The Thief Among the Plagues

Coming as a thief

   "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." (Rev. 16:15)

   At first, this verse seems to have been dropped into the text from somewhere else. John had been recording his vision of the 6th plague when, here in the middle of the scene, the Lord spoke. "Look, I'm coming like a thief. Whoever watches and keeps his clothes ready is blessed." The announcement seems to come at the wrong time because when the plagues fall it's too late for a change of heart, 1508. We may resolve the problem by realizing that the announcement of the plagues is read before they actually begin so the thief announcement here is a warning. Also the time of the thief surprises those who are represented by the unfaithful servant when it's too late to change. mt2437ff.

Rapture - left behind
  The primary significance of the warning here is apparently that Jesus' coming in glory is not expected until much later. For many who have believed the rapture theory, the actual coming will be an early surprise. re0107b, mt2437ff.

Keep your clothes ready
   The Old Testament is usually the source of images used in the book of Revelation. This one, however, is drawn primarily from a story Jesus told to His disciples:
   "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. . . . lu1232.
   "Let your loins [hips] be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
   "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat [food], and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." (Luke 12:32-40) lu1235.

Sequence of events in being received into heaven

Going with Christ into the wedding Wedding Exit from wedding and entry to banquet Banquet

   Of what value is the counsel to be ready? We have to study the passage in Luke and add several others to build an overall picture. Our verse about the thief urges us to be ready. It's pointing to a specific time. When might that be?

Being ready when the wedding ends
   In the story, Jesus comes from the wedding and enters the place of His servants. Then he becomes their host at a dinner. We must ask, What was He doing in the wedding and What is this banquet after the wedding? Matthew recorded Jesus explanation of the Wedding:
   "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins [1404] which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried [delayed coming], they all slumbered and slept.
   " And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Image developed from an out-of-copyright book, Haskel.
   "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matt. 24:1-13)

Then what happens in the wedding?
   Seeing the purpose of the wedding will help clarify the transition from wedding to banquet. Remember that the Lord came out of the wedding and went in to serve His waiting ones.
   In the story of the ten virgins, the groom (bridegroom) for whom we need to be ready is clearly Christ. What is He doing inside the place of the marriage? Is He getting married? We are reminded of Paul's counsel for husbands and wives. Read Eph. 5:25-27.
   So Christ and the church are to become husband and wife. This means a wedding. How does the church get ready for the marriage? She is cleansed to be presented to Him. This is why it was important for the virgins to have extra oil (the Holy Spirit, 1 Sam. 16:13) for entry into the wedding with the groom. We, as individuals, must decide whether or not we want to be completely committed to Christ. As we do, we become part of the larger group of God's people who, together, will become the bride of Christ.
   As committed individuals, we are already part of the woman of Revelation 12, but the full church of Christ all who claim to belong to Him is not yet without spot or wrinkle. The weeds are still growing with the wheat (Matt. 13). This will not happen until the end-time righteous are sealed.

Other descriptions of Christ receiving His purified people help us understand better.
   "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened [listened], and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Mal. 3:16, 17).
   When is "that day" in which the Jewels are identified? Malachi was referring to a special day near the end of the sanctuary yearly calendar. I believe the preparation of the church as the bride to be presented to Christ and assembling the jewels describe the same event.

Image from Corel.
   "And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD." (Lev. 16:29, 30). This describes the cleansing process where God writes His law on our hearts. The next passage describes the judgment or selection aspect of the day of atonement.
   "And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people." (Lev. 23:28-30). The day when Christ makes up His jewels is the day of atonement when He picks out His jewels from among the rocks.
  At the beginning of the chapter in Malachi we see the selection as a time of preparation. Mal. 3:1-3.
   Turning to Daniel's book we find a more literal description where the selection or judgment is a process in the presence of the Father  (also Dan. 7:9, 10; Rev. 6:16, 17). Let's read the passage to see the righteous identified before the angels of heaven and presented to Christ.
   "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13, 14).

Time sequence
   The day of atonement when the jewels are identified is a time of preparation just before Jesus comes with His reward for righteous and wicked (Matt. 16:27). It is also a time of judgment the time when the sheep are separated from the goats. Daniel described Christ ascending to the Father, then, in a second movement, moving closer to Him (Dan. 7:13). In the sanctuary system, this would be entering the tabernacle (temple) which represents heaven, then progressing from the holy place to the most holy place (cf. Lev. 16:2). As a result of this encounter with the Father (which represents the day-of-atonement ministry), Christ receives His purified people (Eph. 5:26) those who really want Him to be their king..
   After the immigrants to heaven get their visas, their master comes to get them and takes them to their new homeland where they celebrate the wedding banquet with him. They have collectively become his bride.

The time of transition from earth to heaven
   In the picture we have described from various parts of the Bible, identification of the citizens of the kingdom occurs before Christ comes to take us to heaven (John 14:1-3). The wedding feast (banquet) occurs after His coming. I know that a number of theories are floating around on this topic, so it may be well to confirm what the Scriptures teach.
   First, the selection involves our obeying the call of Christ so He can choose us. "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22:14). Only the righteous are taken to heaven as the following passage confirms.
   "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. . . : and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still . . . [close of probation]. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me [already decided before He comes], to give every man according as his work shall be. . . . Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Rev. 22:11-15).
   The wedding time, when the purified church is presented to Christ, comes before she is taken to heaven because, until the sealing time 1701, some will be choosing good or evil. When we are sealed, we become part of the pure church.
   "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? . . . Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death [totally committed]; jealousy [dedication to guard the relationship] is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love. . . ." (Song 8:5-7).

The marriage supper
   In Luke 12, we saw that, after the marriage, comes moving to heaven and participation in the banquet. Let's look at the description:
   "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Rev. 19:6-9)

   From the text we see that this happens when the Lord reigns. Another passage implies that the marriage supper will be in heaven. At the Saviour's last meal with His disciples, ". . . he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:27-29)
   We see the sequence of separation, or judgment, followed by the reward for the righteous in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Notice that the reward in the Father's kingdom follows the separation time. See Matt. 25:31-46.

   "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." (Rev. 16:15). On the next web page, we will answer the question about why this warning appears here. We will expand the time line. Just choose to "continue."

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