Can We Know When the Second Coming of Jesus will Happen?
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man,” said Jesus to His disciples on the Mount of Olives.
And so it is written in Matthew 24:36—we cannot know the day and the hour of the coming of the Son of man. Simple enough? We should be so lucky. You see, there are those who claim that the scripture teaches the exact opposite. They say that we can know the day and the hour of His coming. They say that in Matthew 24:36, Jesus was speaking to the people living in the first century only, and not to the people living in the 21st Century.
Is this a blatant scripture twist or is there a method behind this madness? What is the logic behind drawing such a conclusion? Let’s explore.
1st Century Audience vs. 21st Century Audience
It is true that Jesus was addressing a First Century audience in His Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24. The first century-ites would not, in fact, know the day and the hour. But two breaths before Jesus said that no man knows the day and the hour, He stated that “this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). So while He said that no man knows the day and hour, He spoke of a generation that will know.
Let’s ask the question again: Was Jesus speaking to a First Century audience or to all of mankind throughout history? Most would say that He was speaking to all of mankind throughout history, including us. But let’s consider another example.
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
Times and Seasons for First Century-ites Only
In Acts 1:6-7, just before Jesus was caught up into heaven, His disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answered, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” In this passage, Jesus is speaking to the disciples about what will happen to them at their specific moment in time. Notice that they use the words “at this time” in their question. That would indicate that they meant “in their lifetimes,” or “the generation in which they were living.”
Was Jesus speaking here to a First Century audience only or was He also telling you and me, living in the 21st Century, that it is not for us to know the times and seasons either? The answer to this question is simple. We, of this generation, will definitely know the time and the season. Jesus said so in Matthew 24:34. “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” “This generation” refers specifically to the people who live to see the signs of the endtimes that He describes in the chapter, including the still-future abomination of desolation.
Paul confirms this teaching. He wrote in I Thessalonians 5:1, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” In verse 4, he goes on to say, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Paul is telling us specifically that we will know the times and the seasons. If we will watch, we will see the day coming.
Is this a conflict in scripture? In Acts 1:6, Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons.” But, in I Thessalonians 5:1 Paul says that we will. Of course, there is no conflict! It is obvious that Jesus was speaking to a First Century audience in Acts 1:6-7, not to us!
So we have now answered the “times and seasons question.” What about the “day and hour” question? When Jesus said that no man knows the day and hour of the Lord’s coming, does this also apply to our generation?
Paul Said we Will Know the Day
Here’s another perspective. I Thessalonians chapter 5 teaches us that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Matthew 24:42-43 relates the same story. It also says that the Lord will come as a thief in the night, and that the goodman of the house will not know what hour the thief will come.
The thief is clearly representative of Jesus Christ. But what does the goodman represent? Whoever the goodman symbolizes, the passage says that he will not know the hour of Christ’s return. For example, if the goodman represents the church, then the church will not know the hour of the Lord’s coming. It would be that simple. So let’s look at the context.
Question: Is the goodman the church?
Answer: No! The goodman of the house clearly represents unbelievers, not believers! He is not portrayed as a Bible-believer, but rather, he was living in darkness, and was not ready for the Lord’s coming. This passage teaches that it is the unbelievers who will not know the hour of the Lord’s coming. This conclusion is verified by I Thessalonians 5:4-5. There, it states that the only people who will not know the day of the Lord’s coming are the people living in darkness. But you, saint of God, are not living in darkness. You are a child of light, and the day of the Lord shall not overtake you as a thief!
Unbelievers will not know the hour of His coming. Does the Bible say that the church won’t know the hour of His coming as well? No. The fact is, it seems to indicate the opposite! The Lord will not overtake His children of light as a thief in the night. According to these passages, the church will know the hour.
Let’s keep studying the scriptures. We will know the generation, and we will know the times and seasons. And as the time draws nearer, perhaps we will also come to know the day and hour!