The central theme of the reading from Matthew 24:36-44 is promise. Jesus promises that when he returns he will gather his people. We don’t need to be afraid of the Great Tribulation or the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus will be with us. He will protect us.

No one knows when He will return to set up His kingdom. Periodically someone will claim to have discovered a secret that indicates the date of Christ’s return, but such claims are not true. Jesus will return when we least expect it. Christians who are expecting His return will know it will be a great day. When He returns, we will have to give an account of how we lived for Him. If we are faithful and wise servants we will be ready. Jesus will see us doing His will when He returns.

Jesus can’t make it any plainer. Even he doesn’t know the exact date and time of his return. At first glance this doesn’t make any sense because Jesus was fully God even though he was also fully human. While Jesus was on earth he learned things the same way other humans learned them. Because he was fully God at the same time, he had infinite knowledge, so how could he have not known the date and time of his return? One possibility is that he regularly lived on the basis of his human knowledge, but he could call to mind anything from his infinite knowledge.

The idea the Jesus will come like a thief in the night is found in multiple places in Scripture such as Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3 and Revelation 16:15. We must keep looking for Christ’s return, but we must also continue to spread the Good News. We must always be prepared because he could return at any time.

Some may wonder why Christ hasn’t returned yet. One possible reason is that he might be waiting until the affairs of the world are so messed up that waiting any longer won’t make a difference. This supports the fact that the Battle of Armageddon has to take place before Christ returns. Some people say that we are getting closer to the end of the world because of all the wars and natural disasters that are taking place in the world today.

Another sign that we are getting close to the time of Christ’s return is the falling away from the faith. Church attendance is declining. Some clergy even stand in the pulpit and deny the virgin birth and Jesus’ resurrection.

It isn’t easy for us to wait for anything, and our modern society doesn’t help. With all of our time saving devices such as microwave ovens and cell phones, we are used to getting things almost immediately. We forget to stop and look. We forget to let God interrupt our plans so that we can see Jesus. 

God reveals enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we do not have to live and walk by faith every day. We have His assurance about our future with Him. He will bring justice and hope to our hurting would.

Jesus said that people won’t notice His return when it happens. While it is true that the event will be reported by the media thanks to our 24-hour news channels, that does not mean that people will be paying attention. After all, how many of us pay attention to every news story on radio or TV or in the newspaper? People will keep on doing things as they have always done. They won’t realize that things will change because of Jesus’ return. It’s important that we must always be ready for Christ’s return. We don’t want Him to catch us by surprise.

The end will be unexpected. God will come into the ordinary events of our lives. His coming will cause a great separation between believers and non-believers. He doesn’t want us to have a “ho-hum” attitude about his return, but he doesn’t want us to be afraid of it either.

When Jesus returns, will we recognize him? The only way to know for certain is to get lots of practice doing what he wants us to do. In other words, we are to show his love to a hurting world by serving the less fortunate. This means feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked and visiting the prisoner. These will be credited to us as if we had done them for Christ. While we are waiting for Christ to return, we are to witness to unbelievers and warn them about Christ’s judgment. We are to share God’s love and plan for salvation.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1325-1326)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Augsberger, M. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  6. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp.1339-1340)
  7. Richard Inness, “Vivid Warning Signs.” Retrieved from
  8. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Like a Thief.” Retrieved from
  9. Dr. Harold Sala, “Prophecies and the Lord’s Return, 2.” Retrieved from
  10. Exegesis for Matthew 24:36-44. Retrieved from
  11. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Until He Returns.” Retrieved from
  12. David Lose, “A Sure and Certain Promise.” Retrieved from
  13. Rick Morley, “Like a Thief.” Retrieved from
  14. Sarah Dylan Breuer, “First Sunday of Advent, Year A.” Retrieved from
  15. Ben Witherington, “Commentary on Matthew 24:36-44.” Retrieved from

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