Troubled times come throughout history, and unfortunately in recent history it is commonplace for some Christians to shout, "the sky is falling" and run for cover instead of being salt and light to the world. Other camps, in an attempt to be wise and in order to quell a premature cry of "wolf" will turn to the other and say, "Yes, but remember, no one knows the day or the hour." I'm thankful for this latter group's attempt at calm, but is that really true?
As most of our readers already know, A New Day Dawning is a ministry that is dedicated to the optimistic message of the gospel and truth regarding the end times. That isn't because we place optimism over the Bible and try to reinterpret it. Rather, that is the message that arises out of scripture itself.
So what about this idea of no one knowing? Are you sure no one knows the day or the hour? The apostles sure did. Yep. That doesn't mean I'm throwing out Jesus' words. I'm just putting them in the context of his message and the context of history.
Let's look at the passage in context:
Mathew 24: 32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
A reader sent this great question to me recently:
To me, the Olivet Discourse seems like it's referring to two different events (at least in the account in Matt). One of the events, the destruction of Jerusalem, seems to be an event that the disciples would know is near. Just like one can know that summer is near by the fig tree putting forth leaves, the disciples could notice the signs Jesus spoke of and know that the destruction of Jerusalem is near. Then Jesus speaks of "that Day", a day in which no one will know the day or the hour. They will not be able to know that destruction is coming in that same way that Sodom and Gomorrah didn't know that destruction was coming. Or, like those in Noah's day. They didn't know that destruction was upon them. For those in Sodom and those in Noah's day, there were no observable signs that people could point to to know that destruction was near. Yet, with the destruction of Jerusalem there were clear signs. Does that not show that Jesus is speaking of two different events? How do you see those passages and reconcile them in the your view?
I'm making the assumption of my readers that they already have a sense of how Matthew 24 was about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. He ends Matthew 23 (no chapter break in the original) by describing the judgment coming on the scribes and Pharisees saying that not one stone will be left upon another (referring to the temple). The disciples then turn to him in the same context and ask when will these things be, what will be the sign (of him coming in judgment) and the signs of the end of the AGE (not world). Ok?
Now we get to the text. Notice that in the verse preceding it Jesus makes a point to say that just as one knows that summer is near by the blooming of the fig tree (Luke's version says AND ALL the trees... i.e., this has nothing to do with the restoration of Israel in 1948), then so too one can know when the destruction of the city and the temple is near by the signs he just mentioned. He affirms that ALL these things must happen within THEIR generation (he is still talking to the disciples): "Assuredly I say to YOU (disciples), THIS generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place."
WHO KNEW THE DAY AND THE HOUR?
But "No one knows the day or the hour"? Literally, at that moment they did not know. Jesus didn't even know the exact time. That doesn't mean they would NEVER know because Jesus said, in John 16:13, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He WILL TELL YOU THINGS TO COME." As they approached the Day, they would know.
The signs were broader warnings and evidence that Jesus was telling the truth (historically all the things Jesus spoke of from earthquakes, famine, to the ending of the Roman era of peace that preceded this period, to apostasy, etc). But that only gave them the big picture signs, the billboards if you will. They had to carefully watch the road for that sudden turn: for the day and MOMENT in which they were to flee Jerusalem and the city. They had to "watch and pray".
Remember John, who was promised to be told things to come by the Spirit? He eventually said, "Little children, it is the LAST HOUR; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is THE LAST HOUR." (1 Jn 2:18) He knew they were at the cusp, at the very last hour before the end of the old covenant system and all associated with it.
WHO WAS IN THE DARK ABOUT THAT DAY?
The brother who sent the question was concerned that there is a change of topic as he begins to talk about Noah's and Sodom's day. But notice the transition sentence: “But of THAT day and hour no one knows..." What day is "THAT" day? There is no other reference except to the day he has been referring to all along. Importing a transition here when Jesus doesn't clouds the plain meaning.
Notice that the ones in Noah's day and in Sodom who didn't see the sudden destruction coming were the ones who were not looking. So too there would be "sudden destruction" on those who refused to watch. Conversely, Noah and Lot by faith trusted the word of the Lord and were saved. Historians tell us that not one Christian died in the siege of Jerusalem by Rome because they knew the day and the hour as it approached.
That is why Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6,
"2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the DAY of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when THEY say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon THEM, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And THEY shall not escape. 4 But YOU, BRETHREN (you Thessalonians), are NOT IN DARKNESS, so that THIS DAY should overtake YOU as a THIEF. 5 YOU are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let US not sleep, as others do, but let US WATCH and be sober."
The believers in that day would watch and it would not be a surprise to them. They would watch so that the Romans did not steal their life, their destiny, or their promise of safety from Christ.
SO... no one knew the exact moment until the moment came. John and the other apostles (and believers) were told to watch for the signs naturally and were also told that the Holy Spirit would even tell them of the things to come, the Holy Spirit's internal warnings of the moment when Rome would arrive. So yes, they eventually knew the day and the hour. No, not one single person today should be looking for this event.
Would you like more understanding about the "thief in the night" please check out my blog: Spiritual Myth-Busters: A Thief in the Night.
For understanding about the "rapture" of Thessalonians please check out this excellent series: The Rapture: The Heart Attack Against the Church
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