JOHN MACARTHUR ON JESUS’ KNOWLEDGE OF THE DAY AND HOUR

In this short post I am going to quote reformed Calvinist and pastor John MacArthur’s explanation of the incarnate Son’s ignorance of the day and hour of God’s judgment which was to befall Jerusalem and her inhabitants. Here are the relevant texts:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36

And here is MacArthur’s explanation of these inspired passages:  

“… nor the Son. When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return. Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1, 14), when He became a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Phil. 2:6-8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions (cf. John 2:25; 13:3), but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of His humanity (John 15:15). Such was the case regarding the knowledge of the date and time of His return. After He was resurrected, Jesus resumed His full divine knowledge (cf. Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:7).”  (The MacArthur Study Bible: Thomas Nelson New King James Version (Second Edition) [Thomas Nelson, Nashville TN 2019], p. 1357)

Still more amazingly, not even the Son knew at the time He spoke these words or at any other time during His incarnation. Although He was fully God as well as fully human (John 1:1, 14), Christ voluntarily restricted His use of certain divine attributes when He became flesh.

“Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped,” that is, to be held onto during His humanness (Phil. 2:6). It was not that He lost any divine attributes but that He voluntarily laid aside the use of some of them and would not manifest those attributes except as directed by His Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

Jesus demonstrated His divine omniscience on many occasions. “He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). When, for example, Nicodemus came to Him at night, Jesus already knew what he was thinking and answered his question before it was asked (John 3:13).

But there were self-imposed restrictions in His human knowledge. He told the disciples, “All things that I have learned from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Jesus obediently restricted His knowledge to those things that the Father wanted Him to know during His earthly days of humanity. The Father revealed certain things to the Son as He reveals them to all men–through Scripture, through the Father’s working in and through His life, and through physical manifestations of God’s power and glory (see Rom. 1:19-20). Jesus learned much of His earthly knowledge just as every human being learns, and it is for that reason that He was able to keep “increasing in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). In addition to those ways, some truths were revealed to the Son directly by the Father. But in every case Jesus’ human knowledge was limited to what His heavenly Father provided.

Therefore, even on this last day before His arrest, the Son did not know the precise day and hour He would return to earth at His second coming. During Christ’s incarnation, the Father alone exercised unrestricted divine omniscience.

It seems probable that Christ regained full divine knowledge after the resurrection, as implied in His introduction to the Great Commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). He told the disciples, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). He repeats the truth that the disciples would not be told the time of His appearing, but He did not exclude His own knowledge, as He did in the Olivet discourse. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24-28 [Moody Press of The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1989], pp. 71-72)

FURTHER READING

A Scholar’s Biblical Summation of the Deity of Christ

John MacArthur’s Exposition of our Lord’s Use of Psalm 110:1

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