The phrase ‘No man knows the day nor hour,” is an oft spoken phrase but little understood. The phrase is usually used by novices who are in a discussion that gets beyond their understanding so then the phrase is spoken to bring the discussion to a halt and allow the novice to claim victory. Many preachers, who should know better, have said this phrase is a reference to the rapture, The first thing wrong is that Jesus is speaking to his Jewish disciples, not to the church. In both the book of Matthew, chapter 24, and Mark, chapter 13 the context is clearly the great tribulation, the time of Jacob’s trouble, Daniel’s 70th week. In both the Matthew and Mark passage, Jesus tells his disciples that when they see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, they are to flee to the mountains. It is in that context that Jesus says, “…but of that day and hour no man knows, only my father in heaven.”
The return of Jesus at the end of the tribulation is said by many that it will come exactly seven years after the start of the tribulation when the anti-Christ makes a treaty with Israel. But, when we look at how treaties are made, there is a difficulty. First negotiation teams sit down at the table and hammer out details of the treaty. Who will pay for the forces? How will it be enforced? When the parties agree that they have reached and agreement, that’s only the first step in the agreement. Next comes the announcement, which may come the same day, several days later or several weeks later. The next step, in the case of Israel, is for the Knesset to vote to ratify the treaty. Then comes the signing of the treaty. All of these events can happen days, weeks, months or years apart.
So, the phrase “No man knows the day nor hour,” has a specific meaning and application. It refers to the return of Christ at the end of the tribulation period and is not a universal statement. The way that many people use that phrase seems to say, after Jesus tells the disciples what signs to look for and how close they are getting to the last days, but you can forget everything I just said, because nobody can tell the future.
Another revelation that Jesus made in Matthew and Mark was to learn from the parable of the fig tree. “When the branch is tender and putteth forth leaves, know that summer is near. ….When ye see these things come to pass know that it (end on the age) is at the door. Verily I say to you that this generation shall pass till all these things be done.” Two questions arise; what is the sign of the fig tree putting forth leaves and what is the length of a generation. The fruitfulness of the fig tree has been linked to God blessing Israel for obedience to God’s commandments. So, Bible commentators have said that this is a sign of Israel’s return to the land and was fulfilled when Israel became a nation May 14, 1948. The next question is “What is the length of a generation?” In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abram who later was known as Abraham. When God was talking with Abram, he said that his descendants would be a stranger in a land that was not theirs for four hundred years and in four generations they would come out with much wealth. If God told Abraham that the length of four generations was four-hundred years, then how long is one generation, according to God? That’s right; one-hundred years, or the end of the generation which sees the birth of Israel in the last days will be 2048 AD.