God doesn’t want us prognosticating, but God does have something He wants us to do, no matter what time we’re living in. We don’t know how soon the end will be. But the beauty of this parable from Jesus is that it tells us what to do whether the end is minutes or centuries from now. We have the same command as the doorkeeper in the parable. Our instructions to be alert means we should be faithfully performing our service for the Lord.
One of the “joys” of training to become a soldier in the United States Army is pulling what’s called fireguard duty. The Army used to house soldiers in wooden barracks with wood-burning stoves. So soldiers would rotate shifts through the night to make sure the place didn’t burn down. Even though there’s not so much of a need to keep watch for fires the Army has kept the tradition. Fire guard duty has simply become guard duty to build discipline and a way to work in some extra cleaning time. New fireguards quickly learn their first general order: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.” As a fireguard, you are on guard. Your job is to watch. To stay alert. And you’d better not let a drill sergeant catch you sleeping on the job or you’re going to be doing some serious pushups. Vigilance is required.
The military isn’t alone in requiring vigilance. The Lord Jesus called for this same discipline from His followers in a parable found in Mark 13.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:32–37).
Jesus not only foretold the destruction of Jerusalem that would take place in A.D. 70. He also addresses them about the end times—the end of the age when there will be a rebuilt temple during the tribulation. Jesus foretells a time when the antichrist, “the abomination of desolation,” will desecrate the rebuilt temple. There will be terrible persecution against Israel during this time. People will be living in the last days. Yet Jesus warns his followers not to try and set a date for when the end times will begin. You’re not going to pinpoint the end times events on your calendar. Jesus said He (and this is the Lord Jesus we’re talking about) doesn’t even know. Jesus, in His humanity, voluntarily accepted the limitation in his own knowledge of when the end times would occur. Jesus doesn’t know. The angels don’t know. Whatever tumult and turmoil you might see going on around you, you’re just not going to be able to watch the news and say, “This is it. The end is here.”