Watchful for What?
By Tom HoltREMEMBER the night Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane with the disciples? Taking only Peter, James and John with Him and telling them to watch, He went further to a secluded spot and prayed. When He came back and found them asleep, He said to Peter, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"
What was it that Jesus wanted them to watch for? Why just one
hour? And why does the Bible keep telling us to watch or to be watchful? In fact, Revelation 3:3 even warns, "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." Meaning: If one doesn't watch, one isn't saved.
So, let's see how the Bible itself defines for us the meaning of "watch" by comparing scripture with scripture. h3> To Be Watchful Is... I. To be sure of one's salvation.
As we have just seen from Revelation 3:3, Christ will return as a thief in the night only to those who are not watching. Well, we find this truth also in I Thessalonians 5:4-6:But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.Yet another verse declaring that only born-again believers are those who watch is Revelation 16:15:Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.We believers will not walk naked because our sins have been covered by the robe of Christ's righteousness.
2. To be strong in the faith.Besides being certain that we have become saved, we also need to stand fast in the faith. I Corinthians 16:13 says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." The phrase "quit you like men" means to conduct yourselves like men of faith.
This meaning of watch is much like that which God repeatedly says in the Old Testament: "Be strong and of a good courage." In saying "Watch ye" here, God is telling us to trust Him fully. We are not to be discouraged by persecution, tribulation or any other difficult circumstance that might come upon us.
3. To be vigilant against deceivers.In I Peter 5:8, where the Greek word for "watch" is translated "vigilant", we read: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
One way by which Satan tries to devour us is to snare us with false gospels. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Paul warns of this in his farewell remarks to the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:29-31):For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.To be watchful, then, we need to be well grounded in the Word of God so that we will not be misled by false teaching.
4. To faithfully serve God.In Luke 12:37, the Lord Jesus says,Blessed 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.He then defines in verses 42 and 43 who those watchful servants are: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? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.In this context, those are watchful servants who faithfully carry out the responsibilities that God has given themespecially in providing spiritual food to God's household in due season. This includes sending forth the gospel to all nations and feeding "strong meat" to believers.
5. To warn the world of Judgment.In Ezekiel 33, God tells the prophet that He is setting him up as a watchman. He then sets forth in verses 3-6 what He expects such a watchman to do:If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.Ultimately, the sword that is coming is the Word of God with which Christ will come on the Last Day to judge the world.
As the watchmen of God, we are to warn the unsaved that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27), and that on Judgment Day they will have to answer for every act of disobedience that they have ever committed.
Jesus even warns in Matt. 12:36, "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." The guilty shall be sent to hell.
God warns there that if we fail to warn the unsaved, not only will they be eternally condemned for their sins, but their blood will be required at our hands. In short, our refusal to carry out God's command to warn the world of Judgment Day ahead would indicate that we ourselves have not been born again after all.
6. To look for signs of the end.Unlike the above five commands, which are addressed to us all, there is one assignment to watch that God gives only to specific believers living in the end-time period. We see it in Mark 13, where the Lord is speaking about the signs of the end. He says parabolically in verse 34:For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.Note that here the master assigned every servant in His house to do his specific work. But only to the porter, the one at the door, did He command to watch for signs of His approaching return. This truth is demonstrated by His telling only Peter, James and John to watch in the Garden of Gethsemane, not the other eight disciples.
One hour. This goes back to the question I raised at the outset. Why did the Lord ask those three disciples to watch one hour? In the Bible, the word "hour" often refers to Judgment Day. But not always. Sometimes, it alludes to the short period immediately preceding Judgment Day, a period that is a part of the final judgment process.
We see that in Mark 14:41. After the Lord had prayed to the Father the third time, He told the three, "Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." In other words, "the hour" the three were told to watch arrived the moment Jesus was betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Likewise, Jesus later said to those who had come to arrest Him:When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.Here again, we see that the hour the Lord spoke of was the period when the power of darkness reigned. It immediately preceded the Cross, when our Lord suffered the full wrath of God the Father. It was at the Cross that Jesus endured Judgment Day on our behalf.
Applying this principle to our day, we can thus see that God has given some believers the task of watching for signs of Christ's Second Coming.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James and John failed to watch; they kept falling asleep. That's because they represented the body of believers of that moment. In that hour of darkness, they were effectively without a head.
End-Time EventsMore important, those three also prefigured the end-time church. For all practical purposes, today's corporate church, having fallen away, is also asleep. So even are most born-again believers. They are not watching because they have not been given the task to watch. Nevertheless, the porters to whom God has given the burden have indeed been doing so.
Harold Camping of Family Radio, for example, is one such porter. Here are two of the major end-time signs that he has observed:
The Fig Tree. In Matthew 24:32,33, Jesus says:Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.That is part of the Lord's answer to the disciples' question: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Camping notes that the fig tree is a figure pointing to national Israel. Referring to the devastation that Babylon has brought onto it, for example, God says in Joel 1:7:He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.Likewise, in Jeremiah 24:1-10, God uses figs to represent the people of Judah. He says in verse 5:Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.And of those Jewish people that refused to follow His command, He says in verse 8:And as the evil figs, which can not be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the Lord, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt.Restored. Israel was totally destroyed by the Roman armies in AD 70. But in May 1948, nearly nineteen centuries later, it returned to its land in Palestine and became a nation among nations again. Never before in history has a nation vanished and then returned to its homeland after a long, long interlude.
More than fifty years have since passed, and Isreal has surely put forth leaf, fulfilling thereby the parable of the fig tree spoken of by the Lord Jesus.
As far as the gospel is concerned, though, it still bears no fruit. This, too, is a fulfillment of prophecy. Several days before He went to the cross, the Lord cursed the fig tree in Jerusalem, saying, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." This is recorded in both Matthew 21 and Mark 11. All this then is a sign that the end "is near, even at the doors".
The apostate church. In His answer to the disciples about the sign of His return and of the end of the world, the Lord also speaks of the final tribulation. He says in Matthew 24:21:For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.For some nineteen centuries, most Christian scholars had assumed that this great tribulation had to do with massive persecution of believers. So horrifying was such a propect that some theologians even devised an end-time scenerio in which believers would be raptured before it. Unbiblical though it is, such a doctrine is even today widely taught in the Christian community.
But by carefully comparing scripture with scripture, Camping discovered that the final tribulation is really spiritual in nature. For one thing, in Matthew 24 the Lord repeatedly warns against false prophets. Especially notable is verse 24, where He says:For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.This passage, Camping notes, directly alludes to the ever popular charismatic movement of our day. In the same discourse, the Lord also says in verses 15 and 16:When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.A detail study of those chapters in the Book of Daniel that point to an abomination of desolation reveals that God is really talking about Satan taking over the corporate church. An example is Daniel 8:11,12:Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.This is precisely what has been taking place worldwide in the corporate church of late. Instead of the whole counsel of God, one congregation after another has been offering gospels other than that of the Bible, gospels that do not save sinners.
The bottom line is, signs of the end of the world have been appearing one after another. We all had better be certain that we are ready to meet our Maker. Not only that, as watchful children of God, we must stand firm in the faith, not allowing whatever adversity that happens to the world upset us. Meanwhile, we need to be vigilant in guarding ourselves against false teaching, to faithfully serve the Lord, andwhether they heed our warning or notto keep on warning the world of Judgment Day directly ahead. o
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