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What Does Matthew 24:36 Teach?

May 22, 2011 11 comments

We have all seen signs like the billboard in the picture.  It has been in the news, both on TV and the radio as well as in the press.  Harold Camping predicted that the rapture would happen on May 21, 2011 in opposition to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 “but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only.”  Mark recorded the statement as “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).  It is pretty clear that Jesus was saying that the day and hour of the coming of the Son of God was not given to man.  So why, in the face of this clear statement do people continue to think that they can know when Christ will return?

The site owner/manager of The-Latter-Rain.com wrote the following on his website in response to this question:

“God doesn’t say that no man will ever know the day or hour. That’s not the statement. The statement is that no man knoweth (present tense) the day or hour. It’s similar to what we read in Romans 3:10: ‘There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.’ Is this teaching that no one will ever have understanding and that no one will ever seek after God? Of course not; we know from the rest of the Bible that isn’t true. When we read it in light of the rest of Scripture, we know that it is saying no man, of his own abilities, understands spiritual truth. But that doesn’t mean no man ever will understand spiritual truth. There are many places in the Bible where we read that God grants understanding to the believers. For example, ‘Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures’ (Luke 24:45)” (http://www.the-latter-rain.com/faq-day-or-hour.html).

Now you won’t find this statement on the latter rain website because the owner has taken everything down with the exception of an apology to all who read his material.  His apology is better than anything Camping has offered since his failed prediction yesterday.  And as for the individual who ran the latter rain website is concerned, at least he is willing to admit his error and take whatever criticism is given to him.  As one who has been proven wrong on his interpretations of Bible topics, I will not be harsh with him for I know that no one is perfect.  They crucified the only perfect man who ever lived.  So we accept his apology, and hope that he will continue his studies in the Bible and come to a more complete knowledge of the truth that it holds.

However, I do want to say something about his interpretation of Matthew 24:36.  He says that the word “knoweth” is present tense, and means that Jesus was only saying that no man at that time knew the day and hour.  While the word “εἴδω” (knoweth) is a present tense verb (actually it is an obsolete verb that has been replaced by “οιδεν” which is “with the sense of the present” The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 283), that does not mean that it only applied to those people at that time.  Jesus was simply saying that the day and hour of his return was not made available to man.  There was no need for him to say “of that day and hour knoweth no man today, or never will be known to man” because the “knoweth no man” was sufficient to convey the meaning.  He was talking to his apostles who wanted to know when he would be returning, and he told them that this date was not for them to know.  They had work to do and needed to get busy doing it.

According to Mark’s record, Jesus informed his followers that even he did not have that knowledge, that the only one who had it was the Father.  He didn’t say the Holy Spirit had it with the Father, he said “the Father.”  In other words that knowledge belongs only to the Father.  Does Jesus have that knowledge today?  I don’t know!  All I know is that Jesus said that while was here on earth, he did not have that knowledge, and neither did anyone else, other than the Father.

This idea that the present tense verb means that someone later on could have that knowledge is a far fetched, and it has no scriptural basis.  The writer’s use of Rom. 3:10 “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” does not refer to the same thing as Matthew 24:36 as the word “συνίημι” (understandeth) is in the future tense, not the present.  In Romans 3:10 Paul was quoting Psalm 14:1-3:

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God.  They are all gone astray, they are all together become filthy:  there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psa. 14:1-3).

David is saying that the fool is one who claims that there is no God in heaven, and this person does not now, nor will he ever in the future (as long as he holds to this idea) understand and seek God.  That is what Paul was leading to.  Those Jews and Gentiles were both under sin, and as long as they continued in their present state they would not now, nor would they ever understand.

So Romans 3:10 does not give any credence to what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 24:36.  Jesus simply made a statement of fact that the knoweldge of the day and hour of his return was not obtainable; it was only for the Father.  When people can finally accept this simple truth then these absurd predictions will stop, and we can get on with sowing the seed of the kingdom.

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