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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Timing of the Return of the Lord

The Timing of the Return of the Lord

NOTE:  The content of this paper has been extracted and condensed from various articles and videos composed by Bob Schlenker (including scripture references) from the site of http://theopenscroll.blogspot.com/

The general consensus among church members is that no one can know the time of the return of Jesus.  The pre-tribulation rapture group believes that Jesus could and can return at any time after His ascension into heaven.  His return is always imminent and, of course, will happen prior to the 70th week of Daniel.  Various individuals believe that it is possible to ascertain the general time period but not the actual day or hour.  Pre-wrath and post tribulation believing people can watch the Revelation signs and have a general idea.

The most popular verse for this thought of no one can know the time is Matthew 24:36 which essentially states that no one knows.

"But as for that day and hour no one knows it — not even the angels in heaven — except the Father alone.   (Matthew 24:36 NET)

Does that mean, no one can ever know or does it mean, no one yet knows, implying the time may be known in the future?  This paper will follow the premise that no one knew at the time the statement was uttered but eventually the truth could be made known to the ardent followers of Jesus Christ.

Another classic example of “no one knows” is found in Acts 1:6-7.

So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, "Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He told them, "You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.   (Acts 1:6-7 NET)

The disciples asked Jesus if He now intended to restore the kingdom to Israel.  He answered the disciples, “You are not permitted to know the times….etc.”  Again, does this mean that no one is ever to know the times?  Perhaps it means that the time to know is in the future and it is not for the disciples to know the times.  After all, if Jesus had actually told them the time of His return, what effect would that information make on the history of the world, the history of the Church, and the lives of every present and future individual?  The knowledge of the return of Jesus may have had enormous effects in prior history, but today only a handful are even concerned and the remainder wouldn’t believe someone if they were told.

Is Knowing the Times Possible?
Could be declaration of certain exegetes that the return of the Lord is only known by God and will never be revealed to any human be a true statement? 

Certainly the sovereign LORD does nothing without first revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.  (Amos 3:7 NET)

Amos seems to clear up the matter, but let’s look at the words of Jesus.

For nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light. So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."   (Luke 8:17-18 NET)

He specifically stated that nothing is forever hidden but rather that everything will be revealed.  But, who was He referring to?  Apparently there are two groups of people referenced in this scripture:  the “haves” and the “have nots”.  The haves will be given more information and the “have nots” will have information taken away from them.  The context of the statements of these verse can be found in Luke 8:10.  At some point the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ would be given the opportunity to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God.  The others would not understand the knowledge even if it were given to them.

He said, "You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.
(Luke 8:10 NET)

Does this preclude the knowledge of the day and hour or the times and seasons?  Apparently the only variables concerning knowing the day and hour is: when; and to whom.  When Daniel wanted to know the timeframe of prophetic events, he was basically told, “The information is sealed until the time of the end.”  We can then assume that someone will know just prior to the 70th week of Daniel or immediately after its beginning if we are nearing the time of the end which perhaps we are.

He said, "Go, Daniel. For these matters are closed and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made clean, and refined, but the wicked will go on being wicked. None of the wicked will understand, though the wise will understand.  (Daniel 12:9-10 NET)

Note that the wicked will continue being wicked and will never understand, but the wise followers of the Kingdom of God will certainly understand.

Revelation 3:3 presents the truth of the return as a double negative sentence.  If you do not wake up I will come at a time you do not expect and you will never know the time. Presented as a positive, it would read as, “If you stay awake I will come as expected and it will be possible for you to know the hour of my coming.”  Will no one be awake?  Of course there will be a small group of people that remain awake.

Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you.  (Revelation 3:3 NET)

Jesus gave a warning to stay alert or stay awake because you do not (yet) know the day or the hour.  If that is to mean one can never know at any time, then the warning to stay alert is total nonsense and should never have been stated.  Many today are not watching or staying alert and why should someone watch and pay attention if you will never have the knowledge of the timing?  Just drink another beer and watch another football game and don’t worry about it.

Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.
(Matthew 25:13 NET)

Jesus commented to a crowd that they were very good at weather forecasting but appeared to be totally unaware the Messiah was before them preaching “the Kingdom of God is at hand”.  Currently, could Jesus make the same statement to us?  The Gospels proclaim that a few people did know and were aware of the appearance of the Messiah but the vast majority did not.  Today, a few are aware of the times and seasons and are watching with alertness.

Jesus also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, 'A rainstorm is coming,' and it does. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat,' and there is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?   
(Luke 12:54-56 NET)

A study of 2nd Kings 2:1-5 will demonstrate that Elijah was to be taken up by God.  Rather than being a total secret, this information was known by a small group of people:  Elisha; a group of prophets at Bethel; and a group of prophets at Jericho.  As a side note:  the scripture states Elijah was taken to heaven but some exegetes think he was merely taken to another earthly location that was more safe and peaceful.  Likewise a small group of individuals knew that Jesus, the Messiah, was to be born:  Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simeon, the wise men, and the shepherds.  Although the scripture does not give details, it appears that no one else bothered to visit the baby Jesus even when they were informed of His birth.

In Isaiah 46:10, God states that He announces the end from the beginning and will reveal that which has not yet happened to someone before the time of its occurrence.  As a bonus, God states that His plan will be accomplished.  This means, His designed plan will be achieved regardless of Satan, the elite, and the Illuminati.  God’s plans are always made known in advance but not necessarily by a plain simple easy-to- understand statement.  They occasionally appear as plain statements but usually they are revealed by types and shadows hidden within the scriptures.

…….I am God, and there is none like me, who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred, who says, 'My plan will be realized, I will accomplish what I desire,'   (Isaiah 46:9-10 NET)

Knowledge of the Time of the Lord’s Coming
The context of Matthew 24:36-44 is the answer of the disciples question stated in Matthew 24:3 i.e. “what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”

As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"   (Matthew 24:3 NET)

Verses 37 through 41 is a parenthesis or a parenthetical statement.  The main theme is:  knowing the day or having advance knowledge of the coming of the Lord.  The parenthesis is presented as a pattern:  as it was so it will be. 

The Days of Noah’s Ark and the Flood
There are two groups of people referenced during the days prior to the flood:  the majority who were eating and drinking and the eight individuals entering into the ark.  When the flood came those outside the ark did not understand the gravity of the situation.  Those that entered the ark did understand something the others did not.  A more current situation is then given.  Two people are shown in various situations where one is taken and the other is not taken.  We are not specifically told the difference between the pairs but there is a distinction between them.

In this example, if the timing of the flood was unknown by everyone then the coming of the Lord will be unknown by everyone.  However, the time of the coming of the flood was known by some and they were prepared.  Likewise the coming of the Lord will also be known by some prior to the event and they will also be prepared.

For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left.   (Matthew 24:37-41 NET)

For in seven days I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made."  (Genesis 7:4 NET)

Noah was informed of the date it would start raining.  Noah began building the ark several years prior to the flood because he was informed of the coming desolation and he believed the words of the Lord God.  It is said that Noah preached of the coming flood for many years but no one believed him.  Then he was told it would start in exactly seven days and he may have preached that as well.  Understand the words of Jesus, “the coming of the Son of Man will be exactly like the days of Noah.”

"Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
(Matthew 24:42-44 NET)

In 1 Thessalonians 5 we again are presented with two groups of people:  those of darkness and those of the light.  The people of darkness will be saying it is a time of peace and safety and they will be overtaken with sudden destruction.  The people of the light will not be surprised and the day will not come as a thief in the night.  Some will know the timing but not a large number.  Knowing that the timing of the return is knowable is not necessarily the same as the exact knowledge of the date but it is a huge step in the right direction.  This information should give the wise people the impetus to study and watch, which is what the Lord Jesus has said all along.

Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness.   (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 NET)

The Mystery of the Times and Seasons
The earthly dimension and the heavenly dimension are in a state of conflict.  Why it is happening, I do not know.  Any Watcher, demon, angel, or Satan (whatever the entity’s name) should know that the Almighty Lord God, creator of everything, will win the war exactly as it was planned in His mind.  Perhaps angelic beings are as people – they lose sight, lose trust, and lose faith and knowledge of God.  However, God is sovereign, the stakes are high, and events must historically be played out with victors and victims.  Every event is planned for a particular point in time.  Events are laid out in sequence on a time line for the purpose of context.  Cause and effect must be apparent or the historical sequence would be nonsense.  Future prophetic events would also have no meaning if not placed on a timeline.  The knowledge of timing is the key to understanding events.  The timing of events and the events themselves are connected to give them meaning.  Apart from each other, they have no meaning, therefore the timing of events may be hidden for a while but they must eventually become known.  One can have information about timing and information about events but they must be connected to have understanding.

The righteous speak the wisdom of God with understanding.

Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory.   (1 Corinthians 2:7 NET)

Not everyone will understand these things – only a few.  The timing of things will be revealed by the Spirit of God to those who love God.

But just as it is written, "Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him." God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.   (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NET)

If the timing of events and seasons such as the return of the Lord can be known then Christians have been deceived by past commentators and preachers.  Our past understandings and decisions made were based on a lie.  Therefore the time we have remaining must be considered and some may just really don’t want to know due to the method of which one’s life has been lived.  Regardless, the Lord loves you and desires that you wake up and be alert.  If one has come to recognize that knowability is possible then the Lord is able to open your eyes and reveal the timing.

Going back to Matthew 24:43 we see that if the owner of the house had known the timing of the coming thief, he would not have let his house be broken into.  It must be asked:  who is the thief; who is the owner; what is the house? 

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into.   (Matthew 24:43 NET)

It appears the Lord will take those who are ready and leave behind those who are not.  A farmer will take the ripe from the field and leave the rest.  The Lord is the one who comes as a thief and removes the valuables from the house which is the house of God or the church of God.

Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left.
(Matthew 24:40-41 NET)

In the Jewish wedding ceremony, the bridegroom comes at night as a thief and steals or takes his bride from her house.  He then takes his bride to be with him to his father’s house.  The bride is of great value to the bridegroom and she is not surprised when he comes because his arrival has been expected and she is most willingly taken. Of course, the Lord Jesus, is the bridegroom and believers are the bride.  One will be taken and one will be left.

The owner of the house will not know the time of the coming of the thief, however, he will not be keeping watch, and will not want his house broken into.  What if the owner of the house represents church leaders who consider the church as their own house?  Will they be watching for the coming of the Lord and teaching others to watch?  Do the church leaders truly prepare their people to be a prepared bride for the coming of the bridegroom?  They will inadvertently and unknowingly lead as many as possible astray by deceit due to their training and past Biblical understanding.

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into.  (Matthew 24:43 NET)

Quote from Bob Schlenker found at http://theopenscroll.com/beyond_veil/knowday.htm
It may be that this new revelation will take a little time to settle in. This is really a very fundamental doctrine in that much of your thinking and doing rests upon the assurance that the time of the Lord's coming is unknowable. When you turn your foundation right-side up, everything built on it must be reevaluated. That's just how it works. Watching for signs will become a very real and passionate endeavor because in some cases you'll know what to look for and when. And you'll understand what the signs shown mean.

Declaring the plain truth that the wise will know and the wicked won't immediately offends religious people. Light exposes the darkness. The wicked want to mask their own wickedness by making it appear as though we are all the same in matters of righteousness. When pressed, of course, they are the righteous and little else can be heard above the din of their passionate defense and the growl of their condemning accusations. There are wolves in sheep's clothing scattered throughout the flock. Tares have been sown in the field among the wheat. Have you been deceived as I had been? Yet, if you take up your cross and walk where you are led, when the blind lead the blind into the ditch you will not be with them but rather in the company of those who have seen beyond the veil and embraced the light, walking in it according to the Lord's good pleasure!

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