We have a tendency, as Christians, always to be ‘watching’, because Jesus told us to watch. What most of us are watching for is definitive signs of the end times, much the same as Jesus’ first followers were doing.
But we have to be careful that in watching, we don’t focus so hard on looking for signs that we miss everything else going on around us and even overlook our whole reason for being here.
Case in point: I took a 2-month train trip across Canada a few years ago. While I was on the train, I bought a book with fold-out maps that showed all the milestone markers along the train tracks. So for the next few days after I’d bought the book, I was glued to the train window, watching for the next milestone. In fact, I was so focused on looking for the milestone markers, I missed bear sightings, moose sightings, mountain peak sightings, etc. Sure, I was able to check off milestone after milestone in my map book, but what good did that do me? In hindsight, I would rather have seen the bears and the moose and the mountain peaks than the milestone markers.
We need to be careful that in watching for signs of the end, we don’t overlook everything else going on around us. We need to be careful that in focusing on end time prophecies, we don’t forget what it is that we’re actually here for – to learn our lessons and to help others with theirs. A focus on the end times can lead to bizarre and very un-Christianlike behavior, such as joining doomsday cults that pick a date when Jesus is allegedly to return and then run with it. If we know scripture well enough, we know that we cannot know the date or time of Jesus’ return in glory. Also if we know scripture well enough, we know that when Jesus does come, we won’t have to glue our noses to a train window, watching for milestone markers, or use a spiritual magnifying glass to find and decipher the signs. Because Jesus tells us that when he does come back, it will be like lightning flashing from one horizon to the other. We won’t be able to miss it. The signs will be so huge and obvious, everyone will see them, including unbelievers who have no interest whatsoever in looking for them.
You won’t have to pore over obscure writings that aren’t included in the Bible. You won’t have to click on yet another false prophet’s click-bait headline on YouTube. You won’t have to consult with an “end times expert” or attend special meetings at a sketchy church downtown to learn what to watch for. You’ll just have to still be on Earth and be your normal attentive self.
Eschatology is an entire field devoted to the end times. I don’t think that becoming a devotee of eschatology is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to “watch”. Always to be alert and aware like he was, yes, but to be so obsessed with end time prophecies and signs that you forget about loving your enemies and following the Commandments, no. Loving your enemies and following the Commandments take priority always. Treating others as you want to be treated takes priority always. Whether or not this or that celebrity may or may not be the antichrist, or whether or not this or that invention may or may not be the mark of the beast – these are the spiritual equivalent of gossip and hearsay. If we spend any time at all on these and similar speculations, it should only be in passing. We should never focus on them.
If you find yourself being drawn to blogs and videos about the end times or trying to overlay current events on the laundry list of signs given in Matthew 24, you need to stop. It’s a temptation. Jesus advised us to watch for signs of the end times, not to obsess over them. More important for us is to be ready, because even though Jesus’ coming in glory will be so obvious that even a blind man will see it, he will come at a time when we least expect it.
I believe this will be a supernatural suppression of expectation for everyone, not just unbelievers.
Which is why Jesus wisely advised us that, instead of only watching for signs of the end times and his coming, we should ALWAYS TO BE READY FOR IT.
Being READY is even more important than watching for signs.
If we’re ready, it won’t matter if we miss the signs, because we’ll still be good to go.
“Therefore be ye… ready: for in such an hour as ye think not
the Son of man cometh.”