Behold, I Come Like a Thief!
Revelation / Chapter 16 / V15
“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” ~Rev 16:15
It is common for anyone to identify with another famous person or character if the intention is to add significance to the person’s introduction. For a man of status, he will not think of associating himself with a thief, much less to be mentioned as one. To be called a thief carries with it the stigma of shame and dubious actions. A thief will always be despised and will not openly confess to be one.
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of His coming many times and drew urgent attention and parallel to the example of a thief who would break into any household unexpectedly. The writer once heard a believer lamenting that out of so many characters and expressions, why did the Lord have to describe His coming to liken that of a thief? This caused him to feel embarrassed every time he read these passages. However, after this study, we will come to agree that the example of a “thief” is the most suitable word to describe His coming.
In the bible, when the Lord talks about His coming as a thief, He refers to His Second Coming in glory.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” ~Mat 24:42-44
When the Lord uses a thief to describe His coming, He is only using certain characteristics of a thief and does not actually mean that He is a thief.
A thief will never announce his coming ahead of time to any owner. He strikes at the most unexpected hour, suddenly and without notice. Surprises are the hallmark of his attack and at the least expected moment, the owners are caught without any preparation. It is the same with the coming of the Lord. When the people are eating, drinking, merry-making and being given in marriage, totally unconcerned over the warning issued by our Lord, He will come again as promised!
When a thief breaks into a house, big loss to the owner is expected. Similarly, when the Lord comes upon those unbelieving, they remain not alert, unprepared and they too will suffer immense loss and incalculable damage – the eternal condemnation of their souls. For those who have not yet received Jesus as their personal saviour before the Second Coming of Christ, they will face God’s judgement at the Great White Throne. Their destiny will be eternal condemnation in hell.
Apart from the characteristics of suddenness, unexpectedness, no prior warning given and big losses, a thief would usually strike in the night when the owner is fast asleep. A thief will not come in broad daylight:
“For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” ~1 Th 5:2-8
The Lord very wisely uses the characteristic of a thief working in the night to reveal that His coming will bring eternal losses to those who are living in spiritual darkness; but the sons of the light and day, meaning the believers in Him, will not be affected. This is because the believers have already prepared for the Lord’s coming by receiving Him as their personal saviour. That day is also the day of redemption of their bodies, not only would the believers not suffer loss, on the contrary, they will receive great gain. Therefore, for the believers, the Lord’s coming is never like a thief, for we are the sons of the day who have already escaped from the darkness! Those who remain fast asleep in darkness are people who are unrepentant and living in sin. To them, the Lord’s coming shall be terrifying and likened to a thief. They shall suffer immense loss and devastation and come to complete ruin.
“I come like a thief” is in fact the most appropriate analogy used to describe the coming of the Lord. We can be confident that the Lord would never use the wrong words, every word used by our Lord is absolutely precise. We can be assured that we will not find a more perfect description than what has been used by our Lord Jesus.