But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
This is one of the most striking words of our Lord. The record of it shows the veracity of the Gospel writers. No early Christian would have invented such a sentence as this. The words themselves testify to the truthfulness and to the humility of Christ. They are significant also in the light they throw on the limitations of knowledge.
I. THE FACT. No one but our Father in heaven knows the whole future. Some parts of it are revealed to all of us, some are within the perception of prophets, more may be specially known to angels, very much must have lain open before the eye of Christ. But God only knows the whole. The final judgment is known only to him. Why is this?
1. Perhaps the date is not fixed. To God, who is independent of time, all our uncertainties and contingencies must be visible and sure. But it is impossible for us to imagine the form of thought that comprehends such things. To us many things are uncertain, in part because they are dependent on changing conditions. Will a particular man be saved or lost? No one can say, because no fixed destiny determines his future. It will be conditioned by his conduct, by the action of his free will. It is open for him to repent at any time. So it may be that the date of the final judgment will be determined according to the conduct of men, according to the course of history. It may be hastened or it may be postponed, as the behaviour of the world changes.
2. Certainly full knowledge would be injurious. It is one of the greatest mercies of life that God hides the future. If any sorcery could reveal it, the depth of folly would belong to those people who resorted to that sorcery. The knowledge of future evil would crush us; the knowledge of future good would take the zest out of our joys and make the blessings of life stale and uninteresting. Moreover, God disciplines us by ignorances. This should not make us indifferent to truth; it must be our duty to learn what God teaches. But it cannot be healthy to attempt to pry into secrets which God means to keep to himself. Calculations of modern prophets about unfulfilled prophecy are here rebuked beforehand by our Lord.
II. INFERENCES IN REGARD TO JESUS CHRIST.
1. The distinction between Christ and his Father. Clearly they are here seen as two Persons. Yet it is the fashion of popular theology to "confound the Persons," and to speak of Jesus as if he were just the same as the Father.
2. The comparative subordination of Christ. We dare not say, with Cyril, that the ignorance of Christ was only apparent. That must be to represent him as an unreal Actor. He meant what he said in all honesty. It may be that Athanasius was right in applying all such passages as that before us to the earthly humiliation of our Lord. Still, the statements of Scripture as to the Son being sent by the Father (e.g John 20:21), applying as they do to the first advent and the very origin of the lncarnation, suggest something like a secondary position even prior to the earthly life, as we shall see if we reverse the phrases, and think of the Son sending the Father - a most improper notion. The Sender must be in some way superior to the Sent.
3. The Divinity of Christ. This is apparent even in this passage, where the secondary position is stated:
(1) Because Christ separates himself from all other men, and even places the angels between himself and them.
(2) Because Christ shows Divine knowledge of the fact of the ignorance of angels as well as men, and of the fact of his Father's unique consciousness. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.