When is Jesus coming back? That is a very important question. In Mark 13, Jesus predicted that the Romans would destroy the Jewish temple under construction during Jesus’ time. To answer their questions, Jesus gave The Olivet Discourse. The disciples ask the following:
“Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled (Mark 13:4)?”
Only the Father Knows Not the Son?
Jesus’ return) no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,
nor the Son (Jesus), but only the Father.
Jesus Doesn’t Know?
Later in this chapter, Jesus answers their question, when will all these things be fulfilled? In other words, when will He return? At that time, Jesus will fulfill prophecy. We don’t expect the answer Jesus gives, in Mark 13:32, the introductory verse to this article. He said even the Son doesn’t know; only the Father knows. How could Jesus not know?
Jesus is God, God is Omniscient
The Son was and is God from eternity past, coequal with the Father and Holy Spirit. He took on human flesh at His conception. The Holy Spirit conceived Him, and the virgin Mary gave Him birth. However, He remained fully God and became fully human. And God is omniscient, which means He knows everything. So, how can Jesus say that the Son doesn’t know when He’ll return?
Jesus is Human
The classic and a reasonable answer is that when Jesus took on humanity, He also took on some human limitations. Jesus became hungry, thirsty, and grew tired, just like we do. He even studied and learned, even though, as God, He was and is all-knowing and wise.
The details of how Jesus’ two natures work together are a mystery. But maybe we don’t understand Jesus’ answer.
Do We Understand Jesus’ Answer?
The answer that’s historically been considered the best–that Jesus was voicing His human limitations–is entirely possible. But Jesus didn’t always restrict Himself to what humans can do.
Jesus Depended on the Father
By depending on the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus healed a man by forgiving the man’s sins. He cast out demons and raised Lazarus from the dead—even though he’d been dead for four days! Jesus even fed crowds of five thousand and four thousand with limited supplies. Jesus exercised the powers and attributes of God.
The Father Determines the Time
Jesus said that only the Father knows the time of Jesus’ return. But that was before Jesus was crucified, had risen from the dead, and ascended to His Father in heaven. Jesus, our ascended Lord, must know that answer now. He knows when He’ll return.
The Discussion Within the Godhead
In Psalm 2, there is an interesting discussion within the Godhead. The Father tells His Anointed (Jesus)—and this is a prophecy–that the nations will be His when His Anointed (Jesus) asks for them.
Jesus did the Father’s Business
Jesus always did what the Father asked Him; He was always about His Father’s business:
Then Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. For whatever He does, likewise the Son does (John 5:19).
Jesus meant that the Father was responsible for determining when Jesus would return. And the Father decided that Jesus would return when the Son (Jesus the Anointed) asked for His inheritance (to rule the nations). Again, this seems likely.
It’s When Jesus Asks For His Inheritance
If so, Jesus wasn’t unaware of the time of His return because His humanity was limiting His omniscience. Instead, He deferred to the Father. He meant that it was the Father’s responsibility to determine when Jesus would return. And according to Psalm 2, the Father declared that Jesus would return to receive His inheritance and rule the nations when He asked for them.
Jesus is Keeping a Confidence
If Jesus was submitting to the Father, Jesus’ omniscience is no longer a problem in this passage or in its parallel passage in Matthew. Deferring is not taking credit for something someone else is responsible for, even if you are “in the know.” It’s keeping a confidence.
We Don’t Know when Jesus Will Return
So, if this suggestion is correct, instead of getting distracted by wondering about His omniscience, we can concentrate on His teaching:
“Take heed, watch and pray. For you do not know when the time will come. For the Son of Man is like a man leaving on a far journey who left his house and gave authority to his servants and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch (Mark 13:33-34).”
When is Jesus Coming Back?
We do not know when the time will come. So, as porters, we’re commanded to watch, stay awake, and be alert!
Come, Lord Jesus!
We invite you to watch the Great News video on this page to find out how to be sure you are ready when Jesus returns to take all who believe in His name to live forever with Him in Heaven.
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