If Paul says Jesus will come “as a thief in the night,” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) then why does John say, “Every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7)?
At first glance, these texts seem contradictory. What kind of a “thief” is seen by “every eye”? Jesus says, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27), yet in the very same chapter (v.43) He compares His return to a thief. Peter also uses paradoxical language stating that “the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). What we end up with is a loud, destructive thief that everyone will see coming! How do we make sense of this?
The picture grows clearer when we add a few more verses to the mix. Christ warns, “Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief” (Revelation 3:3). And Paul declares, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Scripture is saying that the lost will experience Christ’s return as a thief in the night – sudden and unexpected.
This parallels the flood account in Genesis. When the door of the ark closed, those on the outside did not know their fate was sealed “until the flood came and took them all away” (Matthew 24:39). As we near the second coming, probation will close, and those “outside the ark” will not know that the thief has come until Jesus appears in glory. Then they will realize that they have lost everything.
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Revelation 16:15).
Luke 12:35 – 48, Matthew 25, Genesis 6 & 7, (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Chapter 7 – The Flood)
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