The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). The rest of the verse is clear, but what does “watch” mean?
When the New Testament commands us to “watch,” it is mostly the translation of one of two Greek words (gregoreuo or agrupneo), which have similar meanings—to “stay awake” and to “be sleepless.” They are usually meant in the metaphorical and spiritual sense—to be vigilant and on guard.
In Matthew 26:37-40 the meaning of “watch” is primarily physical. Jesus was chiding the disciples for not remaining awake during the hour preceding His arrest. But what Jesus then said to Peter had a deeper, spiritual meaning: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing [i.e., intentions are good], but the flesh [mere human willpower] is weak’” (Matthew 26:41).
It is spiritual watching, coupled with prayer, that gives us the strength to survive temptations and difficult situations. Being awake is equated with righteousness and not sinning: “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Corinthians 15:34).
The closer we draw to the second coming of Christ, the more urgent it is that we awake out of spiritual sleep! Furthermore, none of us knows when he or she will die. To waste time is to waste life. Many squander countless hours vegetating in front of their TV or computer seeking only to be entertained.
The parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) emphasizes staying spiritually prepared and ready. Keeping one’s lamp filled with oil represents staying close to God. Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (March 25:13).
In Mark’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus Christ’s prophecy, we see that Jesus connected watching with praying. Mark records Jesus saying: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time [of Christ’s coming] is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch” (Mark 13:33-34).
Christ was quite emphatic here in commanding us to do four things:
1. Take heed to what He had just said.
2. Watch for the signs He had outlined.
3. Pray regularly and earnestly so that we stay close to God.
4. Keep doing God’s work!
Perhaps the best summary of this subject is this sobering warning from Jesus Christ in Mark 13:35-37: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
The Good News Magazine