The Uncertain Certainty
The Uncertain Certainty.
“But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
The one question that has perplexed Christians throughout history is the date and timing of Christ’s return. Throughout the church's history, there have been those who sought to predict when Christ would return. They argued with certainty that Christ would return on a specific date or year. Not seeking to be too specific, others have sought to narrow it down to a date but have sought still to narrow it down to a particular decade or period. However, Christ points out that all such speculation is ultimately folly, for no one knows the timing of Christ’s return.
While Jesus warns us that no one knows the timing of Christ’s return, the greater danger is that we assume that Christ will not return. Time marches onward without interruption, so we begin to think that how things have been will continue. The threat of Christ’s return and his coming judgment upon sin and sinners is merely meaningless. Even if we believe it might happen, we do not think it will happen in our lifetime, so we continue to live without considering his return.
In response to this complacency, Christ points us back to the days of Noah. In the time of Noah, God pronounced the coming judgment upon the earth because of the sinful degeneration of society. From the time of the pronouncement of the flood until the raindrops began to fall, and extended time would pass by (1 Peter 3:20). Not only did this allow Noah plenty of time for him and his sons to build the Ark, it also allowed the opportunity for people to repent and avert the coming judgment. Noah not only constructed the ark, but he continually called people to repent from their rebellion against God (2 Peter 2:5). However, with each passing day without any threat of rain, the people became more and more convinced that Noah was just a religious jackpot who caught in some doomsday delusion. Instead of responding in repentance and seeking God, they continued their daily lives. The threat seemed distant and remote. So they continued in life as if there was no coming disaster. They continued to live life as they have always lived. They denied the reality of their judgment. Even today, some people reject the view of Noah’s flood as a myth and fanciful story. Because they ignored the threat, they were unprepared when the rain began to fall. It was too late when they realized that judgment had come.
Jesus then points out that this is the danger we face with the promise of Christ’s return. Because time and history slowly march on, the idea of a divine judgment becomes remote. Even if it is true that Christ will bring judgment (and many deny that he will), it will not be in our lifetime, so we do not need to be worried about it. We can continue to live our lives, make our plans, and ignore the threat. We can live as we please, neglect, and even deny the reality of judgment. Yet even as we ignore the danger, disaster will come when we least expect it. Jesus can return at any moment. To live without this recognition is spiritual folly, and it will lead us to our destruction. To avert the judgment, we need to recognize the reality of the threat and change our conduct in response. This does not mean we sell everything and go live on a mountaintop waiting for his return. While we continue to live our daily lives, we are to live so that we will be prepared if Christ returns today or tomorrow. This means that we obey Christ and remain faithful to his calling upon our lives. This is the point that Christ will now illustrate for us in the following parables. The question we need to ask is not if or even when Christ will return but whether we are prepared for his return. If he were to return today, would he find us ready? While we do not know the timing of his return, we know that he will return. While the timing of his return is uncertain, the reality of his return is inevitable. It is the uncertain certainty.