Secret Preparation: Matthew 24:36-51

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:36-51 (CEV)

36 No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows. 37 When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. 38 People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. 39 They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.

40 Two men will be in the same field, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 41 Two women will be together grinding grain, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 42 So be on your guard! You don’t know when your Lord will come. 43 Homeowners never know when a thief is coming, and they are always on guard to keep one from breaking in. 44 Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.

45 Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time? 46 Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job. 47 You may be sure that a servant who is always faithful will be put in charge of everything the master owns. 48 But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won’t return until late. 49 Suppose that evil servant starts beating the other servants and eats and drinks with people who are drunk. 50 If that happens, the master will surely come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him. 51 That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the ones who only pretended to serve their master. There they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.

Read Matthew 24:36-51 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times when Jesus was teaching, some of His followers asked about when His return would be. Instead of sharing a time, which He says He doesn’t know, Jesus describes what the world would be like. In Jesus’ description, He shares an idea that many people have misunderstood.

After sharing that He doesn’t know the time, Jesus tells His followers, “When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.” (v. 37-39)

Jesus parallels His return to the days of Noah. While it is easy to say the people living in Noah’s day were shocked and surprised when the flood ultimately came, they were not uninformed. For over 100 years, Noah had been preaching about the coming judgment, and likely everyone had written him off and gone about their own lives and their own tasks – ignorant of what God was about to do.

We are told this is how it will be when Jesus returns. While people will have been given a clear warning, most will have dismissed or ignored it, and while they were warned, they still will be surprised.

It is under the context of Jesus returning and appearing that we then read the following verses: “Two men will be in the same field, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. Two women will be together grinding grain, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. So be on your guard! You don’t know when your Lord will come. Homeowners never know when a thief is coming, and they are always on guard to keep one from breaking in. Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.” (v. 40-44)

When Jesus returns, He first describes it at a time when He will appear, and then He describes it as being a surprise to people. He describes it as being a time when some people will be ready, while others won’t be.

However, the tricky part of Jesus’ description here is that being ready is not an entirely outward process. When Jesus describes two men in the field and two women grinding grain, He describes people who are essentially doing the same things, but one was ready and one wasn’t. Jesus’ appearance in this passage will not be remotely close to a secret even though it will be a surprise for many.

Jesus concludes this section by reemphasizing His key point: “Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.” (v. 44)

Our preparation for Jesus’ return might not be visible, but it is crucial. Not only is it important for us to be doing the right things and living for Jesus in a public way, but we must also be living for Him privately as well. Our hearts, minds, and actions must all be focused on Jesus and be ready for His return. This is the only way for us to not be surprised when He ultimately appears in the clouds at His return.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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