Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
If waiting (q.v. ) rather points to the expectation of a specific experience or event, watching indicates a general attitude of alertness on the part of the Christian believer, in view of actual or imminent teats of his spiritual life. It is a favourite word of our Lord (γρηγορέω, Matthew 24:42-43; Matthew 25:13; Matthew 26:38; Matthew 26:40-41, Mark 13:35; Mark 14:34; Mark 14:37-38, Luke 12:37; Luke 12:39), employed in inculcating the duty of vigilance (frequently combined with prayer) in regard either to the sudden day or hour when the Son of man shall arrive or to some actual crisis or trial (especially the agony of Gethsemane), or as a preparation for some impending temptation. In Acts 20:31 it is found in the exhortation by St. Paul to the elders at Miletus, in view of the apostasy that has taken place or may be repeated under the influence of ‘fierce wolves.’ The duty of alertness as opposed to a slack or somnolent spirit is proclaimed in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Colossians 4:2 (where J. Moffatt, The New Testament, a New Translation3, London, 1914, p. 252, translates the verb ‘maintain your zest for prayer by thanksgiving’), 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 3:2-3; Revelation 16:15. With these may be compared a passage in Ignatius, ad Polyc. i. 3, where the duty is pointed by reference to the ἀκοίμητον πνεῦμα of the Christian. In two of the above cited passages (1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8) the verb ‘to watch’ is combined with νήφω, ‘to be sober,’ which in 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7 is translated in AV as ‘be watchful’ or ‘watch’: νήφω means, however, to be temperate or sober (originally, to abstain from wine) and conveys the sense of calmness or coolness prepared for any emergency and arising out of abstinence from what will excite rather than the more general self-control of ἐγκράτεια and σωφροσύνη.
To sum up, watchfulness or watching indicate that the Christian is alert or vigilant, in order to defend himself against a spiritual foe or to be properly prepared for any surprise or sudden change in his circumstances, and above all in order that his fellowship with God in prayer may be undistracted and efficacious.
R. Martin Pope.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Watching'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/w/watching.html. 1906-1918.