Al Mohler and Bryan Chapell discuss how and why Jesus could not know the day and hour of his return. They address:
- Correctly framing the question (0:30)
- Clarity from the early church (1:20)
- The function of Christ’s human nature (1:44)
- The necessary humanity of Christ as good news (3:12)
- Assumed limitation for the sake of substitution (4:54)
- Christ as perfect humanity glorified (5:54)
Read more from TGC on this topic:
This episode of TGC Q&A is sponsored by The Gospel Project—a chronological Bible study for all ages, explaining how Scripture points to Jesus, encouraging us to live on mission. Visit gospelproject.com/tgc to download a free e-book and try additional resources.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Bryan Chapell: So, Al Mohler, theologian for decades, how could an omniscient son of God not know the day and the hour of his return?
Al Mohler: When I teach theology, I always say that we have to learn how best to ask the question, you ask it exactly as it would be asked commonly, and that’s very helpful. I want to turn that and say that according to the scripture, it’d be better for us to ask, how does an omniscient Christ not know? In the sense that it’s not a matter of whether it’s a capacity or potentiality, Jesus declared it at the moment in his incarnation that it was true. And so, looking at that moment, how is that true?
Al Mohler: Well, the Christian church has struggled with this for a long time, but came to some very early clarity. And I think, in particular, of the Council of Nicaea in 325, pointing out that Christ has two natures and each of those natures has its own properties, and neither of those natures is compromised, his divine nature and his human nature. And in his incarnation, his human nature was not such that it eclipsed his divine nature, that would not be possible, but his human nature functioned in the incarnation in such a way that he tells us how it functions, he is making something very clear there.
Al Mohler: Now, he is fully God, and omniscience is a property of divinity. I think this is probably helpfully understood within Philippians 2 when Christ humbled himself. Now, there are theologians who take this emptying or humbling to an extreme that isn’t biblical.
Bryan Chapell: Denying his deity at that point.
Al Mohler: Exactly, exactly. Or acting like his deity is a switch he turns on and off, which isn’t that at all. But in his incarnation, I mean just, I think one of the most amazing verses in scripture comes in Luke, so soon after the birth of Jesus when we are told that he increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men. How can Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man or truly God and truly man, how can he increase in wisdom? Well, it is because in the incarnation he genuinely grew from an infant into adulthood. And I don’t want to ask how can he have done that? I just want to say how do we explain how he did do that.
Bryan Chapell: Right. How did he in the manger continued to uphold all things by the word of his power while he’s a baby in the manger, but he’s fully God still and fully man and we understand that. Can Al because I don’t often have the opportunities with you. I mean, reflect on Hebrews 5, if he is going to be in all manner tempted as we are yet without sin, we believe that in his humanity he becomes a faithful high priest for us. And it is necessary for him to have his humanity to be a right and righteous sacrifice for us. So, he’s sympathetic with our need because of our humanity, but he’s also a sufficient sacrifice for us.
Bryan Chapell: Can you reflect on why is it necessary that he be fully human, even to the extent that he doesn’t know the day and the hour, but you and I don’t just wonder that, we actually need to know that, that he would be a sufficient sacrifice and a sympathetic priest for us. Why do we need to know that he does not know the day and the hour?
Al Mohler: Yeah. I think we need to know that because of his, as you say, his true humanity, and his true humanity by the way is sometimes heard merely as authentic humanity. Whereas in the history of the Christian church, true humanity’s meant perfect humanity. And so, when we say that he was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin, that yet without sin is just as important as tempted in every way as we are. And so when you’re looking at Christ, you’re looking at perfect humanity, which means by the way, that when Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man, it’s not an accident that human beings have a lifecycle.
Al Mohler: It’s not an accident that we are infants and we have to grow. We have to even gain language capacity, and imagining Christ fully God and fully man having to learn how to speak. He who was the logos through whom the worlds were made. But, Bryan, I really appreciate the gospel-centeredness of your question because there in Hebrews it makes clear that his perfect humanity, it’s not an abstract, some kind of theological exercise by God the father. It’s not a Trinitarian exercise merely, it’s for our redemption. We are redeemed because he is our perfect high priest. His perfect humanity is essential to that.
Bryan Chapell: And the Hebrews 4:15 is actually making that clear isn’t it? That he is going to be … I don’t know the right words. You’re the theologian better than I, limiting the way in which he assumes his full humanity is such that he is fulfilling his high priestly role, that he will now be the perfect substitute for us because not only in all manner tempted like as we are but in all manner like as we are. So, he is the right and full and perfect substitute in our behalf even as he sympathizes for us in our weakness.
Al Mohler: And the only thing I want to really add to that eagerly is we can’t talk about that just in the past tense. He is perfect humanity glorified. He is our great high priest right now. He was on the cross but he is right now sitting at the right hand of God the father almighty.
Bryan Chapell: And so, Presbyterians’ “catechism” says he was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever. Hey, I got to quote the catechism, how about that?
Al Mohler: You’re going to get an eager Baptist, amen.
Bryan Chapell: Okay, great. Good to talk with you always Al.