We Ought to be Certain About What God has Revealed

A response to a believer claimed they used to be concerned with the question what Jesus means when He says He is coming soon, since He still has not come back… Her conclusion was that there are just some things we cannot know such as what Jesus meant by coming soon.

I actually applaud your inquisitiveness as a child. Towards this question “why does it say soon when this was written so long ago”, inquisitive, active searching for right answers from the right source is the right attitude. The Apostle included it to help the church’s faith to be based on realities and reasons so as to be immovable, eg. 2 Peter3:8-10,the book of Revelation.

It seems you are trying to avoid the ungodly attitude of being a question “steam roller” while one’s real intention is to avoid the truth. I agree with that. Often times, in evangelism, some people determined to set up their own righteousness and philosophy, so they constantly break into the Christian’s explanation with more questions so they can avoid the truth in the previous explanation. It’s wrong when people knowingly suppress the truth. Some Bible examples are most people in Jeremiah’s time (Jeremiah42:1-6, 43:1-2, the latter verses showed that they didn’t really want to know), and some religious leaders in Jesus’ time(Matt.21:23-26).  God cannot be deceived in that kind of case. Both of us can agree this attitude is wrong.

Yet, the situation above teaches us that the obstacle of knowing the truth is disobedience, the attitude of deliberately suppressing the truth so that one can hopefully doesn’t need to be held accountable. Which means we should know the truth and seek hard to know the truth with the determination to obey(Prov.2:3-5).

I bring this to the table because it seems to me the main body of your post tries to justify a common church cliche, something like the “nobility of not knowing”. This attitude is very common in modern churches (in many churches we went to, preachers oftentimes promote it in sermons and apply it in their daily lives), but it’s actually harmful and dangerous, and not biblical. Here are some major points:

1. What content is supposed to be known about God and his kingdom?

Answer: All the topics mentioned in the bible are supposed to be known by us. God wrote this collection of books to us. What God knows is much more than this. (this leads to the fact that we are supposed to understand every verse in the scripture and God can still be God, wiser than any of us.) The exceptions are only those scripture mentioned that we shouldn’t know, eg. Daniel12:9 (it says in the end of Daniel’s life, many prophecies God gave to him, he wouldn’t be able to understand. But the people in the end time would understand. Because some prophecies are already realized and also we have NT.), and Matt. 24:36(the exact date of second coming cannot be known, but we should watch for the progress through signs) and so on. There isn’t an unending list.  Scripture gives clear line separating content that is supposed to be known, and those that are not. Other things we can know are the knowledge which can be deduced from the Bible knowledge, common sense, and heavenly sights on our current or future situations that the Spirit is willing to reveal (just need to be tested).

To claim some truth communicated in the Bible non-knowable (delete something) and to claim the opposite(add something) are both in nature change the Bible message(Rev.22:18-19).

We hear people say in Bible study groups, “Oh, after all, this is God’s word. It’s above my head.” And often the rest in the group will nod and take this attitude as being humble and honoring God. This is the nobility of not knowing, I mentioned earlier. We can actually never find this attitude called godly in the Bible because it is a wrong attitude which brings immediate bad influence. It de-motivates another brother and often the whole group of mastering the bible systematically. It quickly makes a Bible study ineffective, personal study or group study. People start to have delusions 1) one can’t know the whole truth even working hard at it(some reformers might even have doubt whether they should work hard), 2) the more one claims to know the truth the bigger chance he is to be blamed as not humble; the more mysterious God’s truth remains the honor God has…  Further, we seldom see mature disciples “graduating” out of modern Bible study even after several years of active engagement as to be someone who can systematically explain the Bible and teach others. Yet, this in Jesus’ last command Matt.28:19-20 is a requirement to all Christians/disciples to be able to teach them to obey all that he commanded, including teaching the whole truth, and following up with others until they obey.

2. It is a truth claim to say something can not be known. It is not neutral. Imagine that we have a conversation with God. One says, “well, there are many explanations to answer the question: why hasn’t the second coming happened yet? So the right answer actually can’t be known.” Then following that logic, God would need him to offer ample evidence on 1) the Bible (the words given to human beings) doesn’t offer any information on this question, or to prove that God doesn’t communicate clearly to the human ears; 2) the several explanations mentioned above (A, B and C) are all at fault. Thus, people holding this view are at right with God on this topic. And people who claim that Bible offers information on this topic or hold any other explanations are at fault with God’s truth, and they are to be responsible for their own wrong convictions.

3. To claim something which can be known from the Bible is not knowable doesn’t contribute to the godly character of being humble or faithful. Jesus is the highest example of being humble. Phil.2:6-8 praises Jesus’ humbling himself onto death on the cross. He is God, yet he chose not to grab the rights he deserves to enjoy as God, but willfully chose to obey all the way to every action until to the point of death. In my opinion, this is godly humility, not making self look weaker or more ignorant. On the contrary, in Jesus’ earthly life, he had always been sought truth and later spread truth diligently including pointing out people’s mistakes without hesitation. 

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