Matthew 24:36 says, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” What day and what hour is the Lord referring to here? Let’s read Matthew 24:3, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and WHAT SHALL BE THE SIGN OF YOUR COMING, and of the end of the world?” The Lord’s disciples asked the Lord about His return to the earth. What were they to look for to know that day was approaching? Throughout the remainder of this chapter, the Lord describes some of the conditions that will precede His return to the earth to establish His kingdom on the earth.

  • Verses 7-8, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
  • Verse 9, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”
  • Verse 15, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:).”
  • Verse 21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
  • Verse 24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
  • Verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”

The signs that the Lord is sharing with His disciples are descriptive of the seven-year Tribulation Period that will precede His coming to the earth. Verse 21 refers to that time of “great tribulation.” Verse 29 places the time of the Lord’s return as being “after the tribulation.” The Lord then states in verse 36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” When we read this account in Mark 13:32, we see that he clarifies that even the Son, the Lord Jesus did not know exactly when He would return. That verse says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father.” The exact day of the Lord’s return cannot be known, but there are plenty of signs to show when His return is imminent.

How is it that the Lord Jesus, who is God, does not know the date of His return? Is not Christ omniscient? Certainly He is. How can He NOT know everything? It’s not unusual that the angels do not know. They are but created beings who are not always told the workings of the Father, but Christ is the Creator, not the creation. I believe the answer is found in consideration of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read of Christ in Philippians 2:6-7 which says, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” In His great humility, the Lord Jesus, who knew He was not taking anything that was not already His when He claimed equality with God, humbled Himself greatly and became a man. John puts it like this: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). It was as a man that the Lord Jesus limited Himself and did not know the hour of His return. This was left completely to the Father and the Lord will return at the Father’s appointed time. (290.8)