It would be difficult to miss that word when reading the passages from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 that describe the events surrounding both the destruction of Jerusalem shortly after the death of Christ, and His Second Coming.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:32)
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:33)
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.” (Mark 13:35)
“What I say to you, I say to everyone, ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:37)
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36).
One of the difficulties in these passages has been in sorting out which statements have to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and which with the second coming. But the statement in Luke 21 appears to me to include both: to the Jews that they would escape the destruction that would happen when the Romans ripped through Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (and as a general statement to those who will face persecution before He comes), and to all when Christ returns and we have to face the judgment.
But in any case, the words of warning are clear: Be prepared.
I focus on Christ’s words in Luke that come just before the warning to be watchful: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
“Dissipation” is an interesting word. My dictionary says that dissipation can include: “1 dissipated living: a descent into drunkenness and sexual dissipation. 2 squandering of money, energy, or resources: the dissipation of the country's mineral wealth.”
Sounds familiar. And "anxieties of life" covers just about everything, everyday!
We don’t really live this life in the light of the next—which is part of the message of these passages. Our “kingdom living” has more to do with the kingdom we are building here, than it does with the building up of God’s eternal Kingdom. We’ve forgotten that there is nothing material here that we can take with us there. For most of us life is all about the “here and now” rather than about the “then and there.” Like the world (and the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21) we live the truth of eat, drink, and be merry, forgetting that death will come and a "hereafter" will begin.
All of us lose our focus—easy enough to do when surrounded by that, “here and now” that constantly screams for attention. That is probably why these passages, this Olivet Discourse, as it is called, is one of the longest recorded messages from the Lord that we have. It’s important for us to “watch” and to adjust our focus, to look, not at the cracks in the sidewalk, but at the clouds in the heavens, to live our lives with eternity in mind, to be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). Luke records in 21:28: "...lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
After all, you and I will be living longer in eternity than we will ever be able to live here.