Jesus—His Life and Message: The Coming of the Son of Man (Part 2)
March 16, 2021
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Coming of the Son of Man (Part 2)
Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.2
Jesus clearly said that the time of His return, His parousia, is unknown to anyone but the Father. Throughout history there have been many predictions of when Jesus was going to return. None of them proved to be true, which makes perfect sense, since Jesus made it clear that no one knows except the Father.
Some may wonder how Jesus couldn’t know the day nor hour when heaven and earth will pass away when He, like the Father, is God. This is a matter that has to do with the inner workings of the Trinity, which is beyond our knowing. The ESV Bible commentary states:
How Jesus could have limited knowledge and yet know all things is difficult, and much remains a mystery, for nobody else has ever been both God and man. One possibility is that Jesus regularly lived on the basis of his human knowledge but could at any time call to mind anything from his infinite knowledge.
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.5
Jesus’ return will be sudden and without warning. Those who are alive when it happens will be carrying on with the normal affairs of daily life, just as those in Noah’s day were.
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.6
These examples of people going about their daily lives and work at the time of Jesus’ return express the importance of being ready. In both examples there is a division, a separation, between the people. Jesus’ return brings this separation. Those who have made the choice to believe in Christ will be with Him forever, while those who make the conscious decision to reject Him and to live without God will find that their choice will be respected, resulting in their permanent separation from Him.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.7
As it is certain that Jesus will return, He calls His followers to live in a manner that they will be ready for that time, whenever it may be. If people knew exactly when He was going to come again, they could put off any preparation until shortly before His coming. However, they do not know, and therefore they must live in a state of constant readiness.
Know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.8
Jesus included this illustration to help them understand that His return would come unexpectedly. Clearly, if one knew when his house was going to be robbed, he would prepare himself. The timing of Christ’s return, however, is not known. This point is made throughout the New Testament.
You yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.9
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.10
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.11
“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”12
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.13
Because the disciples did not know when Christ would return, and knew that His return would be at an unexpected time, they were instructed to live in a state of constant readiness. Jesus’ instruction to His disciples applies equally to all present-day believers as well, because we are in the same state of not knowing when He will return.
Jesus continued with:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.”14
Jesus turns from the topic of watchfulness and focuses on the faithful and wise servant. He refers to a household in which there are numerous servants. One of them is put in a position of responsibility by the householder. Among other things, he is responsible for making sure the household is fed. This servant does his job diligently. He doesn’t know when the householder is going to return, but that doesn’t matter to him; he is focused on being faithful in his work. When the master returns, the servant will be blessed.
Jesus’ statement, Truly, I say to you, emphasizes that what He is about to say is significant. He will set him over all his possessions. The master will reward the servant by putting him in charge of all that he owns. The reward for faithful service is the opportunity of serving in a position of even greater responsibility.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards…15
There is another possible outcome, as Jesus pointed out. He brings up a hypothetical case of that wicked servant. This servant lacks the moral strength of the first servant. With the master away, he knows that he will not have to answer to anyone for some time, and he sees it as an opportunity to be selfishly irresponsible. His true character is exposed. He uses his temporary authority to beat his fellow servants. He also partakes in self-indulgence as he eats and drinks with drunkards.
The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.16
The wicked servant lost sight of the fact that his being in charge was a temporary situation. The master will return at an unexpected time, and the servant will be called to account for his deeds. The fact that the master was away for longer than the servant expected didn’t mean that he was never coming back. Though the Son of Man’s return may seem delayed, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t coming back. As Jesus stated earlier in this chapter, You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.17
Jesus predicted the fate of the wicked servant: the master will severely punish him. The statement about putting the unfaithful servant with the hypocrites is a bit unclear. One author explains:
Perhaps we should bear in mind that throughout this Gospel hypocrites come in for severe condemnation; Jesus has left no doubt that their ultimate fate will be a most unhappy one.18
We’re told that In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Gnashing of teeth” is a phrase which is found a number of times in the Gospel of Matthew.19 It stands for the pain, distress, anguish, and suffering of those who pass on without having a saving relationship with God.
Jesus clearly stated that the time of His return, His parousia, is unknown to anyone but the Father. Since Jesus’ ascension into heaven, believers have been waiting for His return. For two millennia, Christians have lived their lives, passed on from this world, and gone to be with the Lord. At the time of Jesus’ return, those who are alive on earth will experience His second coming. In 1 Thessalonians we are told that those who have already passed on will return with Jesus.
Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.20
While Jesus’ return at the time of the rapture is an important part of our faith, we, like all the Christians who have gone before us, may not be on this earth when it happens. Therefore, while the endtime events are important, how we live our lives during the time we have on earth is even more important. We are called to love others, to share the gospel, to do our best to live the teachings of Jesus. May we all strive to follow the example of the One who gave His life for us, so that we can live with Him forever.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew 24:35.
2 Matthew 24:36.
3 John 10:30.
4 John 14:28.
5 Matthew 24:37–39.
6 Matthew 24:40–41.
7 Matthew 24:42.
8 Matthew 24:43.
9 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
10 1 Thessalonians 5:4.
11 2 Peter 3:10.
12 Revelation 16:15.
13 Matthew 24:44.
14 Matthew 24:45–47.
15 Matthew 24:48–49.
16 Matthew 24:50–51.
17 Matthew 24:44.
18 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 618.
19 See Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30.
20 1 Thessalonians 4:14.