Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)
Situated in the middle of John’s description of the “bowl” or “vile” judgments and the final battle of Armageddon, this parenthetical verse commends those who watch and keep, i.e., “guard,” their garments. Garments cover our nakedness and offer protection against the elements. The picture here reminds us of the clothing with which Christians must be clothed. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
The Lord Jesus Christ offers this word of encouragement to the “Tribulation Saints” that, due to their prior unbelief, missed the Rapture and now must endure the horrors of the Tribulation. That Jesus will come “as a thief” is not a warning for these saints who by now should know the “game plan” as laid out in Scripture. Rather, He will come suddenly and unexpectedly for those who reject Christ and “upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (Revelation 16:2). Jesus promises that the “Tribulation Saints” who watch, for His return will be blessed. At this point in the Tribulation, according to the Revelation account, the wait will not be long.
What about Christians today? Often pastors, Bible teachers, and other Christians discourage us from watching. They remind us that, “ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). They omit the imperative phrase that precedes that statement. In context, Jesus made this statement as “the moral” to the parable of the Ten Virgins who fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to come for them. The virgins represent the Church and the bridegroom represents the Lord Jesus Christ, who has left to prepare a place for His Bride, but whose return for His Bride depends on the Father’s approval of the bride chamber. At midnight, when the virgins least expected, a trumpet sounds to announce the Bridegroom is coming. Five of the virgins have prepared extra oil (representative of the Holy Spirit) for their lamps and are ready to be taken by the Bridegroom. The remaining five imprudent virgins get left behind. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (emphasis mine).
While it is true that we cannot know the day nor the hour when the Lord will return for His Bride, the Church, we are still instructed to WATCH! For what are we to watch? Jesus gave the signs for which to watch prior to His return. The admonition advises us to look for these signs coming together to let us know that the time is near.
Waiting is hard. Watching is tiring. Many have become discouraged and “leave their posts” choosing rather to invest their time on the things of this world – sports, entertainment, and all sorts of distractions and diversions. Some even become critical of those who are watching. Such scoffing and criticism should not surprise us. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). Sadly, these scoffers are “Christians.”
Sometimes these scoffers will compare the “watchers” to the “boy who cried wolf.” What they forget is that in the story, when the villagers stopped responding to the boy’s cries, the wolf did indeed come.
Jesus’ second coming is near. His return to “snatch up” His Bride is even nearer. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, emphasis mine). “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7, emphasis mine). “Remember 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 3:3, emphasis mine). “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 21:36, emphasis mine).