The Second Coming of Christ will take many by surprise. It will come as a “thief in the night,” as the apostle Peter says in his second epistle:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2; emphasis added.)
Modern revelation reaffirms the simile:
And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night—therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief. (D&C 106:4–5; compare D&C 45:19; emphasis added.)
Here we learn that the Second Coming will not only surprise the world; it will also overtake it. The Lord himself says:
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15; emphasis added.)
Let’s think about this literary image of a thief for a moment. I want to talk about three things: (1) surprise, (2) sleep, and (3) stealing. First, the surprise. Everyone on this planet will both see and hear the sign of the coming of the Son of Man. For example, we read in Luke:
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. (Luke 17:24.)
And in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations . . . she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. (D&C 88:94; emphasis added.)
Everyone will see the light and hear the sound of the trumpet. Most will not be ready. Dread and fear will overtake those who are not ready for that day. But to those who are ready, I think the surprise will be something like Christmas morning: you know the day is coming; you prepare for it as well as you can; but you are not exactly sure what you are going to get. It will be a truly wonderful day for those who are prepared, surprise notwithstanding.
Second, sleep. When a thief comes at night, his victims are usually sleeping. When the Lord comes again, many in the world will be spiritually asleep or spiritually distracted, like the evil servant in Jesus’ Olivet discourse:
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48–51; emphasis added.)
That will be an embarrassing, devastating moment. Let’s not “eat and drink with the drunken.”
Finally, stealing. What might “the thief in the night” steal from those he overtakes? Their illusions and their false sense of security, and their over-dependence on intellectual assumptions and material wealth. Gulp.
Let us be the children of light so that the thief will not overtake us (see D&C 106:5).