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Does Jesus now know when he is coming back? Or is this still only God's knowledge as stated in Matt. 24:36 and Mark 13:32?

Thanks for your question. I think it’s a good one, and a very important one to answer correctly, especially in the light of some current false teaching, which claims that even God doesn't know all things in the future.

The critical issue, I think, is this: If Jesus is fully God as well as fully human, then how is it that He can be ignorant of anything, since God is omniscient or all-knowing? One might conclude that Jesus did not know all at the time of His birth, and during His childhood. I find the translation of Luke 2:40 in the NET Bible insightful, for it reads:

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

Later on in Luke chapter 2 we read,

Luke 2:46-47

46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Jesus were astonished at his understanding and his answers.

This translation avoids the suggestion that Jesus was not all-knowing. The question you have raised is a bit different: "Are there things that God the Father knows, but of which the Son is ignorant?" I found this answer from the Bible Knowledge Commentary (on Matthew 24:36) less than satisfactory:

"The precise moment of the Lord’s return cannot be calculated by anyone. When the Lord spoke these words, that information was said to be known by only the Father. Christ was obviously speaking from the vantage of His human knowledge (cf. Luke 2:52), not from the standpoint of His divine omniscience." [Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.]

The same explanation is given for Mark 13:32:

"This openly expressed limitation on Jesus' knowledge affirms His humanity. In His Incarnation Jesus voluntarily accepted human limitations, including this one (cf. Acts 1:7), in submission to the Father’s will (cf. John 4:34)."[Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.]

If you find this explanation satisfactory, then you need not look further. I find the explanation somewhat less than compelling. It suggests that Jesus is somehow a divided person, with a human side and with a divine side. In the New Testament I see Him as one person, both divine and human. How, then, can we say that Jesus knew the day and hour on his divine side, but not on his human side? Too many times in the New Testament we read of Jesus "knowing" things that only God could know (See John 6:64; Matthew 12:25; Luke 6:8; 11:17).

In context of Matthew's gospel, the Lord's disciples were taken with the splendor of the temple (24:1), but Jesus told them, in effect, not to get too attached to them, because they would all be destroyed (24:2). The disciples then asked Jesus to tell them when these things would happen, and when the end of the age would come (24:3). Jesus did not shrug His shoulders and say, "I don’t know." Instead, Jesus gave many details concerning the last times (24:4ff.). Jesus did not want His disciples to be ignorant of the last times, either, lest they be deceived. While Jesus did not reveal the precise time of His return to His disciples, He did make it clear (not just here, but elsewhere in the gospels and Acts 1) that the end would not come immediately. He described many of the signs that would precede His return to the earth. If the disciples of our Lord listened carefully to the words of the Master, they would know the "season" of His coming. My point in all of this is that if Jesus was ignorant (in the dark) about the end times, how could He be so specific in giving so many details? The point of His teaching in Matthew 24 was to "be ready." Because they did not to know the precise time of the Lord's return they were to be watchful and attentive.

The specific day of His return was not made known to the apostles, nor to the angels. The wise servant is the one who is watching for the Master's return, and who is working for his Master when He returns.

In what sense, then, does the Son not "know" about the "hour" of the Lord's return? In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly states that He will not act independently of the Father. As in His temptation, Jesus refuses to act independently of the Father. This is a part of His submission to the Father (see, for example, John 8:28; 12:49-50; 14:31). Jesus speaks and acts only as the Father has directed and instructed Him.

Now let us consider the term rendered "know" in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. In the Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the Old Testament -- the same Greek word oida is used to translate the Hebrew word for "know" in Genesis 18:19:

Genesis 18:19

19 "I have chosen [literally "known"] him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him."

In Jeremiah 1:5 God's choice of Jeremiah while still in the womb is described by the same Hebrew word for "know," although the Greek word used in the Septuagint is different than oida.

One may also wish to consider the use of oida in Matthew 25:12:

Matthew 25:12

12 But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I do not know you!' The NET Bible

Surely this means something more like, "You are not one of my guests" (i.e. you are not one of my chosen guests), rather than, "I don't have any idea who you are, I've never seen or heard of you before."

It is my opinion that Jesus is using this word "to know" in two different ways in Matthew and Mark. Jesus is saying, on the one hand, that His disciples cannot, should not, and will not "know" the precise day or hour of His coming. On the other hand, Jesus is using the same word (to know) with reference to His submission to the Father in regard to the timing of His return. He is saying, I believe, "It is not my place as the Son to determine or to announce the time of my coming " that is an aspect of My Father's role in the Trinity, as the Father." The bottom line is that the disciples have a fixation on knowing the exact time of our Lord's return. Jesus is saying, in effect, "It is none of your business, and in a sense it is not mine to tell you, either. I will come when it is the Father's time for Me to come. For me to announce the time of my coming in advance is to steal the Father's thunder." It is not that He does not know, or cannot know this day, but that this is not consistent with His role as the Son.

I am sure that some may differ with me on this explanation, but I find it within the boundaries of the use of the term, and within the boundaries of biblical theology.

I think that it is dangerous to conclude that God knows something that the Son does not, when both are God, and both are omniscient.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come), Trinity

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