The Day and the Hour

Matthew 24:36

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

The disciples thought that the temple would come down when Jesus returned at the end of the age. To them, these events were connected. But history shows they are not. The temple has come down, but we are still looking forward to Christ’s triumphant return.

The fall of the temple and the Second Coming of Jesus. The first event was predictable – Jesus gave the disciples forty signposts – but the second is a mystery. “But of that day and hour no one knows.” The former can be anticipated, but the latter “will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2).

Mr. Preterist: “I disagree. Jesus is talking about one and the same day. The fall of Jerusalem was the day when Christ returned in judgment of that sinful city.”

Mr. Futurist: “But one day is marked by signposts; the other day is unknown.”

Mr. Preterist: “Jesus knew the fall of Jerusalem would happen within a generation but he didn’t know exactly when – not the day or hour. This is why he told the disciples to pray that their flight wouldn’t fall on a Sabbath or in winter.”

As we have seen, the notion that Jesus came on Jerusalem in fiery judgment in AD70 is a popular but graceless interpretation of scripture. Nor does this judgmental interpretation square with Christ’s warnings:

And he said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. (Luke 21:8)

One of the characteristics of a first-century false prophet is they went around saying the Lord’s return was imminent. “Don’t listen to them,” said Jesus, “Because they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s not imminent and the actual hour and day are unknown.”

The preterist view that Christ returned in AD70 can only be true if Christ is mistaken. This is just one of several reasons why preterism, although it does a generally excellent job of accounting for the fall of Jerusalem, does a poor job of dealing with the return of Christ. According to preterism, the two events are connected. But according to Jesus, the two events are as different as night and day:

Night Falls on Jerusalem (Matt 24:4-35)  The Day of the Lord (Matt 24:36-41) 
  • False Christs
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • Famines
  • Earthquakes
  • Persecution
  • Increase of wickedness
  • Eating and drinking
  • Marrying and giving in marriage
  • Men working in fields
  • Women grinding at mills

These are strikingly different pictures. One is Mordor; the other is Pleasantville. One is marked by calamities; the other is normal life. One is predictable; the other is unexpected. One ends with a tragic disaster (Jerusalem falls), the other climaxes with a glorious triumph (Christ returns).

Since the disciples asked about two different events (the fall of the temple and his return), Jesus gave two prophecies, and they couldn’t be more different.

Yet both Mr. Preterist and Mr. Futurist treat these two prophecies as one. Mr. Preterist says everything on the right side of the table belongs on the left, while Mr. Futurist says everything on the left side belongs on the right. Mr. Preterist says the Lord came in AD70, while Mr. Futurist says the signposts for that generation are for the last generation. They are both mistaken.

Jesus said again and again that the disciples would see the first prophecy fulfilled, but the second prophecy was something they would never see:

And he said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” (Luke 17:22)

When you see some injustice or evil, you might pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, and put an end to this suffering.” It’s possible that the disciples prayed this prayer when they saw false messiahs leading people to their deaths, or when they heard about the Roman siege machines smashing Galilean towns. They would’ve longed to see King Jesus return in power. But Jesus said, “You will not see it.”

There were many things the disciples would see – wars, famines, tribulation – but there was one thing they wouldn’t. In the coming generation they would see Jerusalem fall, but they wouldn’t see Christ return. They would see the temple come down but not the Lord.

That event was for a future generation.

Extracted from Paul Ellis’s forthcoming book AD70 and the End of the World.

24 Comments on The Day and the Hour

  1. Thank you Paul for making it very clear! I am really digging your book as it is as refreshing as it is unique! I’ve read books on the four positions of the end times but yours seems to make the most sense.

  2. Yep! That pretty much nails it.

  3. We were just reading the gospels this last winter in my small group and the discussion over these prophesies came up. Mark 13:14ff seems to be two different things, but there is calamity at the end of all things also, something about a tribulation that will be worse than any ever seen before or since and that those days are cut short? Doesn’t exactly sound like pleasantville to me. he says that the heavenly bodies will stop shining, but perhaps this part could happen instantaneously. Anyway, look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Hi Sara. I will post something on the great tribulation eventually, but if you can’t wait, my AD70 book provides a verse-by-verse commentary of Matthew 24 (and Mark 13). You can get it cheapest in PDF format by clicking the link above.

  4. Paul I so agree with what you are revealing. Your description of left side being right and right being left has been so prevalent in my circles and I don’t say much cause I don’t agree with either. These things are spiritually discerned and sometimes I can’t say anything because I am talking to carnal minded people and they won’t receive it anyway. While others are running in fear of the end, I am calm and looking forward to the time of rejoicing. I can’t explain it in the natural but in my spirit I know that all is well. I pray that many will come to a place of peace and rest as they read your book and these posts. Jesus said He would never forsake me and He will supply all of my needs by His riches in glory. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!! 🙂

  5. crzyredhead86 // August 10, 2017 at 5:01 am // Reply

    Very interesting and makes a lot of sense. Intend to read AD70 (though, honestly, I’m probably going to go through your other books first) but I do have a question: Does any of what Jesus said in Matthew about the fall of Jerusalem and his return coincide with John’s vision in Revelation?

    I grew up in a church that took a futurist stance so all I’ve ever heard was that position of prophecy and I got to a place where I didn’t really want to bother with it anymore because it was a source of anxiety rather than hope.

    • I am fascinated by the relationship between Revelation and Matthew 24. Matthew 24 records the Olivet conversation where Jesus told John (and Peter, James and Andrew – see Mark 13:3) about the great tribulation (and other things). Jesus went into great detail providing at least 10 specific signs of the GT and 40 signs pertaining to the fall of Jerusalem. Decades later John wrote his mysterious vision. Like Jesus, John also wrote about the great tribulation. But whereas Jesus provided detailed and specific signs, John wrote in strange language. Jesus spoke plainly, but John used symbols and code words to protect himself and his hearers from persecution. How can we not see that the former interprets the latter? Scripture interprets scripture. Yet so many ignore what Jesus said and read all sorts of mumbo-jumbo into John’s symbolic language.

  6. AD70 means what to second coming of Jesus?

  7. Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my Words will never pass away”
    Matthew 24:36″But of THAT day, no one knows, not the Angels in Heaven, nor the Son, only the Father in heaven”
    (Paraphrasing from memory)
    The day of the Lord, and when heaven and earth pass away are not the same day. There is no timeline given after the “last day” (which is the 7th day, or simply the 1000 year millinial reign) . Therefore only the father knows those things which happen after. This is when heaven and earth pass away. But, He knows about the day He returns, He told us all about it.

    • You are correct in saying these are different days. The phrase “heaven and earth” is a Jewish phrase referring to the temple. Josephus, the Jewish historian, described the temple as having an inaccessible heavenly part (the Holy of Holies) and an accessible earthly part (the Holy Place). (Spurgeon says the same thing here.) The temple was God’s heavenly seat on earth. Jesus is saying the temple system will pass away (it did in AD70), but his word will endure forever.

      Verse 35 is the pivot point of the Olivet Discourse. The disciples had asked when the stones would come down and Jesus has just told them. They also asked when he would return and now he answers that second question. “But of that day and hour – meaning the day and hour of his return – no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

      The following verses reinforce this when Jesus compares his return to the days before the flood. “People were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

      • Are you saying that heaven and earth have passed away Bc the temple was destroyed in 70AD?
        The new heaven and earth in revalation 21-22 has not happened yet. All dominion, authority, and power have not been destroyed. Therefore heaven and earth have not passed away yet.

      • There are several scriptures on the new heaven and earth, but in Matthew 24 Jesus is talking about the old or passing heaven and earth. He is giving a direct answer to a direct question: When will these stones come down? How can this be anything other than a reference to the temple? The context proves this. The context of Matt 24:35 is Matt 24:33 “when you see these things” and Matt 24:34 “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

  8. I always thought those two events were same. Now it makes perfect sense as the details are completely different

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s all making sense now, the confusion is lifting..bless you Paul..I thank the Lord for you!

  10. The beauty of these scriptures is that they are a revelation of the sovereignty of God, like a window into another realm. Where the earthly intellect likes to have things neatly “weighed up” and concluded in a way that satisfies our desire for stability and control, the scriptures point to a deeper reality that can make us rather uncomfortable. Perhaps this is the intention, perhaps the Lord in His wisdom and grace provides these glimpses of deeper reality as seed, a spark, an invitation to lay down our own reasoning and be led by the Spirit into something well beyond the understanding we can gain through the mere knowledge of good and evil.
    Some say that the paradox’s in scripture are evidence of error, but many of the greatest minds that came to faith viewed them as irrefutable evidence of something that transcends our intellect. Perhaps a necessary glimpse of the transcendent that brings excitement and a sense of awe, an invitation to be led by the Spirit like a wind picks up a leaf and takes it where it will.
    Thank you for these articles Paul, some of what you have written brings that spark into focus.

  11. Lucas Almeida // August 12, 2017 at 7:27 am // Reply

    What a great text!! I’m brazilian and here we’re growing up in Grace of Lord!

  12. ….only Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 AD. by Titus the Roman. Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar; and the temple that the remnant rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity was decimated by Antiochus Epiphanes after he offered the sow on the altar during the inter Testament period. When Christ ascended to Heaven He took the tabernacle with Him. Today, the true and genuine temple is in Heaven. That’s what i have recently learned in Hebrews. The temple was never really God’s Heavenly seat on earth. Remember, at the dedication of the temple Solomon said, “Heaven and earth cannot contain Thee.” Be very careful with Josephus writings and historical assertions. Some are correct but they’re mostly erroneous ~

    • Much of what the religious Jews believed was erroneous – for instance, they didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God. Rightly or wrongly, they referred to the Jerusalem temple as “heaven and earth,” which is the only interpretation consistent with a literal reading of Christ’s Olivet prophecy.

  13. bigdaddy1991 // August 17, 2017 at 1:19 am // Reply

    Love these discussions, they are always interesting 🙂

  14. So we don’t need to pay attention as much as we need to know Jesus did it all. So when I get an immenent warning of danger I remember that Christ conquered sin by his death and gave me righteousness by his resurrection and speak the truth of the word until my thoughts line up with the truth of grace: my identity. It’s a done deal, just working out what God works in us.

  15. huperpleonazo // April 29, 2021 at 9:47 am // Reply

    is it true Dr. Paul Ellis that you’re a preterist? I want to clarify this thing. thanks

    • No. A preterist is someone who believes all prophecy has been fulfilled and that Christ has returned. The article above reveals my thoughts on that.

      • JA Bedia // April 29, 2021 at 9:59 am //

        thankyou sir. some of my friends are telling me that you’re a preterist and they’re forcing me to embrace preterism. but I don’t believed them.

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