How to Understand "I Come as a Thief" in Revelation 16:15
How the Lord Will Come
Speaking of how the Lord will come in the last days, most brothers and sisters will go by the Bible verse: “[T]hey shall seecoming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30), and believe that the Lord will definitely come in the clouds in His resurrected spiritual body with glory. But there are still some people who are perplexed about this statement, because Revelation prophesied, “Behold, I come as a thief” (Revelation 16:15). “If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you” (Revelation 3:3). The Lord said plainly that He would come as a thief. So to speak, He would come at a time unknown to people. If the Lord came in the clouds, wouldn’t everyone see Him? If so, how would the prophecy of the Lord coming as a thief be fulfilled? This is a mystery to many people. Now, let us have a fellowship on these problems.
How Will the Prophecy of the Lord Coming as a Thief Be Fulfilled?
“Come as a thief” means that no one knows the exact time of the Lord’s return, and it also means that the Lord will come secretly as the Son of man. There are many places in the Bible that prophesy the Lord’s secret coming. For example, “Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not” (Luke 12:40). “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (Luke 17:24–25). These prophecies all mention “the Son of man.” Speaking of the Son of man, it means being born of man and having normal humanity. A spiritual body can’t be called the Son of man, just like Jehovah God is the Spirit, angels are spirits, and the spiritual body of theafter His resurrection is also the Spirit. All the spiritual bodies can’t be called the Son of man. Only the incarnate God, who is born of man, has a father and mother, becomes a normal person, and lives among people, can be called the Son of man. Just like the Lord Jesus who had parents, and who ate, drank, slept and walked like a normal man, living practically among people. So He was called the Son of man. The scriptures also mention that “first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Only when God becomes incarnate to do His work secretly can He possibly undergo sufferings. If the Lord appeared to people publicly in the clouds in His resurrected spiritual body, who would dare to resist and condemn Him? Definitely people would all bow down and worship Him, and He wouldn’t be rejected or suffer. This is like when the Lord Jesus first came to work, if He had worked in a spiritual body, no one would have dared to resist Him. Because the Lord Jesus appeared as the Son of man to do His work, looking very ordinary and normal in appearance, the Jewish chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees failed to recognize Him as and so didn’t treat Him as God. Furthermore, they even furiously resisted and condemned the Lord according to their notions and imaginations. In the end, they joined hands with the Roman government to crucify the Lord Jesus. So, when the scriptures mention “the Son of man” and “the Son of man comes,” it means that in the last days the Lord will come in the flesh. As God reveals Himself in the flesh to do His work, looking ordinary and normal, people are not able to recognize Him as God Himself, and thus God’s appearance and work are hidden to people. Therefore, it’s perfectly appropriate to use the parable “come as a thief.” If the Lord came publicly in the clouds in His resurrected spiritual body, everyone would recognize Him, and so it can’t be referred to as “come as a thief.” It can be seen that the Lord appearing to people by becoming the Son of man in the flesh has fully fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord’s secret coming.
How Will the Prophecy of the Lord’s Coming in the Clouds Be Fulfilled?
Some people may say that these two prophecies seem contradictory, as one is about the Lord’s secret coming in the flesh, and the other is the Lord’s coming in the clouds. As a matter of fact, there is no contradiction between these prophecies, and it’s only that they will be fulfilled one after another. In other words, the Lord will first come secretly in the flesh, then appear publicly in the clouds. This has to do with the work the Lord will do in the last days. Now, let’s look at a few Bible verses.
The Lord Jesus said, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12–13). “He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Also, 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth.”
We can see from these prophecies that when the Lord comes in the last days, He will express many truths and tell us everything we did not understand before, and He will do the work of judgment that starts with the house of God. This is because although our sin of breaking the laws is forgiven, our satanic dispositions such as arrogance, self-conceit, crookedness, deceit, selfishness, and despicableness are still deeply rooted in us and they control us to sin involuntarily. For example, we want to have final say in everything in our life. When something is disagreeable to us, we will lose our temper. We can even lie and cheat in order to protect our personal interests. When we encounter a disaster, we blame and even betray God. This shows that we are not free from the bondage of sin yet. But we can’t get rid of the bondage of sin ourselves, and only God can save us from it. God is faithful. Since God wants to save us, He will do it completely. Therefore, when the Lord comes, He will come secretly in the flesh, and speak practically, and do a stage of work of removing sins based on the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption so that our sinful nature can be cleansed and we can become people who obey, worship, and are compatible with God. During God’s secret work of incarnation, wise virgins will recognize the voice of God and return to the throne of God. This will fulfill the: “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6). “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). They accept God’s work of judgment and are thus cleansed and changed in their corrupt disposition. However, those foolish virgins don’t listen to God’s voice, don’t investigate God’s work, and they even judge and condemn God’s work of judgment in the last days. They are the ones who reject Christ and will be exposed and eliminated in God’s work. This is how the wheat and tares, the sheep and goat are separated, as spoken of in the Lord Jesus’ prophecy. When those who accept God’s work of judgment are made overcomers, God’s hidden work of incarnation will come to an end, and afterward God will openly appear with clouds to all peoples, sending disasters and starting rewarding good and punishing evil. When those who condemn and resist God see the One whom they resist is the returned Lord Jesus, they will weep and gnash their teeth and beat upon their breasts. This will fulfill the prophecies of the Lord’s coming publicly in the clouds: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). “Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).
How to Welcome the Lord’s Second Coming
At this point, I believe that you should understand how the prophecies of “the Lord coming as a thief” and “coming with clouds” will be fulfilled. So, how should we welcome the Lord’s return? Just now we fellowshiped that the Lord will come secretly in the flesh to express the truth and do the work of judgment starting with God’s house. So, when the Lord comes, He will definitely speak words. If we hear God’s voice and accept God’s new work in the last days, it means that we have welcomed the Lord’s return. The Lord Jesus told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). So, we have to follow the Lord’s teachings. When we hear someone testify that the Lord has come, we must have a humbly seeking heart to see whether their way has the truth and whether there is the voice of God. When we’re sure there is the voice of God, we should quickly accept the true way. Only in this way can we welcome the Lord’s return and go to the feast with the Lord. As the Bible says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).