This Week's Focus Passage

Matthew 24:36 ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no one.’

Matthew 24:36 ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no one.’

A question was put to our Lord Jesus Christ by His disciples as it is recorded for us in Matthew 24. This question has been asked by His disciples over and again ever since. It is the question of the return of our Lord, or His second advent. In the first few verses of Matthew 24, we are given the setting for this question.

And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

In the body of His answer He pointed out this warning, ‘And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray.’ Surely, the truth of this warning has been borne out through every generation since it was given. Indeed, it is as though none have paid attention to the statement of this week’s focus passage, when the Savior of the world uttered these amazingly profound words, ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.’ In spite of the above direct warning of false prophets and the statement that should be taken with implicit warning regarding the knowledge of the day and hour, there continue to exist ‘false prophets’ telling us just what day and hour will be the end.

One of the most prominent and memorable events that ever took place with regard to the issue of the return of Christ for His people, has been given the infamous title of ‘The Great Disappointment.’ History informs us that this ‘disappointment’ was the result of the teaching of a false prophet in the 19th century, William Miller.

‘William Miller (1782-1849) was a self-educated farmer from Low Hampton, New York, who was converted as an adult after service in the War of 1812 and a long career of serious reading in religious (and skeptical) writers of his day. From the vigorous study of the Bible that followed his conversion, Miller came to the conclusion that the return of Christ and the end of the world as foretold in Scripture would occur sometime “around 1843.”

‘Miller’s message was promoted in ways that were also typical of the period. Joseph V. Himes (1805-1895), his main publicist, was a communications genius who popularized Miller’s views in something over five million pieces of literature. In response to the media barrage, thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) waited expectantly for the Lord’s return on March 21, 1843, when nothing happened then, on a second predicted date, October 22, 1844. When this “adjusted” date proved to be as mistaken as the first, ‘when the End was not manifest, some of those who had accepted Miller’s interpretation of the Bible returned to their previous religious commitments, but quite a few persevered.’—Mark Noll.

Evidently, the disciples of Jesus had not taken well the teaching of Christ either, for in Acts 1:6, after Jesus resurrection and moments before His ascension, they asked once again, “Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” It was necessary for the Christ to make the point once more, saying, “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority.” It would seem that William Miller, in spite of his ‘long career of serious reading,’ had not read these words of our Lord, or had not taken them seriously. Among the ‘quite a few that persevered’ of whom we were told above, were the founders the 7th Day Adventist Church, including Ellen G. White. These incorporated some of their very own aberrations into their beliefs; in some purported visions, Mrs. White claimed that she received the doctrines of ‘soul sleep’ and ‘annihilationism.’ ‘Soul sleep’ is a teaching that maintains that, at death, the soul in no longer conscious, obviating the Scriptures where Paul insists that to depart this life, to die, is to be consciously with Christ. ‘Annihilationism’ teaches that there is no hell for the unrepentant and wicked; they are annihilated, and their existence ceases. False prophecies continue.

What about Dispensationalism? Are not their end time teachings to be called into question? Do these folk not teach that Christ’s second advent will be at the end of the tribulation? Do they not teach that the tribulation is seven years long? Does that not mean that they have set a time for the second coming; that the return of Christ will follow seven years after the ‘rapture’? How can that consist with the very word of Christ as He said, ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only’? Is it contended that the grand and glorious ‘Secret Rapture’ is not even known to those who are raptured? Does the rest of the world take no notice of the ‘disappearance’ of the ‘church’? That does not agree with all the ‘rapture’ warnings, like the one for an automobile dashboard which warns, IN CASE OF RAPTURE, SOMEBODY GRAB THE STEERING WHEEL!!

There should be added a footnote, if we really care about anyone reading such a, not so subtle, warning, ‘Okay, the clock is ticking; Christ is coming back in seven years.’

This would then contradict Jesus’ statement, ‘of that day and hour knoweth no one.’

Since William Miller’s Great Disappointments of 1843-4, and before Harold Camping—also having uttered two failed predictions; first, for September 6, 1994, and second, for May 21, 2011—there have been, at least, several others of note between them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses made such predictions for, at least three different years. Various dates were predicted by them for the second coming of the Christ, first for the year 1914; then again, for the year 1918; and latterly, for the year 1925. The first two are interesting for being the beginning of World War I (1914) and the end of that war (1918). Then, much later, in 1978, Chuck Smith predicted that Christ would probably return by 1981. In 1988, a book was published by Edgar Whisenant, entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Great is the number that have attempted predictions; but they have all been left behind.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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