WHY DID JESUS SAY HE DID NOT KNOW THE DAY OR HOUR WHEN HE WOULD RETURN? WHY WOULD JESUS NOT KNOW, AS GOD IS ALL- KNOWING?
In regards, to the returning of Christ, Jesus said in Mark 13:32, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” The same verse is said in Matthew 24:36 – Scripture verifying Scripture. When we read this passage, it is healthy to ask, “Why didn’t Jesus know the time of His return?” Those who acknowledge Jesus as God should wrestle with this passage in question. The reason we need to wrestle with this is because of what we know about the nature of God. God is all-knowing (1 John 3:20). Therefore, if God is all-knowing, and Jesus is God, how could Jesus not know when He is returning?
Before I go ahead with an explanation, I just want to acknowledge and mention this. One of my great mentors was the late Dr. Charles Halff, who as a young 13-year-old Jewish man from San Antonio, became a believer in Jesus as his Messiah and Saviour. He founded his ministry called “The Christian Jew Hour” in 1948. Dr. Charles Halff was one of the early pioneers of the Messianic Movement in America. His radio ministry was carried on hundreds and hundreds of radio stations throughout the United States and Canada. What was so remarkable about his teaching and preaching that captivated me and helped me tremendously in my spiritual growth was that Dr. Charles Halff made the Scriptures come alive from a Jewish perspective and context. I’m so ever grateful that the Lord led me to his ministry, and I can personally attest to the vast treasures that await readers willing to learn how to read the Bible through Jewish eyes.
Unfortunately, the basic knowledge needed to understand these verses was lost to many as the Gentile church became more influenced by Greek and Roman thought. The so-called early church fathers who were guided and influenced by a different spirit would accept the name of Christ but twisted Christ’s teachings to create a convincing counterfeit of the true Church of God, then later joining and becoming part of the Roman church proved this to be true. By interpreting the Bible through a Greek philosophical lens, they effectively began the process of severing Christianity from its Jewish roots. The confusion appeared (spiritualizing Scripture) as early as Clement of Alexander and Origen, and it arose from the fact that these scholars were more Hellenists first and Christians second.
The fact is the Roman Church did everything to get rid of all things Jewish. As an example: The Jewish Passover was in controversy at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), and the Roman Emperor Constantine wanted to get rid of it, since he wanted to fully separate from all ties that associated it with the true Church of God, which faithfully observed the yearly Passover. Constantine also wanted to distance the Roman church from its Jewish roots. The annual observance of Passover was replaced with the observance of Easter, a pagan holiday where Ishtar (Easter) was the goddess of light and spring who was supposed to have rabbits that laid eggs. This pagan practice can be traced way back to the Babylonians who lived more than a thousand years before Christ. Because of the Roman church’s actions, the Italian Bishops, let alone common people, would have no reference to the Jewish wedding customs. Countless theologians throughout history have struggled with various Bible verses when they made no connection to Jewish thought and customs.
With all of this in mind and what I’ve just said, so that we might better understand Scripture, let us now look at Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 from a Jewish perspective and what Dr. Charles Halff taught. If we try to understand Jesus’ words the way the Jews would have heard them, we cannot deny that Jesus was explicitly quoting and calling up the imagery of a Jewish wedding. With this illustration, Jesus is not saying He does not know the day or hour but is really given preference to His Father’s authority. First of all in Scripture we read that Jesus is always submissive to the Father, and secondly it gave Jesus the opportunity to intentionally reference the marriage custom to His disciples. They understood immediately everything that went along with the context of the betrothal. The disciples may not have understood its implications for the groom (Jesus) immediately, but we can be confident that they got the picture after He returned to His Father’s home in heaven. After all, the marriage imagery of the church as the bride is a continuing illustration in Paul and John’s writings.
Many people going to various churches today don’t hear this explanation from their pastors because they haven’t been taught this in seminary (theological colleges). They were never taught to interpret Scripture from a Jewish perspective.
There is a distinct correlation, between ancient Jewish wedding customs and practices, to the Coming of the Lord. There will even be a Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven after the Rapture, when Jesus comes and takes His bride (the church), home to be with Him in heaven. You have to remember that Jesus’ audience was Jewish. Taking it from a Jewish perspective – the Bible comes alive. When I explain this all from a Jewish wedding perspective you will see the beautiful correlation unfold which I know you’ll find very enlightening. Understanding the Jewish marriage custom in whole is imperative to understanding the church as the bride of Christ. Everything from His first coming, giving of Himself, His leaving (ascension), indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our duty to remain ready, and His eventual return are all there in vivid detail.
The Jewish marriage system that was common in Jesus’ day corresponds to God’s program regarding the relationship between Jesus (the Bridegroom) and the Church (the Bride of Christ). There are many parallels in the Bible to various events in a believer’s life, but none more visible than the similarity between the Christian life and that of a Jewish marriage ceremony. Now, without going into a lot of detail, I want to give you a quick summary of the Jewish wedding system and how it correlates to what I’ve been saying in regards, to Scripture.
WEDDING ARRANGEMENT/AGREEMENT (selection of the bride)
In ancient times it was customary for the father of the groom to find a bride for his son and make the arrangements (Genesis 24:1-32). The father of the groom arranged the match with the father of the bride and paid him the bride price. Sometimes this occurred when both children were small, and at other times it was maybe a year or so before the marriage itself. Often the bride and groom did not even meet until their wedding day.
Using a correlation from Scripture is that God the Father, the Father of the Groom, made the arrangement and then, paid the bride price. The bride price was the blood of His Son. As Ephesians 5:25 states: “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” And in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son….” By giving up the Son and shedding the blood of the Son, the bride price was paid and, so, the arrangement was sealed with blood.
Consider the Jewish wedding arrangement and when Jesus instituted Communion. The wedding arrangement or agreement has two parts involving a shared cup of wine, with one at the initiation of the agreement and the other at the consummation. The first part happens at the initial acceptance of the agreement with the sharing of the 1st cup of wine. The second part happens when the wedding actually happens with the sharing of the 2nd cup of wine. Notice how Jesus has said to honor the New Covenant, Communion, in remembrance of Him. He is the groom that had to return to heaven to prepare a place for us. One day he will return for His bride and bring us unto Himself.
Example of the arrangement or agreement: “This cup is the New Covenant by means of My blood: you must regularly do this, as often as you would drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you would eat this bread and you would drink the cup, you are proclaiming publicly the death of the Lord until He would come (1 Cor. 25-26).” In Mark 14:24-25, Jesus said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out on behalf of many. Truly I say to you that I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When we take the Communion Cup, we are remembering Him, the price He paid with His body and His blood; this is symbolic of the 1st cup of the agreement. Then the next time the Lord takes the cup of wine again, it will be with us, His bride. This will be symbolic of the 2nd cup of the agreement. We should take Communion in honor of Him as He has asked, but also with the comfort and intent of some day, being with and sharing the wedding cup with Him at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven
This was the period of the betrothal. It lasted for at least one year but could last much longer. During the period of the preparation, the bride was prepared to be a fitting wife for her mate. It was also the period of time in which she was observed for her purity, which is why the betrothal always lasted for a minimum of one year – to allow at least a full nine months to pass to make certain that the bride was a virgin at the time of the betrothal.
The application of the stage of the preparation to the Bride of Christ, the church, is that the Bride is now in the process of being perfected for the Groom. Using a correlation from Scripture we have two passages that deal with this stage (preparation). In 2 Corinthians 11:2 we read: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Here Paul states that the Church has been espoused or betrothed to one husband. The goal is that she might be presented a pure virgin to Jesus. She is now in the period of preparation to take on the role of wife to her husband. When that day comes, she will be presented as a pure virgin to Christ.
The second correlation from Scripture is Ephesians 5:26-27: “.. that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the church to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” According to verse 26, the Church is now undergoing a process of sanctification. The word “sanctification” means to be set apart. The Church, then, is now being set apart to eventually be presented as a pure virgin to Jesus, in accordance to 2 Corinthians 11:2. Furthermore, verse 26 points out that she is being cleansed by this means of sanctification, which is by the washing of the water with the Word. It is not by water baptism, but by the water of the Word of God. As the Church becomes more and more conformed to what the Word of God teaches, she in turn becomes more and more the virgin to be presented to Him.
This glorious church is simply another way of saying what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:2, that the intent is to present the Church as a pure virgin to Christ. Here, it is put in terms of being presented as a glorious Church. Then, in verse 29, Paul reveals the one way that the Church is being made into a glorious church: “…. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” The Church is being nourished, meaning that it is being built up and given strength. Moreover, the Church is being cherished, meaning it is cared for with warmth and tenderness.
The bride during this period of time of waiting for the groom to come for her and take her to his house will remain in her father’s home. This preparation meant making her own wedding gown, getting ready for her new role, transferring her allegiance from her father to her new husband, from depending on family to depending upon her husband for everything, learning to love him, and setting her mind on how to please him. During this “preparation period,” the bride is referred to as “consecrated,” or set apart (or sanctified). She always wore a veil, so it was apparent to others that she was engaged. This veil was symbolic of a pledge or a commitment. As this preparation correlates to Scripture we read, “The bride of Christ must make herself READY, so she can be presented to the Lord without stain or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27).
In the Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom often surprised his bride by his unexpected early return. All Jewish brides were said to be “stolen, caught up, or snatched up by surprise.”. The bride was then led to the groom’s house by a wedding procession of women carrying lighted lamps, similar to the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Lamps were a part of the bride’s preparation in case her groom came at night. How does this correlate to Scripture? Whereas in the Jewish ceremony the bridegroom surprises his bride by coming back early for her, I believe this can be compared to the unexpected return of our Lord at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
YOU MAY BE ASKING, “WHERE IS JESUS DURING THE WEDDING PREPARATION?
Jesus after His resurrection He left His bride (the church) on earth and ascended to heaven to be with His Father. Jesus left to prepare a place for His bride, the Church. This is referenced in John 14:2-3, “In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
In ancient times regarding the Jewish wedding tradition, it was customary for the bridegroom to go to his father’s place (heaven in Jesus’ case) to start preparing a place for his bride (the Church in Jesus’ case) by adding on an addition to his father’s house for his bride. Sometimes it could be a new home or a new addition to his father’s home, but it would be on the family property. It was the father of the groom (God the Father in Jesus’ case) who determined the timing – the father would tell his son when he could go and get his bride. It was important that this new home or new addition would be up to specs to meet the honor of the father’s stature as it would be the home used in the continuation of his family. Neither bride nor groom knew when the father of the groom would say that this new home was “good enough,” so they both needed to be ready. When the father (God in this case) was satisfied with the home his son (Jesus in this case) built for his bride (the church) he would say, “Okay, son go get your bride.” (In this case Christ’s coming for His church (the rapture) and taking her home to heaven).
Now the community and the bride knew the year and the approximate month, but the day and hour were unknown. So, in Matthew 24:36, when Jesus said to His disciples, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven but the Father alone” does not mean Jesus is ignorant of His return, but rather submissive and respectful to His Father’s authority.
There is a lot more that could have been added to this posting if space would have permitted like discussing more in detail the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the banquet in heaven and then after the Second Coming of Christ we have the marriage feast on earth. I did, however, want to leave you with this one last analogy of how the seven year tribulation period, God’s wrath on earth, perfectly correlates with the Jewish wedding ceremony.
During the seven days of the Jewish wedding festivities and celebration at the groom’s father’s house, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber. At the conclusion of the seven days (consummating the marriage) the groom would bring his bride out of the bridal chamber with her veil removed, so that all could see who this bride was. Now, how does this correlate to Scripture? After the Rapture the Church (the bride of Christ) will remain out of sight, hidden in heaven for a period of seven years then after this period of time Christ will bring His Church out of Heaven in His Second Coming at the conclusion of the seven year Tribulation period in full view of all who are alive on earth, so that all can see who the true church is (Col. 3:4).
IN SUMMARY: The present Church Age of the past 2000 years is our betrothal period. Scripture clearly teaches the church is Christ’s bride, which He lovingly and sacrificially purchased with His blood. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit secures our position. We know from Scripture that the first step in the wedding has already taken place. The marriage covenant was established at the First Coming of Christ. Whenever a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they enter into this covenant (the New Covenant) and become part of His bride (the church). Since the ascension of Jesus following His resurrection, He has been at His Father’s house preparing the bridal chamber.
As we, the bride of Christ, wait eagerly for the Bridegroom we know that just as the Jewish bridegroom returned for his betrothed, Jesus will return for us at the appointed time. In the same way that the Jewish groom’s arrival was preceded by a shout, so Christ’s arrival to take the Church will be preceded by a shout (1 Thess. 4:16). Similar to the Jewish bride’s return with the groom to his father’s house after her departure from her home, the Church will return with Christ to His Father’s house in heaven after she (the church) is snatched from the earth to meet Him in the air. This is known as the rapture (snatching away) of the Church to heaven. It tells us in Scripture, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an Archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17; John 14:2-3). Our Bridegroom Is Coming Soon. Are You Ready?
Yes, I can see that it could be confusing as Christ’s return is in 2 phases – First coming for the church and taken to heaven and the second coming of Christ coming to earth with his bride, the church. The first time is a mystery when He comes for the church but doesn’t set foot on the earth as the church is snatched away to meet the Lord in the air and taken to heaven. The timing for the first coming is a mystery – “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36). Christ’s second coming (Second Advent) is not a mystery for the church.. We are in heaven with the groom (for seven years-Trib.) and should know when Christ is ready to return to earth and we, the church, along with Him.
Setting for Matthew 24: In the disciples questions to Jesus we must remember that these Jewish disciples’(early in Christ’s ministry) thinking revolved around the glorious age of the Messiah on earth – the Millennium. They were not thinking about Christ’s coming for the church (rapture); they knew little if anything about this phase of His coming. Their expectation was His coming in power and glory to destroy His enemies and rule over the world. We see in the next chapter (25) on the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lesson, Jesus said, was to watch, because the day and hour of His coming are unknown. Believers should live as if the Lord might come at any moment (rapture). Are our lamps trimmed and filled with oil?
Matthew 24 and 25 (Olivet Discourse) is entirely prophetic as it points forward to the Tribulation Period and the Lord’s second coming. No doubt it is confusing because we see Jesus telescoping in between these phases (tribulation and His second coming) and then we see certain verses pertaining to the rapture like verses 40 through 44 and the first part of the Parable of the Ten virgins. I personally believe that the disciples knew nothing of the church or the rapture when they posed those questions to Jesus as these questions were asked very early in Christ’s ministry. Much later in Christ’s ministry after the cross, after Christ’s resurrection, after Christ spending 40 days with the disciples and discussing God’s kingdom and after Pentecost and it wasn’t till after all this that the disciples then knew about the Church in mystery form. Anyway, this is what I think and what makes sense to me and it would correlate with the Jewish wedding ceremonies. Others may not agree and that is fine.
F/B – Signs of Our Times
Ascribed to by: stevelampman.com – Transforming power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man
And Dr. Lian Muan Kim – Koinonia Baptist Seminary- Yangon, Myanmar