulation rapture?
  • heavens on fire?
  • elements melt with fervent heat?

 Revelation 3:3:

3Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. 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.”

  •   Please read this verse carefully.  If you will not watch, THEN you will be caught off guard.  Over and over again, we are admonished as the “Goodman of the house” to KNOW THE WATCH!  Over and over again the pre-tribulationists attempt to “crush” context in an attempt to build evidence circumstantially.  There is not a single element of pre-tribulationism that is not undergirded by this foul process – NOT ONE!

Revelation 16:15

15Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

  •   Once again the Lord admonishes his church to WATCH for the signs of his coming.  Please note that this admonition arrives under the 6th vial of the WRATH of GOD.
  • This is an admonition to avoid His judgments through faithfulness in WATCHING for THE SIGNS of his coming!

COMING AS A THIEF TO THE CHURCH…

IMPOSSIBLE

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