"You know not the hour"

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
In my Dispensational upbringing, my understanding of the verses where Christ says "you know not the hour when the Son of Man is coming" and refers to it as a thief in the night...my thinking was that he was just talking about the Rapture. :rolleyes:

Anyways, in WCF 33.3 on the last judgment, it says: "As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin; and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen."

This is a very new understanding for me that these sayings of Christ are referring to him coming in judgment. So I have two questions:

(1) Could someone explain to me exegetically that these verses are referring to Christ coming in judgment?

(2) When does this judgment occur? Is it referring to a person's death or the last judgment? Will there be a judgment at a person's death before the last judgment? I mean, the WCF here does seem to indicate this judgment could happen at any minute, that a person should live with a constant expectation/preparedness of it -- would that judgment be best understood as the actual return of the Lord, that it could be at any minute? I need a little help with these concepts.

I have a lot of questions as this is new to me. :) Thank you for your help.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
See Mt.24:36ff, it speaks of the flood as a parallel, the people didn't know it was coming. The flood pointed to the final judgment (that's the context). The context then goes into the 'rapture' language (that describes a picture of what it will look like when Christ returns). But remember the parallel to the one's unaware the flood was coming are the people unaware the judgment is coming (you know not the hour...). Why is Jesus returning? To judge the living and the dead.

Secondly, You answer your own question that it is referring to the last judgment. At death, bodies are buried. There is one last judgment.

The judgment happens upon the second coming of Jesus, however the judgment is not the same thing as Christ's return. They are two separate acts. His return should be expected, He promised He would come soon. However certain things need to take place first (as He promised) before He will return.
 

cajunhillbilly53

Puritan Board Freshman
It has been the historic understanding of the Chrch that Christ will come again one time. When He comes He will raise the dead, judge all men and then inaugurate the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is the understanding in all the Ecumenical Creeds, as well as the Confessions of the Reformation- Westminster, Augsburg, 39 Articles of the Church of England, etc. This is the position of all the early Reformers, the best of the Roman theologians and the EO and OO theologians. So the premil position has been the minority view in all Churches until recently. I would need a really compelling reason to adopt the Premil position over the historic understanding of the Church Catholic (not Roman, but the entire church of Christ as a whole).
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
His return should be expected, He promised He would come soon. However certain things need to take place first (as He promised) before He will return.
So why do we need to be expectant if certain things need to take place before His return? (I mean, how would His coming happen suddenly and unexpectantly like a thief in the night if we know certain things haven't happened yet?) Or is that what is meant by being "watchful," that we are watching for these events to happen and thus know His return is near?
 
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
So why do we need to be expectant if certain things need to take place before His return? (I mean, how would His coming happen suddenly and unexpectantly like a thief in the night if we know certain things haven't happened yet?) Or is that what is meant by being "watchful," that we are watching for these events to happen and thus know His return is near?

Well, you see there are different views with in the Reformed camp. It may be good for you to talk to your Pastor/elders and get a book(s). I hold to Amillenialism. I'd recommend a good commentary on Revelation ("More Than Conquerors" by Hendriksen) and an Eschatology book ("Christ and the Future" by Venema). Both of these books helped me considerably.

All the other questions that you raise should be answered with the books I recommend (or any book that deals with Revelation/eschatology)...
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
His return should be expected, He promised He would come soon. However certain things need to take place first (as He promised) before He will return.
So why do we need to be expectant if certain things need to take place before His return? (I mean, how would His coming happen suddenly and unexpectantly like a thief in the night if we know certain things haven't happened yet?) Or is that what is meant by being "watchful," that we are watching for these events to happen and thus know His return is near?

Because he doesn't come as a thief in the night for His people but for unbelievers.

Unlike a thief Christ poses no threat to believers and does not come to rob them but to reward them:

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness (I Thess 5:1-5, ESV)

Christ's comes for people at their death if they are not of the last generation of human beings. When people die, the day of grace is over - and we do not know when we are going to die.

Christ's coming partakes of the "already.....not yet" of New Testament eschatalogy. The Lord has come for the person who died last night, whether believer or unbeliever, because the day of grace is over for them.

The Lord has said that certain things will happen before He returns, so although His people do not know when the Eschaton will be, they do know when it is not going to happen.

E.g. He indicated in Matthew 24 and 25 that He would be away for a long time.

It is ridiculous to think that the Apostles were to believe that the Parousia might happen e.g. an hour after His Ascension.

But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' (Matt 24:48)

As the bridegroom was delayed,(Matt 25:5)

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. (Matt 25:19)

There are many other indications of before when Christ is not going to return in His glory.

The teaching of the any moment Parousia is a dispensational myth that has been picked up, and assumed as a fundamental article of faith, by (some) amils.

We still need to be right with God, because we do not know the day nor hour, because our death isn't in our hands.

Nwink
(2) When does this judgment occur? Is it referring to a person's death or the last judgment? Will there be a judgment at a person's death before the last judgment?

Death is always a judgment, because as the tree falls so will it lie. It is also a coming of Christ in a very notable providence.

If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. (Ecc 11:3)

Or is that what is meant by being "watchful,"

Being watchful just means being morally watchful. If we are born again and not in a poor spiritual state for a believer i.e. backslidden, we are ready for Christ when He requires our soul in death.

But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21)
 
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