Revelation 16:15

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

“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

The words of this verse continue the interlude between the sixth and seventh bowls. The previous verse noted that the armies of the world are being drawn “to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.” Now, as a warning, John directly quotes the Lord Jesus in a parenthetical statement, saying, “Behold, I am coming as a thief.”

The idea of the Lord’s coming in this manner is seen numerous times, including Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10; and Revelation 3:3.

The words “as a thief” are given as a direct and unambiguous note that those in the tribulation must be prepared for what is coming and not be lax in their faithfulness. They have been warned and, in failing, there will be judgment.

Using the term “thief” means at a completely unexpected time, and in a completely unexpected manner. When the thief comes, it could be at 9pm or 3am. He might come in through the roof, or he might burrow in from underground. The idea is, “When you least expect it, be sure to expect it.” With this in mind, Jesus next says, “Blessed is he who watches.”

These words of this verse of the 16th chapter of Revelation match the 16th letter of the Hebrew Aleph-bet. The letter is ayin, represented by the pictograph of an eye. It has the meaning of “see,” “watch,” “know,” and “shade.” Here, Jesus says there is a blessing for those who watch, thus forming the letter/chapter pattern.

Concerning this idea of keeping watch in the end times, Jesus says it explicitly in both parable and open discourse to Israel in Matthew 24:42, Matthew 25:13; Mark 13:33-37; and Luke 12:37-39 and Luke 21:36, such as –

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36

In this watching by the tribulation saints, Jesus continues with his admonition, saying, “and keeps his garments.”

The idea here is that of having one’s garment always at hand. When one lays down to sleep, he may set his garments off to the side. If the thief comes, the garments may be stolen along with whatever else is at hand, leaving the person naked. Of this, Alfred Edersheim gives a real-life example of what this means –

“During the night the captain of the Temple made his rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire. The confession of one of the Rabbins is on record that, on a certain occasion, his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the Temple.”

This soldier did not watch and keep his garments. He was unprepared for what would happen. Likewise, those of the tribulation needed to be ready – through life or death – for what would occur. As this warning of the Lord is set parenthetically between two verses that deal with the battle of Armageddon, it is certainly referring as much to death as anything else. The person in the end times is told to watch and keep his garments, “lest he walk naked.”

The thought here is the same as for the church. When addressing those at Laodicea, Jesus said –

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” Revelation 3:18

To more fully understand the symbolism, the commentary there can be referred to. But this speaks of being naked and exposed in one’s sin. The only way to be covered from sin is by being covered in the righteousness of Christ. Without this, there is complete exposure of one’s sin before God. In this, the words of the verse finish with, “and they see his shame.”

The word translated as “shame” is found only here and in Romans 1:27. It signifies unseemliness, indecency, and so on. It is improper moral behavior. In these final words, Jesus uses the plural “they.” What this is referring to are those who are to bring in the righteous to the events after the battle. In other words, it is surely what Jesus is referring to in the parable of Matthew 22:1-14.

Jesus sends out his servants for the wedding feast, and only those who are properly clothed are invited in. As he says, however, at the end of the parable –

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Mathew 22:11-13

The terminology and the symbolism here is directed to the tribulation period only. It is not a church-age warning. Thus, it is important to understand the distinction between what was addressed in the epistles, and also in the first three chapters of Revelation, from what is being referred to now.

Life application: The world is coming to the end of the bowl judgments and here, just before the 7th bowl is poured out, a stern warning is given about preparedness. There is a distinction being made between those who will see life and those who will be condemned, and it could occur at any moment. The distinction is Christ. There are only two states for man –

1) in Christ and covered by His righteousness, or
2) apart from Him which leaves one naked and exposed.

The Lord gives the warning for the tribulation world. But whether in the church age or during the tribulation, no one knows the hour he will die, or the hour that the Lord will return. Therefore, let us be found covered at all times. If we are, then we will be blessed.

Revelation 16:15 states the third of a series of seven blessings to an individual in the book of Revelation. The first two were in Revelation 1:3 and Revelation 14:13. Specific blessings to individuals are yet to be seen in verses 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, and 22:14.

Take time to read those verses and to contemplate what they say. Some are directed to the church, some to those in the tribulation, and some to all. But all are based on a relationship with God through what He has done in sending His Son to accomplish all things for us. Let us remember this and let us always be ready. He is coming again. He is JESUS!

Lord, pour out Your blessing of salvation and cover us in Your righteousness. We know that in us is nothing good. But because of You we can stand in the presence of God and not be condemned. Lead us in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake – to the glory of God and to the salvation of our souls. Amen.