Friday, December 21, 2012

How we know the Mayans don't know

Mark 13:32 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

After today, we will discover that no one really knows the timing of the end of the world
As many of you perhaps may know, today is the supposed day that an ancient Mayan Calendar will have ran its last cycle, indicating in the eyes of some the end of the world.  My wife and I were talking earlier this morning how instructive it is to us concerning the scoffing and flippancy that has been expressed towards this supposed "end of the world".  My aim in this special blog is not to offer commentary on the Mayan calendar, other than to say I do not think it is predicting the end of the world.  Rather I want us to turn our attention briefly to a text where Jesus explicitly states that no one knows the day nor the hour of His coming.  We will first of all unfold its meaning and then offer some practical considerations as to why the Lord saw fit not to reveal the exact day and hour of His coming.

Unraveling the mystery of Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36
The fact that Bible Prophecy states several times that God has not revealed the exact day of Christ's return should be noted by the student of scripture. (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)  In the Mark and corresponding Matthew passages, Jesus reveals that there are those who don't know the exact hour of His return and that there is only One who does know the exact hour.  We can see a summary list below:

Those who don't know                           Those who do know
1. All Human beings                                 God the Father
2. The Angels
3. God The Son, operating through
His human nature (The Son of Man)

The Person of God the Son has two natures or two ways of expressing His existence - A Fully Divine and Fully Human Nature
When we read the phrase "nor the Son" in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, it may cause some to wonder how that could be.  Scripture affirms time and time again that the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ,  shares in the same Divine nature as the Father. (Matthew 28:18; John 1:1, 8:58; Romans 9:5)  In other words, the Son did not have a beginning, He has always been. (Hebrews 1:5-14; Revelation 1:8) When we say "nature", we mean the way in which a Living being expresses its existence. 

Thus by being Fully Divine, the Son would know all things, be everywhere present and have all power.  Whenever He came to this world, He being the Son assumed a second way of expressing Himself, a second nature - namely a fully human one. (John 1:14,18; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16)  Thus He chose to willingly operate through His human nature - which meant among other things that He would not know everything as a man.  Why did He do this?  to submit fully and completely to the will of His Father. 

What took place after Jesus' resurrection concerning His knowledge of His return
As the Person of the Son, He still retained His fully Divine nature, however for the purposes of securing His Father's purposes of redemption, Jesus Christ chose not to excercise the privileges that come with sharing in the Divine nature as His Father.  So then, if Jesus Christ operated primarily through His human nature while here on earth, then would it still be the case that He does not know the exact timing of His return? 

Pastor John MacArthur gives an interesting observation which upon some reflection I tend to agree.  Note what he says in a sermon He preached back in 1984 entitled: "Ready or not, here I come":

"Now it is my own personal feeling that after the resurrection this     was revealed to Him. That when He came out of the grave in the glory of His resurrection life, it says in Matthew 28:18 He said to His disciples, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and earth." And I think what that's saying is nothing is missing, I have authority over all things. And then in Acts 1:7 He said this, "But unto you it is not given to know the times and the seasons which My Father has put in His own power," and He doesn't include Himself anymore. He says unto you it isn't given. So it may well be that after the resurrection, His knowledge was complete."

Armed with this observation, we can then say that the post-resurrection Jesus, retaining a full human nature in a glorified resurrection body, chooses now in this area of knowledge to know the exact timing of His return.  The above chart that I gave a moment ago would reflect the current conditions pertaining to the timing of Christ's second coming:

Those who don't know                             Those who do know
1. All Human beings                                    1. God the Father
2. The Angels                                              2. God the Son, operating
                                                                    through His Divine nature
                                                                    (i.e the Son of God)

Jesus Christ in heaven is now operating primarily through His Divine nature, which He never ceased having. He is situated at the right hand of God the Father and still retains his glorified resurrected human body, since He is pleased to call all who believe on him His brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:9-18)

Why the Lord has seen fit not to reveal to us the exact timing of His return
So with all this cultural discussion on the Mayans and the end of the world, why would the Lord Jesus Christ choose not to devulge such an important detail as the exact timing of His return?  Consider these thoughts as we close out this blog:

1. If we really knew, Christians would not be as motivated to live by faith nor be as inclined to live the Godly life.  The mystery of the timing of Christ's return gives hope to faith and motivation for godly living. (1 John 3:1-3)

2. If Christians knew the exact day and hour, the motivation to do missions and evangelism would wane.  Christ's second coming is among the chief motivators used in scripture to call men and women to repentance and faith, so as to escape the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

3. The fact that we don't know the exact hour of His return is God's way of reminding us that we and the angels are creatures, and that He alone knows all things. The revealed things belong to us and our children while the unrevealed things belong to God. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

4. I would submit that those groups who come claiming to know the exact day and hour of the world's end are heretical and to be avoided by all Bible-believing Christians.  God has purposefully not revealed this detail to aid us in determining genuine Christian faith from heresy. 

May you and I, in the midst of this season celebrating His First coming, be ever focused and eager for His Second coming - whenever He so chooses to return. 

Christmas in the Epistles - 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 3:14-16 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

How the New Testament communicates Jesus Christ
Throughout the New Testament letters we find portions of scripture that refer back to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  To familiarize the reader with how the New Testament communicates Jesus Christ, it is instructive to consider it as four major divisions:

1. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) = Present Jesus Christ
2. Book of Acts = Preaches about Jesus Christ
3. The Epistles or Letters (21 in all) = Explain Jesus Christ
4. Book of Revelation = Prioritizes the Glory of Jesus Christ

Christmas truth ought to be celebrated every day by Christians
From the brief discussion above we can zero in on one of those passages in the New Testament letters that "explains" to us the significance of Jesus Christ's incarnation: 1 Timothy 3:14-16.  This passage, though only three verses in length, gives us incredible reasons as to why we should make the truth of Jesus Christ's first coming a major part of everyday Christian living.  Note what Paul has to say about the significance of God the Son's incarnation and its practical significance in the lives of God's people:

1. Confidence of Christian living is associated with Christ's first coming 1 Timothy 3:15
2. Christ's supernatural power is available because of His first coming 1 Timothy 3:16a
3. Christian mind is fed by the doctrines of His first coming 1 Timothy 3:16b

Practical, Supernatural and Doctrinal Christianity: The fruit, root and trunk of Christianity
The heart of this blogsite is centered around the premise that the Christian life operates upon three legs: practical living, supernatural living and doctrinal living.  Think of Christian practice as the "fruit" of the Christian life, the supernatural power of Jesus Christ through His word as the "root", and the doctrine of scripture as the "trunk".  Jesus for example tells us that you will know the true believer by the "fruit" or attitudes and actions that flow from their heart. (Matthew 7:21-23)  When Paul writes these three verses, he is concerned with how his readers will "conduct themselves" as the household of faith.  Most of what the Old Testament anticipated looked forward to His first coming.  Likewise New Testament faith draws its life from the accomplishments of Jesus Christ in His first coming.  The fruit of the faith-life is tied into the root of the supernatural truth: Christ's first coming.

The root of Christian faith is the supernatural God-man: Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16a: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness....".  A mystery in the New Testament is something previously hidden that requires God's supernatural revelation.  The event of God coming in human flesh via the virgin birth constitutes one of the four central miracles entailing the Person of Jesus Christ.  The other three supernatural events involving Jesus, which make up the foundation of biblical Christianity, are His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension.  This supernatural root connects to the fruit of our practical everyday lives by way of a "trunk", namely the doctrine of the Christian faith. 

The doctrine described here by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16b summarizes in "bullet-point" format the major events of Jesus' Christ's journey from his incarnation as God in human flesh, through His earthly life to his ascension.  Without the trunk of doctrine, the link between the supernatural power of Jesus Christ and the practical living of the Christian faith would not be possible. 
Note the Key Doctrines mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16b:

1. The Incarnation = "God was manifest in the flesh"
2. The Virgin Birth = "justified in the Spirit"
3. Deity of Jesus Christ = "seen of angels"
4. Preaching and Missions = "preached unto the Gentiles"
5. Salvation by grace through faith = "believed on in the world"
6. His ascension =  "received up into glory."

All of this stems from what was in Paul's heart as the Holy Spirit guided his pen, namely the significance of Christ's first coming.  We know too that what Paul wrote was most likely an ancient Christian hymn sung by those first generation Christians - which means that the heart of Christmas - the Incarnation, shaped their everyday lives.  Paul wrote what he wrote to urge his readers to focus everyday on what Christ accomplished in His first coming. You and I too need to keep these things in mind.  Everyday needs to be Christmas - the excitement, the wonder and thrill of loving God in human flesh practically, supernaturally and doctrinally.