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Insight #31 — “Come as a Thief”

January 31, 2000.

Jesus will come as a thief. Yes. But what does that mean? Only the Bible can answer. Figures of speech can be tricky. Both Jesus and Satan are referred to as lions. A red flag goes up: “Interpret with caution.” We dare not wring every possible meaning out of a figure of speech.

How do thieves come? Consider two ideas. First, a thief comes secretly. Second, a thief comes without warning. Which of these two ideas does the Bible teach? If the figure were never explained in the Bible, your guess would be as good as mine.

Out of six New Testament texts that use this figure, only one does not state which meaning is intended. In the five that do, the idea is never that of secrecy; it is always that of lack of warning. Example: “If the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have allowed his house to be broken through. Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not” (Luke 12:39,40). The message is clear: Jesus will come as a thief, when you least expect Him. Therefore, be ready at all times.

Will Jesus come secretly to snatch away His followers, leaving the world puzzled as to what has happened? Try 2 Peter 3:10: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in 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.” Hardly secret. It is the end of the world!

No Bible text even hints that “coming as a thief” has the idea of secrecy in it. No Bible text even hints that Jesus’ coming will be hidden from the eyes and understanding of the masses. When Jesus comes, there will be no secrecy and no second chance. Eternity will have arrived. Everyone will know it.