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No Man Knows the Day or the Hour

excellent comment from a reader
Question about The Last Shofar
challenge/question -- June, 2014
Comment disputing something -- September, 2016

Barry Setterfield:

With every day that passes, we are one day closer to the end.  That is probably the only indisputable fact we can agree on.  It’s a “truism” – true by simple definition.  But because many false prophets have indeed arisen, and deceived many, just as Jesus warned they would, in the last two centuries there have been numerous predictions regard the date of any of the prophesied end time events.  People who have followed these false prophets have often sold everything they had, waiting on mountain tops or in boats for the exact moment predicted by their “prophet,” and some have even committed suicide at the urging of their “prophet.” 

The common response from Christians is to quote Jesus’ statement that “no man knows the day or the hour.”  That is the common translation of the phrase found in Matthew 24:36.  The logic is impeccable that, if Jesus did not know the day or hour, how can we? In doing this check, we went to a variety of translations, all saying about the same thing. However, there is one translation, the Concordant Version of the Sacred Scriptures, from 1930, which, with extreme consistency, always translates a Greek word with the same word in English. For that reason it is sometimes considered to be a “wooden” translation. However it has the advantage that any lapse from consistency by other translations can immediately be spotted. This specific version of the Concordant translation has the English as an interlinear underneath the Greek text. When I read this interlinear I received a surprise. Here is how that translation reads for Matthew 24:36: “That day and hour not yet anyone has perceived, not yet the messengers [angels] of the heavens, not yet the Son, [but] the Father only.” Notice the modifier “not yet” in there; at the time that Matthew wrote that information was not YET known. But the implication is that it would be known later. We know that to be the case, because the introduction to the book of Revelation says that it is the “Revelation that God the Father gave to Jesus Christ to show to His servants what must shortly come to pass.” In other words, the situation was now clarified and the information as to the timing of the Rapture and associated events was known (see Revelation 4:1).

So what had changed?  In Micah 5:2, we read that the Messiah will be the ruler, or shepherd, of Israel.  In Matthew 20, Jesus sends out the Twelve and tells them not to go to the Gentiles or even any Samaritan towns, but rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  In Matthew 15, when approached by a Canaanite woman asking for help for her daughter, Jesus responded, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  But then we read John 1, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  In Matthew 22, Jesus makes an interesting reference to this in His parable of the wedding banquet.  The invited guests not only refused to attend, they killed the servants who were inviting them.  The king, in his rage, destroyed the murderers and burned their city.

The first Christians were persecuted by the Jews.  Stephen was stoned to death, and Paul, before his conversion, was there holding the robes of the stoners.  In 70 AD the Romans not only killed many of the Jews, but destroyed Jerusalem entirely and tore down the Temple. 

Although the earliest believers were, in fact, Jews, the leaders refused Christ and so did the majority of the people.  If the Jews around the Roman Empire had responded positively, there was no fundamental reason why the Lord would not return in the much nearer future for them. The Apostle Peter hints at that in his speech in Acts 3:19-21 where the “times of refreshing” was a euphemism for the reign of Messiah from Jerusalem over the whole earth. Peter essentially said it could happen in that generation, because in Acts 2:39 after a similar speech, Peter said this “promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off.”  However, once the Jews had rejected the message around the Roman Empire (as outlined in the book of Acts), it was then that the Apostle Paul said God would go to the Gentiles instead (Acts 28:28).  This is the actual beginning of what is known as the Church Age.  As the small groups of believers developed around the Roman Empire, Christ’s Church became a settled reality.  At the same time Jewish opposition became more and more hardened.  It was at that stage that Paul was given his revelation about the Church and its position in God’s program in Ephesians 3.  Christ was Savior for all men, not just the Jews.  

We read in Acts 17 that when Paul went to Thessalonica, he preached Christ first in the synagogue.  Some Jews believed him and others started a mob riot against him.  Joining the believing Jews were some Greeks and some prominent women.  So, from the beginning, the church there was a mixed group.  It is to this mixed group Paul wrote his two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.  In 2 Thessalonians Paul finds it necessary to reassure them about something. 

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,  not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.

This makes it clear that at this time the emphasis was on the Lord’s return.   The Jews were not yet totally hardened against Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah.  But as that happened, as God knew it would, the Second Coming was stretched out into the future as the rest of the world was evangelized and told the Good News.  (In Romans 10, Paul asks, rhetorically, “But did they not know?” and answers with a quote from Psalm 19.  This is explored here.)

Jesus used natural things to explain spiritual truths in the parables.  He also referenced things that would occur in the heavens  which would be associated with the end times.  So, despite the naysayers, it is not unscriptural to follow up on Jesus’ words and examine some interesting developments astronomically.  Just as the Wise Men were watching the skies for the events which would announce to them the birth of the King of the Jews, there may also be something happening in the near future which may well presage His imminent return.  This is examined in detail here.   Some interesting material about the Jerusalem wall is here.

So, stepping out on a limb now (and please do not sell off your goods or do harm to yourself!), when eclipse data is combined with the data relating to the building of Jerusalem’s Wall, an important date seems to emerge, namely 23rd September, 2015. This day is also the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Because of its apparent link with Daniel 9, this date has possible significance for Israel and/or the world. It may also hold the possibility of relating to Messiah’s return, or the rise of antichrist or some important event involving God’s Plan for Israel. This date is surrounded by a sequence of unusual Solar and Lunar eclipse events which culminate a few days before on the Feast of Trumpets, (Rosh Hashana) and a few days following on the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

It has become traditional to believe that no one knows the day or the hour, largely because of the King James translations. It is taught that way at many Bible colleges. Nevertheless, from a consistent reading of the Greek text, that situation was only provisional until the Jews had made their decision, and God’s purpose for the present Age was clarified. The conclusion is that the period of time around the 23rd September 2015 may well mark a key development in God’s program for Israel and the Church.  Certainly, like the Wise Men of old, we can keep watch.  It is does no good to say we should not be prying into such matters; the data is there in history as well as in the Bible and also in the confirmed astronomical events. God has given us these data to use intelligently to know Him and His ways more perfectly.

November, 2013

excellent comment from a reader (July, 2014):

Regarding the translation of Mark 13:32 " But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."

Regarding the use of the verb "knoweth" regarding the time of the day or the hour of Christ's coming, Christ may have been using the verb for "to know" in an idiomatic or novel use as in to make known.

Check out the apostle Paul's rather novel use of "know" in his epistle to the Corinthians where he does this very thing with the verb "to know".
1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
Here Paul uses the Greek eido, "to know", in the sense of "to make known" or to "declare openly".  This novel use of the Greek word for "know" may have been an acceptable idiomatic use of to know in the sense of "to make known".  This would clear up what out Lord was meaning when He states that neither the angels nor the Son "knows" the day nor the hour of the coming of the Lord. Most Greek linguists deny this use of the Greek word for "to know", but they cannot easily explain Paul's use of the verb as "to declare" in 1 Cor 2:2.

Our Lord was omniscient and He certainly knew the day and the hour of His coming just as the Father knew. But in His statement in Mark 13:32 He is saying the neither the angels nor the Son will make known the day nor the hour, only the Father will reveal or declare it.

Setterfield: Many, Many Thanks for your comments; they are deeply appreciated. This is a very important consideration in the use of the word "known" or "to make known." I was not aware of that idiomatic usage. That is most helpful

On  another aspect of this verse, it is impossible for us to know the "day or the hour" because of our time zones around the earth. Wednesday in Australia is only Tuesday in the USA; so the day cannot be exactly defined. Further, because of our time zones, 4:00 pm in the Eastern states of the USA is only 1:00 pm in the West. That situation worsens as we go around the globe. So even if the exact moment of the coming of the Lord was known to Him, the exact day and hour would be different around the globe. In that sense, the Bible is absolutely correct.

Question about The Last Shofar

In the book, The Last Shofar, it is mentioned that the statement “no-one knows the day or the hour” was a specific comment that referred explicitly to the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. No-one knew the day or the hour because it was determined by the first visual sighting of the New Moon. So should we then expect Jesus to come at the time of that feast? In addition, the book states that Jesus will come for His Bride, the Church, one year and 10 days prior to the Battle of Armageddon, for several reasons. What do you think?

Setterfield: Thanks for the link to the book on The Last Shofar by Joseph Lenard and the publicity about it. As I looked it over quickly and did some checking with what I also knew, I do find a problem. It is not just the Feast of Trumpets that is governed by the visible appearance of the New Moon in the western sky; the same argument applies to EVERY Jewish month. The month cannot begin until the thin crescent of the New Moon has been officially observed. Only then can the month be declared to begin. In this way, no-one knew the day or the hour of the beginning of any Jewish month. That statement was not unique to the Jewish New Year. In Jesus time, the observers were quizzed by the Sanhedrin and then the Shofar and/or silver trumpets were blown in announcement. This was the practice for every month, not just for the time of Rosh Hashanah. So while the argument is true for Feast of Trumpets, it also holds true for every month.

When the Sanhedrin no longer existed, some time after the destruction of the Temple, there was no official announcement possible in this way. Instead, Tables of dates and times were prepared from calculations by prominent Rabbis and followed for the official commencement of each month. Later these calculated tables were found to be getting out of synchrony with actual observations and the Rabbis switched to official astronomical tables (nowadays calculated by computers). These tables are always in accord with astronomical observation, so a reliable date and time can be set for the visible New Moon as seen from Jerusalem for the beginning of each month. Today, the beginning of the new month is announced by the Rabbi in the synagogue service on the Shabbat before the New Moon occurs. So today, the argument that the author makes seems to be invalid.

One other point relating to the Lord's Return that you mentioned as being in the book. It is true that many types and shadows can be traced in Scriptural events. Often this can be helpful. At other times it can be a definite hindrance when there is a clear statement in the Bible that contradicts the proposition. In this case, it is certainly true that Noah was in the Ark for one year and 10 days, and that the Jews were commanded to look after their new bride for a year before going to war. However, this has nothing to do with the timing of the coming of Christ for his bride, the Church and their return a year later for the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus own statement in Luke 21:36 is plain. There, Jesus had been talking about the 7-year Tribulation and its horrors. Then he concludes with these words: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you be counted worthy to escape ALL THESE THINGS that will come to pass, and stand before the Son of Man."

To back this up, Jesus made a further comment in Revelation to the Church of Philadelphia (and through them to true believers alive today): "Because you have kept the command to persevere, I will also keep you [out away] from the hour of trial [the Tribulation] which shall come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth." In the Greek original the construction is definite, it reads EX TES HORAS or literally "out away from the hour". It does not say EN TES HORAS which would be "in the hour". Noah was kept EN TES HORAS. We are to be kept out away from that time of trouble. There are other verses like Zephaniah 2:3 and 2 Thessalonians 2 which, when fully examined suggest the same thing.

I commend you for the study of these things, but recall that Scripture is the best interpretation of Scripture, no matter what any man says! Get acquainted with all the verses on a topic from a Concordance and come to your own conclusions as you look at these things under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I hope that helps

September, 2016 -- while on a website discussion, this article came up. One of the folks involved pointed out the following:

The specific quote in question left me wondering. It is:

When I read this interlinear [the Concordant translation] I received a surprise. Here is how that translation reads for Matthew 24:36: “That day and hour not yet anyone has perceived, not yet the messengers [angels] of the heavens, not yet the Son, [but] the Father only.” Notice the modifier “not yet” in there; at the time that Matthew wrote that information was not YET known. (quoted from the Setterfield web site)​

The key Greek word in this verse is “oude.” The problem I have with the Concordant translation in the above quote is that “oude” is translated into English as “not yet.” The Greek word “de” is a post-positive particle that is most frequently translated as “but,” but is also translated as “yet” in some places. “ou” is one of the Greek forms of negation (the other is “me”). When the Greek “ou de” appears, it is normally given in crasis form as the single word “oude” as it is in Matt 24:36. This can be translated as “but not.” But when it appears in a series like in Matt 24:36, it is used to create a “neither/nor” series. So it should be rendered in Matt 24:36 in the form: “ one has perceived, neither the angels, nor the Son, [no one] except the Father alone.” To translate “oude” as “net yet” is to completely ignore the context that the word is used in.

Trying to translate Matt 24:36 with the phrase “not yet,” not only violates the correct usage of “oude,” it also contradicts other scripture. All New Testament scripture is unified in the view that nobody knows or will know when Christ will return. Scriptures tells us that he will come “like a thief (I Thes 5:2II Pet 3:10,Rev 16:15)” and “the Son of Man will come at an hour that you do not expect him (Matt 24:44).” Peter dedicated all of II Peter 3:1-10 to emphasize our lack of knowledge of when Christ will return. When you try to argue that Matt 24:36 implies that the date of Christ’s return will be revealed in the future, this contradicts everything else that scripture is teaching us.

I went and checked my Greek lexicons to verify the word “oude” and its standard translation forms. From my lexicons:

1. The Walter Bauer Lexicon (translated by Arndt & Gingrich into English) translates “oude” as 1. and not, nor. 2. also not, not either, neither. 3. not even, but not even. This lexicon quotes Matt 24:36 as falling in the 3. form of this translation as “not even.”

2. The Thayer Lexicon translates “oude” as 1. and not, nor. 2. also not, neither. 3. not even. This lexicon does not quote Matt 24:36 as an example.

3. The Liddell & Scott Lexicon translates “oude” as 1. but not, nor. 2. not even. 3. also not, not...either, not yet. This lexicon does not quote Matt 24:36 as an example.

4. The Oxford Greek-English Dictionary [modern Greek] translates “oude” as not even, neither, nor. The modern meaning of this word has not changed from its meaning 2000 years ago in the Koine Greek.

In the list above, only the Liddell & Scott Lexicon lists “not yet” as a valid translation of “oude.” This leaves me wondering why the Concordant Translation would use this as the standard translation for “oude.” What makes it more of a question for me is the modern Concordant Translation renders Matt 24:36 as: “Now, concerning that day and hour no one is aware, neither the messengers of the heavens, nor the Son; except the Father only.” It is only the older 1930 edition that has the “not yet” translation that you quoted. Is the older edition really the best source for translating this verse?

from Barry: Interesting. That means the Concordant Version I was quoting from is wrong, because that is how it is translated there. It consistently uses that construction (that 'oude' is 'not yet') throughout. Not being a Greek scholar, I cannot argue. May I have your permission to put your comment on our website under the article I wrote? [Permission was given] I think it is a valid comment and should be seen. In checking further, in the Concordant text there is a note that the editor of the Sinaiaticus text made a comment regarding this verse. He points out that the usual 'neither/nor' construction has been cancelled, then partially restored so that it reads with the 'not yet' in it. Is the oldest one the best? I don't know. If it was translated before some kind of tradition got estabished, it might be. Or it might be the one that is simply wrong.