“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that this day should overtake you like a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4
Written by Jeff Exner
Something unexpected happened to me while working on the Rapture: True or False article. I found a common theme which at once disturbed me. The following statement is typical of what I’m talking about:
“What’s amazing is that Jesus said during His earthly ministry that He did not even know the day of His coming. ‘Of that day and hour no one know, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone’ (Matthew 24:36). Anyone who claims to know the specific time of Christ’s coming is claiming he knows something that the Father didn’t even tell the Son while He was on earth. That is the height of arrogance and folly.” (Mark Hitchcock: 2012 The Bible and the End of the World).
Many have probably either heard this argument, or even used it themselves. There seems to be almost a common agreement that when Jesus came to earth, He somehow limited Himself, or was limited by the Father, and made to be some kind of “divine human” with limited knowledge and abilities.
So, we see in the above author’s one short paragraph the same argument as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many may not know this, but this is one of their favorite proof texts to prove that Jesus was not really God. I have to admit that at least they understand more than most Christians seem to, that if Jesus was limited then He wasn’t really God. It is not really all that complicated.
One of the essential characteristics of God is that He is omniscient: "Known to God from eternity are all His works. Acts 15:18 (NKJV)
Consider this: can God become non-God? Can He change the essence of who He is? Can He forget that He is God, and then have it revealed to Him that He really was God, and just didn’t know it? Or put another way, can He forget that He is omniscient (all-knowing), and then remember that He actually did know everything?
If that is true, then Jesus was not fully God, but some kind of demi-god, or hybrid half-god, half-man. There is no other option. If Jesus was limited, then when He became flesh, He didn’t just empty Himself of the privileges of deity, He would have had to have emptied Himself of His Godhood,
completely! But then He could be God, because God cannot change! (Heb.13:8).
Consider the following:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Phil 2:5-8 (NKJV)
Here we have the clear explanation of what happened at the incarnation. Notice what it doesn’t say. It never says Christ emptied Himself of deity. It does state that He
“… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men… And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient…”
He made Himself of no reputation, meaning He did not come as a king, ruler, wealthy elitist, or a popular figure, but as a carpenter’s son. He came in the likeness and appearance of a man. Notice that there is nothing in this statement that requires that in order to appear as a man; Jesus had to limit His deity. He humbled Himself and became obedient. Again, there is nothing here that requires Christ to be non-God in order to be humble and obedient. He was both before He created the world!
The belief that Jesus came as only a man, and somehow attained Godhood (which is logically impossible), is actually the essence of the Word of Faith, Prosperity Gospel, Kingdom Now, Emergent Church, Christian Science & New Age cults. The following statements are typical of their teachings:
"The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth." (Kenneth E. Hagin, "The Incarnation," The Word of Faith page 13, December 12, 1980)
“That’s who we are; we are Christ!” (Kenneth E. Hagin, Zoe, page 41).
“Jesus went into hell to free mankind from the penalty of Adam’s high treason…When His blood poured out it did not atone…” (Personal letter from Kenneth Copeland, Ft Worth Texas, March 12 1979;)
"Everything produces after it's own kind. That's the law of Genesis! Everything produces after it's own kind. Where did you come from? Who did you come from? Everything produces after it's own kind. Horses get horses and dogs get dogs and Gods produced gods! Gods produced gods! … I have equality with God… If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? If Jesus - see God's already been anointed. If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? Jesus came as a man, that's why it was
legal to anoint him. God doesn't need anointing, He is anointing. Jesus came as a man… Jesus didn't come as God, he came as a man, and he did not come perfect. Perfect in the sense that he didn't need to be added to."… But Jesus didn't show up perfect, he grew into his perfection…. And somebody said, well, Jesus came as God. Well how many of you know the Bible says God never sleeps, nor slumbers. And yet in the book of Mark we see Jesus asleep in the back of the boat…. I am just telling you all these fantasy preachers have been preaching all of this stuff for all of these years and we bought the package. Excerpts from Creflo Dollar: http://www.forgottenword.org/dollar.html
Yes, you heard him right. Those of us who believe that Jesus came as God are called “fantasy preachers”.
It would seem like modern theology is projecting Christ’s humanity over His deity in order to allow for humans to attain godhood. Herein lies the real motivation to diminish and remove the essential characteristics of God. When someone argues that He did not come as fully God, follow the logic. It will inevitably end with man being able to attain godhood, as we have seen.
Here is the question that we should really consider. Did Jesus have to become non-God in order to take on flesh? Can anyone show one verse where it states that He did? I submit to you the answer is no. If you are thinking that Matthew 24:36 is proof, consider the following verse:
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.” John 6:35 (NKJV)
Did Jesus say that here that He was a loaf of bread? Do you bow down in the bread aisle at the grocery store in “Wonder”?
Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” John 10:7 (NKJV)
No, that’s it, He is a sheep gate. Do you stop at any sheep farm and bow to the gate? Of course not. So what did Jesus mean when He said: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matt 24:36 (NKJV)?
Although this is discussed more thoroughly elsewhere (Rapture: True or False article, and also in the No One Knows or No One Knew document); the following should be sufficient to place Christ’s words in their proper historical context.
The only consistent explanation is that this passage found in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 is part of a figure of speech.
The first aspect of this figure of speech is that it is a reference to the coming marriage of a groom and bride. For the Church, the Rapture is prior to when the Day of Lord comes. For Israel it begins at the Second Coming at the end