By Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
“CHRIST DOESN’T KNOW HIS COMING, THEREFORE HE ISN’T GOD.”
“But that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 14:32) Because we believe that Christ is God, and God is omniscient, would not Mark 13:32 and Matt. 24:36 negate the belief on the deity of Christ? Many would like to get a satisfactory answer to this question.
The following is my suggested approach to clarify this issue. Take the following steps which are inter-related:
FIRST STEP: Clarify who we are talking about. In Mark 13:26 the subject is the “Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” In Matt. 24:30, 37, 39, 44 the subject is the “Son of Man.”
Now we have to determine which aspect of our Lord Jesus Christ is this “Son of Man” because in our belief He is both complete human and complete God. Colossians 1:19; Col. 2:9 and John 1:1, 14 support this belief. We should make a distinction between “Christ-Son of Man” and “Christ-God.” By taking Psalm 2, Acts 13:33; Heb. 1 and Heb. 5:5 as background, we can infer that His becoming the “Son of Man” started with his human birth or may have started with His anointing. In Psalm 2, the type-person is King David while the anti-type-person or fulfillment is Jesus Christ. When was David begotten by the LORD so he was called begotten son? It must have been in his anointing to become king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. Taking the clue from King David’s begetting, Christ’s being “Son of Man” must refer to his humanity. Not His deity. In relation to the day and hour of his coming with power and glory, as far as Jesus’ human knowledge was concerned, He didn’t know.
For an illustration, learn to differentiate the constitutional personality from the private individual personality of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Currently we have President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA) in office. For every item below ask the question: “Is this the constitutional person or the private individual person of PGMA?” (a) PGMA was born April 1947. (b) PGMA is the daughter of Dra. Eva Macaraeg-Macapagal. (c) PGMA spoke before the U.N. General Assembly last month. (d) PGMA is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (e) PGMA is the mother of two congressmen. (f) PGMA is married to Atty. Miguel Arroyo. (g) PGMA has today signed into law ten bills at Malacanang Palace. (h) PGMA graduated from a university in the United States. (i) PGMA celebrates her birthday in April. (j) PGMA enjoys the presence of her grandchildren. (k) PGMA’s official family is having a conference at Malacanang Palace’s Heroes Hall. (l) Mike Arroyo is the head of PGMA’s family.
Some believe that even His deity didn’t know the day and hour of this glorious coming. It is suggested that this attribute of omniscience was among those temporarily discarded or laid aside by Christ in the “emptying” mentioned in Phil. 2:7. I disagree to this idea. For me, omniscience is an essential attribute of deity which could not be laid aside. Just as a philosopher in the first century when captured during a military invasion could not empty himself of his knowledge although he could be sold as a slave and become a bondservant in another land.
SECOND STEP: Learn how to shift from the human level up to the deity level or vice versa when one studies the life and statements of our Lord Jesus Christ. Failure to do this shifting could result to a failure in hermeneutics just as the Jews failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah because they failed in their interpretation of scriptures. In fact Christ at one time said to the scribes and Pharisees, “You err because you don’t know the scriptures” when they dwelt only on the material-physical level of human existence.
For example, in the case of the Messiah, Jesus asked the Pharisees: “Whose son is the Christ?” (Matt. 22:41-46) They answered, “David’s son.” Then Jesus asked, “Why did King David call the Christ his Lord or Master if the Christ is his son?” The Pharisees were stunned. Their failure was that they only recognized Christ’s humanity. Dapat ang sagot ng mga Fariseo ay ganito: “Kung ayon sa pagka-Dios siya ay Panginoon ni Haring David; kung ayon sa pagkatao—anak siya ni Haring David.” This should also be the way we look at Christ’s statement in Mark 14:32: Kung ayon sa pagka-tao, hindi niya alam; kung ayon sa pagka-Dios alam niya.
There are other declarations made by our Lord that pointed to His humanity and NOT to His deity. He said, “I thirst”, “Children have you any food?”, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head down.” Some descriptions like “firstborn son wrapped in swaddling clothes”, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature before God and man”, “he wept”, “he ate” “he slept”, “was crucified”, “was buried” etc. Read Isaiah 53 and you find many acts and descriptions pointing to the humanity of Jesus.
On the other hand, statements like the following are assigned to Christ speaking as God: Jn 5:19, 20 – He sees the Father working; He does what the Father does; 5:23—give honor to the Son as you honor the Father; Jn 6:33, 38, 41,42, 51,58; 8:23; —he came down from heaven which act he did before incarnation; Jn 1:18, 46; 8:26; 8:38, 55– He knew, he saw, he heard, he proceeded from the Father.
THIRD STEP: Recognize Relative Negation as a figure of speech that puts focus on the ultimate authority without totally denying the proper place of other entities so recognized. Christ employed Relative Negation in Matt. 19:16-17; Mark 10:17-18; Luke 18:18-19. Christ was addressed as good teacher, but he relatively negated it and pointed to God as the ONE who is good and none other else. But Matt. 20:15 points to Jesus Christ as the master of the vineyard and he calls himself good. There’s the good tree that bears good fruit (Matt. 7:17); there’s the good man in Luke 6:45; there’s good soil, etc. Relative Negation is also employed in 1 Cor. 1:17 where Apostle Paul said he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel. The apostle did not reject baptism but since the Corinthians were putting too much emphasis on their baptism/baptizer and relegated Christ’ death-burial-resurrection he had to jolt them so that they would focus on the proper and foremost source of salvific power: the gospel.
The Father is God. In John 10:29 & 14:28 Christ says that the Father is greater than he is. This refers to His humanity in relation to God. However in John 5:16-23 Christ tells about mutual relationship with the Father: both work, both have knowledge, both are sources of life, both are judging, and both should be paid the same level of honor. On the level of deity, the Father and Son are equal says v. 18.
On the level of deity, we affirm that Christ knows everything. See John 1:18; 2:24-25; 7:28-29; 8:13-20; 8:54-55; 16:14-15; 17:25 and 21:17. The above items considered, the aspect of Christ speaking in Mark 13:32 therefore is the human Jesus.
FOURTH STEP: Determine the recipients’ readiness to receive the message. There were times when Jesus withheld information because the audience was not ready for it or the direct and clear information could be misinterpreted or could offend instead of building up belief. Even in the last week of Jesus’ ministry he said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.” Much talking would be useless. It’s throwing jewels to the swine.
To illustrate this, please note how Jesus was scolded by Peter when he revealed his forthcoming suffering. See. Matt. 16:21-23. A multitude of followers were offended (v. 61) and left Him when they could not understand Jesus’ statements that he is the bread of life, the bread that came down from heaven, eating his flesh and drinking his blood in John 6:41-71. When Jesus talked about his kingdom, Mrs. Zebedee asked Him to give the top 2 highest positions in the kingdom to James and John. This created jealousy and bickering among the 12 apostles. Note that Jesus made a statement in v. 23 to draw away attention from Himself and focus the power of appointment to another, understandably the Father. Christ made a conditional statement in John 21:21-23 and it was misinterpreted.
By drawing away attention from himself, Jesus stopped misinterpretations, misrepresentations and even stopped useless discussions. What is important in this issue is preparedness. Knowing the exact date and hour is no problem.
FIFTH STEP: Consider the wealth of information given which was sufficient to guide people in preparing for that coming of the Son of Man. They were concerned about the date and hour, but they were not concerned with the what and how of preparation. It’s like bar and accountancy examinees being concerned with the date and time of examinations but unconcerned with what to review and what to do in preparation for the days of the examination. The what and the how of preparation are supplied in Matt. 24 and 25; Mark 13; and Luke 21 but no question was asked about being prepared.
We should not form the attitude of the generation of Noah that was warned for a period of 120 years. Instead of making preparations for the announced destruction, the people were concerned with great signs of an approaching day and hour of destruction. See 2 Peter 3:4. They were saying that in the past one hundred years and in the current one hundred years all things have been the same. So they concluded that Noah was a crazy old man. Usual day to day activities of carefree living continued on. Then suddenly the heavy down pour came without let up for 40 days and 40 nights. Skeptics all perished.
So don’t be like the generation of Noah that was concerned with the day and hour but not concerned with personal preparations for safety and evacuation.
SIXTH STEP: Clarify the term “only.” Most common meaning given to this word is that it is a limiting adjective: no other person or entity except the one named. But the word could mean “highly preferred or an outstanding one.” Possibly Christ said, “I prefer that the Father be the one to reveal the day and hour, not me.”
Let’s prove this idea. Please see Genesis 22:2, 16. We read from this passage: “Isaac your ONLY son” said Yahweh God to Abraham. Dare anyone accuse Yahweh God of ignorance or lying when He said that Isaac was Abraham’s only son? Was not Ishmael born 13 years earlier to Abraham and his wife Hagar? In Matthew 23:10, Christ said, “Do not be called teachers; for ONE is your teacher, the Christ.” Is not a class facilitator in the Sunday Bible study hour called “teacher”? Don’t we call faculty members at Philippine Bible College “teachers”? So we have shown that “only” or “one” is not employed as limiting terms all the time.
SEVENTH STEP: Read this declaration of Christ: “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” (NKJV) Read also John 14:10. So we should not demote Christ. Kung mayroon kayong angal, go and discuss this matter with the Father.