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Sunday, December 01, 2019

“No One Knows” [Matt's Messages]

“No One Knows”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 1, 2019 :: Matthew 24:36-44

For the last two years, we have been following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew, and we’ve just about reached the end.

We have reached Jesus’ teaching on the End, often called the Olivet Discourse (because it was delivered on the Mount of Olives) or “Jesus’ Teaching on Eschatology” (the doctrine of Last Things).

Jesus taught this during that Crucial Last Week, that Holy Week, when Jesus was crucified.

Jesus came to Jerusalem, wrestled with and denounced the religious leaders, and then predicted the desolation of the city and the temple.

And in chapters 24 and 25, Jesus teaches about that coming judgment of Israel and about His own return.

So this is Jesus’ own teaching about Jesus’ own return.

And, of course, that can be both exciting to learn about and also fairly complex and confusing.

Christians throughout the ages have disagreed about exactly how to interpret many of the details about eschatology.

Bible-believing Christians have agreed about the main points of eschatology. Jesus is coming back. Really coming back. He’s coming back in person. He’s coming back in the same resurrected body that He left in. And His return will be glorious.

Last time, we learned about the glorious coming of the Son of Man.

It’s described in verses 29-31.

V.30 “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”

But there has also been a lot of disagreement among faithful, Bible-believing Christians especially about the timing of Jesus’ return and the timing and order of the events surrounding that return.

In the last two (fairly long) sermons, I have endeavored to lay out my view, my interpretation, of what is going on in these two chapters.

I’m sure that I have gotten most of you lost along the way. It’s easy to do in these chapters. I’ve gotten myself lost a time or two! Thank you for your patience with me, and I’ll keep trying my best to show you what I see.

But there have been two guiding principles that have kept us on track so that even if we disagree or get confused on some of the details, the point of this teaching still comes through.

One principle is the same principle we have seen throughout the Gospel of Matthew and that is to keep your eye on the ball. Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus, and the whole point of the book is to answer the question, “Who is this Jesus?” by every means at Matthew’s disposal.

And that goes for these two chapters, as well.

Matthew doesn’t just want to lay out for us what is going to happen and when or how.

Matthew is concerned to show us who.

Jesus is the Son of Man. The mysterious and powerful eschatological figure promised by the prophet Daniel. Receiving a kingdom from the Ancient of Days and the coming in obvious glory and majesty.

And what He promises, He will deliver.

Jesus said in the last verse we considered last time, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

That’s quite a claim. You have to be quite a person to make good on that claim!

Keep your eye on the ball.

The second principle that guides us through our study of eschatology is that we always focus on application.

Prophetic teaching isn’t just information for information sake.

“O, that’s interesting!”

Prophetic teaching is always aimed at the heart. It’s always aimed at transformation.

It’s always aimed at application.

And that’s going to be even more obvious today and in the next few weeks.

Because Jesus is going to get away from giving us very many more details (almost any!) and instead will turn His focus on the “So What?” question.

“What difference does this make?”

We’re going to see that this teaching makes a big difference in how we are to live.

Stay focused on application.

Now, let me try to quickly summarize what we’ve seen so far in chapter 24 so that verse 36 will make sense.

Remember the disciples wanted Jesus to stay at the temple that He was turning His back upon in verse 1. And they tried to show Him how beautiful the buildings were.

But Jesus predicted (v.2) that “not one stone” of the temple would be left on another “every one will be thrown down.” Desolation.

And that prophecy rocked the world of the disciples, so that they came to Him privately on the Mount of Olives and asked (v.3) “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of age?”

And they assumed that was all one thing. The end of the world as we know it!

Did Jesus answer their question?

Jesus doesn’t always tell us what we want to know, but He does tell us what we need to know.

So Jesus taught them about what He called “The Birth Pains.” Those terribly difficult things that the world will go through up and down and time to time throughout the ages until His return. Verses 4 through 25.

Birth pains tell you that something big is coming and that it is inevitable.

But they don’t always tell you when.

So, I don’t think Jesus answered the when question for the disciples in that first part of chapter 24.

He did tell them (in verses 15 through 25) about the incredibly excruciating Birth Pain of the “abomination of desolation” which I think in Matthew refers to the destruction of the temple that happened in that generation, about forty years later, in the year 70AD.

And I think that Jesus told them in verse 34 that all these Birth Pains in including that awful one of the temple would occur in that same generation.

But He didn’t tell them when He would return.

He told them that He would return!

And that it would be obvious and glorious (vv. 26-31).

The coming of the Son of Man will be unmistakable like the lightning in the sky or the vultures with the carcasses.

And it will change absolutely everything!

V.31 “And He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

That is going to change everything for us!

But He has not told us when.

He’s told us that it is near. Like a Spring leaf proclaims that Summer is near (vv. 32&33).

You don’t know when. It could take some time, but it’s surely coming. It’s around the corner.

But He has not told us when.

And in today’s passage, in verse 36, He tells us why He has not told us when.

You know why?

It’s because He didn’t know!

Matthew 24:36. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

What an incredible statement!

I think the “that day or hour” in verse 36 is clearly referring to the Coming of the Son of Man and all of the attendant events surrounding it, often called “the day of the Lord.”

We know it as the glorious return of Christ. What Jesus was teaching in verses 29-31.

And Jesus teaches that no one knows when that will be.

#1. NO ONE KNOWS WHEN.

“Not even the angels in heaven.”

And remember, the angels will have a big role to play when it all goes down.

But they don’t know.

What’s even more amazing. What’s almost unimaginable is that the “no one” includes the “Son” Himself!

“Nor the Son[!]”

And this is His day!

This is the coming of the Son.

And the Son says that the Son doesn’t know when it’s going to be.

“Only the Father” does.

Does that blow your mind or what?

In Matthew 24:36, Jesus proclaims His ignorance about the date of His return.

Now, that’s really amazing given everything we’ve learned about Who Jesus is in the Gospel of Matthew, isn’t it?!

Think about this Person we’ve been learning about for 24 chapters, and think about Who He has claimed to be. Keep your eye on the ball!

Just this same day, Jesus did that baffling Bible study on Psalm 110 with the Pharisees.

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’

‘The son of David,”

‘Ok. ‘How is it then that David, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, ‘'The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’' If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?’”

Yes, He’s the Son of David. But He’s also the Lord of David.

And God talks to Him like He talks to Himself.

Jesus is also the Son of God!

Son of Man and Son of God!

And ignorant of the time of His return.

Everything He knows!

He just told us in 35 verses what the world is going to be like for the last 2,000 years.

He knows that!

He knew about the Birth Pains.

He knew about the destruction of the temple.

And everything He said would happen has happened for 2,000 years!

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

But He also said that He didn’t know when He was coming back.

“Nor the Son.”

How can this be?

How can Jesus not know something like that?

I mean, He’s God, right?!

It’s the mystery of the incarnation.

When God the Son took on flesh, when He assumed human nature, He also took on limitations in that human nature.

We’re just a few weeks away from Christmas.

When Jesus was born, there was a whole lot He didn’t know!

The shepherds didn’t find Him in the manger, sitting up and teaching everybody about the Birth Pains of the Messiah.

Mary had some birth pains with the Messiah! But Jesus wasn’t teaching anybody anything that day. He was probably just crying away in that manger.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and people.

He was astonished. He was amazed. He learned things in His human nature.

Without giving up His deity!

Or the attributes of His deity.

The early church recognized the full deity of Christ and the full humanity of Christ.

The two natures together in One Person without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation to the use the language of the Creed of Chalcedon.

It’s mysterious. Because in His divine nature, Jesus remained and remains omniscient.

But in regards to His humanity, the Father kept this a secret from His Son at that time.

{Does He know now? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I don’t know.}

I do know that on that day, Jesus didn’t know.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

No one knows.

Now, let’s apply this some.

If even Jesus didn’t know when He was going to return, what does that say about you and me?

We don’t know.

We sure don’t know!

Whenever I’m leading an ordination council, this is the first question I ask when we get to Article 9 of our Statement of Faith.

And if they answer it wrong, they fail.

I say, “When is Jesus coming back?”

And if they don’t say, “I don’t know,” it’s an automatic fail.

This is one of those questions that if you think you know the answer, you’re wrong.

No one knows when. “Only the Father.”

And you shouldn’t try to weasel around it and say that nobody knows the day or the hour, but we can get a pretty good idea of the year or decade or century!

No!

Who do we think we are? If the Son didn’t know, how do we presume to pretend we do?

And yet so many people have been date-setters throughout the history of the church.

I can give you a long list of people over the last 2,000 years who thought they had it all figured out, and guess what, they have all been wrong.

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

“It’s not for you!”

Quit acting like it is.

So we shouldn’t speculate.

And we shouldn’t pretend.

And we shouldn’t listen to those who do!

Beware of those who act like they have it all figured out and all you have to do is buy their book, their tapes, their prophecy chart.

Because people like that hurt people.

Eschatology should make us humble.

Because we realize that there secret things that belong to the Lord and the Lord alone.

At this point, the Father was even keeping them secret from the Son.

We are not going to know.

And we should be okay with that.

Are you okay with that?

We are on a need to know basis.

And one of the things we need to know is that no one knows when the Son of Man will come. “Only the Father.”

Jesus is going to repeat this idea of not knowing, not knowing, at least 5 times before the end of this teaching.

Because it makes a big difference in how we live.

Jesus didn’t know WHEN, but He knew WHAT His coming would be like. V.37

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Now, the point here is not how bad the world will be when the Son of Man comes.

Things were bad in the days of Noah, but that’s not what Jesus emphasizes.

Jesus emphasizes how normal they were, doesn’t He?

Life was happening. Eating, drinking, marrying.

Life goes on. Life goes on.

Even though Noah was saying that the judgment was coming.

Life goes on. Life goes on.

Until it doesn’t!

The judgment was sudden and unexpected and irrevocable. (Adjectives by D.A. Carson.)

Surprise!

“...they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

They didn’t see it coming. And that’s how the world will be. V.40

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

Just like that; everything will change.

One day, you’re just working away together, maybe family; the next thing you know, you’re caught off guard and you’re separated forever.

Some to be with the Lord, some to be away from the Lord. Forever.

No one knows when.

You see how important this is?

How this changes everything?

Here’s where Jesus starts to really bring it home with application. V.42

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

From here on to the end of chapter 25, that’s the theme.

“Keep watch.” Stay ready.

Because no one knows when:

 #2. EVERYONE SHOULD STAY READY.

Get ready and stay ready.

That’s what it means to “keep watch.”

It means to be spiritually vigilant.

Like a night watchman.

Or like a hunter.

I have two sons that are into hunting, and I enjoy going out with them and watching them do their thing.

I’m not much of a hunter. It involves two things I’m not very good it.

Sitting still and being quiet.

I’m much better at wiggling and making noise.

It’s funny my sons haven’t invited me out to hunt yet with them this year?! Huh.

Andrew and Peter are great at sitting still and watching.

Scanning the woods.

I want to check my phone.

I want to read my book.

Everybody brings a book, right?

I don’t know how many times, Peter will say, “Deer.”

And I’m like, “Where? I missed it.” And I’m like flapping my arms, which scares them away.

Peter is a good example of vigilance, keeping watch.

Being ready.

And Jesus is talking here about spiritual vigilance.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Everything might seem all normal, but the Son of Man is coming.

Did everybody know that this bad weather was coming?

It didn’t seem like it yesterday. It was such a beautiful day. I got in 8 miles of walking yesterday, and it just felt great. So normal! A little cold. But nothing like this!

But the weatherman said that the bad weather was coming.

And I had to just believe it and get ready.

Did you get ready?

Snow shovels, ice-melt, firewood stacked.

It’s coming. Not sure when, but it’s coming.

This weather did not take us by surprise.

Because even though we didn’t know exactly when it would hit (because the weatherman is not a prophet!), we knew to get ready.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

He’s going to come like a thief. V.43

“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Do you think that Jesus wants us to know that we will not know?!

He even compares Himself to burglar!

Not that He steals things, but that He comes unannounced.

If you knew that a thief was coming at 2am tomorrow morning, you’d be ready for him, right?

You’d set an alarm on your phone, and you’d put a lock on the door, and you’d be up and ready for the home invasion.

But if you don’t know. If it’s unpredictable, what then?

You have to be prepared all of the time.

You have to expect the unexpected. V.42 again.

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

It might be short.

Or it might be long.

We’re going to see next week that both of those are possibilities.

Shorter than we might expect and longer than we might expect.

We don’t know!

No one knows!

So we should stay ready.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about for at least the next two Sundays.

What that kind of spiritual vigilance looks like.

Our EFCA Statement of Faith calls it living with “constant expectancy.”

And we who are followers of Christ should never stop.

Let me ask you this application question as we go to the table:

What do you want to be found doing when the Lord returns?

What do you want to be found doing when the Lord returns?

This is serious stuff.

That’s a serious question.

Often we laugh at people who predict the end of the world, and especially those who set dates for it.

Because we don’t know.

But because we don’t know, we should all get ready and stay ready.

What do you want to be found doing when your Lord returns?

I want to be keeping watch.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man

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