The distinct prophecies Mt 24:1-35 and Mt 24:36-51 are to be interpreted according to the thesis of multiple scenarios. The first refers to a possible end of the world in the first century. The second applies to a certain indeterminable future. Jesus continues His instruction about the second scenario in Matthew 25.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Mt 25:1).
Verse 5 is a key verse:
“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep” (Mt 25:5).
Following the parable of the Ten Virgins, Christ tells the parable of the Talents. Note the parallel idea:
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them” (Mt 25:19).
It is very evident that Jesus was referring to two scenarios in Matthew 24: the first applies to Christ’s Second Coming as the culmination of a possible end of the world in the first century; the second refers to His return after a long delay.
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.” Luke 12:35-46.
The second watch was from between 9PM to midnight. The third watch was from midnight to 3AM. I believe that the midnight cry of Mt 25:6 “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him” was given on the second watch.
Please read the next post for a quick glimpse on the three watches.