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Mark 13:33

ESV Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
NIV Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come.
NASB Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.
CSB "Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.
NLT And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert !
KJV Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
NKJV Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.

What does Mark 13:33 mean?

"Awake" is from the Greek root word agrupneo and literally means to stay awake, but figuratively means to be attentive and ready. Although Jesus does say to pay attention to the signs that the end times are coming (Mark 13:28–29), He isn't saying that we should spend all our time and effort in determining when that will be. We can't know when He will return (Mark 13:32).

Jesus is warning that there is not time for a leisurely faith. Paul says, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15–16). Like the faithful servants (Mark 13:34–36) or the bridal party waiting for the groom (Matthew 25:1–13), we can't treat Jesus' delay as permission to act ungodly (Matthew 24:48–51).

Luke gives more specifics as to why end-times believers should be on guard. In the hardships of the tribulation, many will be "weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life" (Luke 21:34). "Dissipation" is from the Greek root word kraipale, and basically means buzzed from wine. In the horrors of the tribulation, seeking solace in mind-altering chemicals will be a natural response, but that is not an option for Christ-followers (Ephesians 5:18).

Christ-followers in the tribulation, and really of all times, also need to value God's plan over whatever earthly comforts are available. Many Christ-followers will be martyred (Revelation 6:9–11). Famine will wrack the world. Only those who follow the Antichrist will find it easy to obtain supplies (Revelation 13:16–17). But the wealth and comforts of those who follow the Antichrist will not last (Revelation 18).

Jesus also wants His tribulation followers to survive, if they can. He exhorts believers to "stay awake at all times, praying that [they] may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). It will be easier for believers to survive the tribulation if their minds are sharp. Jesus will heal the land at the end of the seven years of tribulation. Survival is much more important than the momentary blessings of chemical escapism—i.e. drug use—or even physical comfort. But even more important than being able to survive the tribulation is being able to stand before Christ with the legacy of unwavering faith.
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