To the dead and dying church in Sardis the Lord tells to watch, for He comes as a thief, and they will by no means know at what hour He comes upon them (Rev. 3:3); we need to be watchful and ready, for the Lord will return at an hour we do not expect to steal those who are precious to Him.
In order for us to be prepared for the Lord’s return, we need to come back to the pure revelation in the word of God and remain in the apostles’ teaching so that our works may be completed before Him.
We praise the Lord for Martin Luther who was bold enough to challenge the Catholic church and put forth the truth concerning justification by faith, but we need to go on and see God’s complete salvation, His intention, and His economy, so that we may have our works completed before Him.
The word of God is the complete revelation of God, and we need to not remain in or stop at certain truths in God’s word which we may treasure, but go on and allow the Lord to complete His word among us.
Our Lord is a Lord of completion; He promised that, what He has begun in us – His full salvation – He will also complete it (Phil. 1:6). May we be saved from being stuck in certain aspects of the truth to the extent that we create yet another “church” or denomination based on it; may we be those who have the word of God completed in them and who experience God’s complete and full salvation day by day and in the church life.
God’s purpose, His original intention, is much more than justification by faith; He desires to save us to the uttermost by first justifying us, reconciling us to Himself, redeeming us, regenerating us, sanctifying us, renewing our mind, transforming our soul, conforming us to His image, building us up in His Body, and eventually glorifying us so that we may be the same as Christ in every possible way.
May we remain one with the Lord for the fulfillment of His goal, daily experiencing His organic salvation which is based on His judicial redemption, and daily being constituted with God and built up together with the saints in the Body of Christ.
The Lord is Coming as a Thief at an Hour we Don’t Expect to Steal the Precious Ones
To the church in Sardis, the church “living” in name but dead and dying in the Lord’s eyes, the church which had none of her works completed before Him, the Lord says that she should remember how she received and heard and repent, and if she doesn’t watch, He will come as a thief, and she will by no means know at what hour He will come upon her (Rev. 3:3).
Christ is the One who will come as a thief to steal away His treasures, His precious seekers. The Lord Jesus is the most positive person in the universe, but in the aspect of His return, the Bible likens Him to a thief; a thief comes to steal precious things from a house, and he doesn’t let the owner of the house know what time he’s coming.
The Lord Jesus is coming back; He will return in a secret way as a thief at an hour none of us expects, and He comes to steal the precious ones, those who have been transformed and matured.
The revelation in the New Testament regarding the Lord’s second coming is not according to our natural understanding. According to our natural thought, the Lord will suddenly descend from the throne in the heavens to the earth. According to the pure Word of God, however, the Lord’s coming back is a process. His coming back will begin from the throne and will pass through a process until He descends to fight the battle at Armageddon. The Lord will descend from the throne to the air where He will accomplish many things: the rapture of the majority of the saints, the judgment at the judgment seat, and the wedding of the Lamb. After all this has been accomplished in the air, the Lord will descend to the earth. The rapture of the early overcomers, including the man-child (Rev. 12) and the firstfruits (ch. 14), will occur at the start of the process of the Lord’s coming back. In other words, when they are raptured, the process of the Lord’s coming back begins. Witness Lee, The Conclusion of the New Testament, p. 4194
Just as a thief doesn’t tell us when he is coming and what he considers precious enough to risk his life and steal, so the Lord doesn’t tell us – and He may not even want us to find out – the time that He will return, and He wants to steal those who are precious to Him.
However, since many believers are spiritually dead, they will not be aware of the Lord’s coming as a thief in His secret appearing to His seekers. He said He is coming as a thief upon us; this word “upon” in Greek doesn’t mean He comes from above upon us suddenly but He comes beside us, by our side, and we may not even know Him.
Don’t think that the Lord’s coming will be obvious: He may just come by our side and we may not even know it.
The Lord said that He’s coming as a thief, at a time that He’s unexpected; He will be unnoticed, and He’s coming to steal the precious ones.
There must be something precious in us, something of the divine treasure, for Him to come and visit us, come beside us, and steal us to be with Him.
May we no longer be drugged by this world or deceived by religion but be those watchful and ready, those who gain Christ as the precious One, so that we may be steal-able in His eyes when He returns in secret as a thief!
Lord Jesus, we want to be watchful and ready for Your return, preparing ourselves by gaining more Christ as preciousness itself so that we may be precious in Your eyes when You come as a thief. Keep us living one spirit with You, gaining You day by day as gold, silver, and precious stones, so that we may be steal-able in Your eyes when You return. Lord Jesus, we love You. We give ourselves again to be prepared for Your return. Make us those watchful and ready for the Lord’s secret return to steal the precious ones!
Being those Watchful, Ready, and Prepared for the Lord’s Secret Coming as a Thief
So many Christians today try to figure out when will the Lord return; they do calculations, study world history, and research the Bible and spiritual writings to understand and pinpoint the year and date when the Lord will come back.
We should not be drugged or taken away by such a concept or activity but we should rather focus on being ready and prepared for His return. What is needed is not to know when and where will the Lord will come but whether we are ready and prepared, whether we are living or dead, and whether we are precious enough to Him to steal when He comes as a thief.
If we are not transformed and matured in life, if we don’t have gold and precious stones constituted into our being, we may not be precious enough to be raptured by the Lord even though we may know the time and place of His coming.
We need to be concerned with our condition and be those who are living, have our works completed, and have something precious in our being so that, whenever He is to come – whether it is tomorrow or next year – He would come to steal us for Himself.
Paul tells us in Phil. 4:5 that our forbearance should be known to all men – the Lord is near. The Lord is near: in time and space He is near to us, and we need to be near to Him.
Only those who are matured in life and transformed in their soul will be precious enough for the Lord to steal. Therefore, we must be thoroughly prepared for the time of the Lord’s secret coming as a thief; we must be ready and watchful.
Two brothers may be at work, two sisters may be taking care of household chores, and two saints may be sleeping; when the Lord comes, one may be taken and the other may be left (see Luke 21:36; Matt. 24:42-44). Apparently outwardly we do the same things: we may be at work, at home, or sleeping, but when the Lord comes as a thief, He will take the one that is precious to Him.
At an hour we do not expect it, the Son of Man is coming; therefore, we need to be those watchful, ready, and prepared for the Lord’s secret coming as a thief.
The time of His coming is not known, and when reading the New Testament we realize that the Lord didn’t even want us to know this time; what we know is that today we need to live in His presence and cooperate with Him to be transformed and matured so that we may be precious in His eyes when He returns. We need to be thoroughly prepared and watchful for the Lord’s return.
The watchmen on the wall cannot fall asleep at night: they need to keep watch, being on the alert, and checking to see when the enemy is coming. The Lord clearly told us that He will come at an hour we don’t expect: He may not come when we’re in the meeting, for example, so we need to be watchful, ready, and prepared for His secret coming.
His coming is not a sudden event but a process; we need to live in His presence today, being the precious ones in His eyes by being transformed and matured, and His presence will grow stronger and dearer until He will return and take us.
Lord Jesus, may our forbearance be known to all men, for the Lord is near. Be near and dear to us more and more each day, dear Lord Jesus. We open to You and we give ourselves to You to be transformed and matured until we have a solid amount of gold and precious stones in our being! Lord Jesus, whether You come tomorrow or next year, we want to be those watchful, ready, and prepared for Your secret coming as a thief to steal the precious ones. We want to live in Your presence today and gain You day by day so that we may become precious in Your eyes, precious enough that You may come to steal us!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother James L. for this week, and portions from, The Conclusion of the New Testament, pp. 4194-4195 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Returning to the Orthodoxy of the Church (2016 fall ITERO), msg. 6 (week 6), The Church in Sardis.
- Hymns on this topic:
# We love Thy coming, Lord! / We know not when ’twill be, / But turn from all distracting things / Thine own dear face to see. / We serve the living God / And wait His Son to see; / For this we need faith, love, and hope, / Increasing constantly. (Hymns #1306)
# Christ is coming as a thief to steal those who are faithful, / Those who are most valuable and in the night, so watchful. / I seek, Lord, to be precious; make me a crazy lover! / Increase Your life within me that I would be Your treasure. (Song on the Lord’s coming)
# Soon our Lord will come, the day is drawing nigh, / Sound of His approaching we can hear. / Watchful we must be and always on alert / That the Lord our hearts with rapture cheer. (Hymns #956)
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