Matthew 24:36-44

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

watch (v.42) = be continuously on guard

Christ likened those future days in which the signs will unfold to the days of Noah (vs. 37-39). Noah announced a coming judgment and offered people a way of escape from it. However, people ignored Noah’s warnings of judgment and went on occupying themselves with their normal course of life. They were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (vs.38) right up until the very day Noah entered the ark. — Pentecost, page 405

According to Matthew 24:40-41, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Because at the rapture believers will be taken out of the world, some have confused this with the rapture of the Church.

Here, however, the situation is the reverse. The one who is left, is left to enter the kingdom; the one who is taken, is taken in judgment. This is in keeping with the illustration of the time of Noah when the ones taken away are the unbelievers. The word for “shall be taken” in verses 40-41 uses the same word found in John 19:16, where Christ was taken away to the judgment of the cross. — Walvoord, pages 193-194

It is the opposite meaning of “taken” and “left” when the Lord comes as the “Bridegroom” for His Church. Then, too, some will be taken and others left. The true believers will be taken into glory, caught up in clouds to meet Him in the air; the unbelievers and mere professors will be left. Some deny that the word “taken” in our passage means a judicial taking away. The context, however, shows (the reference to Noah and the flood) that this must be the meaning. Surely those who were taken by the flood were not “received into glory.” — Gaebelein, page 516

I sent this e-mail to Ricky Kurth.

I’m working through Matthew chapter 24 now. Verse 36 says that no man or angel knows the day of the Lord’s second coming, but only the Father.

Here’s my question. Isn’t the second coming going to occur at the end of the 70th week? In other words, once the Tribulation begins, won’t all believers know that the second coming will be in seven years?

What am I missing?

Wait, I think I figured it out. It’s talking about His coming in judgment, so it’s referring to the beginning of the Tribulation, not the second coming, right?

Here’s his reply.

No, you were right the first time. In the context, both before and after, it is talking about the Second Coming (v.30, 37).

You ask tough questions! I have some theories I’ll share, and I’m copying Dave in, so he can contribute too.

An easy out would be to say that no one knew the date and time of the Second Coming at the time the Lord spoke those words. That would be because the 70th week countdown to the Second Coming had not yet begun. That’s true, but in the subsequent context, it makes it clear that the Second Coming will come unexpectedly on people standing around, so this explanation would not seem to be the natural choice.

Next, Matthew 24:22 says,

“Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened”

This would explain why the Second Coming would come on men unexpectedly, as the subsequent context indicates, and why no man would know the day nor the hour.

How God will shorten the days of that is not clear. But when we read that “the third part of the sun was smitten” (Rev.8:12), that could mean the sun’s intensity is lessened by 33.3%, or it could mean as Amos says,

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day”

We mark days by the sun, and if days are shortened by a third, that would “shorten” the 70th week.

But then you could say that people who (unlike me) are good at math could figure out the day of the Second Coming once the days are shortened. Well, maybe; but then they’d have to wonder, “Will God go by the original 24 hour a day seventy weeks, or by this new way of reckoning days?”

Then you have to factor in that the 70th week is usually described as 42 months, or 1260 days (Rev.11:2,3). But in Daniel 12:11, half the Tribulation is called 1290 days, thirty days longer. This is because there are so many things that are said to happen mid-Trib that they can’t all be done in one day, so there is a pause in the 70th week. Well, if God can mess with the 1260 day amount in that way, why not in some other way? He’d have to stick to the Book, but maybe there are other things in the Book we’re not thinking of.

For instance, there is this fascinating thing that dispensational pioneer Clarence Larkin discovered, that God does not seem to count time when Israel is out of favor with Him. I don’t know if this could factor in too. It actually could be the only explanation. Or it could be this explanation plus all of the above, or only a certain combination of all of the above. But if we can’t figure it out, most likely Tribulation saints might not be able to figure it out either.

He also sent my question to Dave Stewart. He’s what he said.

Any, some, none or all of the above is exactly right, I think. Not only does the Lord say that no one knows the day or the hour, He goes so far as to say, “in such an hour AS YE THINK NOT the Son of Man cometh” (vs.44). And these guys will have the gifts of prophesy and of knowledge, and still they won’t be able to figure it out. The day and the hour is deliberately kept hidden as the parable of the ten virgins and others indicate. They need to keep their lamps burning because they just won’t know. The best they’ll have to go on is “when these things begin go come to pass, then look up…, for your redemption draweth nigh”. (Lk.21:28)

As to the known timeline of the tribulation, we need to remember that the battle of Armageddon is a long, extended event. It doesn’t all happen in one day. So does the Lord return on day 1260? Or is that the day the battle ends? Or is it some time in between? Or does Christ return as Mat.24:29-31 says, “immediately after”. If so, define immediately. And how long is it between “the sign of the Son of Man” and the actual second coming? I think this is one of the few major events God has planned that will be literally unpredictable.

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