“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only,” Matthew 24:36.
Do these words mean that the Lord Jesus was unaware of the time of His return? Many would say that is so and because of that it is futile to speak of the revelation in Holy Scripture by Christ of signs that foretell the approach of that day since He did not know the ‘day and hour’. Therefore He could not speak of that which indicates the approach of the ‘day and hour’.
But is that what this verse is saying. I think not!
The context indicates that the Saviour DID know the ‘day and hour’.
Please remember in this chapter we have Christ answering two questions, one of which is, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” verse 3.
I put it to you that the Saviour could not reveal what the ‘sign’ of His coming was if He did not know ‘day and hour’ when His return would take place!
If it is true that the Saviour was ignorant of the ‘day and hour’ then He would have told His disciples that He could not answer their question. But He did not respond with a declaration of ignorance but rather began to answer their question in great detail.
His answer is most explicit indeed. The word ‘shall’ is ever linked to the expression of a strong determination to do something. It is most assertive. That word appears many times in this chapter. If my counting is correct it appears some 53 times in the chapter in our Authorised Version.
That would tell us Christ was speaking very authoritatively and forcefully. There was nothing tentative or hesitating about the Saviour’s response that might suggest a lack of a full knowledge of the answer to the question, ‘when shall you return’!
The detailed information imparted by the Lord indicates He HAD full knowledge of that day.
* He was aware of the details of the deception that would pervade the Christian world prior to His return, 4 verses 4-5, 11.
* He was aware of the turmoil of war and want that shall prevail upon the earth prior to His return, verses 6-8.
* He was also fully acquainted with the affliction that His people would face in the final days of the age, 9-10.
* He was able to state categorically that the gospel would be “preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come,” verse 14.
* His explicit warning regarding the “abomination of desolation” and the immediate response that His people should take upon its manifestation, again indicates full knowledge of the sequence of events that indicate the approach of the the ‘Day of the Lord’.
* Furthermore the use of the words ‘then’ and ‘immediately’ in verses 21, 29 and 30 clearly indicate an intimate knowledge of the approaching time of His return to this world.
It is clearly stated in other Scriptures that the Lord KNOWS the moment of His return.
It is a rule regarding the understanding of Holy Scripture that we take the plain teaching of one portion to explain the meaning of a less clear related portion.
Thus we read in Zechariah 14, regarding the “day of the Lord”, verse 1, that “it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD,” verse 7.
Even if we consider the title given to the day of Christ’s return, the “day of the Lord”, is it conceivable that that He Whose day it is is unaware of when exactly it will take place?
What does the verse 36 mean?
The parallel account of this teaching of the disciples by the Saviour is given in Mark 13. The verse 32 of that chapter states: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
There are those who use this verse in Mark 13 and also the parallel verse in Matthew 24, as an argument against the study of prophecy since, they claim, even the Lord Jesus does not know the day of His return. Therefore it is useless for us to search the Scriptures for indications of when He will return, since He would not have been able to give us such information!
To me, such a notion that the verse is teaching that Christ is in ignorance of the day of His return is quite ludicrous and contrary to, indeed it is nothing short of a denial of, the truth regarding the deity and the Godhead of Christ.
The idea that Christ does not know the mind of the Father is not in keeping with His deity and His co-equality with the Father. Such a notion is contrary to the Saviour’s own clear statements regarding His omniscience.
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father,” John 10:15. Surely that means that as the Father had a full and utter understanding of His Son, so the Son had a full and utter understanding of the Father’s eternal purpose!
“All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him,” Matthew 11:27 “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him,” John 5:22-23.
Would it not be strange indeed if the One to Whom is “committed all judgment” does not know the day and the hour when He “shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9? Is it not the judge that sets the ‘day of judgment’?
I believe that the verb rendered “knoweth,” in Matthew 24:36 and in Mark 13:32, sometimes means to make known, or to reveal. The same Greek word translated in Mark 13:32 as “knoweth” is used in 1 Corinthians 2:2. There Paul says: “For I determined not to know” – or to make known, to expound – “any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” If we use the word in the sense in which it is translated in 1 Corinthians 2:2, then Mark 13:32 could be read, indeed should be read: “That day and hour none makes known, neither the angels, nor the Son, but the Father.”
The source of all knowledge, the Father has from the beginning, known and ordained all things which shall come to pass. The Father has made known His will to His Son regarding such future events and this is made very evident in Revelation 1:1. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” The Father made known to the Lord Jesus the “things which must shortly come to pass” (or as we should read it, “the things which must come to pass in a short period of time”) in order that He, the Son, might “shew them unto his servants.”
It is not foolish or wrong to search the Scriptures for information regarding the last days for such is part of the information that the Saviour was given of His Father to share with His people.
Regarding the Saviour’s words in Matthew 24:42 which state: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come,” that has ever been the state of ignorance the believer has been in since the dawn of time. We have never known the appointed “hour”of Christ’s appearing. However, I believe that such an ignorance will be gradually lifted as the day approaches. I think that there is a time of “making known” and it is referred to in Daniel 12:8-9. “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
What Daniel was not permitted to know will be made known to God’s people in “the time of the end.” That surely is implied in the words: “the words are closed up and sealed TILL the time of the end.”
In closing, I repeat the opening words of the last book of the Bible.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand,” Revelation 1:1-3.
That knowledge is there for us to gain and by gaining it enter into the blessing mentioned.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
8th May 2023