“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 book of Revelation contains seven beatitudes (Revelation 1:3; 14:12-13; 16:15; 19:6-9; 20:6; 22:7, 12; 22:14). These seven passages tell us how to find true, lasting happiness with God.
Behold, I am coming as a thief. Judgment is coming. Jesus’ coming will be as a thief (Revelation 16:15 cf. Matthew 24:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10). What does this mean? It means that the hour of His coming will be unannounced. It will not be on a scheduled appointment with man. Consider the words of Jesus: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42-44). Consider, the words of Paul: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Blessed is he who watches. The message is: be ready. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming… be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 24:42, 44; 25:13). We are to live mindful of the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Titus 2:11-13).
Blessed is he who keeps his garments. This is another way of saying be ready. Consider, the words of Paul: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief… Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8). The picture is of one who is clothed and ready for that Day.
Those not ready will be found naked and in shame. Let’s consider three thoughts: (1) The language may refer to being found not dressed in the spiritual armor of God. This seems to best fit the “thief” context, in my judgment. One does not want to be found spiritually unclothed and asleep when the Lord comes. Paul exhorted, “But you, brethren, are not overtake you as a thief…Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober… let us… be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8). Those not clothed in faith, love and hope are not dressed and ready for His coming. (2) Some see this as reference to Israel’s temple police. James Coffman’s commentary quotes from F.F. Bruce, “According to the Mishna, the captains of the temple in Jerusalem went their rounds of the precincts at night, and if a member of the temple police was caught asleep at his past, his clothes were taken off and burned, and he was sent away naked and disgraced” (Coffman, Commentary on Revelation, p. 375). Adam Clark comments, “Here is a plain allusion to the office of him who is called the perfect or overseer, of the mountain temple. His custom was to go his rounds during the watches of the night; and if he found any of the Levites sleeping on his watch, he had the authority to beat him with a stick, and burn his vestments see Middoth, fol. 34, 1 and Talmid. fol. 27, 2; 28, 1. Such a person being found on his return home naked, it was at once known that he had been found asleep at his post, had been beaten, and his clothes burnt; thus his shame was seen– he was reproached for his infidelity and irreligion” (Clark, Vol. 6, p. 1035). (3) The language, in context, could refer to being found not wearing white garments. Jesus called the church at Laodicea “naked” (Revelation 3:17). He instructed them to buy from Him, “White garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Revelation 3:18). White garments are for faithful Christians (Revelation 7:13-14; Revelation 3:5 cf. 12:11). One who is not a faithful Christian will not be properly dressed to meet the Lord, when He returns. Regardless of which position you hold, all three make the same basic point: Be ready. Let us live each day, as if, it could be the last. “Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching, In His glory they shall share; If He shall come at the dawn or midnight, Will He find us watching there? O can we say we are ready brother? Ready for the souls bright home?say will He find you and me still watching. Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come?” (Song: Will Jesus Find Us Watching? by Fanny Crosby).