Greg Alston (28 Nov 2021)
"Can We Know?"


Can We Know?

John 16:13



ďAnd it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lordís Christ.Ē (Luke 2:26)




The Meaning of Matthew 24:36

         "But of that day and hour no man knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but My Father only."  Jesus made this statement during His "Olivet Discourse" 2,000 years ago.  What did He mean?  What "hour" was He referring to and what event(s) was he describing?


         Throughout the Gospels, Jesus consistently referred to Himself as "the Son of Man," emphasizing to all that He was a man.  Philippians 2:6‑8 reads, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself..."


         Paul explains that Jesus limited and lowered Himself by becoming a man.  He put aside His glory and became "in all respects like unto us" so that He could reclaim that which was lost through the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45‑47).  To become "like us," He restricted His powers and abilities as God. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, Mark 13:32:


If Jesus had a Divine nature, how could he say he knew not the day and hour of a future event? Because as a man, his knowledge must be finite, for the faculties of the human soul are not infinite.


         Hebrews 5:8,9 tells us: "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation..."  Notice carefully that Jesus Christ "learned," "was made" and "became."  "And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him...And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:40,52).  These scriptures tell us that not only was He limited in His humanity, but as a man, He grew in the knowledge of God ‑ even though He was God (Hebrews 1 and 2, Isaiah 7:16 and Isaiah 53:1‑12).  Matthew 12:28, John 8:28 and Acts 10:38 tell us that the miracles and signs that Jesus performed were wrought through a power outside of Himself.  This clearly shows us that, although His essence was still Divine, His Divine attributes (omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence) were temporarily suspended by His humanity.


         Knowing that Christ was limited by His humanity brings meaning to our Lordís statement, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." In His humanity, before His glorification, He didn't know (John 12:23).  But this certainly doesn't mean that He would never know!  Just days after speaking these words, the "risen," "glorified" Christ did know (and knows today).  In "the days of His flesh" He was limited in His divine omniscience; hence His statement, "no man knows, not even the Son."  But we must see that this was a temporary condition, for all of His Divine attributes were restored through glorification when He ascended to the Father (John 7:39;17:5;20:17).  At that time, before His resurrection, "no man" knew the day or the hour.  But what about today?




         Although Jesus made it clear from His statement in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, that no man (including Himself) knew the day and the hour at that time, He was careful to note that it was not unknowable.  This is revealed by the word used for "know" (OIDA).  In the perfect tense, present meaning, OIDA means to "know intuitively or without effort," indicating that with additional information and investigation, it can be known.  The Companion Bible renders Mark 13:32: "But of that day and hour knoweth without effort no man, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."  From this we learn that Jesus was not saying that the day and the hour can never be known.


         "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you"(John 16:13‑15).


         Not only did the glorified Christ learn the day and the hour from the Father ďall things that the Father has are Mine" (including dates of future events) but He promises to disclose it to us!  What could be more clear?  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things..." (John 14:26).  We can know because the Father told Jesus and Jesus told the Holy Spirit to tell us!


         Romans 8:9 tells us that we have the Holy Spirit who informs us of things to come.  No man can know the day or the hour without the Holy Spirit.  That is why Jesus said that no one knew ‑ because, at that time, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  But today, post Pentecost (Acts 2:1), we do have the Holy Spirit, who is telling us of things to come (Acts 11:28).  "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.  For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?  Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God..."(1 Corinthians 2:9‑12).  After the Olivet Discourse and after the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:1‑6, "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!'  then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day.  We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."


         Paul said the Thessalonians had "no need of anything to be written" concerning the times and seasons.  This indicates they already had been taught by him and were fully aware of the events surrounding the Day of the Lord, a key event being the timing of the Rapture (which I believe Jesus was specifically referring to when He said the "day and the hour").[i]  In the scripture above, Paul tells us that the unprepared and unwatchful will be caught "unaware."  But not so for those believers who are walking in the light: "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief..."



So Who DOESN'T Know?

         "But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know..." (Luke 12:46).


          Jesus makes it clear that only the backslidden and carnal will not know.  This speaks of real believers, for He calls him "his slave (servant)."  If you don't know, it will be because you are not watchful and/or you are slothful.  Or it could be because you don't "believe" that we can know.  God won't tell people who don't want to hear.  Unbelief plugs our spiritual ears and forfeits our blessings (Romans 11:20‑22, Hebrews 3:12‑4:2).  Other passages that refer to knowing the time of Christ's return, such as Luke 12:40 and Matthew 24:44,50, contextually support the premise that only "unwatchful" Christians will be taken unawares.


         "Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap..."(Luke 21:34).  "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.  If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you" (Revelation 3:3).



DOES God Tell?

         God revealed to Noah, beforehand, the precise time of the impending judgment, leaving no room for doubt as to when the hour would be (Genesis 7:4).


         Noah's great grandfather, Enoch, prophesied of the second coming of Christ (Jude 14) approximately 5,800 years ago.  In addition, God told him the exact time of the Great Flood judgment nearly 1,000 years before it occurred.  We know this because of his son, Methuselah.  Methuselah's name, according to the Dake Reference Bible, Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary and prophecy scholars, including Chuck Missler, means "When he dies it (the Deluge) will come."  Enoch named his son this because God told him the day and the hour.  The Biblical record (Genesis 5:25‑28; 7:6) tells us that Methuselah died at the age of 969 in the very year of the Great Flood (Deluge).          Matthew Henry notes that the ancient Hebrew writings pinpoint the time of his death ‑ on the exact day that Noah and his family boarded the Ark (Genesis 7:6‑10).[ii]  The Hebrew writings state that Methuselah died seven days before the floods came.  Noah, in fulfillment of Enoch's prophecy, buried his grandfather on the VERY DAY HE ENTERED THE ARK OF SAFETY!  This is truly astounding and revelatory; God does tell His people of things to come, both the events and the time of the events.


         Elijah, the only other man besides Enoch to be taken to heaven without dying, knew beforehand the day and hour of his translation (2 Kings 2:3‑5).  Not only did Elijah know but Elisha and all the sons of the prophets were also given the date beforehand.  This is in keeping with Amos 3:7 which affirms that God will do nothing without first telling His prophets.


         Let us therefore be watchful and not unbelieving.  Let us ďstudy to show ourselves approved unto God" and seek the Holy Spirit regarding "things to come."  As God revealed to Noah and Enoch the precise time of His judgment upon the ancient world, so shall He make known to His people the time of His judgment upon the modern world.  As He made known beforehand the day of Elijah's translation to heaven, so shall He tell us of things to come.  If we "watch" and "believe," we can know because God has promised to reveal it to us at the proper time.


"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ."

- Luke 2:26



     ENDNOTES _________________________________


[i].              Zechariah 14:7 tells us that the Lord did know the time of His physical return and Daniel 12:11 tells us precisely when it will be. Therefore, His parousia (coming for His people beforehand) must be the "day and the hour" event referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:36.

[ii].             God's record is so accurate that we today know the date of Methuselah's death (10 HESHVAN [November] 2,346 B.C.), the dates of the Great Flood (17 HESHVAN 2,346 B.C.), and the length of time that Noah was actually in the ark (one year and 17 days - Genesis 7:11,12; 8:13,14).

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