Why Didn’t Jesus Know the Day or the Hour of His Return?

Why did Jesus say that not even the Son knows the day or the hour of the Second Coming? Puzzling.

Here are the two verses, which parallel each other and are found in the same context:

“But concerning that Day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.” (Matt. 24:36, my translation)

36 But concerning that Day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone. (Mark. 13:32, my translation)

Wasn’t he omniscient (all-knowing), though being fully human?

The fullest revelation throughout the NT says that Jesus came to earth and humbled and emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5-8). So what does it mean to empty himself? Were his divine attributes “lopped off” when he was born and ministered? No.

It is better to say that the Father hid his Son’s divinity behind his humanity because humanity was added to his divine nature. What he emptied himself of was the heavenly environment—angels, glory, the throne, the unmediated, continuous presence of God without the interference of being a mortal human, purity of purity without worldly distractions, and so on. We catch a glimpse of what his heavenly glory was like while he was on the Mt. of Transfiguration: Clouds, bright light, divine visitation from Moses and Elijah, and a voice from heaven (Matt. 17:1-13 // Mark 9:2-13 // Luke 9:28-36).

He did not lay aside or give up his divine attributes when he was incarnated; rather, the Son kept them but surrendered to his Father the ability to act on them by his will alone (he “surrendered” them for short). And the Father and the Son cooperated together as to when the attributes would be exercised. Picture a banker and the customer having to turn two keys at the same time to open up the safety deposit box. It takes cooperation.

Here is how professional theologian Millard Erickson answers the question about the Son freely surrendering his divine attributes to his Father:

Jesus did not give up the divine attributes, but he freely surrendered the ability to act on them on his own accord. He exercised them only in dependence on his Father. “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Whenever he exercised his divine power to perform miracles or read thoughts, for example, he called on his Father and the power of the Father-directed Spirit. Both his Father’s will and his will were necessary, but his will was submitted to his Father. (p. 705)

Then Erickson uses the illustration of a safe-deposit box. Two keys—the banker’s and the depositor’s—are needed to open it. Both the will of the Father and the will of the Son had to agree.

So there is divine cooperation between the Father and the Son—and I add the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Messiah or Anointed One. He was anointed by the Spirit (Acts 10:38). His miracles were done by his divine nature through the power of the Spirit, by the Father’s and the Son’s will. So the Triunity (Trinity) was working together during the Son’s humiliation.

To say that Jesus was fully God while a human yet he lost or set aside or lay aside or gave up these powerful omni-attributes or other ones does not work. God cannot lose attributes and still remain God. It is best to say that Jesus took them with him at his incarnation, but they were hidden behind his humanity–yes, even when he was a baby lying in a manger. So, for example, if the Father had willed, the divine attribute of omnipotence could have shone forth in glorious light from the baby Jesus and flattened the soldiers whom Herod had sent to kill him. Since the baby did not have a fully developed will accompanied by knowledge, the Father alone could have done this through his Son. But the Father wanted Jesus to experience his full humanity and Joseph and Mary to learn how to be good parents and take care of his Son, who was on loan to them. Instead, the Father sent an angel in a dream, who told Joseph to flee to Egypt (Matt. 2:13).

Now let’s get right to Matt. 24:36 and Mark 13:32.

On a practical level, how would it have been proper if the Father had suddenly revealed at that moment that the Son would return, say, at noon on September 28, 2137? This revelation would have been useless to the disciples and put his Son in an awkward position, as follows:

(1). If his Father had revealed that exact time to his Son, but Jesus denied that he knew the day and hour when he actually did know it, then he would be a liar. That’s not possible, morally or ethically.

(2). If the Father revealed the exact time to his Son, but Jesus told his disciples, “I now know it, but I ain’t tellin’!” then what redemptive purpose would this coyness and teasing serve? None.

(3). If the Father had revealed the exact time to his Son, but the Son kept it to himself, then he would have had to look the other way or just ignore the question. This would have put his Son in an awkward situation. And what redemptive purpose would this serve? None.

(4). If the Father had revealed the exact time to his Son, and Jesus told his disciples, then their minds would have been blown away. They could not grasp it. “2100 years from now? Really?” And we would now know the exact time, and the expectation and living in hope would be killed.

Therefore, it was best for the Father to hide the day or hour from his Son during his earthly ministry.

How does this help me grow in Christ?

You have now gained clearer knowledge of who Jesus is. He was fully divine and fully human. The reason he did not know the day or the hour of his return is that in his divinity and in his humanity, he retained his divine attributes but willingly surrendered them to his Father–or, to be more precise, he surrendered his ability and will to act on them alone. And the Father did not reveal the time to him because it was better for Jesus not to know it while on earth. Why? Less complicated and more honest.

RELATED

These posts are parts of two different series.

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

5. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Came Down from Heaven

4. Two Natures in One Person: Tough Questions

5. Two Natures in One Person: If Jesus Got Hungry, Did God?

SOURCES

Works Cited

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