In order to reach the truth on any given subject, brothers and sisters in Christ must challenge each other on areas of disagreement from time to time. This is not to be done out of hate, anger, or the need to defend one’s own pride, but instead with the goal of coming together to test each other’s beliefs in view of the word of God for the purpose of coming to a “more perfect” understanding of the truth. It is with this attitude that I seek to challenge my good brother Ben Vick, Jr.’s recent article on the Second Coming of Christ that was published on the “God’s Everlasting Word” Facebook page. The main point of the article was summed up by brother Vick in the last paragraph, “If Jesus knew when the destruction of Jerusalem would be (and He did, for he gave the signs as to its coming), and if He did not know when His second coming would be, then the two events could NOT be at the same time” (Vick, “Second”). Our goal in this essay is to demonstrate that Jesus did not now the day nor the hour of the destruction of Jerusalem because the text indicates that He did not know, knowledge of a general time frame does not negate not knowing the day or hour, and knowledge of accompanying signs does not negate not knowing the day or hour.
First, and the most powerful argument, is that Jesus, and other scriptures, indicated that He did not know the day or the hour of the destruction of Jerusalem. Before I introduce other texts, notice this passage earlier in the Olivet Discourse. “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath” (Matthew 24:20). If Jesus knew the day or the hour of the overthrow of Judaism, why would He not tell them about the specific timing of their flight? Or maybe even comfort them by saying, “Don’t worry because your flight will be on a comfortable Monday afternoon in the late Spring.” The fact is, though Jesus knew the general timing of the fall of Jerusalem and the signs that would lead up to it, at the time of the Olivet Discourse, He did not know the day or the hour. Also, notice this very powerful verse from Zechariah 14 – a passage that is predicting the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. “It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light” (Zechariah 14:7).
Second, Jesus’ knowledge of the general time frame does not negate Him not knowing the day or the hour. For example, if I were to say that I was coming over next week, I could come on Monday at 3:00PM or Friday at 11:00AM and would not violate my general promise. You may not know the specific day or the hour that I plan on showing up, but you know it will be no later than Saturday at 11:59PM. Jesus promised that His numerically second Parousia would be within that generation (Matthew 24:27). He did not say that it would be on this day of this month, and He didn’t even indicate what season it would be in; He just promised that it would be within that generation. If His second Parousia was not within that generation, then, like me in the example above, He violated His promise, but His knowledge of the general time frame does not contradict His ignorance of the specifics.
Third, Jesus’ knowledge of the signs leading up to the abomination of desolation does not contradict His statement in Matthew 24:36. A prime example of this is the birth of a child. The Doctor may make a guess about the general time frame in which the child may be born, but to guess the exact day and hour (or even season) would be a stretch; however, there are signs that indicate when a child will be born. A lot of children are born before the date that is usually set, and some are even born after. In natural births, the knowledge of the day or hour of the birth of a child does not come about until after the child is born (just ask the poor mothers who are in labor for much longer than expected!). Just as Noah did not know the day or the hour in which the flood would come, he knew that the day was drawing closer as he was finishing up the ark. In fact, seven days before the floods came, Noah was warned to get everyone on board! (Genesis 7:4). Jesus was aware of the signs that would lead up to His second Parousia, but that does not mean that He knew the day or the hour of it.
Brother Vick’s comments in the last paragraph concerning annihilation of the righteous and unrighteous are a reflection of the brotherhood’s desperate attempt to delegitimize Realized Eschatology by presenting a conclusion that is not demanded by the teaching. We believe that when one dies faithfully they are “far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:12-13). If the judgement has come and Babylon (Jerusalem) has fallen (v. 7-8), then we are blessed – not void of hope as our brother would suggest.