Question: What is the day that the Son did not know about in Matthew 24:36? He knew about AD 70 because he described it in detail through verse 34.
Answer: The Day that he did not know “the day and the hour” about, is the same day he had been discussing earlier. Nowhere in his earlier discussion does he specify the “Day and the hour” of his coming in the judgment of Israel. Such specificity is simply not present in the earlier discussion.
Notice that Jesus told them that by observing the signs, they could know the Day was near, even at the door, but, that certainly does not imply nor state that they could know the day or the hour. Notice that in James 5, the apostle, who heard Jesus’ discourse, wrote, “the parousia has drawn near” and “the judge is standing right at the door.” Now, had Jesus given them the “day and the hour” James could very well have given that information. However, true to his master’s words that said that when they saw the signs they could know the parousia had drawn near, James says the Day had now drawn near, and, he virtually quotes Jesus’ words “the judge is standing right at the door.” No specificity, but urgency and immanency nonetheless.
It is perfectly plausible for Jesus to be able to say that the events prior to v. 34f were to occur in “this generation” (his generation of course), but, not know the specific day and hour of when the consummation of those events would occur.
Follow-up Question: But by “day or hour” was he talking about a 24 hour day? Could not “this generation” also be a day and hour, in the since of the time frame? Jesus said “that day and hour” would be an hour in which they would think not. How can this be when they know the generation that it would happen in? Surely, the disciple would think that the advents previous to vs 34 would happen within that generation. So, anytime during that generation would not they be thinking it would happen since they were the twelve? But, this day and hour of verse 36 they would NOT think it would happen when it did. It would be like the days of Noe, there would be noe fore warning. The day of Noe had no signs, AD 70 had tons of signs.
Answer: To my knowledge, the term “day and hour” is never used Biblically for a long period of time, even a generational period. So, if we are going to apply an unprecedented definition on a text, we would certainly have to have a really good reason for doing so.
Second, the disciples had asked for the when, and the sign. Notice that Jesus gave the sign answer first, and then, the when answer. The sign answer led into the when answer, and he simply said that they could know by the signs when it was near, but, they could not know the day or the hour. (BTW, this is taken from Zecharah 14 and the prediction there of the Day of the Lord against Jerusalem, so, we have O. T. testimony concerning the day and hour of the judgment of Jerusalem being unknown).
Third, to suggest that they could know that it was to be in that generation, from the previous verses, therefore, a delineation is found in v. 36f, I do not think follows at all. If they could know for sure that the destruction was to be in their generation from the previous verses–and that this implies a break with v.36– why then did he tell them specifically that “this generation shall not pass…”? In other words, while I agree wholeheartedly that Jesus’ statements that “you will see” and, “when you see” etc. implies and virtually demands that their generation was at the heart of the discussion, this did not preclude Jesus from driving that point home in v. 34. So, the fact that the language of verses previous to v. 34 implied the fulfillment in that generation, did not preclude an emphatic statement testifying to that fact, and that would certainly seem to allow for the more specific statement of v. 36. I see no disjuction at all in Jesus telling them that they could know that it would be in their generation but that they could not know the specific time.
Incidentally, if the language of v. 4-34 indicated that the events were to occur in the lifetime of the 12, i.e. in their generation for sure, why does not the language of v. 37f not indicate the exact same thing? Jesus told the disciples that they would see the signs. In v. 43f, Jesus told them to “Watch!” He told them “you be ready.” Jesus uses the same pronouns of address in verses 37f that he uses in v. 34. Where do we shift gears and say that in the previous verses, he was speaking to the disciples and their generation, but that in the latter verses, he was not speaking to them about their generation? Where did he indicate that “you” did not mean “you” anymore, but in reality meant, some future generation 2000+ years removed from them?
To tell them that through observance of the signs they could know that his coming in judgment of Jerusalem was near, is, in itself, a statement that they could not know the day and the hour. To know, through observation, that something is near, does not by any means tell you what the specific time is, or will be. It is near, even very near, but, the specific time is simply unknown.
Fourth, Re: Noah and his day. Well, actually, there were signs in Noah’s day!
Wouldn’t the initiation of the building of the Ark, and the proclamation of the coming flood tell the audience that the Flood was expected in their day?
Wouldn’t the completion of the Ark signify that the day of the flood was near, even at the door?
Wouldn’t the gathering of the animals into the Ark tell you, as an observer, that Noah certainly believed that the end was near?
And, wouldn’t the very fact that animals were perhaps travelling to Noah’s location docilely, and willingly submitting to caging and capture not indicate that something unprecedented was going on?
Wouldn’t the gathering of food stocks into the Ark signify that to Noah, the time was near?
Wouldn’t the gathering of the rain clouds not indicate that something was up, considering that there had never been rain before?
Didn’t Noah and his family climbing into the Ark, and shutting the door behind them signify “something”?
I suggest that the Flood had plenty of preliminary signs. Some of the signs were generic, but some of the signs indicated that the day was near, even at the door, even though they could not know the day or the hour!
Fifth, It is my conviction that the “signs” versus “no signs” argument to delineate between two comings is faulty. If Jesus had said everything that he needed to say about signs in the previous verses, then, prima facie, there was not any reason to mention signs in the latter discussion. There were no more signs to give! He had already said everything about signs that he needed to! What he then did was to tell them to watch! Question: Watch for what? If there was nothing to watch for, then how could they watch? BTW, this “no signs” argument runs afoul of numerous other texts that are normally applied to the “Second Coming.” Paul very clearly gave signs of the parousia in 2 Thess. 2, yet, that text is normally associated with the Second Coming. Well, if Paul gave two major signs of the parousia, then the argument about “signs versus no signs” in the Discourse is falsified.
Sixth, Finally, I believe that the attempts (that I once made myself), to see a different Day in verses 36f is because of a presuppositional approach to the disciple’s questions. I once assumed that the disciples mistakenly believed that the parousia and the end of the age were associated with the fall of Jerusalem. So, on this premise and assumption, I then sought to delineate between “comings” in the text. However, the understanding of several things changed my mind:
1.) The O. T. definition of the Day of the Lord, which was where the disciples got their concept of the Day.
2.) The disciples were not confused to associate the fall of Jerusalem with the end of the age, for the O. T. made that very connection (Daniel 12)!
3.) Jesus in no way corrected any “misunderstanding” on the disciples’ part. On other occasions, when they did not understand, he did correct them, and the texts tell us so. There is no one word of correction for mistaken concepts in the Discourse.
4.) The parallel texts of Mark and Luke make it very clear that the disciples were asking about one event, and one event only.
5.) The use of the pronouns in the Olivet Discourse is too consistent in application to that generation for me to see a change of application from “you” to a generation far removed.
What is interesting in all of this is that historically, those who see two comings in the Discourse acknowledge that in v. 29f Jesus was promising to come on the clouds of heaven, with the trumpet, to gather the elect, in that generation. Notice that the disciples did not ask for signs of his “comings.” They knew of only one “end of the age” parousia, and so, for us to interject another, different parousia into the text is unjustified.