What is meant by the idea the Jesus comes as a thief in the night? Is it when He comes to harvest the earth, or does it have another meaning of great importance?
The people are asleep.
The term ‘thief in the night’, as generally understood by the vast majority of Christians is often misrepresented. Scripture portrays the idea that the thief comes in the middle of the night while people are asleep, this is when the theft is made. The people are blissfully unaware of this fact until the morning when they awake; and they only awake when the Lord returns.
Paul say’s: “that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night;” 1-Thess. 5:2, but he immediately adds in verse 4: “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.”
So it is only those who are in darkness that will be overtaken as a thief; and of them the apostle says in verse 3 that “sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
And Peter adds: “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.” 2 Peter 3:10
Jesus comes to the harvest immediately after the close of probation. His coming is likened to a thief in the night because judgement closes while many are asleep, and when He comes He brings His reward for His Saints with Him. Revelation 22:12
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
As the days of Noah were
This same idea is presented in the account that Jesus gives of the flood in Matthew 24:37-39.
“As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
But the question that Christians fail to ask, is: “What didn’t they know?”
Well; they didn’t know that they were lost!
God had closed the door of the ark and shut Noah and his family in, at this point in time everyone outside the ark were locked out. But the rain did not come for seven whole days, for seven days everyone outside the ark was doomed, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage and they didn’t know that they were lost.
As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be at the return of the Lord, and when He comes He has His reward with Him.
This is what the Scriptures are talking about when it says that Jesus comes as a “thief in the night.” 2 Peter 3:10; I Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3, 16:15; Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39.
And in Revelation 8:5 we find the very moment that the thief comes.
“And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.“
Our Lord ceases His intercessory work in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, He casts the censor to the earth and puts on His robes of vengeance and comes to harvest the earth.
We are sojourners on the earth.
The idea of the thief in the night is also expressed by Jesus in Luke 21:34,35 where He say’s “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
But Christians are not “dwellers” on this earth as we are only sojourners. See 1 Peter 1:17; 2:11; Heb.11:13; Ps.39:12.
Those who have no thought or care but to live on this earth, whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations,” will be immersed in the cares of this life, and will of course be surprised by the coming of the day of the Lord.
Jesus very plainly teaches that those who take heed to themselves, and do not become overcharged with surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life, will not be overtaken as by a thief when the day of the Lord shall come.
Therefore we are not only warranted in looking for the coming of our Lord, and studying the signs which betoken its near approach, but we are in duty bound to do so.