In the 21st chapter of Luke’s gospel we find Jesus warning the disciples (and us) to be aware of the signs that would indicate that His return is near. He warns that horrific social upheavals will take place during the three and one-half years of horror preceding His return to earth to 1) bring man’s (Satan’s) dominion over the earth to an end and 2) to establish the Kingdom of God in the Holy Land from whence He and His saints will rule, first the earth, then the universe.
Having outlined the events to take place prior to His second advent, Jesus then warns the disciples, along with any and all who would spend eternity with Him in the kingdom: “Watch, therefore, and pray always so that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things (the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord) that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of man” (vs 36). Notice the messages Jesus sends us in this one verse. He commands us to “watch” out for Satan who goes about “… like a lion, seeking whom He might devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan devours people spiritually by luring them into his camp. Notice to whom Peter is writing: God’s church. The apostle knew that being a part of the body of Christ did not make one immune to the enemy’s siren call to follow him. As Peter would later say, even the very elect are not beyond his spiritual reach. He did not hesitate to tempt Jesus to bow to him, offering Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would do so. While Jesus was in a state of starvation the devil tempted Him to turn stones into bread. If the Son of God wasn’t beyond the pull of Satan, we certainly are not.
The Lord’s second command in Luke 21:36 is to pray. I believe that lack of sincere, alone-with-God prayer is the root cause of many of Christendom’s moral failures. The truth-seeking, God-thanking, obedience-demonstrating believer who communes with the Almighty with regularity maintains a constant connection to God through the Holy Spirit. Paul’s practice of praying “without ceasing” is the key to his success as a minister of God. Prayer is necessary for the solving of many of man’s physical problems also. Recall the episode when a man brought his “moon struck” (epileptic) son to the disciples for them to cast out the demon that afflicted him. The disciples could not cast the demon out. Jesus stepped in and cast it out with His Word. When asked why they could not control the demon, Jesus replied that demons (devils–Satan’s fallen angels) of that caliber could be cast out only by those who maintained a healthy prayer life. He added that fasting also helped in exercising power over demons.
The third thing Jesus said relative to “watching” was that by being on the look-out for Satan, maintaining a good prayer life (and obeying His Word/Law) one would be counted worthy to escape the terror that is coming on all the earth. The Almighty has promised those who obey Him that He will provide a place of safety, called “her place” in Revelation 12:14, where He will protect and provide for His true saints during the final three and one-half years of this age. These, He said, will escape the tribulation and the Lord’s day and afterward be able to “stand before the Son of God” with assurance that they are acceptable to Him.
In verse 34 Jesus told the disciples to “take heed to yourselves”–a part of the “watching” command–so that they would not fail to enter the place of safety and inherit salvation. Here He warns them to pay close attention to what they do, say and think, to take every word, thought and act captive to Him. Only those who do so will spend eternity with Him in His Father’s kingdom. L.J.