“Keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”—LUKE 12:40.
1. What did Christ say about the need to keep on the watch?
JESUS Christ urged his followers to be watchful. For instance, he said: “You, then, watch out; I have told you all things beforehand. . . . And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. . . . Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father. Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch. Therefore keep on the watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day or at midnight or at cockcrowing or early in the morning; in order that when he arrives suddenly, he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.”—Mark 13:23-37.
“On the Watch”—For What?
3. Why could Christians not ignore the time element?
3 A close examination of Bible prophecies about the “Last Things” reveals the precise things for which Christians were to “keep on the watch.” First, they were not to lose sight of the time element, for Jesus Christ spoke of an “appointed time” known only to his Father. (Mark 13:32, 33) In addition, Jesus told his disciples that Jerusalem would be “trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations [Gentiles] are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Obviously, Jesus gave his followers this information in order to help them identify the time of the end, for it is a part of his answer to the question: “Teacher, when will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?”—Luke 21:7.
4. For what “sign” were Christians to keep on the watch?
4 In addition to their paying attention to the time element, Christians were to watch out for the requested “sign,” also mentioned in Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:4. This many-featured sign—including international wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and persecution of true Christians—would tie in with the fulfillment of time prophecies to identify the “generation” that would “by no means pass away” until all the things due to occur in the time of the end actually took place.—Luke 21:10-12, 32.
5. How would Christ be with his true followers throughout the centuries, but was this all he meant when he gave the sign of his “presence”?
5 What important events related to “the conclusion of the system of things” would be heralded by this sign? Jesus’ disciples asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence [Greek, pa·rou·siʹa]?” (Matthew 24:3) What would Christ’s “presence” mean? Much more than his being spiritually with his true followers when they met together or carried out their mission to make disciples. He would be supporting his followers in this way down through the centuries. (Matthew 18:20; 28:18-20) Even Christendom’s theologians admit that the word “presence” took on a special meaning. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states: “The idea of the parousia now becomes bound up with the church’s expectation of Christ’s appearing at the end of the age.” From one end to the other, the Christian Greek Scriptures exhort Christians to live in expectation of Christ’s presence.—Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:3, 4; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 1:7; 22:7.
6. (a) What would Christ’s presence mean for this wicked system of things? (b) How would Christ’s presence affect anointed Christians who had died faithful and those still alive on earth?
6 Christ’s presence would mean nothing less than “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:4) It would mean that the present wicked system of things had entered into its “time of the end,” or “last days.” (Daniel 12:4, 9; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) It would mean that Christ had received from his Father the order to exercise Kingdom rulership over the earth ‘in the midst of his enemies.’ (Psalm 110:2; 2:6-9; Revelation 11:15-18) Before judging the world in general, Christ would inspect his own congregation and resurrect anointed Christians who had died faithful. (1 Corinthians 15:21, 23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1) Those anointed Christians still alive on earth and faithfully acting as Christ’s “slave” by keeping spiritually awake and supplying spiritual “food at the proper time” would be appointed by Christ “over all his belongings,” or Kingdom interests on earth. (Matthew 24:45-47; Luke 12:42-44) This “faithful and discreet slave” would have to engage in and supervise a worldwide work of preaching “this good news of the kingdom,” and ‘then the end would come.’—Matthew 24:14.
7. Even during Christ’s presence, for what other sign were Christians to keep on the watch, and why would they continue to pray for God’s Kingdom to “come”?
7 True Christians were to “keep on the watch” for all these things that would prove they were living at the time of Christ’s presence and “the conclusion of the system of things.” But even during “the time of the end,” they were to keep on the watch for “the sign of the Son of man,” his “coming” to execute judgment against Satan’s wicked system of things. (Matthew 24:30, 44; Mark 13:26, 35; Luke 12:40; 21:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) Thus, although he would be ‘present’ and his Kingdom would already have been established, both he and his Kingdom would still have to “come” and “crush and put an end” to the nations and kingdoms of Satan’s world. (Daniel 2:44)