“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” (1Thessalonians 5:2, KJV)
The coming of Jesus is one of the most misconstrued subjects across the spectrum of the Body of Christ. This is because many have not taken time off to appreciate the subject properly according to Biblical patterns. The understanding of many people, concerning this subject, is built on hearsay and wrong assumptions rather than on a studious probing of the scriptures. You will usually hear many preachers speak on the “second coming” of Jesus as a thief in the night. In order to emphasize this teaching, a doctrine of a secret rapture has been conjectured in order to warn people that Jesus is indeed coming as a thief in the night, in his “second coming”. At the root of this belief is the opening scripture which has been misinterpreted. However, it is very important to note that this scripture was not written for believers. To us, Jesus Christ cannot come as a thief in the night.
First of all, the Bible does not speak of a second coming of Jesus. That is to say, there is nothing like a second coming of Jesus! Yet, one of the commonest messages you would hear in many churches of today is “the second coming”. This flawed understanding is hatched from Hebrews 9:28 which says, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him SHALL HE APPEAR THE SECOND TIME without sin unto salvation.” Thus, the “second appearing” in this verse is what is misconstrued as the “second coming”. However, please take note that the COMING OF JESUS is not the same as the APPEARING OF JESUS. Micah 5:2 asserts, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” This scripture speaks of Jesus. There are numerous and diverse comings of Jesus. His comings have been from everlasting. The Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) brings this out succinctly: “And thou, Beth-Lehem Ephratah, Little to be among the chiefs of Judah! From thee to Me he cometh forth — to be ruler in Israel, And his comings forth [are] of old, From the days of antiquity.” Jesus Christ has been coming from of old and is presently coming in his saints and would keep coming until his appearing. What does this mean? The coming of Jesus is not a visible manifestation of Jesus in the sky. The Bible does not in one place say that Jesus would manifest physically in the sky. Every teaching that propagates this thought is mere conjecture. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 affirms, “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” The primal focus of Jesus’ coming is in his saints; he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in them. Thus, by the manifestation of Christ in the believers, Jesus is coming.
The scriptures speak of various aspects of the coming of Jesus. In some places, we see his coming as the rain (James 5:7; Hosea 6:3). At other places, we see his coming in or with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26). We also see his coming as the sun in Malachi 4:2, Matthew 24:27 and 2 Peter 1:16&19. All these refer to various shades of manifestation and expression of Jesus’ coming in and with his saints. His coming as the rain refers to his manifestation as the Spirit in the former and latter rain to his saints (Joel 2:23-31). This is experienced by several manifestations of the Spirit such as prophecies, visions and spiritual dreams in the church. The beginning of his coming as rain is what was experienced on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. His coming in or with the clouds refers to the formation of Christ in the saints and the maturity of the Body of Christ (Galatians 4:19). When the saints mature into a perfect man, then they administer rulership and execute judgment in the earth. His coming as the sun refers to his manner of procession from the east to the west, and the manner in which he arises as the day star in the hearts of believers (Revelation 16:12). These are but scratches of the details of the coming of Christ.
The appearing of Jesus is the full visibility of Jesus Christ in his saints. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). It is this appearing that Scripture refers to as the second appearing. According to this scripture, this appearing is in glory and not at any geographical location of the earth. 1John 3:2 declares, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” However, wherever and whichever form he would appear, we shall be exactly like him because we shall see him as he is.
Thus, with this understanding, how can Jesus Christ come to us as a thief in the night and how can he appear as a thief in night to the believer? In his appearing, we appear with him, and in his coming, he comes in and with us. It would be very illegal for Jesus to come as a thief in the night, since he is a member of the house. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7 emphatically declares, “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. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.” It is a high treason for you as a believer to say that Jesus is coming as a thief in the night. To say that simply means that you are not a child of the light but a child of darkness and of the night. As long as you are of the day, that day cannot overtake you as a thief. Thus, it is to the unbeliever that Jesus would come as a thief in the night. That message should not be preached in any believer’s meeting.
In Luke 12:39-40, Jesus said, “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Many read themselves to stupor when they come into contact with such verses. Yet, Peter, the apostle, when he heard this from Jesus enquired, in the next verse, “… Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?” (Luke 12:41). He understood that Jesus could not come to them as a thief in the night so probed to find out if that parable was to them. Jesus in responding to him said, “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Luke 12:42-43). The way to experience Jesus’ coming is not to expect a secret rapture: concern yourself with the work that he has given you. This is the way to expect his appearing.
As you matter yourself with the assignment committed to you, you spun for yourself, a bridal garment for the wedding supper of the Lamb. “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). The man who receives the Lord as a thief is the one who does not have wedding garments. (Matthew 22:11-13). He is the one who is forgetful about the work of the ministry. That is to say, to be forgetful about the work of the ministry is to be forgetful about the coming of the Lord. The coming of Christ in the saints, which has to do with the maturing of the body of Christ, is the way to make yourself ready for his appearing. Thus, in expecting Jesus, we don’t look outward but inward because he is coming from within. When his coming in us has come to maturation, then we shall see him as he is. In whatever form he would appear, we shall be exactly like him for we shall see him as he is. Beloved of God, Jesus is not coming to us as a thief in the night. It is the responsibility of the church to cause the speedy manifestation of Jesus. “As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…” (2 Peter 3:12, NIV). You can do this by taking heed to the assignment that has been committed to you. The day of God does not take us by surprise; we actually look forward to it. Let this mind be in you. Shalom!