Knowing Times and Seasons

Did Jesus command his followers to know end-time chronologies, the “times and seasons”? Must they decipher key “signs” and use them to calculate the time of his return so they may prepare in the nick of time for that day’s arrival? Did he and his apostles leave us with a comprehensive list of signs whereby we can decode God’s prophetic timetables?

In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned his disciples that many deceivers would come and “deceive many,” false prophets who would show “signs and wonders” and use them to misdirect even the “elect.”

According to the Lord, these charlatans will propagate false information about the “coming of the Son of Man” and, presumably, related events, including claims about its timing and the “signs” of its imminence - (Matthew 24:4-6, 24:23-27).

CALAMITIES


Since his time, the church has heard of many “wars and rumors of wars,” along with earthquakes, famines, and many other disasters and tragedies, both natural and manmade.

Jesus declared such things will come to pass, but the “END IS NOT YET.” At most, they are harbingers of the eventual destruction of the existing world order, clear evidence that it will end sooner or later, and even now is winding down to its conclusion. However, they are not “signs” by which anyone can calculate the timing of the last day.

The stress in his warning is on what his followers will “HEAR” from deceivers, the rumors, and claims of false prophets and false teachers intended to raise expectation levels in the church about the immediate future.

What Jesus did say about the timing of his return is crystal clear - “No one, not the angels of heaven or the Son knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man, except the Father alone.”

Only God knows that day’s timing. Alas, ever since Christ said these words, deceivers have worked tirelessly to find loopholes in them so they may claim to know the “signs and seasons,” and thereby calculate the proximity of the end.

HIS REPEATED WARNING


Repeatedly, Jesus warned that no one knows the timing of that day. For example, the lesson he drew from his analogy of the “days of Noah” is that the men of that day “knew not until the flood came and took them all away, so shall be the coming of the Son of man… Watch, therefore, for you know not on what day your Lord is coming.” If a homeowner knew when the “thief” would strike, he would be prepared to catch him in the act.

He stated explicitly that no one knows or can know the “day or hour” of his “coming.” The only exception to this rule is God, period. And nowhere did he stay that we can ascertain the general “season” of the end by observing “signs.”

And he reiterated this warning just prior to his ascension when the disciples asked about the timing of the kingdom’s restoration:

  • (Acts 1:6-8) – “They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, do you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said to them: IT IS NOT FOR YOU TO KNOW TIMES OR SEASONS, which the Father has set within his own authority. But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.

In Acts, instead of providing chronologies and lists of recognizable “signs,” he commanded the disciples to wait until they received the gift of the Spirit, then they were to take the gospel from Jerusalem to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

And in his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ he pointed to the completion of that mission as the one event that will trigger the “end” and the “coming of the Son of Man.” The task of the church is not to decipher signs and calculate dates, but to preach the gospel “to all nations” - (Matthew 24:14).

The point of his repeated warning is that we must ALWAYS be prepared for his sudden arrival precisely BECAUSE we do not know its timing.  Its appearance will be sudden and unexpected, and on that day, it will be too late to prepare for his arrival, and any prophetic knowledge of “signs” will prove superfluous.

In the meantime, his followers are commissioned to take the good news about the kingdom of God to every nation and to do so until the moment he does arrive.


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