As Paul drew to a close the book of First Corinthians, he gave a list of five imperatives which somewhat summarize many of the things which he had said in the entire book. He wrote, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity" (16:13-14). I want to discuss only one of these commands in this article and that is the one which appears first on Paul's list: "watch ye."
The word gregoreo means "to watch, i.e. give strict attention to, be cautious, active:-to take heed lest through remissness and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtaken one" (Thayer, GreekEnglish Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 122). When Paul admonishes us to watch, there is an implication that there are certain dangers which confront us of which we must be wary.
Watch Out For False Teachers
Certainly one of the most useful tools which Satan has used to overcome Christ's disciples has been false teachers. When Paul prepared to depart from the Ephesian elders who had journeyed to Miletus to talk to him, he warned,
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shay men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch . . . ." (Acts 20:28-31).
We have to be on the alert lest we be taken in by the Devil. What a cunning opponent he is! He and his disciples disguise themselves as angels of light, pretending to be for Christ as they assault the faith (2 Cor. 11:13-15). We have to be constantly on the alert lest we be deceived by the devil.
Watch For the Second Coming
By far, the greater number of New Testament passages which tell us to watch admonish us to do that because Jesus is coming back again. Jesus Himself repeatedly warned His disciples to be on the watch for the second coming. Speaking of the second coming, He said,
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only . . . .Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Mt. 24:36, 42-44).
We who are Jesus' disciples need to be continually on the alert lest our Lord return at the moment that we do not think that He will and we be caught unprepared.
Because we do not know when Jesus will return, we must always be ready. We cannot wait until we see Him in the air and then get ready for His return; that will be too late. We must get ready now and stay ready if we expect to be prepared at the Lord's second coming. This is so for these reasons: (I) The Lord's coming will be sudden. The events which transpire at the second coming will occur suddenly, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Hence, there will be no time for preparation since things will happen so quickly. (2) The time of the Lord's return is unknown. Jesus has promised that He will return and there is no doubt whether He will return or not. However, He has given us no warning signals that we might know when He is coming back again. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Mt. 24:36). Hence, we cannot wait until the day before He returns to get ready since we do not know on what day He will return.
There is a very real danger which faces Christians. It is the danger of taking for granted that Jesus will not return today. We have the tendency to say that the Lord has delayed His coming; therefore, I can live as I please. One of Jesus' parables remind us of this danger; He said,
"And the Lord 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 be cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say ht his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers" (Lk. 12:42-46).
Some begin to think that they have plenty of time to do what they want to do and then get ready shortly before death strikes them or the Lord returns. This passage teaches the danger of such an attitude. Christ will return unexpectedly and catch these servants in the midst of committing their deeds of wickedness.
One of the things which is missing in twentieth century Christianity which was so vividly present in first century Christians was the expectation of the Lord's return and the avid desire that it would occur very soon. As John concluded the book of Revelation, he said, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). As Paul concluded First Corinthians, he wrote, "Maranatha," an Aramaic word meaning, "O Lord come." The earnest desire to see the second coming of Jesus is nowhere more easily seen than in the apostasy that developed at Thessalonica. There, the Christians were so anxious for the Lord's return and were so convinced that His coming was to occur within their own lifetime that they just quit working and gave all of their time to getting ready for His return. Although they acted incorrectly in doing this, their conduct certainly shows us the expectation of the Lord's return in the minds of first century Christians.
The anxiety for the Lord's return is missing among us. We are content with our nice homes, fine cars, luxurious clothing, and sumptuous meals. Because we have so many luxuries in this life, we tend to forget that we should live in earnest anticipation of the Lord's return. We should try to have the same burning desire to see the Lord's second coming as those disciples had who were privileged to witness His ascension into heaven and who heard the angels promise, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). So long as this desire is absent from us, we shall lack the fervency of zeal which motivates a person to live the godly life, to spread the gospel and to pray without ceasing. Hence, Paul's admonition is appropriate for those of us who are Christ's disciples today; he said, "Watch ye."
In the book of Revelation, John wrote, "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (16:15). The man who is watching is the man who is prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The one who has not obeyed the gospel is not prepared for the second coming. Instead, he is under the ban (anathema) of God. Paul wrote, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (1 Cor. 16:13). The man who has never shown enough love to Jesus to step forward in obedience to His commandment to repent and be baptized is surely not prepared to meet his Lord. He is accursed of God, lost and without hope in this world.
Nor is the man prepared who, having been baptized, has wandered back into worldliness. Whether his worldliness has led him into gross immoralities or just neglect of his responsibilities before God, he is nonetheless unprepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Should Jesus return this day, such a person will be lost-doomed to dwell forever in the torments of Hell fire.
Knowing of the awful consequences which await the soul which is unprepared to meet God and knowing the everlasting bliss that is prepared for the faithful, I am resolved to live in such a way that I shall be constantly prepared for the Lord's second coming. I am resolved to watch and pray for the Lord's return. Watch ye!
Truth Magazine XXI: 40, pp. 627-628