No One Knows
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking 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. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:31-37)
Soon you and I must meet the thrice holy God face to face in judgment. Soon we will cross over that river that will carry us out of this changing, temporal world of time and sense into that world in which all things are unchanging and eternal. Soon you and I are going to meet God.
Like Amos the prophet, I urge you, “Prepare to meet thy God!” When Paul knew that the time of his departure was at hand, he said, “I am now ready.” Are you? Are you ready? Are you prepared to meet God?
Soon we must meet God in judgment, but no one knows when. Therefore, our Lord gives us a word of constant, pressing urgency as he concludes his discourse in Mark 13. He calls us to watchfulness. We should always be on the lookout for Christ’s second coming. Every redeemed soul, in whom God the Holy Spirit has performed the saving operations of his grace, is always ready for his Lord’s return and ready to meet God. Yet, it is most blessed to be, as Robert Hawker put it, “in an actual state of waiting, looking, longing for and hastening to the Lord’s corning…Think what a blessed privilege this is, and beg of the Lord Jesus to be so found at his coming (2 Peter 3:12).”
Our Savior makes a promise we would be wise to lay to heart. — “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” All creation and all things connected with this present creation, all things involved in the curse, all things affected by and infected with sin shall pass away. This present heaven and earth shall soon be dissolved, burnt up with the fire of God’s holy wrath (Mark 13:24-25; 2 Peter 3:10-14; 2 Corinthians 4:18).
We live in a world in which everything is temporal and passing away. We are all going to a world in which everything is permanent and eternal. The bliss of heaven is eternal. The torments of the damned in hell are everlasting. Our state in that unseen world of eternity depends entirely upon our relationship to the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, in this world of time.
If you are washed in Christ’s blood and robed in his righteousness now, you will be clean and holy forever. If you trust Christ as your Savior now, he will be your Savior forever. If you are one with Christ now, you shall be one with Christ in eternity. If you love Christ and are loved of Christ now, you shall love Christ and be loved of Christ forever.
If you meet Christ in judgment as an unbeliever, you will be an unbeliever forever. If you are unclean when you leave this world, you will be an unclean forever. If you are a rebel when you draw your last breath, you will be a rebel forever. If you are cursed and damned when you go out to meet God in judgment, you will be cursed of God, hated by God, and damned by God forever!
Our only hope for eternal life is the free, sovereign, saving grace of God in Christ, the sinners’ Substitute.
“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Christ’s flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be ‘til I die!”
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” God’s Word is immutable, absolute, certain and unalterable. That statement applies to God’s written Word of Inspiration, the Holy Scriptures, and to every word of decree, doctrine, grace, promise and judgment revealed in Holy Scripture (Isaiah 40:8; 46:9-11; 55:11; Psalm 119:89). He who is the omniscient, holy, perfect, omnipotent, unchangeable God never needs to alter his word. God’s word is never yea and nay, but always yea and amen.
In verse 32 the Lord Jesus makes a declaration, which presents a problem to many. — “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Here is the problem: — If the Lord Jesus Christ is himself God the Son, equal in all things and one with the Father and the Spirit, as the Scriptures universally assert that he is and the doctrine of the Trinity demands, if he is God all-wise, all-knowing, omniscient, before whom darkness is light, from whom nothing can be hid, — How can he be ignorant of the day and hour of his second advent?
The answer is both simple and obvious, when we compare Scripture with Scripture. In fact, the imagined problem is no problem at all, but merely a demonstration of the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is exactly who and what he claims to be — both God and man — as truly and completely God as if he were not man, and as truly and completely man as if he were not God.
As a man, our Savior was no more omniscient than he was omnipotent or omnipresent. When he hungered, it was not God who hungered, but man. When he thirsted, it was not God who thirsted, but man.
In the four gospels he sometimes speaks of himself as a man (as here), and sometimes he speaks of himself as God, in order to show us that he is fully both. As God, he said to his disciples, “Our friend, Lazarus, sleepeth,” though no one had informed him of Lazarus’ death. Yet, when he came to Bethany, he asked as a man, “Where have ye laid him?”
The same thing is true in Mark 13:32. Obviously, as the Son of God, he knew and always has known the precise second of his second advent. But as the Son of man, he was altogether ignorant of it. He who is our Redeemer must be both God and man in one glorious person.
In this day of prophecy mania our Lord’s words here need to be emphasized and remembered. He tells us in the plainest terms possible that no one knows when the Lord Jesus Christ shall appear in his glorious Second Advent. The language of Scripture in this regard is crystal clear (Acts 1:4-11).
No one knows, or even has a hint of an idea, when the Lord Jesus will come again to this world. The event is certain; but no one knows the time. Not only do the Scriptures tell us this emphatically, we have a glaring proof of the fact in our Savior’s own words. — If the perfect, holy man Christ Jesus, that man who knew the Book of God like no other man, did not know it, if he did not figure out the day or hour of his appearing, no other man is about to do so!
And no one knows when Christ is coming to take him out of this world to meet God in judgment. I find it utterly amazing that we so blatantly ignore this fact. David said, “There is but a step between me and death.” We all say we realize that; but very few people seem to live like they realize it. — “There is but a step between me and death!” God has, from eternity, fixed the moment and the means by which he will take each of us out of this world. When our number is up, we shall be taken. And as soon as God takes us out of this world, we are going to stand before him in judgment.
I know there is a Day of Judgment at the end of time. Following the general resurrection, there will be a general judgment (John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15). But the Scriptures plainly speak of us meeting God in judgment as soon as we draw our last breath (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Hebrews 9:27). — “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
In verses 34-35 our Master puts forth a parable, in which he explains our present position and responsibility as his servants in this world.
“For the Son of man is as a man taking 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. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.”
There are several things in this parable which we ought to lay to heart. The church of Christ is his house: he alone is the Master of his house. The Lord Jesus left his church, his house, under the care, authority and rule of his servants. His servants are men counted worthy by him to preach the gospel and to rule his house with the authority of his Word (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
The Lord Jesus has appointed to each of his own a specific work to do. — “He gave to every man his work.” Our Master has not abandoned his house: he is coming back to it; and his coming will be sudden, without warning. Let us live in the blessed anticipation of his arrival, watching for his appearance, praying for his grace and working in his house for the good of his house and the glory of his great name.
The Master has assigned a post to each of his own in this world.
“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is…Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (vv. 33, 35-37).
Ever be watchful of your own soul. Ever stir yourself up to renewed consecration to Christ. When the Master comes, I pray that he will not find me sleeping at my post. One of the old, old writers said, “Be doing something, that the devil may always find you engaged.” When John Calvin’s health was failing him and his friends urged him to rest more and do less work to preserve his health, he responded — “Would you want my Master to find me idle?” Let us not be found sleeping at our post, but watching, praying and working.
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