The Doctrine of Christ's Return in the Bible

The End Times: Christ's Return

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”
—Mark 13:32-33

Jesus concludes the Olivet Discourse with a command to be expectant and stay awake, because no one, not even himself or any angels, knows when the end will come. While his answer is not the clear statement of the signs of the end that Peter, James, John, and Andrew have requested of him (vv. 3–4), it ought to be sufficient for us. Jesus commands watchfulness and alertness five times in these verses. Although many are unaware of “that day or that hour” (v. 32), believers must be constantly ready.

The short parable in verse 34 underscores his command and the nature of the end: a wise doorkeeper waits in constant expectation, obeying his master and refusing to believe that his master’s delay allows complacency in his duty.

Many have questioned how Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, could claim that he himself did not know when the end would be (v. 32). In becoming a man, the Son of God did not relinquish any of his divine powers, but he did limit himself to doing only the Father’s will; for reasons unknown to us, it was not the Father’s will for the Son to know the time of his return. Now, in his state of exaltation, the Son knows. Regardless, his command to “stay awake” (v. 37) remains the powerful, concluding focus of this discourse

Theology for Life

The Lord’s command remains as true for believers now as it did when he spoke it. Even in the everyday events of our lives, we ought not to forget that Christ will return as unexpectedly as a “thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2); thus we too must stay awake and alert, awaiting his return.

For more on Christ’s return see:

  • Phil. 3:20–21
  • 1 Thess. 4:13–18
  • 1 John 2:28–3:3
  • Rev. 19:11–16

This article is adapted from the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible.

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