Apparently even when Jesus walked on earth this was a burning question among His own disciples. To them He responded, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Mt.24:36). As a result and based on this text alone many believers are often inclined to disregard all words of prophecy regarding the Lord’s so called “imminent return.” In other words according to this scripture some say that the hour of his coming cannot be known. And with so many false predictions about the end of the world who could blame the average Christian for assuming a cavalier posture regarding the hour of his coming.
But allow me to share a principal that could provide the basis for knowing the hour. Recall that Jesus said it was impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Nonetheless, in His explanation to those close to Him He revealed an overriding and profound truth. Simply this, that the wealthy or the rich can enter the kingdom because “with God all things are possible” (Mt.19:24-26). We might then apply this same principle to the impossibility of knowing the hour of His return. In other words, even though no one knows the hour of His return, some can and will know because He is the God of the impossible.
But the application of this principle sounds a bit more like conjecture than truth. In other words, even though the use of this principle makes sense, the existence of a scripture that explicitly states that the hour can be known would build a stronger case. A good friend of mine used to say, “If you want, you can even get a recipe for fudge from the Bible.” Is that all we’re doing when we prophesy current or future end-time events? Are we just making fudge from the Bible? Is there a Biblical basis for knowing when He will return? Yes indeed, there is justification for this knowledge. REVELATION 3:3, “REMEMBER THEREFORE HOW THOU HAST RECEIVED AND HEARD, AND HOLD FAST, AND REPENT. IF THEREFORE THOU SHALT NOT WATCH, I WILL COME ON THEE AS A THIEF, AND THOU SHALT NOT KNOW WHAT HOUR I WILL COME UPON THEE.”
Now perhaps some might say that this scripture is referring to a personal visitation and not the 2nd coming. But I doubt it since other passages regarding the 2nd coming also refer to this advent with similar language, i.e.: “as a thief in the night” (1 Thes.5:2). Moreover, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins suggests that some will know the hour of His coming and will be prepared, while others will not (Mt.25:1-13). Basically, what we have here is what appears to be a contradiction of scripture. But my sense about these types of so called Biblical contradictions is that there is usually a mystery that the Holy Ghost seeks to reveal to the hungry heart.
If we take a closer look at Revelation 3:3 we see that the carnal Christian or Christians who do not feel the need to repent for their sins are the ones who will not know when He is coming. Indeed the passage clearly indicates that those who have repented will know the hour of His coming. And it can be easily extrapolated from this passage the notion that if you don’t know the hour of his coming that makes you a carnal Christian because it indicates you’re not walking in fellowship with him. For example, Noah knew the hour of the cataclysmic flood because he was in communion with the Lord. We recall from the story that the Lord informed of His intention to destroy the earth by water. As a result Noah began to build the ark and became known as a preacher of righteousness. At that time I seriously doubt that he knew the exact moment that the flood would occur. Christians who know the Lord may not know the exact moment of his coming, but like Noah they are aware that the season is upon us. And eventually, the Lord directed Noah into the ark and the Bible says the Lord himself closed the door (Gen.7:16). At that moment Noah knew that the end of that age was occurring. What saved Noah was not his knowledge of boatbuilding, his understanding of environmental hydrodynamics or dispensational timeframes.. What saved him was simply his communion God. He knew the voice of God and responded to it with obedience.
There are also many Christians who have outright shunned the idea of knowing the hour of his coming because they feel it induces fear. But clearly that was not the intent of our Lord when we read Matthew 24. Notice that this chapter is one of the longest monologues of Christ recorded in the Gospels suggesting its importance. Jesus goes into great detail to explain when His 2nd coming will occur and what signs to look for. So obviously He felt that knowing the hour of His return or 2nd coming was very important. He wanted believers to be prepared for a time far worse than has ever been or ever will be (Mt.24:21), and that they not be overtaken like a thief in the night.
Another popular theory used by many Christians to calculate the hour of His coming I call the “thousand years axiom.” Basically, adherents combine the 7-Day-Creation story with the now, well known passage, “One day with the Lord is as 1000 years…” (2Pet.3:8). This 20th century theory is based on the scholarly work of the Irish Protestant Archbishop Ussher, who in 1650 and 1654 published dates of Biblical events that he calculated from Scripture such as the creation, the flood, events related to Israel’s history, the birth of Christ, and so on. Essentially, he derived his dates from Biblical passages wherein is recorded the birth, death and/or lifespan of patriarchs, prophets, kings, and other Biblical figures. By adding the years of each successive generation he was able to conclude that approximately 4000 years existed between creation and Christ. And if the so-called 7th Day of Rest or its correlation, known as the Millennial Reign of Christ, accounts for years 6000 to 7000, it is easy to understand that the Age of Grace for the Gentiles accounts for creation days 5 and 6 or the current 2000 years, which have prevailed since the time of Christ. Consequently, with this theory, one can see that the end of the age draws nigh with apocalyptic events at our doorstep.
Although I do not dismiss this theory, I find problems with it rather than a quick and easy solution. First, predicted apocalyptic events do not line up exactly with Ussher’s work. That is, we are expected to accept approximate dates with the occasional 10, 20 or 30 year margins of error. But maybe I’m being too picky here. Second, this methodology seems to contradict Christ’s teachings, or the writings of Paul and John who would have us rely instead on knowing His voice and accepting Christ’s warnings, written in the Word. That is, we should be informed of the hour of His coming by maintaining intimacy with Christ and knowledge of Scripture. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that Ussher’s calculations could also be viewed as confirmation to the Spirit and Scripture rather than a contradiction. But my greatest problem with this theory is that it is simply conjecture. There is no specific Scripture that informs me that the 7 days of creation necessarily correlated with the dispensations of man that began with Adam. Now, these 7 days may indeed correlate with man’s time on earth by either coincidence, or maybe even by design, but not because the Bible tells me so.
Now please know that I readily admit that certain numbers in the Bible have significance and oftentimes have a spiritual meaning. Indeed, the fourth book of the Bible is called Numbers. But the interpretation of numbers and ascribing specific meaning based on human reasoning alone can also be a symptom of fanaticism and apocalyptic predictions for those who are motivated by fear. For example, Psalm 50:10 reveals that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Does that mean that He does not own the cattle on hill number 1001 or hill number 1002? Instead we come to realize that in the context of this passage God is actually owner of an innumerable host which cannot be numbered. So in 2Peter 3:8 when he says “one day is as 1000 years” does He mean that literally or figuratively?
Here is probably the best advice that I can offer concerning the time of Christ’s return. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief”(1 Thes.5:1-4). Why? Because “MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE AND I KNOW THEM AND THEY FOLLOW ME: AND I GIVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE; AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH NEITHER SHALL ANY MAN PLUCK THEM OUT OF MY HAND” (JN.10:27-28).
Be blessed in Jesus name,
Brother Jerry Turk