Previous: Revelation 3:3a-b

...Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. - Revelation 3:3c-e

"Therefore if you will not watch"

As in the previous verse, the Greek word for "watch" is gregoreo, meaning "to be awake." This is a return to the concept of revival, or "awakening." The believers at Sardis had been advised to allow God to revive them. Now Jesus cautions that if they will still not be roused from their spiritual slumber, He will visit them in their comatose state like a thief.

"I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you."

The primary application of this warning is the danger that, if the members of the Church at Sardis do not repent and experience a revival, Jesus will remove their church completely. This is similar to the notice that He had given the Church at Ephesus when He said,

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent. - Revelation 2:5

Unfortunately, The Lord has needed to remove a great number of dead churches down through the centuries. This is reminiscent of the story of Ichabod in the Old Testament.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas's wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, "Do not fear, for you have borne a son." But she did not answer, nor did she regard it. 21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel!" because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. - 1 Samuel 4:19-21

A church may still exist for some time after the congregation has lost its spiritual vitality, but unless the people allow the Lord to awaken them, He will write "Ichabod - The Glory has departed," over them.

During His earthly life, Jesus used the imagery of a thief in another way. It described the plight of those who will claim to be believers, but will not truly know Him when He appears at His Glorious Return. The return of The Lord Jesus is a major theme in the Book of Revelation, so we will review His teaching briefly here:

29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
- Matthew 24:29-44; (See also Luke 12:37-40; Revelation 16:15-16; and Peter's commentary on the same matter in 2 Peter 3:10-13).

The Apostle Paul used the imagery of the thief to describe the sudden and unexpected event of the Rapture of the Church, which is an earlier phase of the return of Christ to the earth.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11

There are many significant differences between the Rapture and the Glorious Return of Christ. We will consider these in detail when we study the message to the Church at Philadelphia in verses 10 and 11 of this third chapter of Revelation.

Next: Revelation 3:4-6


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