The third thing that must be considered regarding Matthew 24:36 is …
III. Its Contextual Confirmation
False teachers have always quoted Scripture. 2 Peter 3:15-16 says: “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” The problem with the heretic’s use of Scripture is that they always quote it out of context. One of the marks of false teaching is that it quotes Scripture but without regard to its context.
This is also true of the perversion of Scripture that we are now considering. It quotes and interprets Matt. 24:36 without regard to its biblical context. It is, therefore, my purpose to show you very carefully what this verse means within its context. We will look at the immediately preceding context, the immediately succeeding context, and the broader New Testament context.
A. The Immediately Preceding Context
The significant thing that we learn about verse 36 when we read the preceding context is that it is a part of a contrast.
Matthew 24:34-36 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
What is the contrast here? It is between the “all these things” of v. 34 and “that day and hour” of v. 36. If “that day and hour” refers, as we have seen, to the second coming of Christ, to what does the phrase, “all these things,” refer? To answer this question look at Matt. 24:1-3. Their questions show that the disciples were in danger of confusing two distinct events: the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming of Christ. The contrast of vv. 34-36 is intended to clear up this confusion for them. “All these things”, therefore, refers to all those events associated with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. “That day and hour” refers to the events associated with the second coming of Christ proper.
Here we come to the crucial point for our purposes. How does Christ contrast these two events? He gives a time-sign for the destruction of Jerusalem. He gives no time-sign for the second coming of Christ. Notice: “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place … but of that day and hour no one knows…” Do you see the contrast Jesus makes in these verses? He contrasts the giving of a time-sign for the destruction of Jerusalem with the giving of no time-sign for His Second Coming. He gives a very broad time-sign for the destruction of Jerusalem—this generation. The destruction of Jerusalem, he says, will occur sometime in the next forty years, but I give you no time-sign at all for my own coming.
What does this mean for our interpretation of Matt. 24:36? Is Jesus saying, what the date-setters assert, that we cannot know the day or hour, but we can know the week, month, or year? Obviously not! The contrast is not between the day and the month or between knowing week, but not the hour. It is between a broad time-sign encompassing a period of forty years and no time-sign at all. Jesus determined the date of the destruction of Jerusalem to within forty years, but He gives no time-sign for His coming at all. What nonsense this makes of the claims of the date-setters to know even the year of Christ’s coming! Far from knowing the week, month, or year, we do not even know the generation of Christ’s coming!
B. The Immediately Succeeding Context
In the following context Jesus calls upon his disciples to be constantly alert for His return (Matt. 24:42-44, 50; 25:13). These commands to be alert for His coming assume that even then the timing of His coming was completely unknown. If the week and month of Christ’s return could be known, as the date-setters suggest, then the early disciples would not have had to be constantly alert. Clearly, then, when Jesus says that you do not know the day or hour of my return, He means to say that its timing is completely unknown, therefore you must be always ready.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.