Let's face it. The bible is a 2000-3500 year old collection of writings written over a period of 1500 years by multiple authors and written in a culture and in languages that we really aren't familiar with at all.
Often times we read wild vivid imagery and metaphorical apocalyptic imagery as literal when it is actually being used to portray something in the normal physical world. It's real easy to get swept away and before you know it, you have imagined up something that looks like the picture at the top of this article.
Such is the case with the "thief in the night" example given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
The question posed was when would the end of the age and His coming occur?
(2 events linked together)
He answers them and goes down a list of things to watch for and persevere through. There would be false prophets arising, scoffers mocking, trials, persecutions, death, and a bunch of other things that would occur leading up to that day. He then gives them an example that they would understand a little better. Something that they could really relate to. Jesus says...
"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Matthew 24: 42-43
Clearly we can see that Jesus is portraying His Coming as the thief coming. Just prior to that, Jesus had paused for a moment from listing the events and He warned them about roughly when they could expect to see His Coming and all of the things fulfilled. He said..
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place"
He wanted them to know that it was going to be relatively soon. That generation of Jews wouldn't pass away until all of what He was describing would take place. He even says "ASSUREDLY". This was a FACT. He then continues on for a bit more about what they can expect leading up to and at that time.
Now these things were said to them sometime around ad30. Anywhere from 20-30 years later, Paul writes his letter to the believers at Thessalonica. He is speaking to people who were alive back when Christ spoke before He ascended to heaven. He is also speaking to disciples that were made from those same people that sat at the feet of Christ. What does Paul say...
"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night." 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2
Quick note...why would they know "perfectly" about this phrase? Well because they had already heard it from Jesus. Paul is just repeating what Jesus said and his listeners knew it. He continues....
"For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief." 1 Thessalonians 5:3-4
Again, more thief language referring to the Coming of the Lord. Also notice Paul refers to birth pains upon a pregnant woman. Where would that have come from? You guessed it. Just 20-30 years earlier when again describing His Coming and the end of the age, Jesus said this...
"All these are but the beginning of the birth pains." Matthew 24:8
The point of this is that we cannot assume that Paul was teaching them about a different future Coming of the Lord apart from the one Coming that the Lord spoke about and assured would happen before some of those men standing there would die. (Matt 16:27-28)
The thief example that Jesus is comparing His Coming to, is the exact same message being passed on from Paul 20-30 years later. It was another reminder to not forget He would come! The time was drawing closer and their "redemption was drawing near". (Luke 21:28)
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