164. I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know in what hour I will come upon thee, signifies that the things which are of worship shall be taken away from them, and that they shall not know when and how. It is said that the Lord "will come like a thief," because from the man, who is in dead worship, the external good of worship is taken away. For there is something of good in dead worship, because they think of God and of eternal life; but still good without its truths is not good, but meritorious or hypocritical, and evils and falsities take it away like a thief. This is done successively in the world, and after death fully, and also the man not knowing when and how. It is attributed to the Lord that "He will come like a thief," but, in the spiritual sense, it is meant that hell will take away and steal it. This is similar to its being said in the Word, that God does evil to man, vastates him, avenges, is wrathful, and leads into temptation; when yet hell does them, for it is so said from the appearance before man. That the talent and pound to trade with, is taken away from the man if nothing is gained by it, may be seen in Matt. 25:26-30; Luke 19:24-26. "To trade" and "to gain" signifies to acquire to one's self truths and goods.
 Since good and truth are taken away from those who are in dead worship, as if it were done by a thief in the dark, therefore in the Word the same is sometimes likened to a thief, as in the following passages:
Behold, I come as a thief. Happy is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked (Rev. 16:15).
Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord will come. But know this, that if the householder had known in what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through (Matt. 24:42-43).
If thieves came to thee, if destroyers by night, how wilt thou be cut off, would they not have stolen till they had enough? (Obad. 5).
They shall run to and fro in the city, they shall run upon the wall, they shall go up upon the houses, they shall enter in through the windows like a thief (Joel 2:9).
They have done a lie, and the thief cometh in, and the troop spreadeth itself without (Hos. 7:1).
Lay not up treasures upon earth, but in heaven, where thieves do not come nor steal (Matt. 6:19-20).
The reason why man must watch, and not know the hour in which the Lord cometh, is, that man may think and act as from himself, thus in freedom according to his reason, and lest any fear intrude; for everyone, if he knew, would be in fear; and what man does from himself in freedom remains to eternity; but what he does from fear, does not remain.