I recently had the opportunity to talk with a young man who had just been promoted to direct all campus-outreach programs for a large evangelistic organization based in Nashville. He spoke to our group about his own road to Christ and about the need for evangelism today.
I asked him whether or not he felt an increased urgency for such outreach. I asked because I personally feel that the Lord has placed in me a sense of His coming very soon. That is what is prompting me to write this blog, as well as speeding up the timetable for my End Times suspense novels.
His answer was one I frequently hear—that the Bible says we’re not to know the time or season of His return. He used the phrase “time or season,” pulling the phrase from Acts 1:7 where Jesus answered a specific question by His disciples just before His ascension. Yet, His answer seems to note something broader than when He might return.
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [Act 1:7 ESV]
We’re not to know times or seasons, plural, that have been established by God, the Father. Another translation for seasons is epochs. To me, this is more like Jesus was saying we’re not to know the broader scope of history, the epochs of time, laid out by God. This isn’t the same as saying “the day or the hour” as Jesus told us in Matt 24:36:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Does this mean we’re not to know the season of His return? The Parable of the Fig Tree is all about knowing the season. We are to be able to discern “when summer is near.”
The Word also tells us that God keeps nothing from His children. When asked about His speaking in parables, Jesus answered in Matt 13:11: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Likewise in 1 Thes 5:4, we’re instructed that we “are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Which day? The day of His return. Jesus also tells us the End Times will be like the days of Noah and of Lot, as I mentioned previously. Well, Noah knew the flood and destruction was coming. He wasn’t surprised by it. And Jesus also tells us that our eyes and ears are blessed because they see and hear (Matt 13:16). Yes, we’re to keep those eyes and ears open so that we can discern the season of His return.
But what about the day and hour? Are we to know those as well? Well, yes and no. Only the Father will decide the exact time. It’s much like the tradition of a Jewish wedding. Upon being betrothed, the groom was to build a house for his bride. And only when the groom’s father was satisfied with that house was the groom instructed by his father to go get his bride. That said, Jesus made a curious comment in Mat 24:44, the end of this section of scripture about His return. He said, we wouldn’t know the hour of His return, with no mention of the day or date. Can we know the date? More on that to come.
In reality, Jesus’ mention in Mat 24:36 about not knowing the hour or the day is a clue. There’s one Jewish holiday that this phrase pertains to. Yom Teruah—today called by its Persian name, Rosh Hashanah—was ordained by God to begin on the first day of the seventh month, Tishrei. It’s the only holy day to start on the first day of its month, and it was to be a day of celebration, of blowing trumpets, and of feasting.
Why is its being on the first day important? Well, each month began only upon the confirmation of the new moon. The Sanhedrin would send out watchmen into the hills to watch out for the moon, or its absence. Its hour could not be predicted, and because of that, it could fall on either of two days depending upon which side of 6pm—the start of a new day—it fell. When at least two watchmen returned to the Sanhedrin to confirm that it was the new moon, the High Priest, and only the High Priest, would announce the start of Yom Teruah. And he would announce it with the blowing of the trumpets, the shofar.
Sound familiar? I firmly believe that Christ will return on Yom Teruah. I can hear the protests: “But, but, we know when that day and hour will be for each upcoming year. Our astronomical computers can give us precise timing. We don’t need to rely upon watchmen in the hills of Judea. Doesn’t that fly in the face of Jesus’ statement?” Again, yes . . . and no. While we might know when Yom Teruah will start each year, do we know the actual year? Over two thousand years ago, the Sanhedrin was so determined to figure out who the Messiah might be that it repeatedly fudged their calendar in the hope of confirming first one man and then another as the Messiah based upon ancient prophecies. Although it’s currently year 5783 on the Jewish calendar, that year is biblically accurate only to plus/minus four or five years. Allegedly, it wasn’t until 339 AD that the Sanhedrin of that time decided to “fix” the year of the Jewish calendar, leading to the year we have today.
So, how will we know the season? First, by observing what is going on around us with our eyes that see and ears that hear. But the Bible holds another clue. A Bible chronologist I’ve come to know and respect, William Struse, has used the Masoretic texts to try to discern the actual year. In his studies, he’s shown that there were 41 Jubilee cycles between Adam and Abraham and another 41 cycles between Abraham and Jesus. We’re now in the last years of the 41st cycle since Jesus walked the earth, but again, thanks to the Sanhedrin, we have a plus/minus four- or five-year window.
Our Lord’s second coming could be this fall or five years from now, maybe longer but that would appear to fall outside the Jubilee cycle. God is a God of order, and His timing throughout the Bible has always been spot on. When He told Abraham that his descendants would be in Egypt for 400 years, they lived in Egypt for 400 years. He wouldn’t give us a nebulous timetable for Christ’s return. We still need our eyes and ears to understand the season. That said, the Book of Revelation gives us more clues about the potential date of His return. More on that in future posts.
I have one more foundational stone to lay. So, here come da judge, here come da judge. Sorry, I know that dates me. Anyone younger than 40 might not even know where that came from. On to the next post . . .