What “Midnight” in Bible Prophecy Refers to?
By Xiaojing, China
Today is my uncle’s birthday. I rode my bike to his home early in the morning. Although the weather was hot, I was excited. I haven’t seen my uncle for quite a long time because of my busy work in the church. I heard that my elder cousin came back home. He was so busy going around and preaching all day that we hardly saw each other. I must take the chance to ask him for advice. He is the pastor trained by my uncle. I will surely benefit a lot from the communication with them. Thinking of this, I could not help smiling. I arrived at my uncle’s unconsciously.
As I walked into the yard, I saw my uncle and elder cousin chatting under the tree. They were happy to see me. My elder cousin asked me to take a seat. I asked my uncle about his health. Then looking at the old tree, I said with emotion, “Uncle, we used to sit under the tree and listen to the Bible stories and the testimonies of the spiritual seniors told by you. At that time, you always had so much to talk about. Inspired by your sincere words and earnest wishes, we were full of enthusiasm and confidence, eagerly expecting to spend ourselves and work for the Lord soon. Without realizing it, over twenty years have passed. How time flies!”
My elder cousin said, “Yes, it is.”
My uncle said cheerfully, “In a twinkling, you’ve grown up. I’m so delighted to see you working for the Lord and shepherding the church. Um, Xiaojing, what are you preaching recently?”
I quickly answered, “Watch and wait; the Lord is coming soon.”
Uncle nodded and said, “Yep, watching and waiting is so important. The gospel of the Lord Jesus has been spread to the ends of the earth. The various signs show that the day of the Lord’s return has come. We should watch and wait, and the Lord will come back and bring us to the heavenly home at any time. It seems that we truly should watch, pray, and wait for the Lord in welcoming the Lord’s return during our lifetimes. I’m old. How I wish I could welcome the appearance of the Lord!”
I said, “It’s a pity that many people know the Lord is coming soon, but they don’t watch and get ready for His return.”
Then, my elder cousin thoughtfully said, “We should truly watch and waiting for the Lord’s return. I’ve been thinking recently that how we should wait to meet the Lord’s mind. And what does watching refer to?”
Without thinking, I said, “I think that watching mainly refers to praying and reading the Bible often, working for the Lord diligently, and doing everything in moderation. Just as the Bible says: ‘And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming’ (1John 2:28). Therefore, as Christians, we should be sober every day as the verse says. Then we will have confidence before Him at His coming. We keep on watching and praying in shifts around the clock in our church, and we’ve also set up a watchtower so that we will not be abandoned when He returns.”
Uncle nodded his head with satisfaction, saying, “Well done, but it’s not that complete.”
My elder cousin said, “Dad, tell us about it!”
I looked at my uncle expectantly.
He said with a smile, “OK. Watching and waiting mainly refers to holding on to the Lord’s name and keeping His way. It’s because difficult times will come in the last days, people will love the world more than the Lord, and all kinds of heresies will appear. The Lord Jesus said: ‘Then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’ (Matthew 24:23–24). It tells us that the Lord asks us to watch. Most important is that we must safeguard ourselves against heresies before the Lord comes back with clouds to take us. If anyone tells you that the Lord has returned, don’t listen to them or believe what they say. We must hold on to the Lord’s name and keep His way. It not, how could we be raptured into the kingdom of heaven?”
I listened and nodded in agreement.
My elder cousin thought for a while and said, “Dad, I have some different views on this.”
Uncle was a bit surprised and said, “Oh? Let’s hear it.”
My elder cousin said, “False Christs will indeed appear in the last days, but it will be also the time that the Lord returns. If we don’t listen to or believe any news of the return of the Lord, what shall we do when the Lord really comes back? Will we not miss the chance of being raptured? So, I think in the verses the Lord is reminding us to learn to discern the false Christs, and not to be deceived by them. And we should not be blindly defensive but should have discernment and hear if it is God’s voice when someone preaches the second coming of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said: ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). In the late period of the last days, we should be the wise virgins who pay attention to the voice of the Lord. When there is a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom comes,’ in other words, when someone preaches the news of the return of the Lord, we should seek and investigate to see if it is the utterance of the Holy Spirit or if it comes from God. Only in this way, can we hear the Lord’s voice, welcome His return, and be taken up before Him.”
My uncle was silent and looked a little unhappy.
At this point, my younger cousin who was helping in the kitchen heard our talk. She came to us and said, “Dad, a few days ago, Sister Cai’s elder sister brought a preacher of the Eastern Lightning to her home. The preacher testified that the Lord has returned, expressed many truths, and done the work of judgment in the last days. Her reasonable fellowship and some of God’s newest utterances the preacher read made us feel so good. However, Sister Cai drove them away because you once told her that all who preach that the Lord has returned do not speak the truth and must not be received. We thought it was not proper for her to do so. How should we, in your opinion, treat them properly when we see them preaching the return of the Lord?”
My uncle immediately turned his countenance from cloudy to bright, saying, “Thank the Lord! I think what Sister Cai did is absolutely right. It’s quite normal. The Lord Jesus who does not come upon a cloud is a false Christ, a deceiver. Therefore, no matter who preaches the Lord’s return, we must drive him away. Does it not agree with the Bible? Can it be wrong?”
At this, my younger cousin felt wrong but she couldn’t tell clearly, so she looked at her elder brother expectantly.
My elder cousin calmly answered, “Dad, for so many years, we have been expecting the Lord to come back soon and take us to the heavenly home. The people of the Eastern Lightning are preaching that the Lord has returned. He has done the work of judgment beginning with the house of God and has expressed all truths that purify and save man. We ought to be the wise virgins who seek and investigate with modesty. We should first listen to them and see if what they say are according to the Lord’s words. It’s not proper to drive them away without discernment, is it?”
Uncle said confidently, “It’s quite normal. The Bible clearly says: ‘They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). It can be seen that the Lord will come in the clouds. We haven’t seen this happen. How could it be that the Lord has returned?”
My elder cousin said, “Dad, the return of the Lord is a big thing! Isn’t it an arbitrary conclusion based on a single verse? The Jewish Pharisees at that time were longing for the coming of the Messiah. They were familiar with the scriptures that prophesied the coming of the Messiah. However, when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, because He conflicted with their conceptions, they not only did not acknowledge Him as Christ, the Messiah, but even crucified Him. Hence, they became the arch-criminal resisting God, and were punished and cursed by God. Dad, we should learn a lesson from the Pharisees. We must be cautious about waiting for the Lord’s return! If we resist or blaspheme God, we will be the modern Pharisees. The consequences will be unimaginable! We have never personally known whether the Eastern Lightning is the work of God and the return of the Lord or not. We should ask its people to tell us something about it if we meet them again. It is not late to draw a conclusion after we have a thorough investigation. What do you think?”
My younger cousin nodded repeatedly, but my uncle was displeased and gave them a dirty look.
To lighten the atmosphere, I hurriedly said, “Brother, what you said is reasonable and matches the Lord’s teaching, but the Bible does prophesy that the Lord will come with clouds. How do you explain it?”
My elder cousin patiently said, “During these days, I’ve studied many verses about the Lord’s return. I find the verses prophesying the return of the Lord can be generally divided into two groups: One prophesies the Lord will descend in public upon a cloud; the other prophesies He will descend in secret like a thief. For example: ‘I will come on you as a thief’ (Revelation 3:3), and ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). In the verses we can see that there are two ways of the Lord’s coming: One is that He’ll come as a thief and no one knows it; the other is that He’ll descend upon a cloud and everyone will see Him. My personal understanding is that the Lord will probably descend in a hidden way to do the work first, and after He finishes the work, He’ll openly appear to all men. It is the same with the Lord Jesus’ work. God became flesh as the Son of man and did the work of redeeming mankind through the crucifixion, and then He ascended to heaven after resurrecting and openly appearing to man for forty days. It is a truth that everybody knows.”
My uncle retorted at once, “It’s wrong to say so. ‘As a thief’ and ‘at midnight’ mean that no one knows the time when the Lord comes back, but don’t mean that He will descend in secret.”
My elder cousin said sincerely, “Dad, My understanding of this is as follows: In many parts of the Bible it is prophesied that the return of the Lord will be the coming of the Son of man. For example: ‘For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation’ (Luke 17:24–25). The Son of man refers to the incarnation of God. The Lord Jesus has clearly told us that in the day of the Son of man, He must first suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. If the Lord, as we imagine, openly appears to all men when coming again upon clouds, He will not need to suffer, let alone be rejected. So, I think when the Lord returns, He will probably first become flesh and descend in a hidden way. This is just as when the Lord Jesus came to do the work. No one recognized Him as the coming Messiah. People thought He was an ordinary man, rejected Him, and condemned Him. So, I think ‘as a thief’ and ‘at midnight’ refer to not only the unknown time when the Lord comes, but also the hidden way in which the Lord returns as the Son of man. What’s more, I think all the verses prophesying the return of the Son of man refer to the hidden way in which the Lord will descend. Because when God incarnates as the Son of man, man doesn’t recognize Him even if they meet Him. It is just like the Lord Jesus coming to do the work. This is the way in which the Lord descended secretly and did the work. So, it is probably that the Lord will first work as the Son of man when He comes again, and then He will openly appear to all men.”
I was pondering his words, thinking, “That’s right. His words are reasonable. Why didn’t I ever realize it? It should be the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit!”
My younger cousin said, “Brother, your communication really has enlightenment! I read these verses many times; how come I didn’t realize it? It seems that I really have to think more carefully about it!”
Then my uncle whispered, “Isn’t the Son of man the Lord Jesus? Hasn’t the Lord Jesus finished suffering? How can it be the return of the Son of man? It’s impossible! It’s definitely impossible!”
I couldn’t help sighing, “According to this verse, if the Lord really descends in a hidden way as the Son of man, it is hard for us to recognize Him!”
My elder cousin said, “Yep, if the return of the Lord is the coming of the Son of man, He will also be resisted, condemned, and rejected by the religious community, like the Lord Jesus who did the work. Then, we should be more careful when we watch and wait. If someone says that the Lord has returned, and especially the way that the returned Lord preaches is condemned and rejected by the religious community, we should even more seek and investigate it.”
My younger cousin sighed, “It seems that the return of the Lord is not as simple as we have thought. If the Lord really descends in a hidden way as the Son of man when coming again, then how should we keep watch so that we can welcome His return?”
My elder cousin said thoughtfully, “I don’t quite understand it, either. However, it has been mentioned in Revelation many times: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ I think we shouldn’t ignore all that is about the return of the Lord, especially the testimony about the words and work of the Lord when He comes again. We should even more carefully investigate, pray, and seek to discern whether it is the voice of the Lord or not. Once we make sure that it is the return of the Lord, we should accept it immediately. As the Revelation says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). That’s what watching and waiting actually refers to. It will be the Lord Jesus’ public appearance when He returns with clouds. At that time, all men will see Him; will they need to watch and wait? Therefore, during the time when the Son of man does His work, we should pay attention to seeking the appearance and work of the Lord, and hearing His voice. In this way we will not miss the return of the Lord. What do you think?”
My uncle’s forehead was covered with beads of sweat, and he said to himself, “How could I have ignored this verse? The Lord stands at the door and knocks? ‘And knocks?’ Does He knock upon a white cloud? How could He knock upon a white cloud? I haven’t worked it out yet.”
My younger cousin said worriedly, “Dad, what my brother said makes sense. I’m a little worried now. We casually condemned the Eastern Lightning without investigation and drove its people away. If the Eastern Lightning really is the return of the Lord, didn’t we resist the Lord in doing that? Haven’t we become the modern Pharisees?”
My elder cousin agreed, “Yes, that’s right! In the future, we must carefully investigate when we meet the people of the Eastern Lightning testifying to the return of the Lord. We can’t blindly reject and condemn them anymore. Because the Lord Jesus said: ‘For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Matthew 24:27). Eastern Lightning itself relates to the prophecy of the return of the Lord. It is most likely the Lord’s appearance and work in the last days!”
My uncle said no more.
My elder cousin’s words reminded me of something, and I said involuntarily, “Oh! No wonder many leading sheep and good sheep in churches have accepted the Eastern Lightening. It seems that the Eastern Lightening is most likely the appearance and work of the returned Lord. We have to seek and investigate soon….”
My cousins nodded their heads.
I heard the cicadas chirping one after another. It was noisy but I felt quite comfortable, thinking it was really worthwhile to come today.
“Time for lunch!” My elder cousin’s wife called. At this, we all went to have the meal happily. We talked cheerfully during the lunch, having a good time …
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