When will Jesus come again? After seeing in the Word of God that Jesus comes yet once more in the future, comes to destroy this present world and to gather unto Himself His church, to judge the wicked, and to bring about the newheavens and the new earth we might ask the question: When will He come? Can we know the time? Can we make predictions? Should we, as Christians, begin to set dates when Jesus is expected to come?
Our Lord Himself gave a very clear answer to this question. He said in Mark 13:32, 33, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father…ye know not when the time is.” Again, the Lord would say to His disciples just before He ascended into heaven, in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” The day, the hour, the time, the season, the month is not revealed by God in Holy Scripture.
Why? Is it so that we can simply dismiss the return of the Lord from all of our thoughts and live as if He will never come? Oh, no! Exactly the opposite is the case. The time of Christ’s return is withheld from us in order that we might live in a state of preparedness, expectation, hope, and dependence upon our God who will surely come. Christ’s coming is in the Father’s hands and we look to Him. We do not then, in vain curiosity, pry into the day and the hour. But we live in the light of faith. We watch and we pray.
Let us look a little bit more closely at the words of our Lord. Our Master is speaking to us of the day of His return. He says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man.” Very plainly He is referring to the day of His return. He is using a word that points to a concrete thing: that day. And that day is the day of the Lord’s coming of which He spoke in verses 24-27 of Mark 13, the day in which the sun, the moon, and the stars shall be cast down; the day in which the angels shall come forth to gather out of the earth all the elect of God; the day in which Christ shall, as the righteous Judge, condemn all wickedness; the day in which He shall create the new heavens and the new earth. That day!
Repeatedly in the Old Testament, and especially in the prophets, we read of Jehovah’s coming judgment as “that day.” Joel 3:18: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.” And that terminology spills over into the New Testament. For instance, we read in II Timothy 1:12 these words of the apostle: “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” “That day”—the day when He comes at the end of the world. The one, final, visible, public coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He shall raise the dead, and judge all, and destroy all the works of wickedness, and create the new heavens and the new earth.
Again, we read in II Timothy 4:8 these words of the apostle: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.” Our Lord’s terminology is very intentional. “That day,” the day upon which we place all of our hope when He shall appear at the end of the world in power and great glory, to bring judgment upon all wickedness and wicked-doers, and to save the church that He has redeemed in His blood.
Jesus says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” No one knows the day or the hour. Then, making it very clear that He means that no one can predict or assign a date in time, He adds in verse 33 of Mark 13, “for ye know not when the time is.” Jesus is saying that there is no creature on earth, no creature in heaven, except the Father, who knows the day of the Lord’s coming. The Lord knows. He has set the day, the hour, the exact moment. He has set that moment in His decree from all eternity. The day is fixed.
Nothing can change that. Nothing can postpone it. Nothing can prevent it. It is fixed, as we read in Isaiah 14: Who shall disannul it? Who shall alter the thing that I have purposed?
Yes, the Lord knows the moment.
Angels do not. No, “not the angels in heaven,” says the Lord. That is very striking. Who are angels? Hebrews 1:14 tells us that they are ministering spirits. They are spiritual beings who are servants of God and stand before His throne night and day, ready to do His will. They are the ones who behold the glory of God. They are made privy to God’s special purposes. They play a vital role in the Lord’s coming. They shall descend with Him, the Lord said.
We ask the question then, “Who would be more likely to know the time than the angels who are before the very throne of God, waiting eagerly for the command of God, for the nod of Him who sits upon the throne, that they are now to descend to the earth as the great army to reap the harvest of God’s elect?” But Jesus says, No, no, not the angels. They do not know the time. Not because of any lack of interest on their part. I Peter 1 tells us that the angels desire to look into the things of our salvation. All the matters of our salvation are of vital concern to them. But the Father hath not revealed to the angels the moment of the end.
Then the Lord says there is another group. That other group is “ye, men, My apostles.” These apostles of whom the Lord speaks are the ones who will be used as instruments of revelation. These apostles will be used of God to write much of the New Testament Scriptures. Those Scriptures will convey the very mind of God. Thus, the apostles will bring to our knowledge, through the writing of the holy Scriptures, as they are moved by the Spirit of God, all the wonders of our salvation, all the things of God’s own heart, as they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
We would say again, surely these would know, these apostles and disciples, these instruments through whom God would give His Word, they will know. But the Lord says, No, they do not know.
The Lord Jesus could not use language that was clearer or more emphatic than what He does use. He states that no creature on earth or in heaven, angel, apostle, or any other man, knows the time of the Lord’s return. Only the Father.
Then He makes an amazing confession. He adds, “Neither the Son.” Jesus said that He Himself did not know.
How do we understand that?
Jesus is speaking here as the Son of God, very God of very God, but the Son of God in His willing humiliation, in the human nature. He is speaking as the Son of God in His present earthly position. And in that present earthly position, He did not know. As the Son stands in His true humanity before the cross, fully a man, He confesses that there were things that He did not yet know. Does He know them now as the glorified Son of God in our human nature? Does He know them now as the Man, Christ Jesus, at the right hand of God, ruling over all things? I believe that He certainly does. For He executes the will and the counsel of God. But at that moment, as He stood among us, He did not know the moment of His return. Without any embarrassment, He says, “Right now, as I stand in the reality of My humiliation, as the Son of God in human flesh, I do not know the time that the Father has set in His counsel.” He left it to His Father. It was total comfort and it was enough for Him to know that the Father had set the time in His counsel.
What does this teach us? It certainly teaches us, first of all, that we are not to engage or indulge in datesetting, in predictions of days, months, years, seasons in which Christ is supposed to come. All such attempts are contrary to Christ’s own word. God has not given to us the Scriptures as a puzzle to put pieces together and to reach a conclusion and say, “Ah, this is the time.” Our Lord, in submission to His Father, the One who humbled Himself unto death, says, “No man knows. The Father, only. Ye know not the time. Watch and pray.” We are not to go to the Old Testament prophecies, as for instance to Daniel, who speaks of days and weeks, and then to the book of Revelation, which speaks of years and half-years, and cut and paste together the Scriptures and make charts and try to spell out what Christ says is not known by man and has not been revealed by the Father.
Hear the Word of the Lord. It is a clear Word: Ye know not when the time is—no man, no angel, neither the Son. Rather, says the Lord, take heed to what is revealed. I have spoken to you in this chapter, says the Lord, of the signs that must be accomplished before I return. Be ready. I have spoken to you that you must be about My business so long as you have life and breath. Keep yourself unspotted from the world. Keep your hearts free from the world. Keep your hearts centered in Jesus Christ. Have your hands busy with My work. Have your mouth open with My gospel to speak to others. Have your eyes looking for My return.
When all the talk is over, it comes down to this: Are you ready to meet Him now? That is what should matter to you right now. Oh, yes, we must eat and sleep, and we must be faithful and diligent in our earthly callings. But what really is important to you? All of those things that can make us so anxious, the things of this present time: our jobs, our homes, our income, our possessions, all of the things that make us so fearful and rob us of the joy of the Lord—are they so important in the light of the Lord’s return? Look even upon your sorrow, your pain, and your suffering. Are they worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us?
Do not live with all of the baggage of the present life-packed by the back door thinking that you are going to take it with you—cars, mutual funds, and sinful pleasures. Abandon them. Be ready to meet Him today, with love, joy, peace, gentleness, faith. And hear His words: the time is fixed. It is in His Father’s hand. He comes soon.
Now, little children, abide in Him. That when He shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
God bless His Word to our hearts.