Monday morning Bible Study, which I typically abbreviate as Monday Morning BS, opened with Matthew 24:42. Ignoring the context and theme of chapter 24, the leader, in typical fashion, spun this to validate the direction he wanted to take and the questions he wanted to ask; in this case - are you ready for His return to catch up the church? And, what bizarre things are your thoughts focused on throughout the day?
Much of the morning was like a stew consisting of conjecture and manipulation, as the leader pushed forward. As he continued to emphasize these horrid questions, he elaborated by asking, how differently would you act if you knew the Lord was coming back in six hours?
Maybe it was confusing situations such as this that motivated Jesus to say,
“for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
Since the Jews standing around him had little perception of the Lord's return would mean, I doubt their questions had the same motivation as Jesus'. Since we who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, have a hope in His coming, then we await the day when he comes to gather His church. The problem with this emphasis on waiting is that we, in our religious communities, verbally accost those who express anything that sounds like they are prescribing a time frame.
I happen to think Jesus was very direct with his answers; everything he said was standard terminology and something with which Jesus followers were familiar.
How do I back up a statement like this?
First, let me say that this topic was placed before me by the Holy Spirit just days before. More than just a bit of a coincidence. The topic came in the form of a video excerpt intending to sell a movie about to hit the markets, called, The Coming Convergence. Sorry, I did not pay enough attention to who the speaker was, but the segment took my breath away as he spoke about Matthew 24:36. I give you a piece of that here.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
The speaker in the video was saying the same things that I have been saying for several years now about how this Bible we read is a Jewish book. Let me give you some additional guidelines to help you understand the Bible: Never lose sight that Jesus was a Jew; that he was speaking to Jews, and that he was talking with standard terms and phrases that would mean something to his audience.
The man in the video explained that the expression we see in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” was typical of the day. Jesus' audience would have understood that he was referring to the observance of the New Moon, the indicator of the first day of the month. The express implication, however, applied to the visual sighting of the new moon that would have indicated the New Year – Rosh Hashana, which astronomically will begin at sunset on September 20th.
This observance of the New Moon had to be accomplished by two reliable witnesses and announced to the High Priest at the Sanhedrin. After evaluating the witnesses, the Sanhedrin would then declare the New Month, or the New Year. The thing that makes Jesus statement so valid and yet variable is that weather could obscure the sight of the New Moon. The priests had a contingency for this variability. Since the Jewish calendar worked off of thirty day months, knowing that the moon should have been there, they would, on the next day, decree the new month or year, making that month 31 days.
While I have yet to find a direct reference that associates this phrase “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” with Rosh Hashana. I simply applied some logic to what I just shared with you, and found it to convey a similar message to what I see in scripture – variability.
The speaker went on to say that in effect, Jesus told the disciples exactly when He would be returning, on the New Moon of the New Year, Rosh Hashana.
Now, please don't stop reading, choosing to respond to the adverse voices in your head. Instead, try applying another piece of logic.
The problem with such a challenging and yet simple subject was that the leader of the Monday morning Bible study had no intention of entertaining challenges from the group. Avoiding questions, although there weren't many, the leader moved rapidly forward through chapter 24 and on into Matthew 25. I am staying focused on Matthew 24:36.
So let's say that you agree with the idea that Christ could return at the Jewish New Year, the 'head' of the year.
- Even if you are correct and Jesus has the logical arrival time of September 20th of 2017, try sharing that information with most any religious person; you will have an intense fight on your hands, and they will not believe you. I might add that they will use this same phrase, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” against you.
- If you are unlucky, they may merely call you a false teacher as they ignore obvious scriptures which tell us that we are not in the dark, and, that we should not know when that day will come.
Do we have scriptures that tell us that we can have a strong clue as to when Jesus will return?
Although Isaiah tends to answer the question in reverse, it will lead me to another scripture, along with the same vein, that speaks more specifically to our knowing when the end will come.
Isaiah 6:9-12 NIrV So he said, "Go and speak to these people. Tell them, "'You will hear but never understand. You will see but never know what you are seeing.' (10) Make the hearts of these people stubborn. Plug up their ears. Close their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes. They might hear with their ears. They might understand with their hearts. And they might turn to me and be healed." (11) Then I said, "Lord, how long will it be like that?" He answered, "It will last until the cities of Israel are destroyed and no one is living in them. It will last until the houses are deserted. The fields will be completely destroyed. (12) It will last until I have sent everyone far away. The land will be totally deserted.
The context applies to Israel, although it could easily speak to the modern church.
Having been spoken to, by an authoritative source: The Word; prophets; evangelists; pastors, and teachers, why would they not listen?
Jesus was asked by the disciples about why he used parables. I suppose that is because they too did not understand. Look at the interaction in Matthew 13:10-11.
Matthew 13:10-11 NASB And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" (11) Jesus answered them, "To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted.
Regardless of whether they understood or not the sentence still stands to this day. “To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”
I just pointed out that Israel was blind to the mysteries, but here in the letter to the church at Colossae, we have Paul telling us that God's mysteries have been manifested to us, His saints.
Colossians 1:25-27 NASB (25) Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, (26) that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, (27) to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
I get it. Clearly, there was a time when I might even say. We could not understand. (I could easily debunk that statement because of the Magi. You remember them, foreigners from another nation, who were able to ascertain Christ's arrival, and, explain this information to the elders of the Sanhedrin.) “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit,” now I will give you some grace on this, for the Spirit was not sent until Jesus ascended the last time into the heavenlies. [You should comprehend that we are talking about the Holy Spirit of God, the comforter.]
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NASB (9) but just as it is written, "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." (10) For to us, God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
Times and the epochs are certainly an aspect of what we are talking about. Paul writes, “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.” He is saying what Jesus said, but there is a distinct difference, as he is no longer talking strictly to Jews. Paul and the Holy Spirit know full well that this letter will be spread to all the languages that comprise the body of Christ, and that we too “are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.” Jesus, carrying out God's plan, is not sneaking up on anyone, unless they are choosing to remain in the darkness; refusing to accept the truth in God's Word, not mine.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 NASB (1) Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. (2) For you, yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (3) While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. (4) But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; (5) for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;
It would seem that the Apostle John, in conveying the Revelation, understood that we could know the hour Jesus would come; either that, or it is a rhetorical statement and means nothing at all.
Revelation 3:3 NASB 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Unfortunately for those that hold this rhetorical point of view, we find that there is nothing in scripture that is unimportant. The Jewish community has held to this idea so much so, that even the spaces between the letters carry great meaning and we see this in the study of Kabbalah. If what John says is true and they who do not wake up will not know the hour, then the inverse must be true and those of us who are awake must be able to ascertain the hour with some certainty.
What then are some of the major clues in scripture?
- Jesus responded to disciples question with this:
Matthew 24:32-34 KJV Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (33) So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (34) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
The fig tree is Israel becoming a nation, and that happened in 1948. What I cannot say with certainty is how many years it takes to define a generation. In an effort to figure out what a generation might be I went to the definitive source – the internet. I am kidding, sort of, and found this, (http://www.bible-codes.org/old-prophecy_5c-Yeshua-codes.htm)
"As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there... In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here... (Gen 15:16)
God said to Abraham that after 400 years He would deliver Israel, "...in the fourth generation". A generation in the Bible is normally 40 years. However, here a generation is 100 years (4 * 100 = 400 years). This is understood by virtue of the fact that Abraham had his promised child when he was exactly 100 years old (Gen. 21:5); it is evident, therefore, that the age of a man when his first child is born is the raw definition of a generation.
Nevertheless, notice that the full number (400 years) is exactly ten times that of a regular generation of 40 years. Both 100 years and 40 years are a generation in the Bible. However, the average of these two, 70 years, is on occasion also found in the bible, (Psalm 90:10). But "70 years" is a generation according to the average age of a man at his death, rather than when his first child is born (as with the example of Abraham).
40 + 100 = 140 years. 140 ÷ 2 = 70-years as a generation. (Significantly, king David died at age 70 and reigned 40 years.)”
Let's assume then that the average age is seventy. A bit of quick math: 2017 – 1948 = 69 years. Interesting, especially since we right on the verge of a multitude of fascinating, scriptural, and prophetic events, most of which we “Christians” do not have a clue about, but the Jewish community does. Israel, by the way, is, as we speak, celebrating their 69th birthday as a nation.
Continuing with scriptural clues, that tells us if we can know when the end of time is soon upon us.
Luke 21:34-36 KJV And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (35) For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (36) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Key words and phrases in Luke 21:34-36:
- “take heed to yourselves”
What does that mean? You are responsible for yourselves, no one else.
- Or, as the Complete Jewish Bible puts it, “your hearts will become dulled.”
Dulled? A dull knife is useless. Try cutting a tomato with one; you might as well be using a rock. The Websters dictionary defines dull as Stupid; doltish; blockish; slow of understanding.
- Surfeiting - Oppressing the system by excessive eating and drinking;
So it is not just drunkenness that clouds your mind, but an obsession with food can do it as well.
- And the “cares of this life.”
These take on every shape and form and will create enough anxiety within you to kill you. Since this is an aspect of deception, it is easy to ascertain that it is a weapon of the enemy, Satan.
Although the context of this verse is directed at the Jewish community, as a direct answer to when the Kingdom would be restored, this phrase “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” can speak to anyone. Sadly, the religious can read this and have one or both of these reactions: I have never tasted alcohol and therefore cannot be included in this paragraph, or, they are blind to the overall context, choosing to ignore it.
Perhaps it is best summed up by the Easy-to-Read Version
Luke 21:34 ERV "Be careful not to spend your time having parties and getting drunk or worrying about this life. If you do that, you won't be able to think straight, and the end might come when you are not ready.
Can you see that life and things will make you unaware through distraction?
Once again, mathematically speaking, there is an inverse to this equation. The obvious answer is that doing your best to steer clear of distractions should put you in a position to be aware of when that day should come.
One of the things I wanted to do was to keep our focus within the New Testament, effectively Paul's letters. I wanted to do that because we as a church want to believe that Paul's writings supersede the Old Testament allowing us to ignore God's word there. That supposition isn't always true because most teachers and preachers will gladly dip back into the OT for the purpose interweaving some guilt and manipulation into their discourse. This type of manipulation comes out deception and distraction from Satan.
I am not saying the Old Testament is wrong by any stretch – Jesus and Paul both pulled segments from the Law and the Prophets to demonstrate some freedom hidden in it, this is why Paul calls it a mystery. The Law and the Prophets are only a mystery to those who choose not to dig for the treasure buried there.
Jesus, knowing full well that most of the audience was symbolically blind and deaf, spoke to them in parables. He was not trying to confuse them further, he was speaking plainly, openly, and, in language, they should have been familiar with. Much of what he said was directly pulled from the OT. What we see in Mark's gospel is one of those cute parables. (There is nothing cute, hidden, or insignificant about the parables. Most of them are a slap in the face of those who choose to play the Pharisee card.)
Mark 13:28-30 KJV Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: (29) So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. (30) Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
You find this same theme in Matthew 24:35. I feel as though I cannot say this enough; Jesus said these things to his Jewish followers/disciples, as an answer to their question about when He would restore the kingdom and take the throne. This information is not exclusive to Jewish ears and can be easily applied to the modern church age.