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“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming…lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping….I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:35-37)
When the New Testament commands us to "watch," it is usually 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, on guard and alert.
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 said next 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).
Paul also exhorted the Christians in Rome: "...now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In other words, 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 we will die. To waste time is to waste life. Many squander countless hours in front of their TV or computer seeking only to be entertained.
God wants us to be well-informed regarding the major geopolitical, cultural and spiritual issues. The Bible provides the essential framework for a godly worldview of these issues, and should be the filter by which we assess this information. ‘Watching’ in the spiritual sense is very important for a Christian. If the Pharisees and Sadducees had believed the Scriptures, they would have been able to "discern the signs of the times" and to realize the Messiah had come (Matthew 16:1-3).
Jesus taught we should hope and pray for His return, so we need to be familiar with the Bible prophecies surrounding the second coming of Christ. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master … Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching…for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Luke 12:35-36 and 40).
In the final book of the Bible we are warned: "Behold, I am coming as a thief [meaning suddenly and unexpectedly]. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15). Wearing garments, especially white raiment, symbolizes a good spiritual condition (Revelation 3:1-5 and 18).
The parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) emphasizes staying spiritually prepared and ready. 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" (verse 13).
Jesus often connected prayer with watching. Mark records Jesus saying: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time [of Christ's coming] is." (Mark 13:33). ‘Watching’ also includes staying alert to our own spiritual condition. Some scriptures emphasize watching out for spiritual dangers, such as "savage wolves," deceivers who want to take advantage of God's "flock" (Acts 20:29).
Faithfully watching and praying, not only helps us to see ourselves realistically, but also aids in developing an attitude of sympathy, empathy and compassion for others who are struggling and going through trials. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
God called the prophet Ezekiel to be a "watchman" to warn Israel to repent of their wicked ways (Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7), and God told Him that He would hold him accountable (Ezekiel 33:1-6). We are also to act as watchmen by setting a godly example for others to follow (Matthew 5:14). By studying our Bibles and staying well-informed regarding world affairs we can help others understand those events from a biblical perspective (1 Peter 3:15). Learning how to support and be part of the great collective commission of "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14) has been the role of those God has called down through the ages.
The Good News Magazine (Jan-Feb 2011)