Nelson Walters (author of Are We Ready For Jesus)
recently had a blog post titled: “The Most Misunderstood Bible Verse”
and I present some of his argument below with a little commentary – and the suggestion that you read his entire article at the link above.
NW writes: “…In my opinion the most misunderstood Bible verse (and the most damaging because of that misunderstanding) is Matthew 24:36: ‘But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.’
“…If you ask a Christian what this verse means, 99.9% will tell you that the Sense of this verse is that we cannot know the timing of the Return of Jesus. I am sure that most of you reading this article believe that as well. I’m going to devote this entire article to this one verse and its implications and meaning….
If you take this verse to its logical conclusion, it means that Jesus can return at any time. (Most Christians believe this as well). Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporters call this belief the theory of Imminence:
Jesus can return to the earth at any time.
No prophecy needs to be fulfilled prior to this return.
If this theory is true we can reasonably throw away 25% of the Bible that deals with eschatology (the study of end times) because Jesus can return without any signs or prophecies being fulfilled.”
“…Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan, 2002), encapsulates this teaching perfectly in his book that has sold over thirty million copies and spent years on the New York Times best seller list. Many refer to him as America’s foremost spiritual advisor. On page 285 of this million selling book he makes this bold statement: ‘When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you.’ – Pastor Rick Warren
Pastor Warren was obviously referring to Acts 1: 6-8 where Jesus instructs his disciples that they cannot know the timing of his return with precision. (Whether Jesus actually said to not prepare for or think about his return is highly debatable.)
If you wonder why most churches don’t teach on end-times, this is THE REASON. The thinking of these pastors is why teach about what isn’t going to matter. This obviously is highly dangerous thinking if the theory of Imminence is wrong.
Imminence and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
This theory also has implications in the Rapture timing debate. If Jesus truly can return at any time without the need of prophecies being fulfilled first, then he must return PRIOR to those prophecies. This would mean that he would return prior to the 70th Week of Daniel. The theory of Imminence and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture are intimately tied together.
The Most Misunderstood Bible Verse
So now we understand the implications of this verse, let’s return to studying it to find out what it really says. In regard to this passage, my friend, Pastor Steve Müller of Faith Baptist Church in Gladstone, Australia… has brought to my attention the supreme importance of the words “that day” in Matt. 24:36. Proper interpretation of this verse hinges on these words.
‘Grammatically, Jesus’s use of the words ‘that day’ in Matt. 24:36 must refer back to a day He was just describing in the preceding verses. It cannot refer to an unspoken and silent Pre-Tribulation rapture that He never mentioned. There can be no doubt that “that day” is clearly in reference to the events of Matt. 24:29-31: ‘Immediately after the distress [tribulation] of those days’ — not before, as the Pre-Tribbers would have us believe.” — Pastor Steve Müller (emphasis mine)
With this simple observation, Pastor Müller dismantles the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory’s use of this verse. Let’s look at Matt. 24:30-31 that Pastor Steve refers to: ‘And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His[a]elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.’ (Matt. 24:30-31)
This is the return of Jesus which is preceded by all the signs in Matt. 24:4-29. This simple grammatical proof of Pastor Steve’s shows without question that the verse we have been studying (Matt. 24:36) has NOTHING to do with Imminence.
Noah and Imminence
‘But it sure sounds like it implies Imminence’ you might say. That is only true when the verse is looked at out of context. Pastor Steve’s proof shows what the verse refers to the verses that preceded it. Let’s look at the verses that follow as well: ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.’ (Matt. 24:36-39)
Immediately after the verse we have been studying, Jesus uses the word “For” or “because.” This links the thoughts in Matt. 24:36 to what follows. The coming of the Son of Man will be “just like the days of Noah.” We see a contrast between the righteous (Noah) and the unrighteous. The unrighteous are completely surprised by the flood, but in Genesis we read Noah was not surprised because God warned Noah in advance: ‘For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.’ (Gen. 7:4 NASB, emphasis mine)
As Noah began to prepare the Ark, he did not know when God would send the flood. However, there came a point in time when God warned Noah of the approximate timing of the Flood (“after seven more days”). This is exactly parallel to the situation the Church is in right now. We are preparing for the return of Jesus, and we do not know the timing of his coming. However, when the 70th Week of Daniel begins, we will know its approximate timing and “that day will not overtake [us] like a thief.” (1 Thess. 5:4 NASB).”
– As I (David Montaigne) explained near the beginning of Antichrist 2016-2019:
“The comparison to a ‘thief in the night’ was a reference to the Jewish Temple’s high priest and the Temple guards, and how they would be perceived by a Temple priest only if that priest neglected his duties and fell asleep at his post. The Hebrew people believed that the fire of the altar in their Temple was a heavenly fire brought down by God, and that this special flame could never be replaced if their eternal flame went out. So it was very important for Temple priests to keep watch. If they fell asleep while guarding the Temple, looters could steal gold and silver – or far worse – the sacred fire of the altar could burn out. So the high priest and other Temple guards made their rounds to repeatedly check on the priest on duty overnight. If they found him sleeping, they would set his robe on fire. The shame of a burned robe, coupled with the fear of being burned, generally kept the priests awake on their watch. To a priest who was awake, the coming of the High Priest was friendly and expected as scheduled. But if the priest was asleep, his master’s arrival would be terrifying.
The lesson for the weary priest on night watch was “Don’t fall asleep when you should be watching. If you are awake and watching, then the high priest will arrive as a friend at the hour you expect him. If you are neglecting your duty to God and are asleep, then you will be burned.” Remember Hebrews 9:11 “when Christ appeared as a high priest” and Hebrews 10:21 “and since we have a great priest over the house of God…” Jesus is our High Priest of God’s Temple! The lesson for Christians today is: Think about what the Bible says and be awake to its clues; then when the highest priest of all comes back, it will be exactly when you expected Him, and you will be ready, and He will come as a friend. If you choose to neglect what the Bible says and be mentally asleep, He will come as a thief in the night.”
In a related article on being spiritually asleep in the end times, Nelson Walters points out some of the many times Jesus commands His disciples, and all of us, to stay alert and to WATCH for signs of His coming. “These multiple references to watching or being alert, cause problems for this [pre-tribulation rapture] theory because how does one “watch” for the return of Jesus if [imminence theory suggests we need] not be watching for the signs of his return that he gave us? … 1 Thess. 5:6 says: ‘But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day (the Day of the Lord) would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert (GREGOREO) and sober.’ This passage also clearly differentiates that the opposite of sleeping is ‘watching’ or being alert. Thus spiritual sleeping in an eschatelogical passage means ‘not watching for signs,’ which BTW is the definition of the Theory of Imminence. Believing in Imminence therefore, is spiritually being ‘asleep!’”
Returning to his “Most Misunderstood Bible Verse” article:
“…If you ask 99.9% of Christians if they believe that Jesus will come for the Church like a ‘thief in the night’ they will say ‘yes.’ Yet Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:4 that he will NOT come like a thief in the night to believers, only to unbelievers. This is exactly what Jesus taught comparing his return to the days of Noah. The unrighteous won’t know the day is coming but the righteous will.”
“…In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus prophesied many detailed aspects of the time prior to his return. He is God after all. Yet, western commentators would have us believe God the Son doesn’t know the day of his own return. Rather, what Jesus’s statement about “only the Father” knowing may have meant: “it isn’t the Yom Teruah (of the Rapture) until God the Father announces it’s Yom Teruah.” Only the Father knows; only the Father announces it. This parallels the system used in ancient Israel where the High Priest announced the MO’EDIM and ordered the blowing of trumpets. God the Father will announce the blowing of the Last Trumpet.
Interestingly, my (NW’s) friend Ken Smelko (another reader of this website) has presented a theory that this verse has more to do with the sighting of the new moon than foreknowledge. The Greek word translated ‘knows’ in Matt. 24:36 is EIDO which primarily means “to see, to perceive or to know because you perceive.’ Translated that way, the verse would read: ‘But of that day and hour no one SEES, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.’ (Matt. 24:36) Ken has presented the very real possibility that the Celestial Earthly Disturbance (Matt. 24:29) may obscure the sun and moon on earth and that only God the Father may be able to perceive the new moon on that future Yom Teruah.”
– In End Times and 2019, I (David Montaigne) explain a specific celestial disturbance as the explanation for a POLE SHIFT at the end of the tribulation caused by a wave of energy from the galactic center which approaches at light speed and therefore CANNOT BE SEEN in advance. We have much indirect evidence, but we cannot see it coming before it gets here.
Nelson Walters’ main point is that Matthew 24:36 may help rule out a pre-tribulation rapture but it does not rule out knowing the timing of the Second Coming. (I could definitely be wrong, but in End Times and 2019 and Antichrist 2016-2019 I review the available evidence and explain why I expect Jesus Christ to return on a certain date in late 2019.) This would mean that the second half of 2016 is probably going to be an unmitigated disaster – and that we are already in the final seven years. As Nelson Walters comments: “The bible is pretty clear that the majority of Christians miss the beginning of the 70th Week because they are asleep. (Matt 25:5)”
Look at world events! Look at the world economy! Read the Bible! Read Nelson Walters’ articles and his book: Are We Ready For Jesus? WAKE UP!
Ignorance on such matters will be very costly someday soon. As Nelson points out in the second article I linked to above: “Remember how Jesus told his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ in the Garden of Gethsemane?” [They fell asleep, were startled awake by the angry mob, and denied Christ.] “If they had watched and seen the mob with torches coming up the hill, they would have prayed and been ready and perhaps not abandoned Jesus. If we are not watching and praying prior to the end times, we can be unprepared like the disciples were and may commit apostasy.”
Don’t be suddenly surprised by the tribulation and end up renouncing faith in Christ out of fear. Many will fall away. Wake up, and be ready!
— contributed by David Montaigne,