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Bible verses about Sober Watchfulness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:4-7

In verse 4, Satan slyly convinces Eve that God has lied to them by withholding from them the ability to become "like God, knowing good and evil." God was being unfair, he argues, keeping them from their potential. The passage suggests that, after hearing this, Eve did not hesitate one bit in making her decision. She took the bait without even flinching and ignorantly promoted the interests of Satan by giving the forbidden fruit to her husband. In effect, she signed on to advance Satan's objective—to derail God's plan to create mankind in His spiritual image.

Satan's tack has been the same ever since, even though he must realize that, due to Christ's death and resurrection, he will ultimately lose (Revelation 20:10). While he still has time, he will try to make as many people as he can fail to reach their incredible human potential. He will do whatever is in his power—whatever God allows him to do—to convince them that his way is superior to God's.

For those that have been called by God in this lifetime, we have far more at stake here. If Satan can succeed in deceiving us to advocate for him more and more, he greatly increases our chances of being subject to the second death, the eternal death in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15).

Peter warns us of the dangers that Satan poses to God's people: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). According to the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, "sober" (Greek nepho) is a verb found in the New Testament only in the figurative sense, implying "sober watchfulness." In addition, "vigilant" (Greek gregoreuo) means "to keep awake, i.e., watch (literally or figuratively)."

Combining "sober" and "vigilant" paints an interesting word-picture for us. When a person is heavily intoxicated, he wants nothing more than to sleep it off, so it is impossible for the sleeping drunkard to be vigilant about anything. The message for us is that we must be attentive to our physical and spiritual condition so that we do not become spiritually intoxicated. This type of person is exactly the kind whom Satan seeks. If we enter this state, then we make ourselves a prime target to be devoured by the "roaring lion."

Staff
Should a Christian Play Devil's Advocate?


 

Amos 8:1-2

Because we read the Bible in English, puns and other wordplay are lost in translation. Understanding this vision depends on a play on the Hebrew words translated "summer fruit" and "end." Amos answers God's question by saying he saw ripe fruit. But, when God responds, He uses a similar sounding word to suggest the time was ripe for His people.

The fruit represents people. If ripe, they were ready either to be used or to rot. God says the time is ripe for picking Israel. God had tried to get the people to repent, but in their hardheaded and hardhearted way, they would not. John the Baptist uses a different metaphor for the Jews of his day: The ax is about to fall (Matthew 3:10). God's patience had run out. He would "not pass by them anymore." In their spiritually oblivious state, disaster would take them by surprise.

Could we be taken by surprise?

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (I Thessalonians 5:1-6)

This passage sounds strikingly similar to Amos 8. Could we be lulled into complacency? Is God's hand involved in world events, while we think we have plenty of time before the end? Are we motivated to make use of the time left to us? God says the time is ripe. He gives us time to repent, but that time grows shorter daily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Matthew 25:5

Matthew 25:5 prophesies that, as the return of Christ nears, the church goes to sleep. Why? Perhaps it is because we have been somewhat misled since prophecy has not been fulfilled in the way we expected. However, the overall theme of what we were taught is still accurate. Babylon has a little longer to exist until the axis of history turns again. Now is not a time for wild-eyed fanaticism but for recapturing a steady sense of controlled urgency in preparing for Christ's Kingdom by resolving personal spiritual and moral problems.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Mark 13:32-37

In this parable, it is even more apparent that the Master intends for the servants to be watchful—diligent, alert, taking heed to themselves—in their work and authority rather than for His return. Twice, He says that no one knows the timing of His return—not even Himself! Here, He tells us that we do not know the "day and hour," but after His resurrection He expands this unknown variable to "times or seasons" (Acts 1:6-7).

So, even though we might be able to have a rough idea when that time draws near (see Matthew 24:32-33; Luke 21:29-31), in general, it is secret and indeterminable. Our time, then, is best spent focusing on our responsibilities before God rather than being caught up in the details of how it might unfold. These things are unknowable, but even if one could correctly anticipate them, it would all be for naught if the individual is not spiritually prepared for Jesus Christ's return (see also Matthew 24:42-44).

David C. Grabbe
'As a Thief in the Night'


 

Luke 12:42-47

Here, Christ's instruction to watch continues. However, this time Jesus focuses specifically on the responsibility of the steward—the one given authority over the household while the Master is away. His theme is preparation and faithful continuance of duty. He tasks the steward—a type of the ministry—with giving the household "food in due season."

Similarly, Paul outlines the responsibilities of church leadership in his letter to the Ephesians. Notice that the focus is on the church, not on the world: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [service], for the edifying of the body of Christ. . ." (Ephesians 4:11-13). Church leaders are responsible for feeding and preparing God's household and encouraging them to watch themselves.

If the steward does not properly watch, however, the human proclivity is to let down—and abuse. The steward in Luke 12:45 is focused on the Master's return—or lack thereof—rather than on his own alertness and attention to his duties. As a result, he falls into excesses of eating and drinking (rather than providing food for the household). He ends up beating those he was supposed to watch over, as if he thought they belonged to him. Clearly, those who have stewardship responsibilities in the church have an added weight to "take heed to themselves" lest they neglect or even damage those for whom they are supposed to be providing spiritual food.

David C. Grabbe
'As a Thief in the Night'


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-9

Like us, the return of Christ was much on the minds of first-century Christians, yet Paul tells them he felt no need to write concerning its timing. Why? Because they should have known that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. There was no point in Paul trying to outline it all, as it will happen at a time that nobody can anticipate.

However, he writes something that seems contradictory in verse 4: Since they are not in darkness, that Day should not "overtake [them] as a thief." What is actually meant is that the day of God's wrath would not possess them—literally, "take them over." God's wrath would not swallow them up, or the destruction of that Day does not need to have power over them. He does not mean that it would not surprise them, but as a parallel verse clarifies, "For God has not appointed us to wrath" (verse 9), even though they will be surprised.

Verse 6 contains the same admonition seen elsewhere to be awake, to be sober, and to watch. Though we are not appointed to wrath, other verses show that we can certainly still incur it if we are not taking heed to ourselves (see Hebrews 10:26-31). So we are instructed to watch—to be vigilant about our spiritual state, to have continuous and wakeful concern over fulfilling our part of the covenant, to be on guard against spiritual dangers, spiritual drowsiness, and deception. Those who do these things, along with praying always, will be accounted worthy to escape the wrath. Simply watching down the road for a sign of the Master's return really does not prepare us for anything at all.

David C. Grabbe
'As a Thief in the Night'


 

1 Peter 4:11

In verse 7, Peter tells us to be sober and to watch, for "the end of all things is at hand." In this section on Christian living, the apostle says that the Christian "no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (verse 2). In verse 10, he says we must use whatever gift God has given us (see also Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:7) "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." As an example, he mentions that those speaking (and writing) must do so according to God's oracles-His revelation to man.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God


 

Revelation 16:15

Here is an explicit warning: that Christ will come as a thief. In the midst of disaster upon disaster and global war, some in God's church will be surprised by it. It seems ironic how that could happen, but it is apparently going to happen that way.

Here also is a conditional promise: Those who watch and keep their garments will be blessed.

Revelation 16 does not just reveal prophetic information about the future like some type of crystal ball. No, the prophecy is capped with a command to act: to "watch" and to "keep." Choosing not to remain vigilant, choosing not to guard our spiritual condition from atrophy, we can become complacent. We can become neglectful. Our obedience to the commands to watch and to keep is what is truly important to this particular scripture—not a full understanding of every nuance of this chapter.

In fact, what God wants to see—and in fact, expects to see—is our obedience in faith to the commands of this passage notwithstanding our lack of understanding of the details. In this sense, the blessing promised in verse 15 comes in spite of our full understanding of this prophecy, or lack thereof. Knowledge is not a prerequisite to receiving the blessing. Obedience is.

We believe God's word of prophecy, though we may not always necessarily understand it. Nevertheless, God wants the prophecy to motivate us to obedience, and our obedience will bring a blessing with it.

Charles Whitaker
To Watch and Keep


 

 




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