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Why Did Jesus Say He Didn’t Know When He Would Return?

Why Did Jesus Say He Didn't When He Would Return?

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In Mark 13:32, Jesus says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

But wait, isn’t this Jesus, the God-man? How does the very Son of God not know when He will return? Doesn’t this show He isn’t God?

Each of these, at first, are very valid questions. It’s also worth noting that his isn’t the first time Jesus is described with restrictions. Luke 2:52, for instance, says Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature.” The book of Hebrews says that “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”

Let’s be clear: Scripture teaches that Christ had to be fully God to represent God to men, and be fully man to represent man to God (Col. 2:9; John 1, etc.). He’s 100 percent God and 100 percent man!

To save us from the Father’s due wrath upon us, He had to be both. If He wasn’t a man, he couldn’t have died in our place as a substitute. If He was not God, He would have been just like you and me—that is, unable to defeat the power of sin and death and satisfy the Father’s wrath as a perfect sacrifice.

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Throughout His life, we see glimpses of both natures.  For instance:

  • Because He was human, He got thirsty (John 19:28). But because He was God’s Son, He could turn water into wine (John 2:1-13).
  • Because He was human, He got hungry (Mark 11:12). But because He was God’s Son, He could feed 5,000 hungry people (Mark 6:30-44).
  • Because He was human, He became weary (John 4:6). But because He was God’s Son, he was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1-15).

Why Did Jesus Say He Didn't When He Would Return? And, to answer the question posed at the beginning, because He was human, He didn’t know the day or the hour of His return. But because He is God’s Son and fully divine, He promised He would return with great power and great glory.

In other words, while on this earth, Jesus willingly emptied Himself of many of His divine powers (Philippians 2:5-11). The Greek word is kenosis, which literally renders as “emptying.” In His human nature, Jesus has limitations like you and me.

In short, the reason Jesus doesn’t know is because, in His humanity, He “emptied himself” of all that knowledge and access to it.

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But here’s the bigger question: Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

Here are four questions to ask yourself.

  1. Are you spiritually alert? How would your life be different if you knew Jesus was coming back today? Wouldn’t it make you question, “Am I ready? Am I living to please him?” For many reading this, the ultimate question is, “Is your soul ready for Jesus to return? Have you repented and believed the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15)?”
  2. Are you urgently on a mission? If you knew the world would end, how would your priorities be rearranged? We are consumed by work, possessions, hobbies and bucket lists. And there’s nothing wrong with these things. We need rest and recovery and we have to work! But in the midst of these things, are we investing our life, time and resources to eternal matters?
  3. Do you find hope in your most intense suffering? Suffering is a reminder that this world is not the way it is supposed to be. The world is full of unfathomable evil and suffering. The Lord is full of unending love and comfort. If someone you loved died of cancer, if your closest relationship is severed, or if your body is full of pain, you can lift your eyes! Jesus is coming back. His return promises us that the things of this life are only temporary.
  4. Do you have an intense power to forgive? If you believe Jesus will return as He said He would, then you can forgive as He commanded. At the return of Christ, He’s going to set all things right, and we can endure until then because of that fact.

May we long daily for heaven, pray daily for Christ’s return, and live daily content and joyful as we rest daily in the sovereignty of God.

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  1. At least the author of this piece is a person of faith, seemingly. It is much better for people to have faith and reason about doctrine than not to have faith at all.

    It seems in these times the biggest “stumblingblock” that interferes with people having faith is the Theory of Evolution. As a person of faith in the Christian biblical narrative, my short answer to people is that “sure the earth is millions of years old but it wasn’t created very long ago. It was created with age. It was millions of years old on it’s first birthday.” Adam and Eve were created with age, not as newborns that had to age into adulthood. Their surroundings were well aged also. In other words the chicken had to come before the egg so that the chicken could care for the egg.

    So for those of us of faith, let’s reason about doctrine for a minute. The doctrine that Jesus and God are one is not a doctrine that fits well with scripture. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are as one, sure. There are several times and scripture where this is clarified. The fact that Jesus prayed to his “Father in Heaven” is one. The fact that he encouraged people to pray to “our Heavenly Father” is another. When, in the Book of Acts, Stephen the martyr was being stoned to death, when he was dying, a window in heaven was opened before him and he stated that he saw Jesus, standing on the right side of the throne of God”.

    It’s interesting what we can get ourselves confused about, the only solution to the confusion being to seek for revelation and guidance because human reasoning alone will only lead to error.

    Some today even take exception to the concept that God is referred to as “Father” and not “Mother”. They can’t get by the fact that the English language doesn’t really have a gender neutral word for spiritual beings that have no gender.

    And in western culture it is frightful how much Hollywood/Western pop culture has affected the mindsets and values negatively. While some of us have chosen to boycott that the effects are not as avoidable because we all must deal with people and so many are affected adversely. I’m left with wondering if the younger generations will even be able to hold together a civilization without a police state to keep things together.

    It seems our biggest challenge is to be honest. Honest with ourselves and before the creator. Proverbs says(and I’m paraphrasing) The fear of displeasing God is the beginning of wisdom. So what might be the beginning of honesty? Perhaps it is admitting that we cannot figure things entirely on our own and need heavenly guidance so we don’t come to inaccurate conclusions. The best to all!

  2. Always a stumbling block for me.

  3. In early Christianity, there was a significant minority that believed that Jesus was not God but divinely chosen (begotten by God) to be the Son of God but subservient to God. This outlook was eventually called Arianism because it’s main voice was a man named Arius who preached out of Alexandria, Egypt. This particular line of theology and similar outlooks were essentially banished at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Though the concept lived on for quite some time afterwards, it finally lost out over time.

    As for “No one knows the time,” there are those who believe this was a later addition to words put into Jesus’ mouth and that he never said any such thing. The reasoning to this is, Matthew is known to have been written about 50 years after the death of Jesus and about 20-30 years after the death of Paul. Paul’s earliest letters reflect an opinion that Jesus’ return is imminent. The pseudo-Pauline letters within the NT tamper this viewpoint to a more distant point. Matthew addresses the point in the latter tradition. Jesus had not returned as expected and their was concern among some that maybe something was amiss with all the teachings that had gone on. Matthew, as some believe, may have put those words on Jesus’ lips. Many believe that the views within the early church had begun to shift after the Jewish Revolt. Much of this attitude is reflected in later Pauline attributed writings (Colossians- though there is still some heated debate, Second Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Ephesians, Titus and Hebrews). All these letters reflect a more subdued time for the Parousia.

    So, if the timeline is correct, it would not be out of character for Matthew to have reflected this sentiment that we simply won’t know when Jesus will return. Prophets, ancient and modern (Harold Camping) have been trying to predict the end for ages but have failed each and every time. Personally, if one has their faith in order and believes in such a coming, then I would imagine one shouldn’t worry nor care when the end comes.

  4. it could also be near the fall feasts. The day no man knows is an idiom for feast of trumpets since the day is the sighting of the new moon so no one can know for sure when it will be. Also in Jewish culture, the bride doesn’t know when the groom will fetch her. Many different aspects that fit the mold of why Jesus said he did not know the day.

  5. I disagree. I think it’s an apologetic that doesn’t work. You don’t have to be trinitarian to be Christian. There’s lots of good sites out there that discuss this. The “church” spent close to twenty centuries trying to crush minority truth in many other forms, and under Constantine, “heresy” was a capital offense. You can disagree, but I think this is another fruit of a bad tree.

  6. Jesus answered the question put to Him to make Him proclaim His Messiah-ship.Every Torah believing Jew knows full well that Messiah shall come during a future Feast of Trumpets. That is the one Feast of the Lord that”no man knows the day or the hour” for it NEVER starts at the same time! He gave them a cryptic answer to the question! AND ,with that one misinterpreted sentence,Christians have negated His constant teaching about being ever watchful for His return. “And why call ye me, Lord,Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46

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