As we have discussed, our vigilance, or the vigilance that God wants to give us will prepare us and make us fit to face and combat the forces of evil in the world. But to what purpose? In my study of vigilance, I have found two great purposes for vigilance: to help us in prayer, and to prepare us for the return of Jesus Christ.
1. For prayer. Prayer is perhaps the highest calling of God placed upon man. It is that activity that moves God to do His own will, and which includes us humans in His work and connects us to His power. It is also that exercise that both draws us near to God and persuades Him to give us what we desire. It is communication with God. Without prayer we all would be alone in the world, without God and without hope.
When we approach the throne of God for prayer we enter a place of holiness. It is a heavenly place (Eph. 1:3) of pure light and love. We cannot come to this place with a corrupt mind and with an unrepentant heart, weighted down with sin—for prayer and sin do not mix. God requires that we come to Him purifying our hearts, mourning and weeping before Him over sins. He requires that we totally submit our will to Him and that we try to resist all the temptations of sin and the devil (Ja. 4: 7-10). When we prepare ourselves in this way, we are in effect becoming more alert and watchful, hence, more vigilant for prayer. As 1 Peter 4:7 instructs us (in the NAS), “… be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
2. To be ready for the return of Jesus Christ. You may have noticed (above) that I didn’t quote the first part of 1 Peter 4:7. That’s because I left it for this section. The last part of the verse tells us that vigilance is for the purpose of prayer, but the first part gives us this second purpose. It says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore …” So here we see this second reason for vigilance—because the end of all things is at hand (He is coming).
There are also three other passages, in the gospels, which admonish us to be alert in preparation for His coming: in Matthew 24:42-44, in Mark 13:33-37, and in Luke 21:34-36. These gospel passages, some would say, are written primarily to those living during the tribulation period, to both non-believers (to be saved and ready to enter into His kingdom), and to believers (to have strength to continue trusting Him and praying for strength to escape all the horrible things that are coming upon them, Lu. 21:36); however, the application here to alertness no doubt extends to us (the church) as well, to be ready for His return for us in the rapture.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 is clearly addressed to the church. Here we are admonished to be alert so that we will be ready for Him when He takes us up in the “rapture” (1 Thess. 4:17, 1 Cor. 15:51-52)—if we are still alive when He comes.
Non-believers need to be alert also, because He will come without warning, like a thief in the night, to judge them. And if they are not saved it will be too late for them (1 Thess. 5:2-4).
If you are a Christian, however, that day should not overtake you like a thief, because you are already saved. Nevertheless, believers still need to be alert, not so much to be ready just at that single day when He comes, but to be continually alert, praying without ceasing, so that when He returns He will have a reason to be proud of us—for I believe that our faithfulness here will greatly have an effect on our next life there. Yes, everything we do now, whether good or bad, will affect our relationship with Jesus for eternity. That’s why we need to be vigilant.