The disciples’ asking for a specific day and hour of Jerusalem’s destruction and the Messiah’s coming was too presumptuous so it didn’t merit an answer from the Lord. I say “presumptuous” because (a) revealing the specific day and hour was not a practice of God and the prophets since the time of Adam, (b) Christ had mentioned enough signs to keep disciples ever reminded of the approaching events, and (c) the disciples’ burden which was pounded upon them by the Lord was to be alert all the time. Therefore, to reveal the exact date and exact hour would contradict the three reasons listed above and make Christ inconsistent.
I liken the disciples to students in a class who are told to review seven chapters for the final examination; that the examination will have the following types: True or False, Identification of ideas, Definition of Terms and Essay. If you were the teacher of the class and the class would still ask: “Sir, what is the number 2 item in essay, number 3 item in the definition, number 4 item in the identification, and number 5 item in the true or false?” And if the teacher says, “I don’t know,” would you judge the instructor as incompetent because he says “I don’t know”? Common sense tells us that the “I don’t know” reaction of the teacher is not a revelation of the teacher’s inability but rather a revelation of students’ stupidity. In like manner, the disciples’ demand for an exact date and an exact hour is the height of stupidity.
We’ll now analyze the three reasons given in the first paragraph why Christ didn’t oblige himself to give an answer to the question of a specific day and hour:
*A. REVEALING SPECIFIC DAY AND HOUR NOT A PRACTICE
I haven’t read any passage in the Bible wherein God has made any promise or prophesied a future event where he gave the specific day and hour it would happen. We list down the following great promises and big events which don’t reveal specific days and hours:
Genesis 3:15, The coming of the seed of the woman– no day and hour given.
Genesis 3:15, The bruising of the serpent’s head — no day and hour given.
Genesis 3:15, The bruising of the Seed’s heel– no day and hour given.
Genesis 6:13, Destruction of the evil earth in Noah’s time– no day and hour given.
Genesis 11:5-9, Destruction of the Tower of Babel – no day and hour given.
Genesis 12:1; 13:14ff, Give the land of Canaan to Abraham – no and hour given
Genesis 12:2; 15:11, Abraham to become a great nation – no day and hour given.
Genesis 18:9-15, Sarah to have a son – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 2:2-4, Day of the Lord – no day and hour given
Isaiah 7, Salvation of Jerusalem from Syrian plunder – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 9:6-7, The Messiah’s birth – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 10, Messiah’s kingdom restored – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 13, Destruction of Babylon – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 15, Defeat of Moab—no day and hour given.
Isaiah 19, Defeat of Egypt – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 22, Destruction of Jerusalem—no day and hour given.
Isaiah 24, Judgments and Tribulations – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 45:1-7, Anointing of Cyrus – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 53, Coming of the Messiah – no day and hour given.
Isaiah 61, Advent of the Messiah – no day and hour given.
Jeremiah 31:31-40, Establishment of a new covenant – no day and hour given.
Daniel 2, Establishment of God’s kingdom—no day and hour given.
Daniel 2, Establishment of the fourth kingdom – no day and hour given.
Joel 2, Terrible day coming – no day and hour given.
Micah 5:2, The birth of the Messiah – no day and hour given.
Zechariah 14:9ff, Messiah’s kingdom established – no day and hour given.
Malachi 4:1-3, Coming of the Messiah – no day and hour given.
Malachi 4:4-6, Coming of Elijah – no day and hour given.
Luke 1:11-17, Birth of John the Baptist – no day and hour given.
Luke 1:26-33, Birth of Jesus Christ – no day and hour given.
Matthew 16:16-18, Establishment of the church – no day and hour given.
Matthew 16:21-23, Suffering and death of the Messiah – no day and hour given.
Matthew 16:27-28, Christ’s coming in the glory of the Father – no day and hour given.
John 5:24-30, Christ’s coming and the resurrection – no day and hour given.
Acts 1:4-5, Coming of the Father’s promise – no day and hour given.
Acts 1:6, Restoration of the Kingdom of Israel – no day and hour given.
The above verses amply demonstrate that it is not God’s practice to give exact days and hours in the fulfillment of promises and great events. Therefore, it was out of place for the disciples to ask the Lord Jesus the exact day and hour of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (Mark 13:1-37; Matthew 24:1-44).
It is also out of place for students to ask exact answers of test items from their teacher.
*B. CHRIST MENTIONED ENOUGH SIGNS TO KEEP DISCIPLES ALERT
I have spent many, many, many years studying under different college instructors. When an instructor gives pointers for the examination, I find it very helpful and I would know what to expect in the test. More important than the pointers is my knowledge of the objective of the course and the coverage of the course. The objective and coverage provide me enough signs to work on and be prepared for the final examination. I knew the hour and day of a final test would come but I don’t worry about the exact date and hour when it would come. My concern was always this: Am I ready to take the examination when the day and hour comes? In like manner, a disciple’s concern today should simply be: Am I ready for the day and hour when “my local Jerusalem” and/or the end of my life come?
Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew provide sufficient signs pointing to the coming day and hour of Jerusalem’s destruction and the day and hour of Christ’s coming. One important idea to remember is to consider the destruction of Jerusalem/end of the age of Israel as a chosen nation of God as a small replica of the end, the destruction of the cosmos/end of the ages of humanity. These signs are the following: Many would claim Christ’s authority deceiving many people, rumors of wars and wars fought, nation rise against another, famines, pestilences, earthquakes in various places, tribulations, killings, hatred against believers, hatred and betrayals, false prophets deceive people, lawlessness abound, love of many will grow cold and many more as one goes down the verses in Matthew 24. And then in Matthew 26, our Lord added more warnings that the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world would surely come.
*C. DISCIPLES’ BURDEN IS TO BE ALERT ALL THE TIME
In Matthew 24:4-26 list down daily occurrences to warn every disciple to think of the coming local judgment on the Jerusalem ruled by a self-serving priestly family, and the woefully mistaken hermeneutics of the Pharisees-Scribes-Sadducees. Matthew 24:27-31 gives warnings of a local or cosmic arrival of Christ judgment. Matthew 24:32-35 gives the Parable of the Fig Tree was familiar with the Jews – the budding of the fig tree announces the onset of summer. Matthew 24:36-44 submits the story of Noah and the Flood to demonstrate that watchfulness is the disciples’ burden and that the exact date and hour was not revealed and would not be revealed as regards the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Christ reiterates the attitude every disciples must have in 24:44, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
Matthew 24:45-49 is another illustration of the need for watchfulness and loyalty. Matthew 25:1-13 is the Parable of the Ten Virgins which is another lesson of being alert all the times. Matthew 25:14-30 tells every disciple to be loyal and productive in this life and the inevitability of an accounting in the last day. Finally, Matthew 25:31-46 gives a view of the Final Judgment.
Because there’s a mixture of local and cosmic judgments in the context of Matthew 24, as well as a local and cosmic coming of Christ, a revelation of an exact date and hour is inappropriate. Families and towns and cities have different dates and hours for their respective “judgments” by local floods, arsons, landslides, vehicular accidents, pestilences like dengue or cancers, heart attacks, massacres, kidnappings, robberies, family feuds, earthquakes, famines like that one in Africa, plane crashes, boat sinkings, bombings, food poisonings, deaths due to diseases and viral infections, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
Christ’s admonition to towns, cities, families and individuals remains: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.” Knowing the exact date and hour is irrelevant.
This writer would appreciate receiving from readers any comment on this article. This series #8 ends the discussion of this particular topic. I hope that the eight articles have helped clarify the issue. Thank you. @ – Eusebio Tanicala (August 2011)