The concept of the “11th hour” refers to the final period of time before an important event or deadline. In biblical terms, it is often used to refer to the end times or final period before Christ’s return. The phrase comes from a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 20:1-16, in which a landowner hires workers at various times throughout the day, including some hired at the “11th hour” right before quitting time. These last-minute workers receive the same full daily wage as those who began working early in the morning.
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Jesus tells of a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agrees to pay them one denarius for the day’s work. At 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. he returns to the marketplace and hires more workers. Finally, at the 11th hour, or 5 p.m. when only one hour of work remains, he finds still more workers idle in the marketplace and hires them as well, promising to pay them “whatever is right.”
At the end of the day, the landowner instructs his foreman to pay all the workers the same wage, one denarius each, even those who only worked for one hour. The full-day workers grumble because they think the latecomers who worked only an hour shouldn’t get paid the same. But the landowner rebuffs them, saying he is free to pay whatever he wants and reminds them they are receiving their agreed-upon wage. He chooses to be generous to the latecomers.
The parable emphasizes God’s generosity to all regardless of when they come to faith. The full-day workers represent those who have believed in God from an early age, while the 11th hour workers symbolize converts who come to belief late in life. All receive the same salvation through Christ.
End Times Symbolism
This parable carries end times symbolism. The landowner represents God and the vineyard represents His Kingdom. The times of day (early morning, 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.) represent the different ages or dispensations of humanity.
The 11th hour represents the very end of the age right before Christ’s return. It is viewed as a time when many will urgently turn to Christ at the last moment before facing judgment. Just as the 11th hour workers were paid a full day’s wage, so too will those saved at the end by coming to Christ receive the full inheritance of eternal salvation.
Bible Verses on the 11th Hour
Several other Bible verses reinforce this idea of urgent action as the 11th hour approaches:
- “The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him, but some hesitated because they were uncertain.” – Matthew 28:16-17
- “After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since he did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him. The Jewish Festival of Shelters was near.” – John 7:1-2
- “You must be alert, because you don’t know when the day or hour will come.” – Matthew 25:13
These verses indicate that as the 11th hour approaches, many will grow hesitant or uncertain in their faith. Jesus urges constant alertness and preparation for His return at an unknown day and hour.
The 11th Hour is Now
Some Christian thinkers state we are living in the 11th hour right now shortly before Christ’s Second Coming. Supporting signs include:
- Increasing immorality and godlessness (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
- Rise in false teachers and doctrines (2 Peter 2:1-3)
- Wars, natural disasters, famines (Matthew 24:6-8)
- New technological capabilities for mass surveillance and tracking (Revelation 13:16-17)
- Re-establishment of Israel as a nation (Jeremiah 23:7-8)
- Increased hostility toward Israel (Zechariah 12:2-3)
- Worldwide spread of the Gospel (Matthew 24:14)
These prophetic signs indicate we are in the season of Christ’s return, meaning the 11th hour is imminent. No one knows the day or hour, so we must live in constant readiness (Matthew 24:36-44).
How to Prepare for the 11th Hour
If we are living in the 11th hour prior to Christ’s return, how should we prepare?
- Repent of all sin and turn wholeheartedly to God (2 Peter 3:9-13)
- Abide in Christ as branches connected to the vine (John 15:1-11)
- Be spiritually alert and sober-minded (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8)
- Store up heavenly rather than earthly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21)
- Wait eagerly for Christ’s return (Titus 2:11-14)
- Tell others the Gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Serve God faithfully in whatever role He assigns (Matthew 25:14-30)
Rather than fearing the end times, we should live each day ready to meet our Master so that whenever the 11th hour comes, we will hear “Well done good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23)
The 11th hour represents the urgent final period before Christ’s return. While we do not know exactly when that hour will come, the signs indicate we are living in the season of His return. This necessitates constant readiness through repentance, faithfulness to Christ, and sharing the Gospel. Relying on God’s grace, we can joyfully labor in His vineyard until the 11th hour concludes and all receive their eternal reward.