The Thief in the Night
2 Peter 3:10 – “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night . . .”
1 Thessalonians 5:1 – “For you know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
The phrase, thief in the night, is yet another Hebrew idiom! This idiom refers to a practice mentioned in Leviticus 6:8-13 which states that the priest in charge must wear linen clothing and must keep the fires of the altar burning: “The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar. The priest shall then put on his linen clothes, with linen undergarments next to his body, . . . The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”
The priests assigned to constantly watch over the altar fire and over the Menorah were never to fall asleep during their night of service. In order to insure that the priest(s) stayed awake, the High Priest would walk around the Temple looking for the priest(s). If a priest was found sleeping during a surprise visit, the High Priest would take hot coals from the altar fire, place some of the hot coals in a fire pan and take them over to the sleeping priest. He would then gently place the pan and hot coals under the sleeping priest’s clothing.
The priest’s linen clothing would soon be ignited in flames – clothing in those days did not have flame retardant chemicals imbedded into the cloth as do modern clothes. The guilty priest would have no choice but to leave his burning clothes and run burnt, naked, and ashamed back home. Quite a lesson not to fall asleep on the job or to be un-alert! It was this practice of surprise visits that according to Jewish tradition got the High Priest nicknamed the “Thief In The Night”!
Modern and Future Patterns
As individuals and as a church body, today’s people are not to fall asleep:
In Matthew 24:42-44, Yeshau says: “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
The word translated keep awake, γρηγορέω, grēgoreō[G1127]; is an active verb meaning: to be awake, to watch, to be alert, to keep watch, to keep watching, to be keeping alert, to stay on the alert, and to stay awake. It expects active and concentrated behavior, to be continuously seeking. This is repeated in the phrase “Therefore . . . must be ready”: houtos hetoimos [οὗτος G3778 ἑτοιμος G2092]; which means: to be especially prepared, ready. Twice in one paragraph Yeshua commands us to be on the alert and ready, to know when the time is near, for he – our High Priest – may come upon us unexpectedly, exactly has did the High Priest in earlier times.
Mark 13:33-36 puts it this way: “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning – in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert’!” Three times in one paragraph Yeshua commands us to be on the alert and ready, to know when the time is near.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 –“ But you are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.”
Paul clearly says that the Christians who live like children of the day and of the light will not be surprised by this surprise visit. The living Church will know when Yeshua will come, even if she knows neither the day nor the hour! She won’t be surprised because she is always watching. Today’s Church people are not to allow their hearts to be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life which would allow that Day to come upon them unexpectedly.
Only those who are the members of the dead Church will be surprised. Yeshua confirms this in his letter to the sleeping Church in Sardis: “I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” (Revelation 3:3). We are to pray that we will escape the consequences of falling asleep and be worthy to stand before Yeshua (Luke 21:36).
The Tribulation Thief
Revelation 16:15 – “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed are all who are watching for me and who keep their robes, not having to go about naked and exposed to shame.”
Falling asleep is equivalent to wearing linen clothing and having hot coals placed upon those clothes. And this is what Yeshua means to emphasize in the time of Great Tribulation when he warns that he will come like the “Thief In The Night”, burning up any clothing and causing sleeping individuals to walk naked and ashamed.
Revelation 3:3 – “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. . . ”
The phrase “Thief In The Night” was a known Hebrew idiom during the first coming of Yeshua – it was a title applied to the High Priest. The consequence of falling asleep on the job always applied to the slothful, sleeping, and unprepared individual, not to an individual who was watching, waiting, obedient and prepared. The consequences for being asleep were, and still are, severe – that individual is left burnt, naked, and ashamed. The alert individual, however, is found worthy to stand before Yeshua, clothed in righteousness. I hope you are alert, awake, and prepared.
Prophecy continues to unfold as foretold by the Hebrew prophets. The stage is being set. History is moving extremely quickly towards the prophesied one world government, the one world financial system, and the rise of both the Antichrist and the False Prophet. The birth pangs are just over the horizon. Yeshua Ha’Mashiach is coming soon – get busy reaching the lost.
Complete Texts Quoted Above in Part:
Leviticus 6:8-13 – “Yahweh said to Moses: “Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar. The priest shall then put on his linen clothes, with linen undergarments next to his body, and shall remove the ashes of the burnt offering that the fire has consumed on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he is to take off these clothes and put on others, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a place that is ceremonially clean. The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”
Luke 21:34-36 – “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Revelation 3:1-3 – “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”
Revelation 16:12-16 – “The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame”). And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armagedon.”