No one else stresses the critical importance of watchfulness for the servant of God to anything like the degree with which our Lord stresses it. He says:- As in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left. Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matt. 24: 38).
The parallel is drawn by the Son of God Himself. A warning of coming judgment for twelve decades; the sudden and total disappearance of a saint of God; an ark (holding the earthly, not the heavenly, people of God) which passes through the tribulation, but uninjured; then a judgment-flood so universal that this rapture out of the inhabited earth is the sole heavenly escape:- As were the days of Noah, so shall be the Parousia of the Son of man: one is taken, and one is left. Watch therefore (Matt. 24: 37). It is a rapture of heavenly escape.
A woman mill-hand in Scripture stands for the extreme social contrast to royalty (Ex. 11: 5): the rapt will be amongst the humble of the earth; and all who would now rise in the social scale are proving themselves fools in the sight of God (Is. 2: 12; Luke 16: 15). Shut in above the storms of wrath until the seventh (the millennial) month, and liberated on the 17th of Nisan, the resurrection day, they issue forth at last to rule a world washed clean by the storms of judgment.
Who then are the unrapt?* [* With the view that the taken are taken to judgment, and the left are left to glory, it is needless to say more at present than that it is built on single (not unnatural) misconception. For the word 'took,' in the case of the Antediluvians - took them all away - means to arrest, to take to destruction; whereas when one is taken and one is left, the word means to take as a companion. it is a rapture of honour: it is the word used when our Lord selects three only out of the Twelve for watchfulness against the great tribulation of Gethsemane, the select resurrection of jairus's daughter, and the kingdom glory of the Transfiguration.] Of these two closely associated souls - one is taken, and one is left - is the one. left an unbeliever? This is impossible; because:
(1) It is the natural inference from our Lord's words that it is the unwatchfulness of the one left, and his unwatchfulness only, that has prevented his rapture. One is taken, and one left. Watch therefore." For watchfulness implies a heart already awakened by grace: we do not tell the dead to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord - the Lord of both the taken and the left - cometh.
(2) None but disciples were present; and inLuke 17: 22, 34, our Lord says, " I say unto you, Watch ye ; so Paul, after the warning - let us watch and be sober - adds:- whether we are wake [keep awake, are alert, wakeful, watchful: the word is so used throughout the context] or sleep, we shall - as all being believers - live together with Him (1 Thess. 5: 10). The sole distinction stated by Jesus is a distinction of watchfulness; therefore both are believers, for between the believer and the unbeliever yawns an infinitely wider gulf.
(3) Our Lord directly forbids the unbeliever to watch. To unregenerate Pharisees, inquiring the date of the Advent, He says: - The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation [with watching]; for lo, the Kingdom of God - so far as you, unregenerate souls, are concerned - is within you (Luke 17:20) - it is an internal matter; for except, a man be begotten from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3: 3). For the unbeliever to watch for the Advent is to watch for his own fearful judgment.
(4) Would an unbeliever watch for Christ's return, if told to do so? To be caught away to Him would be, even more than death, a disgust and a terror, for it would be an immediate transition to the throne of judgment. No soul can watch, for Christ until it loves Christ; and even of those who love Him, few love His appearing.
(5) Three passages are here (Matt. 24: 37-51) knit closely together - the unwatchful disciple, the robbed householder, and the unfaithful steward: obviously they are all warnings pointed at one target: if, then, they are warnings for worldlings, for hypocrites, for empty professors, why does our Lord not say so? He drops no hint to that effect: none but true disciples, so far as can be seen in the narrative, fill His vision. If the left disciple, the robbed householder, and the unfaithful steward are all unregenerate souls, then these commands are not for Christ's disciples at all. Why, then, does our Lord speak them to disciples only, and why does He not tell them to pass them on to the world, whom alone they concern?
(6) Had these warnings been for the world, Christs words to His own must have been profoundly different: instead of rousing His disciples by exhortations to watchfulness, He would have comforted them with explicit assurances that, since rapture rests on sovereign, electing grace alone, whatever their conduct at the moment of the Advent, their rapture is sure - an utterance that never falls from His lips.
(7) An overwhelming proof still remains. Can a believer be unwatchful? If so, he instantly falls under the penalty involved, and if unwatchful at the moment of the Advent, he must be left. Were the Apostles watchful at Gethesemane? Did Peter watch in the judgment hall? Were Ananias and Demas and Diotrophes watchful believers? Why did our Lord tell the Sardian Angel to become watchful again (Rev. 3: 2), if it is impossible for a believer to be anything else? Our Lord assumes it possible for the whole Church to be asleep - Watch therefore: for ye know not when the Lord of the house cometh: lest coming suddenly he find you - you all - SLEEPING (Mark 13: 35).
The matter is infinitely grave for us, now in the last hour. For precisely as, in the actual moment of rapture, Satan will physically dispute the ascent of his supplanters (Rev. 12: 5, 7); so, now, spiritually, his supreme aim is so to dissipate watchfulness as to prevent rapture through unripeness: and all teaching that thus lulls the Church assists his aim - however sincere its motive, or pardonable its error. Therefore let us heed our Lords solemn call to all His own down the ages, a call never more urgent than now:- What I say unto you [apostles] I say unto all [disciples], WATCH (Mark 13: 37).
Watchfulness is embodied for ever in Enoch, who has actually experienced rapture, and so - and only so - escaped the great tribulation of the Flood; while Noah, foreshadowing Jewish fidelity at the age-end, passed through the tribulation, but unwrecked. Enoch was translated; for before his translation he hath had witness borne to him that he had been WELL-PLEASING UNTO GOD (Heb. 11: 5). In the words of the Biblical Illustrator: Enochs character was a noble testimony to the power of faith; but his translation shows more impressively what wonders faith can achieve. Heaven attracts to itself that which resembles itself. So Christ, Himself now translated, said, I do always those things that please Him'.
A WORLD SURPRISE
0ne of these days or nights - while men are busy with the common pursuits and cares of life, and everything is. Roll on its accustomed course - unheralded, unbelieved, and unknown to the gay world, here one, and there another, shall secretly d isappear, caught up like Enoch, who was not found because God had translated him. Invisibly, noiselessly, miraculously, they shall vanish from the company and fellowship of those about them, and ascend to their returning Lord. Strange announcements of the missing ones will be in the morning papers. Strange accounts will be whispered around in the circles of business and society. And for the first time will apostate Christendom, and the slow in heart to believe all that the Prophets have written, have the truth brought home, that no such half Christianity as theirs is sufficient to put men among the favourites of the Lord. - J A. SEISS.