Knowing Times and Seasons

Instead of calculating “times and seasons,” followers of Jesus must always be prepared for his sudden arrival, for God alone knows the timing of that day Acts 1:6-8

Eclipse Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
Did Jesus task his followers with knowing the “
times and seasons” of the end? Did he or the apostles command Christians to “know the times and the seasons”? Are believers even able to decipher key “signs,” and thereby perceiving the nearness of his return and related events, so that they may prepare for any eventuality? Did Jesus or the apostles leave us with a comprehensive list of end-time events that will signal the proximity of the end? - [Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash].

Jesus warned his disciples that many deceivers would come and “deceive many.” They would show “signs and wonders” to deceive even the “elect,” and they would propagate false information about the “coming of the Son of Man,” including about its timing and accompanying “signs”:
  • (Matthew 24:4-6) – “Take heed that no man deceives you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet.
  • (Matthew 24:23-27) – “Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is the Christ, or Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If, therefore, they say to you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning flashes from the east, and is seen even to the west; so, also, shall be the coming of the Son of man.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) – “Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him; to the end that you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand.
Certainly, since the time of Jesus, Christians have heard about “wars and rumors of wars,” along with new concerning earthquakes, famines, and many other catastrophes. Such things must come to pass, however, “the end is not yet.” At most, they are harbingers of the eventual end, but they were not “signs” by which one can calculate its approach. The stress on “hear” in his words indicates that the deceivers would be the ones spreading this information to raise false expectations about the 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 the timing of that day. But ever since he said those words, deceivers have worked tirelessly to find loopholes in them so they may claim to know the “signs and seasons.”

Jesus repeated this warning several times in his ‘Olivet Discourse.’ For example, the lesson he drew from his comparison with the “days of Noah” was 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” was planning to strike, he would prepare to catch him in the act, and thus, stop the planned robbery:
  • (Mark 13:32-33) – “But of that day or that hour no one knows… Take heed, watch and pray, for you know not when the season is.
In most of these sayings, Jesus specified that no one could know the “day or hour” of his “coming.” Noteworthy in the preceding passage is that he declared his disciples could not know the “season.” He reiterated his warning after his resurrection, when the disciples asked him regarding 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.
Instead of providing chronologies and “signs,” Jesus commanded the disciples to wait until they received the gift of the Spirit, then to take the gospel from Jerusalem to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” And in his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus pointed to the completion of that mission as the one event that would signal the “end” (Matthew 24:14).

The point of the repeated warning was that disciples must ALWAYS be prepared for his sudden arrival BECAUSE they could not know its timing.  Its appearance would be sudden and unexpected. On that day, it will be too late to prepare, and any prophetic knowledge of “signs” will become superfluous.


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