As we’ve been studying Matthew 24-25, we’ve come across a number of things that are difficult to understand. One common difficulty pertains to the timing of the second coming and is found in 24:36: "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
How can Jesus be God and not know the day and hour of His second coming? God is omniscient. Jesus is God. So Jesus should be omniscient, right?
This is an important question because it is not only something that believers have a hard time understanding, but it is also an objection raised by those who reject orthodox Christianity. Skeptics point to this verse and use it to claim that the Bible contradicts itself. Various cults use it to argue against the deity of Christ. Therefore, for a number of reasons we need to be able to answer this question.
Philippians 2:5-8 will help us make sense of this issue:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Vv6-7 are the key. When Jesus took the form of a human servant, He emptied Himself. That is, He willfully muted some of His divine prerogatives. It could be said that He did not give up any of His attributes, but that He willfully relinquished their independent use. He uses them only according to the will of the Father.
The Lord Jesus repeatedly testified that He only did the will of His Father (John 5:19, 8:28-29). He did not speak from His own authority, but only as the Father gave Him (John 7:16-18; 12:49; 14:10). He subordinated His own will to the Father’s (Matt 26:39).
There is evidence that His omniscience was also subordinated to the will of the Father. Luke teaches that Jesus grew in wisdom (Luke 2:40, 52). Heb 5:8 teaches that He learned obedience. His omnipresence was similarly muted. By virtue of His taking human form, He necessarily is localized. He left the earth in bodily form and will return in the same way (Acts 1:11). Right now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20; Heb 8:1, 10:12, 12:2). It is because of the omnipresence of His Holy Spirit that He is able to say, “I am with you always…” (Matt 28:20; cf John 14:16-17; 16:7).
So we can say that Christ still has all of His eternal divine attributes – including His omniscience – but that He has willfully muted them for the purpose of taking on human form. At times in His earthly ministry, He did exercise His divine knowledge (Matt 9:4; 26:34), but this must have been by the direction and will of the Father.
This should inspire all the more love and adoration for our Savior and His eternal, selfless service to us. When the Son condescended and took the form of a man, He did so as a permanent, gracious act. Out of love for us and obedience to the Father, He remains our perfect high priest forever. Even now, He awaits the command of the Father to return to the earth to bring judgment to the wicked and salvation to the justified.