"If the owner of the house had known at what time ..." (Matthew 24:43-44)

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:43-44)

What is this parable of the house owner about?

This is an analogy regarding the time of death. The analogy follows Jesus' warning about a coming mass slaughter by the Romans of Judeans during the coming years (the Jewish-Roman wars):
"Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:40-42)
Many have incorrectly interpreted this to mean that the world will end and Jesus will come riding through the sky to save those who join their church, while killing off everyone else ("unbelievers").

This is fiction, intended to recruit followers by scaring people.

Some sectarian teachers go to the extent of teaching that there is a list of those who will be saved, and getting on the list means joining their sect.

There are several holes in this fictitious interpretation of the world ending, initially put forth to scare people into attending the early Roman Catholic church, and eventually being utilized over the centuries by those sects wishing to gain or keep followers.

If Jesus was discussing the end of the world why did Jesus say during this discussion:
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (Matthew 24:34)
Since the "generation" Jesus was referring to passed away some 2,000 years ago and the end of the world didn't come, how could he be referring to the end of the world?

If the world was going to end then why did Jesus say:
"Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." (Matthew 24:40)
Where would the one who is "left" go if the world was ending? The word "left" means they would stay.

And what happens to those who followed Jesus but their bodies died before this supposed end of the world scenario? They'd have to wait around somewhere - some for thousands of years - for Jesus to come riding through the sky at the end of the world? Where would they wait, and wouldn't their bodies have long decomposed by them?

Thus, the inventive doctrine of purgatory is problematic. This doesn't explain how they will be waiting around when their physical bodies have decomposed and turned to ashes and soil.

These problems and others pervade this 'end of the world' teaching continually put forth by some teachers. Despite all the predictions of the past that were wrong, they still make new predictions and we are supposed to believe them?

Is there a history of this false prediction?

Many sectarian teachers have predicted this end of the world scenario for the past 1,700 years in this attempt to scare people into joining their institutions. Just consider some of the more famous yet still false predictions made through the centuries:

Hilary of Poitiers: 365 AD (the date predicted as the second coming and end of time)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
Ann Lee (The Shakers): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994, and others more recent.

Should we continue to believe these prophecies by those who want to scare us into believing? Should we trust their interpretation of Jesus' 'second coming' when they have been wrong about their predictions over the centuries?

What happened during the Jewish-Roman wars?

Jesus is referring to the mass slaughter of millions of Judeans at the hands of the Romans in the Jewish-Roman wars. This began at about 60 A.D. with the burning of Jerusalem and the sacking of the Jerusalem temple.

This was a horrible holocaust, in which the Judean people were decimated by Roman armies. The Judeans had knives and rocks, while the Roman army had horses, swords, bows and arrows and fire. It was no contest.

What few were spared were either enslaved by the Romans or ran off into the desert to eke out an existence hidden in caves. And even many of these remote camps - including Qumran - were also eventually ransacked by the Romans.

The Jewish-Roman wars lasted nearly a century. It is one of the longest wars ever recorded, and more people were slaughtered than in previous Middle Eastern history - or since, in a single war.

So Jesus, in this private conversation with his disciples, was trying to prepare them for their coming death, made inevitable by the brutal war to come.

What is the parable symbolism?

The actual meaning of Jesus' parable above is actually quite simple:

"The owner of the house"
symbolizes the living spirit - the person - who resides within the physical body. The "house" symbolizes the physical body. The "thief" represents death, which can come at any time.

If the person within the body is prepared for the death of their body, then they will be prepared for it by directing their focus upon God. If they are focused upon God as death approaches, then they will be prepared for Jesus' "appearance" (ἔρχομαι is better translated to "appear" in this context, rather than "come") at the time of death.

Such a follower of Jesus will, in other words, be much more likely be "taken" as opposed to being "left" (Matt. 24:40).

"Taken", in Matt. 24:40 refers to being taken back to the spiritual world. Being "left" means to continue our hellish existence within the physical world - away from God.

So "the Son of Man will come" refers to Jesus' influence at the time of death for each of his followers. As their spiritual teacher, Jesus pledged that those who obeyed his teachings and directed their lives towards learning to love and serve God would be led back to the spiritual world.

This has been confirmed by clinical death research, in which those who have been followers of Jesus found themselves facing Jesus after they left their bodies.

Note that the Greek phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου translated to "Son of Man" is better translated to the Servant of Humanity.

Jesus is placing himself as a servant of all of humanity.
"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)