I recently came across an article that told about a group called “We Can Know” that not only claims that we can know when Judgment Day will be, but that it will be May 21, 2011. While I was dubious about their claims, like a Berean I listened to what they had to say and then went to the Scriptures to see if it was so.
To make their case that we can know the day when Judgment Day and the Rapture will happen (they state they will happen on the same day in their documentation) they start with the premise that we can know. They do this by looking at the two most common verses to refute the fact that we can know, Matthew 24:36-37 and Mark 13:32.
““But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. ” (Matthew 24:36–37, NKJV)
““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, NKJV)
While they admit this seems rather straightforward, John McOwen states that while things in the Bible often seem 100% clear, they aren’t always that way. Mr. McOwen makes the point that you cannot take a single verse out of Scripture and make an argument from it. Since this is true, are there other texts that confirm or refute what appears to be the obvious position?
“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. ” (1 Thessalonians 5:2–6, NKJV)
According to both Mr. McOwen and Mr. Gunther Von Harringa, Sr., verse four states that since the brethren are not in darkness, that day will not overtake us like a thief, which means we will know when the day is. The We Can Know website states “Here we discover that there are some people who will not be caught off-guard by Christ’s second coming. We have all been taught time and time again that Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night, but here we have a clear statement (at least, it’s clear to us now) that it will not come as thief for the children of the light.” It appears that the only interpretation of “coming like a thief in the night” these men accept is coming without someone knowing. Having lived for several years in New York City, I am well aware of thieves and have seen the results of their actions. Someone does not have to know when thieves will break in, in order to be prepared and not be overtaken by one. Watching vigilantly and being aware of your surroundings are two very good ways to avoid being overtaken by thieves, even if you don’t know if they will strike today. Yet according to these men and their website, all the verses about watching and being ready mean we must know when our Lord will return. (Rev 3:3 // & 16:15 // , Matt 24:42-51 // , Mark 13:32-33 // , Titus 2:11-13 // , Luke 21:34-36 // , Rom 11:7-8 // ). How do these verses about watching and being ready mean we will know the day and hour of our Lord’s return? According to Mr. McOwen, all these verses “infer” that we should know. Yet most of these verses state we should be watching and ready because we don’t know when our Lord will return.
God has told us when previous judgments were going to happen
“He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, ” (Ecclesiastes 8:5, NKJV)
The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that a wise man’s heart can discern both time and judgment. Does this mean we can know the date of our Lord’s return? According to Mr. McOwen & the website authors, God has warned his people of judgment in the past, so He must be doing so now.
“And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” ” (Genesis 6:3, NKJV)
“For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” ” (Genesis 7:4, NKJV)
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. ” (Hebrews 11:7, NKJV)
In Genesis 6 God sets a time for man’s days, and it is rather vague whether He means how long a man will live or how long before He will destroy mankind. The story continues with God dealing with Noah, which of course is the story of the world being destroyed by the flood, so yes, it could have meant 120 years until the flood. Genesis 7:4 shows God telling Noah he has 7 days before the flood which, according to We Can Know, means Noah knew when the flood would happen. But based on Scripture, God didn’t give Noah a specific date until 1 week before the flood was to happen. Hebrews is right: Noah was warned of the flood by faith, but that was long before he received any date.
Here’s another example:
“And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? ” (Genesis 18:17–18, NKJV)
God decided not to hide what He was doing from Abraham. After all, he was going to become a great nation. But did God give Abraham a date in advance? Did he give him months or years to prepare?
“And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” ” (Genesis 18:20–21, NKJV)
No. God was on his way to Sodom and Gomorrah when he stopped at Abraham’s tent. Also, v 17 tells us that God told Abraham because he was going to become a great nation. Does that obligate God to tell us?
We Can Know also gives the fact that Lot was warned as an example:
“Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city— take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” ” (Genesis 19:12–13, NKJV)
God didn’t warn Lot until judgment was at hand. He had that night to gather his family and flee. Does that sound like he was given a date and hour in advance to watch and prepare?
A final example:
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” ” (Jonah 3:1–4, NKJV)
God gave Nineveh 40 days warning, which is a lot more then he gave Lot. But as we look at the examples, do we see God giving some the day and hour of destruction long in advance? Abraham and Lot had a day, Nineveh had 40 days, and unless God gave a date at the beginning which is not recorded in Scripture, Noah didn’t know until after the ark was built that he had 1 week left.
““But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. ” (Matthew 24:36–44, NKJV)
Just as in the days of Noah, life will be going on as normal. When the Son of Man comes, people will not have made plans, sold their earthly goods, said goodbye to unsaved loved ones, and be out waiting in a field to make a scheduled trip. Instead, we should always be ready to meet our Lord, since we don’t know when it will be.