In my last post, we learned about the lesson of the fig tree as a sign of Yeshua’s ultimate return to establish His millennial rule. In this post, we are told flat out that no one knows the day or the hour of when that will occur.
No One Knows the Day or Hour
“But when that day and hour will come, no one knows — not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father. For the Son of Man’s coming will be just as it was in the days of Noach. Back then, before the Flood, people went on eating and drinking, taking wives and becoming wives, right up till the day Noach entered the ark; and they didn’t know what was happening until the Flood came and swept them all away. It will be just like that when the Son of Man comes. Then there will be two men in a field — one will be taken and the other left behind. There will be two women grinding flour at the mill — one will be taken and the other left behind. So stay alert, because you don’t know on what day your Lord will come. But you do know this: had the owner of the house known when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you too must always be ready, for the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting Him. Who is the faithful and sensible servant whose master puts him in charge of the household staff, to give them their food at the proper time? It will go well with that servant if he is found doing his job when his master comes. Yes, I tell you that he will put him in charge of all he owns. But if that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is taking his time’; and he starts beating up his fellow servants and spends his time eating and drinking with drunkards; then his master will come on a day the servant does not expect, at a time he doesn’t know; and he will cut him in two and put him with the hypocrites, where people will wail and grind their teeth! ~ Matthew 24:36-51
While Yeshua had given general signs to watch for regarding the coming of the end, He clearly explained to the talmidim that the exact day or hour was not known by the angels or Himself. When Yeshua said that even He did not know the time of the end, He was affirming His limitations as a human (see Philippians 2:5-8). Of course, God the Father knows the time, and Yeshua and the Father are one. But when Yeshua became a man, He voluntarily gave up the unlimited use of His divine attributes. On earth, Yeshua laid aside his divine prerogatives and submitted to the Father’s will. Thus, only the Father knows exactly when Yeshua will return. The emphasis of this verse is not on Yeshua’s lack of knowledge, but rather on the fact that no one knows. It is God the Father’s secret to be revealed when He wills. No one can predict by Scripture or science the exact day of the Second Coming. Yeshua was teaching that preparation, not calculation, was needed. It is good that we don’t know exactly when Messiah will return. If we knew the precise date, we might be tempted to be lazy in our work for Messiah. Worse yet, we might plan to keep sinning and then turn to God right at the end. Heaven should not be our only goal; we have work to do here; we have service to perform for others. We must keep on doing it until death or until we see the unmistakable return of our Savior. Messiah designed that the day of His coming should be hid from us, that being in suspense, we might be as it were upon the watch.
His Second Coming will be just like the days of Noach. People will be going about their daily business, just as they were in Noach’s time (Genesis 7:17-24). Just as the flood caught them unawares and swept them away in judgment, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (see also 1 Peter 3:20-21).
To further illustrate the suddenness of his return, Yeshua pictured business as usual in Israel – the men out working in the field; the women doing domestic chores such as grinding grain. The Second Coming and the angels’ accomplishment of their task to gather together His chosen people (24:31) will happen so suddenly that in the blink of an eye, one of those people may be taken and the other left. The reason? One was ready and one was not.
Because no one except the Father knows when Messiah will return (the you in you do not know points to every one of us), Yeshua explained that Believers must be on guard and alert, constantly ready for Him to come at any time. Yeshua’s second coming will be swift and sudden. There will be no time for last-minute repenting or bargaining. The choice that people have already made will determine their eternal destiny.
Yeshua commanded his followers to stay alert. In the Tanakh concept of staying alert arose out of the necessity of maintaining constant vigil on city walls against marauding bands. It also referred to the spiritual vigilance needed to keep people from wandering away from God. In the context of the Olivet Discourse, it is active rather than passive. A person maintains vigilance not by passively watching, but by engaging in good deeds and active discipleship.
Yeshua’s purpose in telling about His return was not to stimulate predictions and calculations about the date, but to warn His people to be ready. In this simple parable, Yeshua again pointed out the need for constant vigilance. A homeowner cannot know when a thief might come to break into his home, so he must be always prepared. So with the return of Messiah. He will come when you are not expecting Him.
In ancient times it was a common practice for masters to put one servant in charge of all the household business. The servant described as faithful and sensible parallels the emissaries, who were given unprecedented authority by Yeshua, sharing in His very ministry. Yet it also describes those appointed to positions of leadership in the church who should be found faithfully carrying out their duties when Yeshua (the master) returns. Such activity explains how Yeshua’s followers can stay alert and be ready. These servants will be given great rewards. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “If God has given you more than your neighbors, dedicate it to Messiah, and realize that you are only a steward of that which God has given you – someday you will have to give an account for every penny you spent.”
Some servants, however, might decide to take advantage of their leadership positions, bullying others and indulging themselves. Yeshua may indeed stay away a long time, but that will never be an excuse for laziness, inadequate service, or wickedness.
The master’s judgment against his wicked servant will be extremely severe – he will cut the servant to pieces. Even worse than that horrible punishment will be the servant’s eternal destiny. No better than a hypocrite, he will be assigned to a place of wailing and grinding of teeth (referring to hell). God’s coming judgment is as certain as Yeshua’s return to earth.
The brutal language of this passage speaks clearly of the judgment of God against phonies and hypocrites. Everywhere in the Bible, Yeshua is presented as the loving Lord of all who come to Him in repentance and faith. But the Bible also points to the holiness side, the side of God completely intolerant of sin, utterly unwilling to compromise with evil. God is love, and God is holy. All who trust in Yeshua are participants in His holiness. The penalty for your sin was paid on the execution stake. But all who refuse, stand in jeopardy of suffering the judgment of a holy God. Don’t be there when God’s anger strikes. Heed the warning and appeal to Yeshua for salvation. Yeshua is our only hope.
In my next post, we will begin to unpack Yeshua’s final words in His Olivet Discourse from Matthew 25.