This is the second blog answering questions texted during the service this past Sunday on the issue of eschatology.
If Jesus is God, why doesn’t He know the time of His return (Matthew 24:36)?
The interplay between Jesus divine and human natures is one of the deepest theological issues in the Scriptures. Jesus always has been and is fully God, and never divested himself of a single attribute of divinity. This includes his omniscience. But Jesus also became human, meaning that Jesus took on the limitations of being human. He is the all-powerful God but had to eat in order to sustain himself. He is the omnipresent God who lived in Palestine and was limited in his physical location. He is the omniscient God who had to learn and grew in his wisdom and in his humanity took on voluntary limitations in his human intellect. All of this is an incredible mystery, but it is the glory of God demonstrated in the incarnation of the Son.
At the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 the early church affirmed the divine and human nature of Jesus, saying that Christ was “perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.” The Chalcedonian Creed affirmed that Jesus was to acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.” The idea is that the nature of divinity and the nature of humanity were both preserved in Jesus in such a way that both natures expressed themselves in fullness and in complete union with each other. In the ESV Study Bible on this passage, it says, “How Jesus could have limited knowledge and yet know all things is difficult, and much remains a mystery, for nobody else has ever been both God and man. One possibility is that Jesus regularly lived on the basis of his human knowledge but could at any time call to mind anything from his infinite knowledge.”
In Matthew 24, Jesus is warning his followers not to follow after teachers who try to convince their followers that they have everything figured out in their eschatology. Throughout the ages crackpot prophets and crazed end times gurus have developed charts and graphs giving reasons Jesus would return at a certain time. People have written books explaining why Jesus must return in a given year or on a given date, and cults have formed following leaders who claimed to have the inside track on when the events of Revelation would occur. Sadly, many people have been duped into selling their homes and property and living in some commune to prepare for the great day, and found themselves broken when that date came and went and their so-called prophet proved to be false. Jesus words in this passage are clear, if someone comes claiming to know the details and the date, that fact alone discredits them as a prophet or teacher from God and they should be ignored and labeled as a false teacher. This is true because in his humanity Jesus is not aware of the date of his return. And if Jesus cannot declare the “when” during his earthly ministry, that is a clear sign that the detail of the day and hour of the coming of Christ is something known only in the secret council of God.