Knowing the Day and Hour of Jesus’ Return

I can hear the howls of protest already! There is probably no topic that brings more disagreement than the end times- the end of this present age and the return of Jesus Christ. And yet, if there is one concept that most people are in agreement with, it is the statement that no man knows the day or the hour of His return. Jesus did in fact teach His disciples this reality and I am not in any way attempting to cast doubt on it.

But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matt. 24:36)

This scripture is the favorite end time passage of unbelievers; actually it is the only scripture about His return that most of society is aware of. It is usually quoted with the implied conclusion that we can’t know anything with certainty about the time of Jesus’ return, and that it is an error to even try. This gross ignorance of scripture is to be expected from those outside the church, but it is inexcusable for Christians to walk in darkness and confusion when there is such an abundance of detail in the bible concerning the events at the end of the age.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. (I Thess. 5:4)

Of course every so often some preacher comes along, predicting a date for the return of Christ, (or for “the rapture”) and makes a fool of himself while bringing dishonor to the church and undermining the credibility of everyone who speaks about the end time events. In April of 2011, another of these false teachers made news headlines when he purchased billboards proclaiming the end of the world would take place in May of that year. He was understandably mocked, the month of May came and went, and Jesus remained in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. Just this week, several news outlets ran a story about this preacher’s new-found humility. Here is a sample:

California preacher admits he was wrong about Doomsday prediction
Published March 10, 2012
ALAMEDA, Calif. — The elderly California preacher who convinced hundreds of faithful followers that the world would end last May has conceded he was wrong.
“Events within the last year have proven that no man can be fully trusted. Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken,” wrote Harold Camping, in a letter to listeners of his evangelical Family Radio program.

Two comments are in order before moving to the main point of this article: First, the Day of the Lord is not “doomsday” or “the end of the world.” The world never ends, according to the bible. Secondly, I take exception to Camping’s statement that, “no man can be fully trusted.” There is one man who has been found worthy and faithful, and His name is Jesus! A human being is returning to take up His throne to rule over all the nations, and He has a bride who knows He can be trusted completely:

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Rev. 19: 1-2)

I was interviewed on the local NBC affiliate’s evening news regarding Camping’s claims about the imminent return of Jesus. In my statement, I explained to the news anchor that, “The bible is very clear that certain events must take place before the day of Christ’s return. Because these events have not yet taken place, we can know with absolute certainty that Jesus is not coming back next month.” I could have quoted Matthew 24:36 which states that not even the Son knows the day or the hour of His return, but only the Father… and I would have been correctly applying this scripture. And all the television viewers, saved and unsaved, would have nodded with approval over this familiar passage. However, I intentionally did not quote this verse because it is too simple an answer, and because as mentioned above it is frequently used as an excuse to dismiss the important study of the end time prophecies altogether.

I am going to make a statement that some may take exception to. I ask that my readers hang with me and read the rest of this article before rejecting my premise, which is this: When Jesus made the statement that no one knows the day or hour, it was true when He spoke it and it would continue to be true for an extended period of time that we are still within. But the season is coming when we will not only be able to know the day, but even the hour. I can prove this from the bible, without any convoluted calculations or twisting of meaning. God has given us much information about the timing of events at the end of this age. In fact, we are instructed by scripture to know the times and seasons in which we live. Jesus rebuked the leaders of His day because they could forecast the weather but they couldn’t discern the signs of the times. But the bible includes detailed information about events and periods of time that had not yet been written when Jesus gave His famous teaching on the signs of the end of this age. God expects His people to study and know these things so that we are not caught off guard.

Have you ever wondered why God has kept the date of His Son’s return hidden? He has not given us the day or the hour as yet because we don’t need to know it yet! I suspect that if we knew how much time we had left, the overwhelming majority of the church would use the information to live even more complacently than we already do. Jesus commented that evil behavior would result from the attitude that He was delaying His return. (Luke 12:45) However, the days will come when we will need to know that His return is imminent because the pressure will be intense and the persecution will be unprecedented in history. Because of this, the scriptures have revealed exact numbers of years and days between specific events. Once these events unfold, we will be able to know with certainty where we are on God’s clock.

Because of misguided preachers like Harold Camping, Edgar Whisenant, and Greg Brewer (the latter two authoring the infamous “Rapture Report 1988” and then “1989”) the church as a whole wants to have nothing to do with studying times and dates in the bible. This is a serious error, just as serious as setting silly unbiblical dates. For example, did you know that an Old Testament prophet predicted the exact calendar day that Jesus would be revealed as Messiah? The prophet is Daniel, and the prophecy of the seventy weeks given to him by the angel Gabriel in Daniel chapter nine makes this prediction. The prophecy gives the start date of a specific period time that would culminate with the revealing of messiah. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the exact day of the prophecy, given several hundred years previously. (Please see my article on the prophecy of the seventy weeks for the full details.)

Importantly, Daniel received the angelic visitation and the amazing prophecy while he was studying time-related prophecies in Jeremiah. He knew from his study of Jeremiah’s prophecy that Israel was nearing the end of the seventy-year captivity, and he was seeking God about the future of his people when Gabriel appeared to him. If the scholars of Jesus’ day had searched out the meaning of Daniel’s prophecy, they could have known with certainty that Jesus was the messiah! So let us strongly resist the trend to avoid prophetic timelines. When God gives us counts of years and days, He expects us to take them to heart. Based on the prophecy of the seventy weeks alone, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day are completely without excuse about not knowing when to expect Him. The same thing will occur at the time of His second coming.

This prophecy of the seventy weeks also provides us with the key to understanding New Testament prophetic timelines. One “week” of seven years remains on God’s prophetic clock, and it will most certainly come to pass in exactly the same way as the first 69 weeks did… that is, literally and with precise timing. The beginning of this final “week” commences with the confirming of a seven-year covenant “with many.” (Daniel 9:27) Once that event takes place, it will no longer be biblical to claim that “no man can know the day or the hour” in the general sense that it is quoted these days. Scripturally, a prophetic year is 360 days, and when this covenant is confirmed there will be exactly 2,520 days (7 x 360) until the events of the prophecy come to pass. Furthermore, this final seven years is divided into two halves in scripture, with the second 3 ½ years making up what the bible calls the Great Tribulation. This period is referred to as 1,260 days, three and a half years, and “time, times, and half a time” in scripture.

Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Rev. 12:6)

The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. (Rev. 12:14)

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. (Rev. 11:3)

This period of time begins exactly half way through the final seven year covenant with an event called “the abomination of desolation.” No one will be able to miss this event; Jesus instructed the Jews to flee Jerusalem without looking back on the day it takes place. When it happens, there will be exactly 1260 days left until the return of Jesus at the end of the tribulation. We have this on biblical authority.

Let’s go one level further. In Revelation chapter 11 we are told that two prophetic witnesses will have a powerful 3 ½ year ministry. At the end of this1260 days, they are killed and their dead bodies lie in the street for 3 ½ days. (This seems to indicate that they begin their ministry just days before the Abomination of Desolation.) Notice the language of Revelation 11:

And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them who saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe comes quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. Rev. (11:11-15)

Three and a half days is 84 hours. We can state with biblical authority that 84 hours after these two prophets are killed, they will raise from the dead. In that same hour there will be a great earthquake that kills seven thousand people and destroys a tenth of Jerusalem, resulting in repentance by many. The next event is the return of Jesus, which follows the resurrection and earthquake “quickly.” The Greek word used here means “without delay” or “suddenly.” For those who recognize the authority of scripture, it is clear that there will come a brief period of three and a half years when we will know the day and the hour of His return, within a very narrow margin of time! We do not need to know it now; we will need to know it then.

To those of us who love Him and are looking for His appearing, these are exciting passages of scripture. Jesus wants His bride to know the times and the seasons; He wants us to accurately discern the signs of the times. The study of end time prophecy and the associated time predictions that are clearly given in scripture are not for a few eccentric kooks; the entire church needs to be literate regarding what the bible says about the Day of the Lord. We are to be lights in the gross darkness, trumpets giving a clear sound in the midst of confusion, and prophets of Truth in the face of much deception. The Lord has not left us in the dark about His plans and His time tables, and we can have great courage in the midst of the trouble that is coming soon to test all those who dwell on the earth.

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (II Tim. 4:8)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12