Controversy About Knowing "the Day and the Hour"

Numerous pulpits across the face of the Earth have managed to convince many Christians into believing that no one will be able to figure out when ANY of the end-time predictions will be fulfilled.  This conclusion is based upon the words of Jesus in Matt. 24:33-42-- "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-- at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until THE DAY that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." What exactly was Jesus meaning by the previously highlighted phrases?  What is the context around these phrases saying?

It is true that the word "day" can be translated at times as also meaning "age," and it can sometimes symbolically represent a thousand year period.  But take a look at the context around that word.  The "coming of the Son of Man" is going to be a sudden thing, as sudden as the destruction on THE DAY Noah entered the Ark.  Everyone except for the few faithful were completely taken away by sudden world-wide flooding.  The suddenness of the resurrection of believers in the context adds emphasis to this literal interpretation of day, and it is even further compounded by the word "hour" being included in the phrase, making it unrealistic to translate "day" as "age" in this passage.

There is another problem with the idea that "day and hour" here means "age."  The context starts with "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-- at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place."  According to this we will know the general time of Christ's return by seeing "these things," signs that Christ talks to earlier in this chapter.  The word "generation" actually could be translated "age," but even if that is how it should be translated, we would therefore still know the general time period in which we will see Christ's return due to seeing the signs Christ predicted would precede Him.  Most Christians who take a generalized view of "the day and hour" believe that we HAVE already seen fulfillment of at least some of the signs for quite a few years.  Clearly, if "day" meant "age" in this passage, then we would have an actual contradiction in the Scriptures, since we would know if we are living in the general time period (age) of His return, which we already appear to be in.

 The strongest argument against the popular view of the "day and hour" passage is found in the original Greek language.  The word "knows" used by Christ is in the present perfect tense. In other words, a more accurate translation of the phrase in question is "No one at this time knows..."  In fact, this Greek word Oiden lterally means to see, so the most accurate translation is "No one at this time sees..."  Either of these better translations would also solve the strange apparent problem of why Jesus would not even know this date in the future, even though He is God the Son, and therefore omniscient.  When Jesus was on earth, He somehow put aside in His humanity His divine traits, such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, and trusted in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.  If this was not the case, then Jesus was not be a good example for us in how to live the Christian life, since He would otherwise have been simply relying upon His own divine power, something we do not posess of ourselves.  Jesus truly did not know "the day or hour" of His own return while He was on earth before He died.  It seems clear by definition of Who He is, that He must know such facts now.

Another reason why there is so much confusion about what is meant by the phrase "of that day and hour no one knows" is based upon the assumption that there will be some kind of pre-Tribulational "rapture."  It is clear from a number of passages that the resurrection of dead and living believers will occur "the day" Jesus returns.  The problem is, since around 1820 AD, some Christians started to believe that God would spare believers from the "wrath" of the Tribulation by taking us out BEFORE it begins.  This view was NOT held by any of the early church believers.  This relatively new view forced Christians to invent the idea that Christ's "second coming" would be TWO different events at TWO different times, one "secretly" to "rapture" us up into Heaven, and the other one to come back in blazing glory in the open.  The "secret" coming idea comes from the verses that say Christ's coming will be "like a thief in the night," as if Christ's return will be like some kind of sneaky burglar.  Does "like a thief in the night" refer to a "secret" coming?

In the ancient world, a "thief in the night" did not act like a burglar.  What thieves in ancient times would do was suddenly come upon a house, and before the family at the home could properly act, the thief would have subdued the "strong man" of the house, and then begin to plunder the house much like the current "home invasion" robberies in the USA.  These robberies were not some quiet, James Bond in-and-out missions where no one notices.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10-- "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  If the reader is still convinced that Christ will come in "secret," then check out the four following passages in the Bible to see HOW Jesus comes "as a thief in the night: 1Thess. 5:1-6-- "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.  For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.  And they shall not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  You are all sons of light and sons of the day.  We are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."  2 Pet. 3:10-- "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up."  Rev. 3:3-- "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.  Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." Rev 16:15-16-- "Behold, I am coming as a thief.  Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.  And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon."  The command for Christians to "watch" is obviously very important, and I will discuss that shortly.  You might want to check out some of the other reasons why there will not be TWO second comings of Christ.

If the "day and the hour" referred to ALL of the predicted future events preceding the actual physical return of Christ, then Christ's own words would be wrong.  This is due to the fact that believers alive during the Tribulation WILL RECOGNIZE certain fulfillments, and based on them, be able to figure out the timing of OTHER future events based on this information, many of them down to even the very day. See my article on Some Chronologically Related Future Events to see a number of end-times-related events that are a specific distance time-wise from each other.  Obviously, Christ did not mean that we would not be able to figure out when certain future events.  This is because Christ's actual "coming" refers to the actual moment of His physical return back to Earth, not to the entire set of end-time predicted events.  There is no reason to warrant treating Christ's second coming as more than what He will do on a certain day, as all the previously quoted verses indicate.

So, if we cannot know the "day or the hour" of Christ's second coming that includes our resurrection, how close could we calculate it, if at all?  I have seen a number of different calculations that take into consideration different verses, that give out different possible dates for Christ's return relative to earlier events.  One verse that seems to cause trouble for our calculations is Matt. 24:21-22 21-- "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."  There seems to be a number of possible ways the Tribulation will be shortened.  One way is the shortening from a seven year period based on 365 days per year down to 360 days per year, making a difference of 35 days.  There are other theories of how many days will be shortened from what exact set of days, but none seem to be glaringly correct to me so far.  This does not automatically prove that we cannot have at least a very close idea of when His return will be, even if we cannot beforehand determine it's "day" or "hour."

There may be a way to jump beyond the need to figure out how many days Christ's coming will be after any other event without contradicting the verses telling us that no one will know that "day" or "hour."  It is based on the idea that all of the Jewish holidays have a prophetic significance.  I have shown elsewhere on my web page a few examples of this.  Greg Killian shows evidence that the Jewish holiday of Yom Turuah (the Jewish New Year) is the ONLY holiday of all the Jewish holidays that has an unusual built-in uncertainty of when it actually occurs during a two day period.  This has to do with official witnesses making observations of the lunar cycle, and determining which of the two days is closer to being the New Moon.  To the Jews, the New Moon was symbolic for their Messiah.  Here are the verses dealing with Yom Turuah: (Lev. 23:23-25)-- "The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to Yahweh by fire.'"  And Numbers 29:1-- "'On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets."  The following is from the Jewish Encyclopedia: "Originally, the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations, but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent of the moon.  On the 30th of each month, the members of the High Court (Bet Din) assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem , named Beit Ya'azek, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable witnesses; they then sanctified the New Moon.  If the moon's crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day."  According to the Talmud the witnesses were entertained lavishly to induce witnesses to come forward.  They were then tested to ascertain that they were true witnesses (from the Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 23b, footnotes).  This Jewish holiday is also known as Rosh Hoshshannah and The Feast of Trumpets.

Here are some more interesting facts about this holiday:

"Rosh Hashanah" - means the beginning or "head" of the year. "Yom Teruah" - means a day of blowing (the shofar) or breathing.  The shofar is the Ram's horn, commonly translated "trumpet" in the Bible.

Yom Teruah falls on the first day of the seventh month. By arrangement of the calendar it cannot fall on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday.  This is to prevent Yom HaKippurim from falling on the first or the sixth day.

The first day begins a period of penitence lasting for ten (10) days, ending with Yom HaKippurim (Day of the Atonement). Yom Teruah is the only festival which has an uncertain beginning, since the first day of the month, Rosh Chodesh (New Moon), depends on sighting of witnesses to the new moon. For this reason, even in Israel this festival is celebrated for two days.  The month preceding Tishrei, Elul, can be either "defective", that is twenty-nine days long, or "full", that is thirty days long.

The Jewish New Year's day, known to all by the Hebrew name of Rosh HaShana, is singled out by the Talmud as both the start of the Jewish year, and the annual Day of Judgment.  This may come as a surprise to the innocent reader of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament).  After all, the Torah (Bemidbar 29:1) refers to the holiday celebrated on the first day of the seventh month (=Tishrei) only as "Yom Teru'ah" (The Day of Shofar-blasts).

One of the customs for Yom Teruah is to avoid sleeping, especially during the evening and morning hours.

Matthew 25:13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

Mark 13:33-37 33 "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.  It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.  Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming-- in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning-- lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"  This verse is especially interesting in how it seems to allude to the idea that Christ's return could occur ANYWHERE within a particular twelve hour period during the night.  Even though most of the world considers midnight as the start of the new day, the Jews do not.  They consider the new day starting at sundown, so it seems that this must be taken into account somehow.  It seems that the uncertainty about the "day and the hour"of Christ's return is being referred to in this Bible passage nevertheless..

Matthew 24:29-31-- "Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'   At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."

Notice that the moon will not give it's light.  This would fit right into the idea that this passage occurs on Yom Turuah (The Feast of Trumpets), since this feast occurs on a NEW MOON.

Since Yom Teruah is on Rosh Chodesh (a New Moon), and since, the sun will be darkened, this implies a solar eclipse as the moon is always between the sun and the moon at Rosh Chodesh (New Moon).  This leaves a situation where the moon will not give it's light, and the sun will be darkened.  The sign of the Son of Man is probably Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) with a solar eclipse - during the day!  This would account for the world gazing intently at the sky when Yeshua (Jewish name for Jesus) returns.  The clouds could also represent, in addition to clouds, Israel as we meet the Lord in the air!

By now, I am sure the reader has noticed all the verses COMMANDING US TO WATCH FOR CHRIST'S RETURN.  Many Christians make the incorrect assumption that the word "watch" means some kind of  "seeking" of Christ, usually interpreted as some kind of "spiritual" seeking.  This is not the meaning.  According to Strong's Dictionary of the Greek Testament, the word "seek" in the New Testament is the Koine Greek word zeteo, which means to seek (literally or figuratively), SPECIFICALLY, (by Hebrain) to worship (God) or (in a bad sense) to plot (against life).  "Watch" comes from the word gregoreuo, which means "keep awake," i.e. watch (literally and figuratively).  The two words clearly have two different meanings.  "Watch" has to do with keeping an alert awareness of our surroundings with an open mind to many possible slight variations of appearance of what we are being alert for, just like a guard on guard duty.  "Seek" has to do with a very focused, closed-minded and directed goal, which is either to honor (worship) the object found at the end of the goal, or to destroy or discredit the object found at the end of the goal (kill).

In light of understanding the word "watch," it is my hope that the reader will make a more sober response to the repeated command in Scriptures for us to "watch" for signs.  Christ rebuked the Jewish leaders of His day for not being able to recognize the signs of the Messiahs first coming (Matt. 16:2-3)-- "He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.  ' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.""  Also, not Jews, but Gentiles from a far country were aware of Christ's first coming from simply looking at a sign of a star, obviously in a significant place in the sky ( Matt 2:1-2,7)-- "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."...Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared." If Christ expected those who served Him to have recognized the signs of His first coming, how much more His expectation on us is today to recognize the time of His SECOND coming when He even tells us what to look for and when (Luke 21:25-28)-- "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

The Bible teaches us that God would use the sun, moon, and stars as special signs for regarding the timing of His great works in Scriptures, not just for telling us the seasons or what day on the calendar it is (Gen. 1:14)-- "Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years."  Also, (Psm. 19:1-6)-- "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.  Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat."  Much of my studies include watching the stars, moon and sun.  Hopefully, it is becoming more obvious to the reader that this is Biblical.  Christians who attempt to study the signs in the sky in such a way call this "Biblical Astronomy."

One other important point: "Biblical Astronomy" IS NOT ASTROLOGY!  Just about everything God has done, Satan has tried to distort and pervert for his own purposes.  Before there was astrology, there was a more ancient way to look at the stars, even before the first Jew ever existed.  God, I believe, used to have His pre-Jewish prophets use the objects in the sky as His "Bible," by refering to the universally accepted meanings of the names of the constellations and visible stars.  I believe that they taught about the coming world Savior who would be born of a virgin as the constellation Virgo teaches, and that later He would come as the conquering "Lion of the tribe of Judah" as taught by the constellation Leo the Lion.  They covered many other related topics using all the other constellations and stars.  "Biblical Astronomy" was designed by God to tell us about what God will do for His glory. Astrology was designed by Satan as a perversion to supposedly tell us about what WE will do for OUR glory.  THIS is the reason why practicing astrology is a SIN, while practicing "Biblical Astronomy" is not a sin.  If you are still doubtful about this, check out Greg Killian's site for more details.

The following verses are sometimes also used in conjunction with the "day or hour" verses to try and prove that we cannot determine the timing of any future events predicted in the Bible: Acts 1:6-7--And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority..."  One obvious problem here with the popular view of this verse is that many are applying it to everyone in later generations.   This verse could only be applied to the Apostles at the time Christ spoke to them.  Why is this so?  If this was not the case, then we clearly have a contradiction in the Bible when these verses are compared to verses that clearly tell us of the "signs" to look for regarding Christ's second coming.  And most importantly, the word translated know is the word gn0nai, and it is in the present perfect tense.  Thus, a better translation of the verse would be "It is not for you to know now at this time times or epochs..."  Clearly, this verse does not apply to later generations.

I encourage ALL readers to OBEY Christ by watching the signs of His second coming.  I am not an expert in "watching," but someone needs to try and follow Christ's commands, in spite of most believers ignoring the the signs today.  Let us not be like the wicked generation who was ignorant of the signs of Christ's first coming, and miss seeing and understanding them THIS TIME.  Believers, go to your guard posts!

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