Every January at St. James Church we invite our congregation to submit questions that I then answer impromptu. This is always fun and interesting because it reveals what ideas congregation members are curious about and gives me an opportunity to teach the Scriptures that are relevant to the concerns of those within our church family.
The questions are randomly selected during the month of January to be answered publicly. Those unanswered live in St. James Church services during the month of January are answered in written form throughout the balance of the year in blog form.
Question: Why did God not reveal to Jesus when he is coming for the second time? Why does only God know?
Great question! I think you are referring to Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said,
. . . no one knows the day or hour when these things [the second coming of Christ to the earth] will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
When Jesus was on the earth, he was 100% man as well as 100% God. By coming to earth as a man, he temporarily suspended some of his abilities and some of his omniscience as God. Because of that choice, in his human form, he had to grow physically from an infant into a man, learn certain things from his mother, father, and friends as he grew, and develop human skills. This is one of the mysteries—that Jesus agreed to come to the earth, take the form of a man, so he could fully understand what it’s like for all of us who are simply human, and to model for all of us what God is truly like, as well as godly living and godly power. And of course, after overcoming all the temptations that are common to humans, he was perfectly qualified to sacrifice his life for all of us on the cross.
Philippians 2:6-8 describes this when Paul wrote,
Though he [Jesus] was God,
He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave
And was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
He humbled himself in obedience to God
And died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Even after his resurrection, but before his ascension to the right hand of the Father, a similar question came up again and Jesus gave a similar answer.
Acts 1:6-7 says,
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, ‘Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’
He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.’
Your question is important because we tend to view Jesus as exclusively divine, forgetting that his humanity was evident while he was here on the earth. Though he obviously operated in the power of the Holy Spirit with the demonstration of spiritual gifts, he had to trust the Holy Spirit and respond to the Father just as we do.
Jesus said in John 5:19,
. . . the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.
Then in John 12:49-50 Jesus said,
I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.
We Christians pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we, too, must trust the Holy Spirit to work in us so we can hear the Father’s voice and know what the Father is doing, which is possible because of Jesus’ model and sacrifice. We have access to Father God because of Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit is here on the earth to guide us forward in that relationship.
Jesus is the Son of God, and he knew that it was important that he not know these things. He clearly communicated that these were truths exclusively known by the Father. We are more limited in our understanding than Jesus was while on earth. Yet today, some claim to know more than Christ did.
These two ideas are important for every believer:
First, the hour of Jesus’ return is known to God and to God alone. Therefore, the pretense of predicting the time of the second coming might be blasphemy, for anyone who so speculates about this subject and presents themselves as knowing is seeking to wrest from God knowledge which belongs to God alone. It has not proven beneficial for Bible teachers or those who claim a prophetic gift to speculate or to actually believe they know. If they pretend, they are deceivers. If they believe they know, they are deceived.
Our duties, according to Scripture, are always to be prepared for Jesus’ return, to watch, and to pray. No doubt, not knowing the specifics of the second coming isn’t as dramatic, enticing, or popular as saying that we know the day or the hour, or even the season of Jesus’ second coming. However, Christian leaders claiming to know have proven to be a primary reason for the lack of credibility of the Charismatic movement and a stain on much of the Christian media. Presuming to know more than we do has created great disillusionment in those who believed the deception and then were disappointed by its falsehood. We should not presume to know more while here on earth than Jesus himself did.
Secondly, the Bible does tell us that the return of Christ will come with shattering suddenness on those who are immersed in material things. Noah prepared himself in calm weather for the flood that was to come. And when it came he was ready. But the rest of humanity was lost in its eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, and was caught completely unaware and therefore swept away. These verses are a warning never to become so immersed in our earthly lives that we forget eternity, and never to let our concern with worldly affairs distract us from remembering that there is a God, and that whenever he returns, he must find us ready.
Beyond these truths we cannot go – for God has kept the details of his second coming to himself.
So, as for me, I draw security from abiding in him and focusing on being ready for his return, not from thinking I know his secrets about the day and hour.
Great question! Thank you.