Today, we will look into the unknown timing of His coming. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Verse 36 sets the theme for the rest of the speech in 24:37-25:46. The theme is the unknown, unrevealed, and undisclosed time of Jesus’ coming. In vv. 37-44, Jesus uses three pictures of the unexpected time of His coming—the days of Noah, two men and two women, and the thief in the night.
In v. 33, Jesus said that you can know the nearness of His coming. But in v. 36, Jesus said that you cannot know the time of His coming. The nearness of His coming is predictable because of the signs. But the time of His coming is unknowable to all except the Father.
We do not know the time of His coming. The angels do not know the time of His return. Even the Son of Man does not know the time of His arrival. Only the Father knows.
Now many have asked the puzzling question, “How can Jesus, the Son of Man, not know the time of His coming? Isn’t He God in the flesh?” That is a good doctrinal question. I will give a doctrinal answer.
Yes, Jesus is the God-man, God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully man–100% God and 100% man. He has two natures—the divine nature and the human nature. The divine nature is distinct yet inseparable from the human nature. These two natures co-exist and unite in one person of Jesus, forever. Thus, Jesus is one person having both divine and human attributes.
As fully God, Jesus possesses the divine attribute of omniscience–the knowledge of everything. Yet as the God-man, He set aside His omniscience willingly. Jesus can choose to know everything (Matt. 12:25; Lk. 6:8; John 6:64). But as to the time of His coming, Jesus chose not to know everything. He voluntarily limited His omniscience. (Blomberg)
Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8).
Jesus is God. But He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. The noun “a thing to be grasped” (harpagmos) means “greatly desired, a prize, a piece of good fortune, something to hold on.” (Gingrich)
Have you received a gift check? A long time ago during our office Christmas party, I received 5 gift checks of Php 500.00 each. That’s a total of Php 2,500.00. It was a lot of money at the time. I held on to it dearly.
Jesus is God. But He did not count equality with God something special to hold on. Yet He made Himself nothing, Paul wrote. The verb phrase “made himself nothing” (kenoo) means “to completely remove or eliminate elements of high status or rank by eliminating all privileges or prerogatives associated with such status or rank—‘to empty oneself, to divest oneself of position.’” (Louw-Nida) When Jesus “made himself nothing” in his incarnation, He divested himself of divine privileges inherent in His divinity. He did not empty Himself of His divine nature. Rather, He set aside His divine prerogative of omniscience in obedience to the Father. Yet though Jesus set aside His omniscience, He did not surrender that divine attribute.
Regarding Jesus’ return, then, Jesus chose to limit His knowledge about it. Thus, Jesus can say honestly that even the Son of Man does not know the time of His coming.