Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




Grant Osborne: This begins the next major section of the Olivet Discourse, the parables on watchfulness (24:36 – 25:30). This passage provides the thesis for the section, alert vigilance as we await the end, and leads into the parables that follow.

God has not seen fit to reveal the time of the eschaton; not even Christ knows the date. As a result, people will be living lives unaware and unprepared; many of them will be left for judgment when the Lord comes. There is only one conclusion: be continually vigilant and live lives of readiness for the Master’s return.

Donald Hagner: Eschatology is never presented for the sake of mere information but always and consistently as the motivation for ethical living. Again, the fact of the parousia, not the time of the parousia, is what matters. The evangelist stresses the need to be prepared for that coming reality.

Richard Gardner: The sayings that follow in verses 37-44 all depict situations in which a lack of readiness or vigilance spells disaster for persons when an unexpected trauma befalls them. Such was the case with the carefree contemporaries of Noah, engrossed in the pursuit of everyday life when the flood literally took them by storm! (vv. 37-39; cf. Gen. 6—8; 2 Pet. 2:5). Such is the case with a homeowner who is asleep at night, blissfully unaware that a thief has entered unannounced and is burglarizing his belongings (vv. 43-44; cf. 1 Thess. 5:2-4; Rev. 3:3; 16:15).

And such will be the case at the end as pairs of men and women labor at their customary tasks of farming and milling, when God’s own harvest operation suddenly commences and separates the prepared from the unprepared (vv. 40-42; cf. 13:36-43).

These assorted pictures and comparisons support the summons to vigilance in verses 42 and 44. Only if suitably prepared will Jesus’ followers be able to welcome his sudden coming and the judgment it brings.

David Turner: At this point Jesus moves from speaking predictively to speaking paraenetically. From now on, his goal is not to provide additional information to answer the disciples’ question (24:3) but to exhort them on the proper response to that information. This may not be what the disciples want to know, but it is what they need to know. This material is mainly parabolic. The first (24:36–42) and last (25:31–46) sections are not parables, but both utilize quasi-parabolic comparisons (24:37–39; 25:32). W. Davies and Allison (1997: 374) point out that 24:36 sets the tone for the rest of the discourse: ignorance of the time of Jesus’s coming should result in constant alertness.

Jesus begins by drawing a lesson on alertness from history (24:36–42). The next three segments underline the lesson on alertness by drawing from scenes from everyday life:

(1)  an owner of a house and a thief (24:43–44),

(2)  a faithful and an evil slave (24:45–51), and

(3)  thoughtful and foolish bridesmaids (25:1–13).

Constant alertness (24:42–44, 46, 50; 25:13) is mandatory, since the time of Jesus’s coming is unknowable. Alertness must be accompanied by dependable stewardship (25:14–30) and compassion toward needy disciples (25:31–46).

William Hendriksen: Spiritual and moral circumspection and forethought are required; preparedness is necessary.  The watchful person has his loins girded and his lamps burning (Luke 12:35).  It is in that condition that he looks forward to the coming of the Bridegroom.


But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,

 nor the Son, but the Father alone.

John MacArthur: In other words, Jesus’ knowledge in His incarnation was qualified by what the Father had revealed to Him.  And the Father revealed things to Him through Scripture; that is, the Old Testament, as He studied the Scripture, through experience as He walked in the world and saw the moving of the power of God, and through direct revelation.  But Jesus limited His knowledge to what the Father chose to reveal to Him.  He didn’t have to do that but He chose to do that to play the role of a servant to accomplish the redemption of mankind.  It’s a very important concept so that when it says He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant, was made in fashion as a man, and so forth, it means that He limited the use of those attributes.  And if you studied, for example, in the passages that deal with His early life, you will remember that it says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, you remember, and favor with God and man.  He grew in wisdom. . .

Now, it is my own personal feeling that after the resurrection, this was revealed to Him.  That when He came out of the grave in the glory of His resurrection life, it says in Matthew 28:18, He said to His disciples, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and earth.”  And I think what that’s saying is nothing is missing; I have authority over all things.  And then in Acts 1:7, He said this: “But unto you it is not given to know the times and the seasons which My Father has put in His own power,” and He doesn’t include Himself anymore.  He says “unto you it isn’t given.”  So it may well be that after the resurrection, His knowledge was complete.  It’s as if the Father only revealed to Him the next great event, and He never revealed to Him the full moment of His second coming until He had already come out of the grave and accomplished the resurrection, and then the Father opened to Him the next event in His marvelous, marvelous work. . .

And so we don’t know.  That moment, we don’t know.  And that’s – there’s a reason for that.  Because the Lord wants every generation to live in expectancy, every generation to live – are you ready for this word? – in preparedness.  We don’t know what generation it’s going to come upon.  But when it comes, it’s going to come in a holocaust and it’s going to come rapid-fire.  And we don’t know what generation that will be, and even the generation that comes on isn’t going to know the exact moment.  So Christians ever since the New Testament have always lived in the eagerness of the coming of Christ.

Stu Weber: This teaching is also a warning to those who claim to know the time of Christ’s return. Such claims have been made for centuries, and, as each one passes, the Messiah has still not come. One would think that people would learn from experience, if not from Jesus’ own teaching. These speculations are foolish and disobedient. They ignore Jesus’ teaching to believers to be obedient and ready at all times.

Craig Blomberg: Verse 36 proves equally significant for Christology. Christ’s words disclose his voluntary limitation of the independent exercise of his divine attributes (cf. Phil 2:6-8). Jesus was obviously not bodily omnipresent while he walked on earth. Mark 6:5 describes some restrictions on his omnipotence. Here we have a limitation on his omniscience. Christians who balk at the implications of this verse reflect their own docetism (the early Christian heresy of not accepting the full humanity of Jesus) and lack a full appreciation for the extent of God’s condescension in the incarnation and in the various human limitations he took upon himself.

D. A. Carson: The gist of v.36 is clear enough. Jesus’ disciples are morally bound to repress all desires to know what no one knows but the Father—not even angels (cf. 18:10; Ezra 4:52) or the Son. If the Son himself does not know the time of the Parousia, “how cheerfully should we his followers rest in ignorance that cannot be removed, trusting in all things to our heavenly Father’s wisdom and goodness, striving to obey his clearly revealed will, and leaning on his goodness for support” (Broadus).


A.  (:37)  Analogy to the Days of Noah

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

Leon Morris: There is a resemblance of the coming of the Son of man to the coming of the Flood. The time until then is likened to the days of Noah.  . .  when Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, the Flood came very swiftly. The emphasis is on the suddenness of the deluge. “So,” Jesus says, “will be the coming of the Son of man.” We get the picture of a long time of waiting and of a sudden act at the conclusion.

Craig Blomberg: Jesus now illustrates the unexpectedness and unpredictability of his return by comparing it with the arrival of the flood in Noah’s day (vv. 37-39). At that time the world’s wicked were caught totally by surprise as they went about the ordinary activities of daily life, including festive events, oblivious to their impending destruction. Noah and his seven faithful family members were prepared but still did not know the specific timing of the cataclysm until the last moment (Gen 6-7).  Compare the repetition of these two points in 1 Thess 5:1-3 and 4-6, respectively. So also Christ’s return will interrupt people in the ordinary activities of life.

R. T. France: If the time of the parousia is unknown, it follows that people will be caught unawares. The previous mention of the parousia in v. 27 has used the image of lightning to portray both its unmistakable nature and also its suddenness. It is a universal event, not a hole-and-corner occurrence (in the wilderness or the store-rooms, v. 26) which most of the world would be able to ignore. Everyone will be affected by it. In all these ways the sudden and universal onset of the flood as described in Gen 7:6–24 provides a powerful analogy; people were caught unawares, no one could evade it, and only those who had made advance preparation escaped—a point which will be picked up especially in the parables of 25:1–30. The description of normal life in v. 38 underlines the lack of any prior warning: things were carrying on just as they had always done (as the “scoffers” observe in 2 Peter 3:4). But the time of normal banality is potentially also the time of danger.

Homer Kent: In an age of great wickedness (Gen 6), men went about their daily living undisturbed by impending doom. . .  But the flood took away all the wicked, so that only the righteous were left to inherit the earth.  Likewise the coming of the Son of man, following the Great Tribulation (vv. 29-31) will remove the wicked, in order that the faithful remnant who have come out of the Tribulation may participate in the Millennial blessings (cf. 25:31-46; 13:30, 41-43, 49, 50).

B.  (:38-39)  Ignore God’s Warnings of Sudden Judgment at Your Own Peril

  1.  (:38-39a)  Worldly Self Indulgent Lifestyle Lacks Spiritual Discernment

For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away;

John MacArthur: It’s almost unbelievable that they knew not, that the people in the time of Noah didn’t know it was going to rain because they had had somebody telling them that for 120 years.  Noah was a preacher of righteousness.  And he preached righteousness and judgment.  And he gave them a very large sign of coming judgment by building a massive boat, an ark.  Literally the word means “wooden chest.”  This was the symbol and the sign, 120 years in building, that God was going to bring a devastation to drown the world.  And it says until the Flood came and engulfed them, they didn’t realize it.  They just went on eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage.  In other words, they went on with the routines of life, literally ignoring the preaching of judgment, literally ignoring the sign and the symbol of the coming Flood.  And so it will be in the day of the second coming of Christ.

Grant Osborne: The picture here is of normal life, eating and drinking at meals and parties, getting married and giving their children in marriage (with present participles stressing the continuous nature of the activity). In itself it is not a negative picture, but these were a people obsessed with their daily lives, giving no thought whatsoever to their obligations to God. All this was to change when “Noah entered the ark,” but then it would be too late.

Donald Hagner: The people of Noah’s day were oblivious to all else than their own pleasurable living. And they had no inkling of the judgment that was to come upon them until it was too late: “they did not know [οὐκ ἔγνωσαν (i.e., the imminent danger)] until the flood [κατακλυσμός] came and swept them away.” The reference to Noah entering the ark in v. 38 is very close to the language of the LXX of Gen 7:7. The parousia of the Son of Man will in a similar way come suddenly upon an unsuspecting generation that is carrying on its ordinary activities. This fact leads to the main exhortation of the passage in v. 42.

2.  (:39b)  Judgment Will Be Sudden and Unpredictable

so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Grant Osborne: The danger of becoming lackadaisical is simply too great, for judgment will be swift, sudden, and irrevocable.


A.  (:40-41) Two Examples of Sudden and Surprising Return of Christ in Judgment

  1. (:40)  Men Working in the Field

Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.

Your view of the timing of the Rapture tends to dictate which category you place these two groups of people into.  Since I hold to the pre-wrath Rapture position, I would interpret the ones “taken” as raptured and the ones “left” – then left for judgment.  Those who hold to the pre-trib position would take the opposite view – cf. Robert Gundry:

Robert Gundry: The taking away of people by the flood favors that being taken along has to do with judgment at the Son of Man’s coming (compare the separation of the wicked out from among the righteous in the parables of the tares and foul fish [13:30, 40–42, 49–50]). Then being left means being spared from judgment. The accent doesn’t rest on the separation of people in proximity so much as on the occurrence of this separation during the round of daily activities and therefore unexpectedly—unless you’re watching.

  1. (:41) Women Grinding at the Mill

Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.

John MacArthur: And then He gets very specific in verse 40 and 41.  “Then shall two be in the field, one shall be taken, the other left.  Two grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left.”  The word “one” in verse 40 is masculine in gender.  The “one” in verse 41 is feminine in gender.  That means verse 40 speaks of a man in the field, two men in the field, one taken, one left.  Verse 41 of women, two women grinding at the mill, one taken and the other left.  The man’s task in that particular agricultural part of the world in that time was to be in the field and the women were there with the stone, the mill, grinding that which was harvested by the men.  And so it’s just life as usual, and in the midst of the routine of life, one shall be taken.

What do we mean, “taken”?  I’ve heard people say this means the Rapture.  You can’t bring the Rapture in here.  This is long after that.  [Unless you hold to the pre-wrath view.]  This is talking about taken in judgment.  Go back to verse 39.  “Till the cataclysm came and took them away.”  It’s based on that imagery.  It’s based on that picture of the flood sweeping men away into death.  Two are going to be in the field when that final devastating flood of fire comes.  And one is taken in judgment.  Two at the mill and one is taken in judgment.  And the other left – the other left – what are they left for?  They’re left to go into what?  Into the kingdom.  And they become those who populate the Millennial kingdom.  They are the redeemed.  So you’ll have people on the job.  Some will be believers and some will be unbelievers.  The unbelievers will be swept away and the believers will be preserved.

By the way, that separation process is described in detail in the judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31 to 46, where He takes the goats on the one hand and sends them into everlasting punishment, His sheep on the other hand and gives them the kingdom.  So they are left.  Very important.  They are left for the kingdom.  So it is this that we have to keep in mind.  When the Millennial kingdom comes and begins, the people who will be left to go into it will be believers who were not swept away in the judgment of all the ungodly.  So the kingdom on earth, the Millennial kingdom, will be populated by those believers who have lived through the reign of terror of the antichrist and he has not destroyed them.  They’re still alive when Christ comes.  Christ sweeps away in a holocaust of judgment all the ungodly, but the godly that still remain and are alive will go into His eternal – rather, into His Millennial kingdom to populate that kingdom.  So that kingdom is populated, then, by physical beings, real people like we are, who’ve lived through antichrist’s reign of terror, who believed in the truth of the gospel and were not destroyed.  Maybe some of them even believed at the last moment.

Stu Weber: By way of specific illustration and application, Jesus gave two examples from the contemporary lifestyle of his day. The two men working in the field and the two women grinding grain at the mill represented the average citizen. The message of this was, “Everyone needs to heed these warnings.” One of each pair was prepared because he or she knew Jesus’ teachings, had watched for the signs, and had remained obedient.

The other in each pair was unprepared, because he or she had either been ignorant of Jesus’ teaching or else simply ignored them and not lived according to the righteous standards of the king and his kingdom. Such people were taken from the scene when the king returned to rule. Jesus’ point was: be prepared. His arrival will be sudden and unpredictable.

Leon Morris: Here, too, there is separation: one is taken and one is left. In both the field and the mill the emphasis is on division. The coming of Jesus marks a complete and permanent division. Jesus makes clear that the coming of the Son of man does not mean that all indiscriminately will enter into the joys of that day. Those who have chosen to live without God will find their choice respected when the great day comes. It will be the portion of the godless to be without God.

B.  (:42) Exhortation: Be Alert for the Lord’s Coming in Judgment

Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

John MacArthur: But the word here is – verse 42be alert.  It’s a present imperative, be continually alert.  Every generation, every person, be alert, “For you know not what hour your Lord does come.”  It’s a cry for constant vigilance, constant alertness.  He will come and men who recognize that He is coming will be alert to that coming, spiritually aware.

Robert Gundry: To stay awake means to keep watching for the events that will signal the nearness of the Son of Man’s coming. “Therefore” bases the command to stay awake on the already stated impossibility of knowing the day and hour of the Son of Man’s coming. The consequent redundancy of “because you don’t know at what particular day your Lord is coming” adds further emphasis on that impossibility.


A.  (:43)  Parable of the Householder and Thief

But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

Michael Wilkins: The responsibility for the safety of each home lay on the master of the house, since modern conceptions of police force were nonexistent. Some protection was provided by military forces for rulers and for the upper classes, but not for individual homes. If a homeowner knew that a thief was coming, he would do whatever was necessary to be prepared, whether that meant staying up all night, or patrolling each opening, or even enlisting the help of neighbors.

Homer Kent: If the household master had been watchful, he could have prevented damage and loss.

Broken up” – Literally, dug through, a reference to houses of sun-dried brick in Palestine, comparatively easy to enter.  Believers have less excuse for carelessness than this master, who had not been forewarned that a thief was coming.

B.  (:44) Exhortation: Be Prepared

For this reason you be ready too;

for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.