Yesterday, I preached on the text found at the end of chapter thirteen of Mark’s Gospel – Mark 13:32-37. I’m fully convinced that our evangelical church culture is saturated with less than superb teaching regarding the second coming of Christ. For some, it’s out of ignorance that they spread poor theological interpretations. For others, it’s a big money business where they make money telling people about blood moons and how that’s a “sign” regarding the imminent return of Jesus. What exactly does the Bible say about the return of Christ? Could Christ come at any moment?
The Second Coming of Christ is a Big Secret
All throughout history, people have become famous by popularizing their theory regarding the return of Christ and the end of the world. If the theory sounds good and seems to be prepared well, it will generate quite a bit of attention in the news media. That type of attention allows their following to grow and often this type of popularity can generate money. Some people throughout history make such predictions out of true ignorance while others do so with motives to gain popularity and wealth.
- in the 1200s, Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would come to an abrupt end 666 years after the rise of Islam.
- Michael Stifel, a mathematician put together a calculation that predicted the end of the world would begin at 8:00am on October 19th 1533.
- Charles Taze Russell predicted the end of the world would happen in October 1914.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization predicted the end of the world several times, but specifically in 1941 and 1975.
Harold Camping is perhaps the most famous in recent years. In previous years, Camping made several false predictions regarding the return of Jesus Christ.
- September 6th 1994 – failed prediction.
- September 29th 1994 – failed prediction.
- October 2nd 1994 – failed prediction.
- March 31st 1995 – failed prediction.
Leading up to 2011, Harold Camping surfaced once again. He led a massive campaign telling everyone that the world would come to an end on May 21st 2011. I recall seeing large billboards on the side of the Interstate indicating that the world would end on that particular day. On one occasion, I was traveling with a group of people from our church on our way home from a church planting trip to Ecuador when we came across a group of Camping followers in the Miami airport. They were dressed in bright colored shirts claiming the end of the world was coming. As we all know, the end of the world didn’t happen on May 21st 2011.
Before I boarded my airplane, I spoke to one of the Camping followers. This particular man had quit his job and had sold his home because he was certain that Camping was telling everyone the truth. I said, “Sir, you will likely not remember me, but I don’t want you to forget this truth. When you wake up on May 22nd and realize that Harold Camping is a false teacher, I plead with you to repent and turn to Jesus Christ. Regarding the second coming of Christ, we can be sure of this – it’s a big secret. Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). If a man can’t interpret Mark 13:32, he has no business teaching complicated eschatological calculations regarding Jesus’ return.
The Second Coming of Christ Demands Readiness
As Jesus prepares His followers for the end of the world, He likewise prepares us – the followers who would come in later days. We can see this in the last verse of this chapter as Jesus claims to be talking to His followers and to all. In order to make His point clear, He uses an illustration. Jesus tells a story about a man who left his home and went on a journey. The man left his servants and his doorkeeper behind and provided them with duties to fulfill. The emphasis is upon the doorkeeper who is commanded to remain alert through the night. There would have been four night watches In this culture:
- evening: 6–9 P.M.
- midnight: 9 P.M.–12.
- rooster crowing: 12–3 A.M.
- dawn: 3–6 A.M.
In the story, Jesus is the Master of the house. The servants and the doorkeeper are His disciples. The emphasis is placed on the doorkeeper regarding the duties to fulfill. It’s a difficult thing to stay awake through the night hours, but that’s the point. William Hendriksen writes, “Does it merely mean to look at the clouds every morning in order to see whether Jesus is beginning to make his appearance? Not at all. The alertness Jesus has in mind is not only eager and prayerful, it is also intelligent, continuous, and last but not least, active.”  In this section, Jesus instructs the disciples to be prepared and alert in five different places.
- 33 – Be on guard (imperative).
- 33 – Keep awake (imperative).
- 34 – commands the doorkeeper to stay awake (command).
- 35 – Stay awake (imperative).
- 37 – Stay awake (imperative).
R.T. France observes, “The nighttime is the most difficult and improbable time to be on the watch, and the parousia will be equally unexpected. It will be very easy to be caught napping.” 
It should be noted that an imperative is not a suggestion to consider, it’s a command to obey. Jesus is laboring the point that His followers must be prepared at all times for His return. As followers of Christ, we must view life through the lens of God’s glory and seek to live with such motives. Rather than being slothful, lazy, and disconnected from the reality of Jesus’ return, we must live life with a constant readiness. That doesn’t mean that we should be like Camping’s followers and sell our homes and quit our jobs. We are not to be cloud watchers (see Acts 1:9-11). We are to see that no matter who we are in life (engineer, doctor, student, retired grandparent, stay at home mother, homeschool mother, painter, business owner, teacher, or truck driver) – our life matters for God. We must do everything for the glory of God as we await His return (1 Cor. 10:31).
For those who think that the study of eschatology is a worthless pursuit, consider the way the Bible comes to a close:
Revelation 22:20-21 – He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Are you ready for Jesus’ sudden return?
- William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark, vol. 10, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 543.
- R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 546.