Why would Jesus say He would come as a “thief” in the night and not use another analogy? To me this is odd. Why not use something like I will come unexpectedly like a person to the market when the market is closed? To me a thief is someone who does something illegal, one who is a criminal. Or has the word thief been translated in a wrong way over the many years?
No it’s not a mistranslation. The phrase is meant to describe an unexpected, even fearsome event. No one goes to bed at night thinking a thief will break in while they’re sleeping. We’re supposed to be at our safest then. Paul used this phrase in 1 Thes. 5:2 to describe the Day of the Lord as it will appear to the unbelieving world. To them the coming End Times judgments will be unexpected, and will be met with great fear. But in verse 4 Paul said these judgments shouldn’t surprise us like a thief. We’re supposed to know they’re coming because of the signs we see. Then He said we are not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes 5:9).
In Rev. 16:15 Jesus said He would come like a thief. There the timing is just before the Battle of Armageddon when the world will believe Jesus and His heavenly forces are invaders to be repelled. He’s warning Tribulation believers to stay alert and remain faithful. The church will be long gone by then.