Jesus said to Watch for the Thief

by Joshua Tilghman on July 8, 2015

saint-198958_640Matthew 24:42-44 is an interesting scripture. In it Jesus tells us to watch for the Son of Man. He follows that command by telling us that if the good man of his own house had watched, he would have been ready for the thief who comes to break up the house. Therefore, watch, for none know the hour that the Son of Man comes.

What does this mean?

Traditionally, this scripture has been interpreted to mean that we must be vigilant for the second coming of a literal Jesus, but is this what Jesus’ saying really meant?

You decide, but first consider some history. For nearly two thousand years those steeped in religion have been proclaiming the literal return of Christ. But the scriptures themselves protest their meanings are about something that happens on the inside of us, not an event that happens externally. Remember, Paul said that the Christ IN YOU was the hope of glory.

Since 66 A.D., there have been over 200 doomsday prophecies that were well known and documented. Many of these came from well-established religious leaders who were absolutely certain the return of Christ was imminent. For Example, around 375 A.D. Martin of Tours exclaimed:

“There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.”

And by 500 A.D., the famous Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Sextus all proclaimed Jesus would return, with one using the dimensions of Noah’s Ark as a reference. To some of us now this seems absurd, but these men devoutly believed it would happen.

Most of us are probably familiar with the recent prediction of Harold Campbell who stated that Christ would return a few years ago. Some of his followers even sold their houses to tour the country and proclaim that both believers and unbelievers alike should get ready. As always, the time of these predictions come and go to no avail. And they will keep coming. Why? Because for millennia religious leaders have taken Matthew 24: 42-44 and other scriptures as external events. But have these religious leaders read the entire scriptures? In Luke 17: 20 Jesus states:

“The kingdom of God is not something that can be observed.”

In other words, we won’t see it with physical eyes. It’s an internal event.

So what did Jesus really mean when he said we must WATCH for the Son of Man? And what did he mean when he mentions that the owner of the house should have watched so his house would not be broken into?

Jesus calls himself by many different titles in the Bible, and they all have slightly different meanings. The title Son of Man refers to the higher self that is born in the mind. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of watching for the Son of Man, he is giving us a commandment to meditate, or reflect, inwardly. The purpose for this action is catch the thief, the lower ego, seeking to retain its hold over the self.

House is always a symbol in the Bible for the body that the soul inhabits as it sojourns through the physical realm. It could be the physical, emotional, or mental body, or, as in this case from Matthew, all three! Therefore the house that Jesus speaks of is the body the soul inhabitants in order to experience the physical world for further spiritual (mental and emotional) development. We are to be a watcher within our own houses, which simply means to be aware of our own reactions to the things that happen in our lives.

Without conscious self-reflection and subsequent adjustments to our attitudes and beliefs, there can be no significant spiritual growth.

Jesus also tells us to watch for his return. The Christ being born within us is the pinnacle of what the Bible refers to as salvation. For those of us on this path, we shouldn’t be too concerned about this being a one-time, major event. Rather, we must continually watch to get to know the self. Have you ever reacted to something that happened instead of acting? Have you automatically flew off the handle in anger without stopping to consciously assess the situation and act accordingly? Of course you have. We all have. Many times we kick ourselves and immediately wish we had consciously thought through our decision before taking any action at all, and the situation would have gone smoother.

We must learn to KNOW the ego, or the thief within us that comes to rob, steal, and destroy. We must be watchful and vigilant to catch—by become consciously aware—the thief when it is in control of our lives. When the ego is caught doing its thing, and we understand why we reacted through the ego the way we did, we can change it from the lower ego that reacts through harmful desires, addictions (emotional or physical) and impulses and begin to change it to what some refer to as the higher or spiritual ego. In this way, you prepare the way / house for the Son of Man to be born within you. We can learn to grow in more peace and joy through this process. Only then can we learn to KNOW the true self.

Remember, if God is truly infinite, then there isn’t a place he cannot be. Therefore he’s already within you waiting to shine forth over the lower egos of this world. The spiritual ego, when it is matured, loves through all situations instead of reacting to its own prior held beliefs, judgments, and impulses. Now let’s review Matthew 24:42-44 again:

“Watch therefore, for ye do not know what hour the Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

The intellect is no good in discerning Christ’s return. It doesn’t do us any good to try and figure out exact dates based on scripture references or dimensions of Biblical artifacts. We must only heed Jesus’ word to be watchful at all times so we develop the spiritual ego and Christ will be born within through his own time.

What about the two woman in the field, where one is taken? Isn’t that literal?

The above question was posed to me when discussing these scriptures. This person was referring to the verses just prior to Matthew 24:4-44. There Jesus said that two women will be grinding in the field and one shall be taken. The other one left. Woman are symbols for the emotional nature, and, again, Jesus isn’t speaking literally here. Our goal is the transformation of the emotional nature into the higher emotional nature, or the higher emotions of love that comes with the transformation of the ego. This is what Jesus meant when he said one would be taken, or transformed to the higher. We do not know when our natures will be transformed, and we shouldn’t dwell on the future for such an event. Rather we should focus on the present, which is what Jesus is telling us to do by being watching at all times. In other words, Jesus is teaching us to have our being in the NOW, the eternal present which is the only time we have to develop. By being watchful and aware of ourselves in the present, we can come to understand the self.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert July 9, 2015 at 1:45 am

Hi Josh,

Great to see your articles again on the blog after several weeks pause. I totally agree with you in being proactive in avoiding apathy and distraction in letting our spirituality decline, as if being stolen by a thief. The inner journey of enlightenment can certainly be an exciting and productive activity in enhancing spirituality.

But as readers by now well know, I don’t advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater. So as much as I value esoteric interpretations that give new meaning to scriptures that would otherwise be dead or of little value to some people in their journey, I disagree that the experience of the inner journey towards higher consciousness, as valuable as it is, is a complete substitute for the more traditional concept of salvation. I propose that scripture Matthew 7:16 “You will know them by their fruits” be presented as a litmus test for helping determine which parts of traditional and alternative activities are valuable and which are not valuable. Just as it is easy for someone following a more traditional path to become self-deceived thinking they are advanced in spirituality because they belief they are compliant with the standards of their denomination, when they are in fact self-deceived and their growth has been suppressed by it; it is just as likely for someone who is following the inner journey to become self-deceived and self-adsorbed into thinking they have attained, or on the way to attaining, a level of perfection equivalent to salvation.

Here is the crux of the problem. Contemporary traditionalists have lost the memory over the centuries of what is most essential to being a follower of Christ – faith, hope, love, unfeigned integrity, genuine humility, compassion, grass roots community, grace, and social justice – the things that really mean something and have gotten lost in politicalizing and institutionalizing the church over the centuries.

So, many of us have noticed something missing and turned away from the traditional church in search of a missing link, instead of turning back to the essentials. Some have chosen a mission of purification through dissociation from the ego, which can be a valuable life-enhancing experience, and quieting the mind, which brings inner peace, a refuge of physical and psychological healing, sensitivity to the intuitive side, and can open up natural human psychic abilities that are ordinarily suppressed in the rat race pace of modern life. The question is, does it go far enough, and is it a substitute for salvation?

Salvation is traditionally thought of as being led and rescued from human foibles, limitations, and ultimately mortality, by an external agent more powerful and benevolent than ourselves, by an invisible and unfathomable creator who manifests to us in our world through the means of an anointed human leader a savior who is imbued with deific abilities. The leader sets objective standards to live by and mystically empowers and disciplines his followers to progressively meet those standards, not just in outward conformance, but though a heart transformed. Salvation is assured by demonstration of intervention and deliverance through life’s trials in accordance with a covenant relationship with the creator through the Savior, and by an inner knowing, that when unclouded, bears witness to the covenant. The believer is brought out of his former self by powers beyond his own. The covenant is initiated by the believer by acceptance of a need for salvation through the Savior.

The inner journey of those who have had problems with the traditional church often leads to rejection of the concept of salvation mediated by a Savior and turning for lack of any other solution to an already established ancient belief system that became expressed by Greek philosophers, that there is no salvation through a Savior, only a path of enlightenment that becomes unlocked by awakening a spark that is potentially present in each person.

Thus the journey inward often becomes one of exploring the hidden powers within oneself, evaluated and ratified by the self, based on the comfort level and standards approved by the self.

The benefits of meditation — inner peace, self-satisfaction, and awareness of a part of us that can act unselfishly at times by divesting the ego – can be mistaken for proof that salvation through a Savior is not necessary and non-existent, because so many benefits are experienced in self exploration. This improvement can be mistaken for a substitute for salvation and appeal to those who have had issues with the institutional church.

When standards of success in spiritual growth and progress towards them are self-determined, which is a likely occurrence in pursuing the inner journey too intensely, then there the potential to become self-deceived and self-absorbed into thinking one has found the ultimate solution. The issue boils down to this: can we really be saved by exploring ourselves, or misled by a few benefits of meditation mixed with philosophy into thinking we can?


Joshua July 9, 2015 at 10:44 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your comments. A few points here.

One can never know the truth without knowing the self. Anything less would be puppet worship should one put trust in another. It doesn’t matter if one combines some exoteric and esoteric beliefs. If one does not get to the core of reality, a belief is just a belief. Salvation is about experience, not belief.

I agree with you that someone can easily get caught up in the belief system of esoteric or exoteric philosophy, and only see them as an idea. It is also true one can never be exposed to the esoteric philosophy and find salvation.

All ideas and beliefs are simply just that…beliefs and ideas. They are a dime a dozen, right?

In the physical world, truth is relative to one’s ego perspective. Esoteric philosophy cannot give one salvation. But neither can an exoteric belief system. However, the one thing that esoteric philosophy did for me is free me from a rigid belief system. It’s different for everyone, because we all come from different backgrounds.

As far as the traditional Christian concept of salvation is concerned, with God and the devil and good and evil, it has a major flaw that no amount of arguing can get around. I know you are familiar with the work, Beyond the Himalayas, by McDonald Bayne. Consider a portion of his book below, where the author is speaking to another about a bigger truth. See if it resonates with you as you reason it out.


“Often in my own work in the world I have had patients filled with fear through religious

I would say: “God is Infinite in nature?” in a sort of inquiring way.

“Oh yes, God is Infinite in nature!”

“There cannot be anything outside Him, otherwise He could not be Infinite?”

“Quite correct!” would be the answer.

“And to be infinite He must be everywhere, otherwise He could not be Infinite?”

“That is true.”

“So there could be none other but Him?”

“That is so!”

“Well,” I said, “that being so, God must be the Devil and Hell must be in Him too. If God is, then the Devil is not. It is the very non-existence of the Devil that makes up the Devil, for there cannot be God and the Devil, God being Infinite in nature. It is like mathematics, the mistake disappears when it is found out, and so does the Devil disappear when he is found out.”

“But it says in the Bible that there is a Hell and the Devil,” I would be told.

“Yes, that is true,” I would reply, “but Jesus said: ‘Ye read the Scriptures, then think ye found Eternal Life, ye make a mistake.’ Then he said: ‘Resist not evil,’ do not give it a power it does not possess. The Devil is the self and Hell is the mess the self makes. You have only a belief, and idea, which is made up in your mind, but you are afraid to reason it out because you are caught up in your belief. Not until you know what a belief is, can you see how false it is.”


I included the above quote to get us to think. As I said in the article, the intellect cannot discern the experience of truth, but the intellect is necessary to eliminate falsehoods. Therefore, the intellect can also be an important part of the journey. The falsehood comes when we rely on the intellect alone, for though the intellect can help takes us to the door of salvation, it can never get us through. That’s where experience comes in.
As always, Robert, I respect everyone’s opinion and am not here to force someone to believe one way or another. I can only write the way I see it and others can reject or accept. My joy is simply to put out there what I’ve learn.

Many blessings, my friend. 

By the way, I have included a link to one of Paul’s articles below entitled, Who or What is God and Christ? Some of you may find it beneficial in this entire discussion. In it I think he did a great job explaining the rigid belief system some of us may have and how to get around it using scripture to define God.


Robert July 9, 2015 at 9:56 am


Putting aside my personal opinions and questionings expressed in the last comment, I thought it was an awesome revelation that the ego is a thief we must prepare to resist in actively keeping our home (bodily habitation for our soul) pure. That was brilliant and a core piece of advice worth always remembering.

In my personal theology, I would tend to classify resisting the ego as an act of purification (sanctification) rather than salvation which I consider enactment by an external higher power. I would prefer to consider the methods and importance of resisting the ego as part of the memory of early Christianity that has been lost through the centuries.


Joshua July 10, 2015 at 10:27 am

Thanks for the encouragement. I completely agree that resisting the ego is also an act of purification.


Laura August 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Hi Robert,
I read your original response above and experienced it as truth and wisdom. I think Joshua has amazing insights and I love this blog, but agree that inner exploration, understanding the esoteric meaning of the scriptures, and coming to know the self can only go so far; that salvation comes from a higher power and not through our own doing, (unless seeking God and cooperation with grace is considered doing) seems evident to me.
I wanted to point out that resisting the ego as an act of inner purification on the road to salvation has not been forgotten and is taught to this day in the monasteries of Carmel. Works such as the Ascent of Mt. Carmel and The Way of Perfection go at length into the process of interior pruning through progressive detachment, beginning with divesting of property and material items, through fasting and finally on to eventual high levels of self abnegation, all with the essential help of God in contemplative prayer. Both are available online, through CCEL, if you haven’t read them. Both mystics had profound and life changing experiences with the Almighty that kept them on the narrow path through their lives of considerable suffering.
I’m convinced there is a need for intervention on our behalf by the divine and his helpers for us to make the leap into a resurrected body and I’m convinced that a mysterious change in our spiritual body’s atomic structure is necessary and comes through a process of initiation received from a higher power. The prophets spoke of a refining of silver and gold and I think they might have been referring to both a parabolic and literal process that takes place at the level of the spiritual body. The alchemists strive mightily to turn straw (the astral body?) to gold (the resurrection body?) and fail. In my opinion, they’re trying to effect the fundamental salvific spiritual change through harnessing dark forces, which to my mind is like trying to capture good within evil permanently. May they never succeed.
The salvation offered by Jesus Christ is a totally different thing. He is the intermediary of the initiation and the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. I also believe that there is nothing we can do to “cause” this initiation…except perhaps to seek with all we’ve got and alter our behavior in such a way as to “prove” that we have believed in Him and trusted in him fully. But we can never achieve anything such as this salvific initiation through personal effort, no matter how mighty, because we will just be presenting our improved self in the dirty unpurified rags of the uninitiated fleshly (astral?) body. Not believing he will do what he says and not believing we need his help is a barrier to the process, imho.
Of course, this is all just my opinion, but I got to it through seeking and getting help. I consider your words very helpful, and Joshua’s too. Your words ring true.
Thank you for reading this, if you made it this far,
May you be blessed,


Raymond Phelan July 9, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Hi Josh,

Thank you for this really interesting article, it’s really good to see your articles back on your own blog.

I particularly like this one. It reminds me of all those years ago when I attended my very first meditational class here in Dublin. We were each given an exercise to practice being in the Now – which I have to say at the time I didn’t really know what they were talking about. What is this “now”, I enquired. Little did I know at the time, I would go on to write two books on the subject!

To practice knowing the Now, we were told to go for 30-minute walks daily in our local area. And, that, during the walk, whatever thoughts came into our mind, we were to simply notice them but not think about them. That, we simply see what we see, hear what we hear, smell what we smell… without “thinking about” what we hear, see or smell… If thoughts about household bills, relationship situations or work environment entered our mind, we were to watch the thought but not think further on the thought. In other words, every time a thought entered the mind I was not to dwell on it, that, this non dwelling would grow the Now as a real experiential presence – the process of inner awakening to Higher spiritual self.

I can honestly say that this “watching” indeed worked for me, it’s how the mind becomes free from the bondage of compulsive thinking and analysis, thereby expand the capacity of conscious awareness; thus the ego-controlled mind-sets or beliefs patterns are always within the awareness span, the spotlight which affords the intellect space to reflect in calm thereby allowing for calm conscious choice.

“Watching” indeed, Josh, is how we build our inner spiritual Temple. This way we can move from always being the student to becoming the teacher, that we may, through OUR awakening, show others how they may experience the Now — for that capacity of “now” experiencing is all we ever need to maintain daily for soul nourishment.

I often reflect, if those people who taught me back then had not bothered about their spiritual growth — their “now” understanding — how would I have learned in practical terms the simplicity of it all.

Thanks again, Josh, and best wishes to all on moving into your new house.




Joshua July 10, 2015 at 10:31 am


Thanks for sharing your experience and how these methods has helped you. It’s always good to know how the practical application of these things works in the lives of individual people. You always come through with that on your comments and articles.



Trent July 11, 2015 at 9:38 am

We must be on the watch… Spiritual enlightenment is not a one and done. It is a multitude of awakenings in the moment, a life long process. ” Unless you beccome as little children you may not enter the kingdom of heaven”. The divine spark is in a teachable spirit. Open mindedness is a key.


Joshua Tilghman July 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm

So true, Trent. Thanks for commenting!


Igor July 13, 2015 at 1:25 am

Hi Josh,

Have not written to you in a while, but you may recall we exchanged a few emails in the past on this subject.

I went back to your site to find if you had any reflection on Matthew 4:1 – 4:11, when Jesus was tempted by the ego in the wilderness, but could not find, so if you’d be so kind to point me in the right direction if you did write on this chapter.

Also, I wanted to ask if you’re familiar with “Mooji”?

I’d also like to invite you to take a look at my site,, which contains works of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, the only person I am aware of, who as recently as 200 years ago understood how Jesus cured by Wisdom, and explained this Truth that others may finally understand.

Thank you for your Wisdom and Dedication to this subject.

Much love,



Joshua July 17, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi Igor,

Have you looked at the Article entitled, “Jesus, 40 days in the dessert, and the Ego?”

You can find the link on the right hand side of the homepage under the best of the SOS.

I am not familiar with Mooji. What is it in reference to?

I will certainly take a look at your site. It sounds interesting. Blessings, my friend.


Claudine July 15, 2015 at 2:36 am

Hi Josh,

I just finished reading your latest article and thought it was brilliant, thank you.

Where/how do you learn to interpret biblical symbolism/metaphor? (e.g; two women in the field etc). Seems like the bible truly comes to life once you know how to read it. I never in a million years would have made the connection that the “thief” is the ego. You’re so on the money!

I find religion and symbolism fascinating in general. It’s as ancient and old as time. Please keep up the good writing.



Joshua July 17, 2015 at 12:12 pm


Through lots of research, and eventually was led to a very quick reference guide which doesn’t give all the answers but is great to begin:

Gaskell’s Dictionary of Scripture and Myth, which I believe is no longer in print.



Claudine July 19, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Hi Josh,

Thanks so much for giving me the name of that dictionary. Sounds really useful and helpful. Will try and source a used one on eBay or Amazon!



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