Are There Things Jesus Doesn’t Know?

Asenath on FB 8/31 in Spanish (Google Translated)–

According to Matthew 24:36, only the Father knows the day the Lord comes. My question is this: If the Father and the Son are the same person … How come the Son doesn’t know?

Matthew 24:36 – “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

Jesus says that the day and hour of His return is unknowable by men, and even unknowable by angels.

  1. Of that day and hour no one knows: Here, Jesus refers back to the original question of Matthew 24:3 (what will be the sign of Your coming?). His answer is somewhat unexpected, saying of that day and hour no one knows.
  2. To give this idea the strongest emphasis, Jesus claimed that this knowledge was reserved for His Father only. If Jesus Himself – at least during His earthly ministry – did not know this day and hour, it emphasizes the foolishness of any later person making certain predictions regarding the prophetic timetable.

The reason for what Jesus said: to emphasize the absolute un-knowability of the day of His return. No man knows it. No angel knows it. Only the Father knows it.

It’s interesting that Jesus did not directly say here that He did not know it. This certainly can be implied – but it’s just interesting that Jesus didn’t specifically say it.

There were limitations that Jesus accepted as part of the incarnation. When God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, added humanity to His deity, He also accepted limitations.
He accepted the limitation of location – Jesus was in one place at a time.
He accepted the limitation of fatigue – Jesus became tired.
He accepted the limitation of reliance on nutrition – Jesus became hungry.
He accepted the limitation of dependence – Jesus relied on His Father for everything.

It’s not that Jesus stopped being God – that divine nature was always there. It is that to further God’s plan of redemption, Jesus accepted these limitations. And, access to some knowledge was one of those limitations.

I wonder if we could interview Jesus about this statement – what would He say? Might He say, “I never directly said that I didn’t know – but that only the Father knows. Since I am one with the Father and He has given all things to Me, I also know.”

Or, Jesus might say: “Access to this knowledge was just another limitation I accepted for the salvation of My people.”

For me, either answer works!

What does it mean to pray fervently, as written in James?

The word “fervent” has the idea of heat or energy. It has the idea of stretching oneself out. I like how in the book of Acts, where it talks about a prayer meeting in the early church, it says that they prayed earnestly. Now, I don’t know if it’s the same word for “fervently” as is used in James; I would suspect not. But let me tell you something about that word, “earnestly,” which I believe would carry some of the same heart behind it. That word “earnestly” that’s translated in the book of Acts describing the disciples’ prayer simply means, at its root, “to stretch out for something.” You know what it’s like when you’re reaching for something on a tall shelf. I’m not particularly tall as a person; I’m of average height. So, there are times when I can’t reach something. You know that feeling, when you’re reaching up to the top shelf, and you reach and you reach and you reach, and you try to get up as high as you possibly can to reach that thing. You’re stretching out with all your mind to reach something. That’s the idea of the phrasing used in the book of Acts to describe the earnest prayer of the disciples. Even though it may very well not be the same word us there in James, I believe it’s much the same heart fervor here. It means a prayer full of heat. Sometimes our prayers are cold, are they not? They lack heat or life or effort. Sometimes we just casually cast up wishes towards heaven. We may have the attitude that God should care about these things we don’t really care that much about.

“Fervent” or “earnest” are great words to be used for prayer. I would think it’s describing prayer that is stretched out, so to speak, and extending itself. It’s prayer that has a sense of effort and energy behind it. It’s prayer that has emotion to it. It’s fervent prayer; you might also say it’s repetitive and having an intensity. Again, many of our prayers lack a significant amount of intensity. We don’t pray hard; we just pray casually.

About which gifts of the Holy Spirit might you disagree with Cessationists?

I am not in complete disagreement with my cessationist brothers and sisters, but I’m not a cessationist. I don’t believe that the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the days of the Apostles. Here are some of the things on which I disagree with cessationists.

First, there is often a rigid division of the spiritual gifts. People will divide them into categories such as the sign gifts, the communicative gifts, the helping gifts, and then certain categories are excluded. In other words, someone will say, “Well, the sign gifts are no longer for today.” To my knowledge, there is no place where the Bible makes this kind of distinction between the gifts. Paul never wrote, “Okay, let me tell you about the sign gifts, and here they are, but they may not be around very long. Now, let me tell you about the speaking gifts and or communicated gifts.”

Amongst cessationists, there is a dividing of the gifts of the Spirit into different categories. And, of course, it’s fine to divide for the sake of understanding them, but I don’t find a biblical warrant to define and divide the gifts of the Spirit with the purpose of excluding some of those gifts.

I also find no biblical warrant for the idea of saying that any of the gifts passed away. Some cessationists use the verses in 1 Corinthians 13, where it mentions the imperfect passing away and the perfect coming, thinking that it’s talking about spiritual gifts. I would disagree with that interpretation very strongly. I think it’s entirely unjustified, based on the original text.

I would also disagree with the idea that everything that is purported to be a spiritual gift today is fakery or is from the devil. Now, is there fakery out there? Absolutely. Is it possible that there could be a demonic counterfeit of a spiritual gift? I suppose it’s possible. But I just don’t believe that it’s possible to put everything into those categories.

Another area where I would very much disagree with my cessationist brothers and sisters is this: I believe that the testimony of history is on the side of those who believe that the gifts of the Spirit continue. In other words, when you see early Christians in the second, third, or fourth centuries talking about the gifts of the Spirit, they are not speaking about them in a sense that they have ceased. The common way in which the Apostolic Fathers spoke about the gifts of the Spirit was to say, “You can know that we’re the true church, because the gifts of the Spirit do continue among us.”

So, I think that cessationists are wrong biblically on several different fronts, and I think that they’re wrong historically. However, there are a few places where I would agree with my cessationist brothers and sisters.

One area in which I definitely agree with them is their high regard for the Scriptures, and their zeal to safeguard that high regard for the Scriptures. I don’t think anything I believe or practice as a continuationist – someone who believes that the gifts the Spirit continue today – violates those things. I highly respect the motive that they have in truly wanting to honor God and His Word.

The other thing I respect about my cessationist brothers and sisters is that they rightly call out a lot of foolishness and fraud when it comes to spiritual gifts. Foolishness and fraud do exist out there, and it’s inexcusable; there’s no defense to be made for it. It’s rightly called out.

A third area in which I do respect and agree with my cessationist brothers and sisters is that I believe there is one gift which God no longer gives. So, you could say I’m not a complete continuationist. But please allow me to explain. It’s not a gift that’s specifically spelled out in any of the lists of spiritual gifts that we find in the New Testament, but it’s a gift that we know tangentially and inferentially from several different passages. Simply, it’s the gift that would say, “I can hear the Lord perfectly. I have an Apostolic authority, because I can hear the Lord perfectly.” I don’t believe God gives anybody that gift today. Therefore, we must test every word. And we must recognize that God has given us one infallible, authoritative Word that doesn’t need to be questioned or tested in that way: the Scriptures.

Does a baptism have to be done by an ordained minister?

Does a baptism have to be done by an ordained minister to be recognized? Or can it be done by any fellow believer?

I think that’s a good question. One thing I want to readily recognize is that different Christian traditions have different answers on this. There are some Christian traditions that are very firm on the idea that baptism may only be performed by an ordained, licensed minister, and that’s the only kind of baptism that is valid. This connects to a way of thinking that goes back very early in the church, in which baptism is primarily seen as the entrance or membership ceremony for someone coming into the church. Therefore, they maintain that it’s appropriate for someone who’s duly recognized as an officer or ordained minister in the church, to receive that person and to recognize them as being part of the body of Christ, and a member of God’s family.

Here’s the issue. This gets back to a lot of problems that people have about baptism. They focus on the idea of baptism as membership. They focus on that almost exclusively, and they virtually ignore the many other aspects of what baptism is all about.

Let me put it to this way. If the only meaning of baptism was that you belong to God’s family, then I would be much more accommodating in my heart and theology toward infant baptism. But I would stress this very strongly: the meaning of baptism goes far beyond that. In fact, I would suggest to you that membership in God’s family is not the primary purpose or the most important thing to be indicated by baptism. I think the greatest and most important emphasis indicated by baptism is identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, rising to new life in Him.

Even though different Christian traditions have different takes on this, I don’t find anything in the Bible which narrows the prerequisites for who can be a baptizer. Now, someone may say, “Well, it’s implied or tangential.” There is that, but that’s what it is: it’s implied or tangential, but there is no specific qualification clearly there in the text. When Philip preached the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch and saw that eunuch trust in Christ, he baptized him immediately. Now, someone would say, “Well, he was a recognized Deacon of the church.” And that’s true, but he wasn’t an Apostle. He wasn’t recognized even as an elder, but as a deacon.

I think there is good reason for saying that the Bible has no specific limitation concerning who can baptize. Sometimes I’ll tell people that it should be somebody who is legitimately meaningful to you in your own spiritual life. There’s nothing in the Bible which says that, but there are church traditions which say only certain ordained people can perform baptisms.

What would you say is your favorite verse or book in the Bible?

I regard that as an unfair question, because I don’t think I can properly say what my favorite book or verse in the Bible is. I often say that my favorite verse or book of the Bible, is whatever I’m studying right now. Currently, I’m going through my commentary notes in Numbers. Just last night and this morning I was in Numbers 4:23, which says, “From thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, you shall number them, all who enter to perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of meeting.”

Well, I read a very interesting comment by Alexander McLaren. He said that the phrasing there, “to perform the service,” is actually more properly translated, “those who wore the warfare.” I said, “Well, that’s remarkable.” So, I thought, “Well, let me do a little bit of verification on this.” Other commentators didn’t seem to mention it. But I did just the briefest word study for those particular Hebrew words. And those were Hebrew words whose first definition had to do with war and warfare. And it just got me thinking: The context of Numbers 4 describes people serving in very practical service. It’s the work of the Kohathites, the Gershonites, the Merarites; these Levites were given the responsibility of carrying the implements of the Tabernacle. It’s very practical service. In church planter vocabulary, it was setup, tear-down and transport. That’s what they did.

Now, check this out. God says in Numbers 4:23 that that service is like warfare. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? The Bible speaks of service unto the Lord as being like warfare. Now, for those of us who have served the Lord in ways over the years, we know what that’s talking about. But I was struck by the fact that very practical service was deemed to be warfare as well.

Now, what am I saying all this for? I’m not just trying to run out the clock on this question. My answer to this question is that right now I am in love with the book of Numbers. Every day, I think, “This is amazing. I can’t believe this. This is wonderful. Wow. This is fantastic.” So that’s the best answer I could give you. My favorite verse or book of the Bible is whatever I’m studying at the moment. I just kind of fall in love with that.

What did Jesus mean in Matthew 11:12, that the violent take the kingdom of heaven by force?

Matthew 11:12 – And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Jesus made this very interesting and somewhat mysterious statement. To put it into context, Jesus is talking about John the Baptist. He is really trying to impress upon us the great energy and intensity that John brought to his life and his ministry. He’s saying that His disciples, those who receive His kingdom, should have a similar kind of energy and intensity as John the Baptist displayed.

This is something we need to think about from time to time. I know that some of us are more intense or energetic by nature. But with whatever is a legitimate expression of intensity on your part, I think it’s important for you to display that in the things of God. The problem is that people reserve their intensity and their interest for other things, like their favorite sports team. You know, “How are the LA Dodgers doing? That’s my big concern.” If that’s the only thing which consumes my intensity or my interest, then I think it says something about me. It could be the same with my career, bank account, or a dozen other things that I could mention. But if we have no real intensity, no demonstrable interest or driving force for the kingdom of God, then perhaps it is indicative that we’re not ready to receive it. I think this is some of what Jesus was talking about here.

Was Joseph still alive when the Israelites’ 430 years of affliction in Egypt began?

The Bible says the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years and were afflicted for 400. Does this mean that Joseph could have still been alive when affliction started, because the Pharaoh didn’t know him? He couldn’t have died in just 30 short years after the rest of his family came to live there. One answer is if he was still alive, it could be that the Pharaoh who did not know him was an Assyrian who invaded Egypt.

I think you’re thinking about some very interesting things in the Scriptures. First, since we don’t have a date for Joseph’s death, it’s possible that the order of events went something like this. Joseph’s family comes to Egypt, they’re there 30 years, a Pharaoh dies, the oppression begins, and then Joseph dies, sometime after that oppression begins. But let’s notice a few things. The condition of slavery and servitude in which the Israelites found themselves may have been gradual. Let’s not blind ourselves to the fact that many times oppression comes in a gradual way. That’s a possibility.

I do think that it’s entirely possible that Joseph died 30 years after his family arrived in Egypt. If Joseph died 30 years after his family came to Egypt, he would have been only in his late 50s or 60s. To die in your late 50s or early 60s in the ancient world was nothing strange. It may be entirely probable that Joseph died after the 30-year period or right before the 30-year period.

As for the Assyrian who invaded Egypt: I believe that reference in Isaiah is speaking about a later time, closer to his own lifetime. Isaiah lived centuries after the days of Joseph. It’s not speaking about centuries before the time of Isaiah. This event happened long after the days of Joseph.

Why isn’t the book of Enoch included in the canon of Scripture?

We don’t have a specific reason other than the following: From ancient times, the Jewish people themselves did not accept the Book of Enoch as being the same as the books which we understand to be the canon of the Old Testament. This started very early; it wasn’t anything that only came about in the Christian era. No, not at all. This is something that predated the Christian era by many centuries.

The other thing I would like to say is that we do find a reference to the book of Enoch in the New Testament. But by no means does that tell us that the entire book of Enoch was inspired by God. Obviously, the parts that were quoted were inspired by God. There’s no doubt about that, of course. But there’s no reason to believe that the entire book was inspired by God.

It was recognized from very early times by early Christians, and, of course, by Jewish people for centuries before Christians, that it did not belong in their collection of Scriptures. It’s not part of the Septuagint. It’s not part of these collections of the recognized Scriptures which come to us from that early period.

Just because the Bible quotes a particular author, it doesn’t mean that everything that author wrote was inspired Scripture. This is even true for the Apostle Paul. We know that there was a previous letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians before he wrote 1 Corinthians. You could say that the letter that we don’t have from Paul is really 1 Corinthians, what we call 1 Corinthians is actually 2 Corinthians, and what we call 2 Corinthians is actually 3 Corinthians.

Well, I would tell you today that even if, in an archaeological miracle, we would find the text of that first letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, I would say that it would be extremely important, and have unbelievable historical significance. But it wouldn’t mean that it belongs in our Bible. God has had His hand of preservation and guidance upon these different books of the Bible throughout the centuries so they would be collected, compiled, and given to us today. It was just recognized that Enoch did not speak in the voice of Scripture, as these many other books did.

What does Revelation 20:14 mean about throwing Hades and Death into the Lake of Fire?

In Revelation 20:14, Hades and Death are thrown into the Lake of Fire. They have already given up their dead, so it doesn’t appear to be speaking of the souls. What do you think it means?  

I think it simply reminds us that Hades, as a destination for the dead before they face judgment, and Death itself, that great robber of mankind, are not going to last forever. They have an expiration date on them. They will not last forever. They will positively pass away. I think that’s what it’s saying to us. When it talks about Death and Hades being cast into the Lake of Fire, there may be some actual event which goes along with that, but the emphasis will be simply on the ending of the career of Hades and of Death.

When the generation in the wilderness fell because of unbelief, did they go to heaven?

When the generation of the wilderness fell because of their unbelief, did they go to heaven? If people like Korah’s groups got swallowed up in the earth, where did they end up?

I believe that you’re going to see some of that generation of unbelief in heaven. I know that might be a startling statement. Some people would say, “David, how can you say that? They were judged. They were condemned. God said to them, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” I’ll agree; there is definitely a case to be made for saying that every one of that generation of unbelief died in the wilderness. And not only did they die in the wilderness, but they are going to hell. There’s some reason for saying that.

But I find it reasonable to believe that some proportion of those people repented, though I couldn’t tell you what percentage. Now, they didn’t repent as a nation. Therefore, God did not let them into the Promised Land as a nation. They were condemned to die in the wilderness, so that a generation of faith could supplant them and come into the Promised Land. Okay, we get that.

But I don’t see why there could not have been genuine repentance on an individual basis from several of those people who were part of the generation which came out of Egypt. So, I certainly would not exclude the idea. The group as a whole was condemned because their unbelief. But there may have been individuals who repented, who therefore were granted salvation, and escaped the terrors of the life to come apart from God because of that.

Should we be tithing/giving to the church if we are in debt?

Basically, I would say, “Yes.” However, I would want to know more about the nature of the debt.

Here’s how I understand tithing in a New Testament context. I believe that the tithe is a 10% requirement of our income. I don’t believe that it’s commanded in the New Testament, though it is patterned and spoken of with approval. But giving is commanded. So, there are two issues at play here. There’s the issue of giving, and then there’s the issue of how much to give. I believe that every Christian should be a giver. There’s no reason for us to not be givers. Even if we have very little, we can give from the very little we have.

What percentage should I give from what I have? In one sense I want to say, since I don’t believe the New Testament commands a ten-percent tithe. It certainly approves of it, and certainly gives a pattern for it, but I believe it does not command it. But I think it’s a good benchmark. It’s a good goal. The Bible does say this, through Paul, “As someone has been prospered, so let him give.” In other words, we’re supposed to give proportionately.

Now, what’s the proportion? I don’t know. The Old Testament proportion was ten percent. So, the New Testament proportion? I believe 10 percent is a great goal; that’s been the general practice of our family for decades and decades. But maybe God would want somebody to give more. So, I wouldn’t make a law about it. But I do think that every Christian should be a giver.

Concerning your question about giving to the church if we are in debt: You know, maybe someone’s debt is so overwhelming, that it would be better to suspend giving for a while, so you don’t go to jail because of your debt. Obviously, more details should be known. But in general, we can say the New Testament commands us to give, to give proportionately, and it presents to us the tithe as an approved pattern, though I would stop short of saying that it’s commanded.