Do You Know the Inner Meaning of “But of That Day and That Hour Knows No Man”?

By Zhao Yan

One morning, the sun came through the window and landed on Yixi, who was reading this verse in earnest at the desk: “But of that day and that hour knows no man, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). “So, no one knows when the Lord will return.” She said to herself and nodded her head confidently. However, at a Bible study she made a new discovery with regard to this verse.

At the Bible study …

Sister Su asked Yixi in a puzzled manner: “Recently I’ve heard someone preaching that the Lord has returned. But it is clearly recorded in the Bible, ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father’ (Mark 13:32). Doesn’t this verse say that no one knows when the Lord will return? So I’m wondering how they know it.”

Sister Lian said immediately: “That’s right. Lately I’ve also heard about this. They say that the Lord has returned. Is there a biblical basis for their words? I really can’t make heads or tails of this.”

Then others also began to discuss it. Some said: “The Lord returning is a big deal. We must seriously look into it.”

Others said: “It is impossible for us mankind to know when the Lord comes again, which the Bible states clearly. So there is no need to investigate.”


After a moment, Yixi stood up and said: “Brothers and sisters, please settle down. I was very surprised as well at hearing this news just now; however, I think we should carefully study the Bible and not randomly pass judgment. If the Lord has really returned and we don’t seek or investigate but arbitrarily make assertions, we will be condemned by the Lord!”

Older Brother Song said: “Sister Yixi is right. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’ (Matthew 7:7). If we have an attitude of seeking humbly, I think the Lord will lead us to know whether He has returned or not.”

With a look of disdain, Sister Qu said haughtily: “What is there to seek? It is clearly stated in the Bible that no one knows when the Lord will come. If someone says that the Lord has returned, I will not accept it.”

Brother Song stood up and said: “Brothers and sisters, is this way of thinking really correct? The Bible says, ‘For the letter kills, but the spirit gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). We all know that when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, the Pharisees adhered to the literal meaning of the Bible, thinking that anyone who wasn’t called Messiah couldn’t be God; as a result, they nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross, committing a most heinous sin. We mustn’t take the same path as the Pharisees; we mustn’t look at the Lord’s return through our own notions and imaginings. A few days ago I went out to listen to other sermons and met some brothers and sisters who have preached the gospel for many years. They explained very clearly the issue of whether people will know about the Lord’s return and their fellowship had a biblical basis, which is of great benefit to our welcoming the Lord. How about I share with everybody the light of what they have fellowshiped?”

Yixi and Sister Su said happily: “That’s terrific. Please fellowship with us.”

“Please open your Bible to Matthew 25:6: ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.’ And Revelation 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ From these two verses we can see that some people will know that the Lord has returned because the Lord told us to welcome Him when He returns, and said that He will stand outside the door and knock, anyone who hears His voice should open their door and He will sup with him. If no one knew when the Lord returns, then how would these verses be fulfilled? Furthermore, we all know that the Lord will come to save mankind, so if He didn’t let people know about His coming, how could He save them? How could we believe and follow Him?”

Everyone was very surprised to hear this and began to talk about it.

Brother Song continued: “Then what exactly did the Lord mean by saying ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man’? Actually, He was saying that the time and date of His return are unknown. But when the Lord returns and brings His new work, He will knock at the door, and some people will hear His voice and spread the good news. This will enable us to know that the Lord has returned.

“They also shared two passages. Let me read it to you. ‘At the break of dawn, unbeknownst to the multitudes of humanity, God came to earth and began His life in the flesh. People were unaware of the coming of this moment. Maybe they were all fast asleep; maybe many who were watchfully awake were waiting, and maybe many were praying silently to God in heaven. Yet among all these many people, not a single one knew that God had already arrived on earth’ (“Work and Entry (4)”). ‘At the beginning, when Jesus had yet to officially perform His ministry, like the disciples that followed Him, sometimes He also attended meetings, and sang hymns, gave praise, and read the Old Testament in the temple. After He was baptized and arose, the Spirit officially descended upon Him and began to work, revealing His identity and the ministry that He was to undertake. Prior to this, no one knew His identity, and apart from Mary, not even John knew. Jesus was 29 when He was baptized. After His baptism was completed, the heavens were opened, and a voice said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Once Jesus had been baptized, the Holy Spirit began to bear testimony to Him in this way. Before being baptized at the age of 29, He had lived the life of a normal person, eating when He was supposed to eat, sleeping and dressing normally, and nothing about Him was different from others, though of course, this was only to the fleshly eyes of man. … After His baptism, there were no particular changes in Jesus; He was still in His original flesh. It was just that He started His work and revealed His identity, and He was full of authority and power. In this regard He was different from before. His identity was different, which is to say that there was a significant change in His status; this was the testimony of the Holy Spirit and was not the work done by man. At the beginning, people did not know, and they only came to know a little once the Holy Spirit bore testimony to Jesus in such a way. If Jesus had done great work before the Holy Spirit bore testimony to Him, but without the testimony of God Himself, then regardless of how great His work, people would never have known of His identity, for the human eye would have been incapable of seeing it. Without the step of the Holy Spirit’s testimony, no one could have recognized Him as God incarnate’ (“Concerning Appellations and Identity”).

“These words tell us that no one will know when the Lord returns. Just as when the Lord Jesus came, no one knew that He was the coming Messiah. But when the Lord began His work, the Holy Spirit testified for Him, which enabled us to know the Lord Jesus’ identity. Similarly, the specific time of the Lord’s return is not known by anybody, but we will know when the Lord returns and begins to work; otherwise, how could we receive His salvation? So ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man’ means no one will know the moment He comes back, but doesn’t mean that when the Lord has started to do His work, no one will know it. We shouldn’t lightly come to any conclusions based on the literal words of the Bible, but instead, we should contemplate the Lord Jesus’ words with a heart that seeks the truth, not delimiting God within our own notions and imaginings. God’s words are the truth; without God’s enlightenment and guidance, we are not able to understand them only depending on our own mind. And God is wise and His wisdom is higher than that of man; there is no way that we can fathom it. Just as the Bible says: ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?’ (Romans 11:33–34). If we rely on our imaginary notions to interpret God’s words, we will not be able to understand God’s will.”

Hearing this, Yixi suddenly saw the light and said: “I’ve read these verses many times, so how come I never understood them? Today through the verses and words Brother Song read I understand a little: It turns out that the specific time of the Lord’s return is not known by anybody, but some people will know it when the Lord returns and begins to work.”

Sister Su nodded and said: “Brother Song’s fellowship tallies with the Bible, and my heart becomes clear and I’m sure that some people will know when the Lord returns. So now the key is how we will be able to welcome the Lord. Brother Song, please fellowship with us some more.”

Brother Song said: “To understand this crucial problem, first let’s take a look at how followers of the Lord Jesus recognized Him as the Messiah when He did His work. I think that many of the brothers and sisters know that in the beginning they didn’t know the Lord Jesus’ true identity was the Messiah, but they followed Him and listened to His sermons. For example, after Philip believed in the Lord Jesus, he told Nathanael that he had met the coming One, and that He was Jesus. Though Nathanael had conceptions at that time, thinking: ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?’, he still went to meet with the Lord Jesus and listened to His sermons. These followers were able to recognize God’s voice through what the Lord Jesus said, and they determined that He was God Himself. Furthermore, the Samaritan woman could recognize the Lord Jesus as the Messiah because the Lord had brought her darkest secrets into the light and she knew that only God possesses penetrating understanding of people. From this we can see that if we want to follow God’s footsteps, we must first have hearts that yearn for the truth; when hearing news of the Lord’s coming again, we should actively seek and investigate. Only in this way will we have the chance to gain God’s enlightenment. Just as the Bible says: ‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). So if we want to follow God’s footsteps, we should proactively seek; this is the pre-condition.”

Sister Su said excitedly: “This time I understand that if we want to keep pace with the Lord’s footsteps and welcome Him, we should proactively seek and investigate with a humble heart.”

Yixi kept nodding her head, and said: “Yes, believing in the way comes from hearing of the way. If we hear the gospel of the returned Lord but refuse to seek or investigate, then won’t we become foolish virgins and in the end be eliminated? Thanks be to God! Through our fellowship today not only do I understand what the words ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man’ specifically refer to, but I also know the way to welcome the Lord’s return.”

Sister Qu said, a little embarrassed: “Yes, today’s fellowship is really enlightening, through which I see that our previous understanding is off the mark. Thinking like that will never allow us to meet the returned Lord. So let’s find brothers and sisters who preach the coming of the Lord for seeking!”

Everyone excitedly nodded and said: “Great!”