Jim Reed, Pastor lakemurraychurch.org
Do we know when Jesus will return?
Here’s the short answer: no. Please read the following long answer which is necessary so that
the short answer can be understood.
Jesus spoke of his return in Matthew 24:36
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but
only the Father.
Three more times in Matthew 24, and a fifth time in Matthew 25:13, Jesus explicitly stated that
no one knows the day of his return. It is safe to say Jesus was adamant that the time of his return
was to be a sovereign mystery. FIVE TIMES, within the distance of about 25 verses, we are told
that no one knows the day of the return of Christ. Only God knows.
We can read in Acts, chapter one, that after Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his disciples
for a period of 40 days and taught them many things about the kingdom of God. Those must
have been very rich teaching sessions about all kinds of topics. It is instructive that we are not
told what Jesus taught except for one or two little morsels. Here’s one:
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his
own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).
Let’s review. Five times, in a short section in Matthew, Jesus stated that no one knows when the
second coming of Christ will be: not the angels in heaven and not even the Son. Then, in Acts
1:7, we are told that we are NOT to know. Despite this very explicit and clear teaching from the
Second Person of the Trinity, there are those who still persist in thinking that they know more
than God Incarnate.
Some people justify their right to set a date for the return of Christ by citing a verse from the
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the
prophets (Amos 3:7).
This verse is understood as an absolute prerequisite that God must reveal ALL of his plans to his
servants the prophets before he can act. Honest students of the Bible must ask themselves if this
is what this verse means. The answer is no.
Amos was employing hyperbole. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to make a point. We all
use hyperbole when we speak. For example, a person who is worried about something might
say, “There’s a ton of weight on my shoulders.” No one thinks that there is a literal 2,000 lb.
weight on this person. It’s hyperbole. It’s an exaggeration to make a point. Worry is crushing
him. We get it.
Amos was using hyperbole to make it very clear to those hearing his message that what he was
prophesying regarding Israel would be fulfilled without any doubt. Therefore, people had better
listen closely to him. Hyperbolic language is used throughout the Bible. To press hyperbole
beyond the scope of the common rules of language leads to absurdity. Below are three principles
that will help us learn to read the Bible properly.
THREE PRINCIPLES TO REMEMBER WHEN READING SCRIPTURE
1. Interpret smaller passages with larger passages
Another way to state this rule is to say that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” We compare a small
portion of Scripture with larger portions. Ultimately, we must consider all of Scripture in
context as we interpret any smaller portion. Therefore, if we are told something very plainly and
often, we are not to use a single verse to counter that teaching. We keep the smaller portion in
context with the whole. We are very clearly and plainly told by Jesus himself that we are NOT to
know the time of his return. To use one verse in Amos to counter a clearer teaching is not acting
in a responsible manner.
Take another look at the verse in Amos. Notice the hyperbole. Notice that if we don’t notice the
hyperbole the verse becomes meaningless. If the Sovereign LORD does nothing without
revealing his plan to his servants the prophets, then the Sovereign LORD is no longer sovereign.
Of course God has done things without revealing his plans to his prophets. Common sense
should tell us that God has done a multitude of things without first consulting his prophets. Plus,
we have Jesus himself (speaking from his human nature) that HE doesn’t know when he will
return. And it can be easily argued that Jesus outranks any other human prophet who ever
existed, or ever will exist.
If people were truly interested in what the Sovereign LORD had to say, they would obey him.
A careful reading of the accounts in Matthew 24-25, Acts 1 and other passages about the return
of Christ will show that these passages are clearly focused on obedience and discipleship, not on
guessing the date of the second coming of Christ.
2. Know the two main tests for a false prophet or a false teacher.
TEST # 1 – False Teaching
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to
you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he spoke takes
place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods: (gods you have not known) “and let
us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The
LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and
all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere.
Events that appear to be miraculous do not supersede Scripture. This is a difficult test because
human nature gravitates toward the sensational. But here, we see that God is concerned about
teaching. No miracle of any kind must lead a person to accept false teaching. All teaching must
be measured by what has been already revealed by God and has become Scripture.
TEST # 2 – False Prophecy
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by
the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaim in the name of the LORD does not take place
or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken
presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
God demands 100% accuracy on any predictions of future events. The premise should be
obvious: God makes no mistakes. Many religious leaders make bold proclamations of future
events that do not transpire as predicted. Who will put their teachings to the test? This leads to a
3. Personal Responsibility
Personal responsibility comes under the heading of discipleship. Jesus left us with his very
famous last words in the book of Matthew:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And
surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Please notice what Jesus was concerned about at the end of the age. It was not that we would
know the time of his coming, but that we would be his disciples. A disciple is a learner.
Disciples are people who are willing to learn how to obey. Religious leaders are not exempt
from the call to learn how to obey. They too are called to obey God’s Word.
Every believer is personally responsible to know Scripture. It is hard to know how to obey
something if you don’t know what it is you are to obey. One of the reasons so many false
teachers can get away with their errant predictions of the return of Christ is that too many
believers are asleep spiritually – the very thing Jesus was warning about when discussing the
time of his return.
We must take up the mantle of discipleship. We are called to test all things to determine truth.
(See 1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are called to be like the Bereans. (See Acts 17:11). We are not
to believe everything, but test teachings. (See 1 John 4:1). This is our personal responsibility.
Labels: prophecy, prophets, truth