Looking at the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), specifically the eschatology of the parable, I notice that Jesus tells his Apostles, “Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes” (verse 13). Futurists will tell us that this directly relates to Matthew 24:36, which they use as the dividing scripture in the Olivet Discourse, saying that all of what comes after Matthew 24:36 is for our future. In other words Jesus was speaking of events that would take place cir. 2000 years into the future. Nevertheless, I’ve demonstrated in a great number of studies that this simply cannot be so. We must consider audience relevancy, i.e. the first century audience. How did they understand Jesus’ statements?
The argument seems to be that, if the angels and even Jesus didn’t know the day or the hour, how could the Apostles know the day or the hour of Jesus’ coming? The problem with this statement is, technically the Apostles didn’t know the day and the hour of the fall of Jerusalem either. Jesus gave them signs of when that would be, but he was unable to offer them any time statements, except that it would occur in their expected lifetimes, i.e. this generation (Matthew 24:34).
If one holds to the argument that Jesus’ coming is yet future, he must then conclude that the Apostles and other writers of the New Testament were wrong when they made statements regarding the imminence of Jesus’ coming. For example, Peter mentions is 1Peter 4:7 that the end of all things had drawn near, and Jesus was ready to judge the living and the dead (1Peter 4:5). Peter was writing that the resurrection and the judgment was about to take place! If Jesus was ready to “judge the living and the dead” in Peter’s day, that means the resurrection was ready to take place in Peter’s day. “The end of all things” had truly drawn near, and Peter told his readers—the readers in the first century AD—to gird up the loins of their minds (cf. Luke 12:35-36) and set their hope upon the grace that was to be theirs at the appearing of Jesus (1Peter 1:13).
Moreover, James, the brother of the Lord, wrote that at the time of his writing (cir. 60-61 AD), the coming of the Lord had drawn near (James 5:8) and the Judge was at the door (James 5:9; cf. Matthew 24:33). Was James wrong? Was Peter wrong? I suppose we must answer these questions for ourselves, and our reply will testify to our value of sola scriptura.
Jesus did, indeed, say no man knows the day or the hour, and at the time of Jesus delivering his Olivet Discourse, that was true. However, what about afterward? What did Jesus mean when he told the Apostles later that it was necessary for him to leave them, but the Holy Spirit would come upon them and would reveal to them things to come (John 16:12-15)? What “things to come” would the Holy Spirit reveal to the Apostles that Jesus didn’t mention to them in the Olivet Discourse? Jesus spoke of his coming and the end of the age. He spoke of the resurrection of the dead and judgment. He spoke of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. He was able to offer them signs concerning when these things would take place, but he was unable to offer them any specific time, beyond the fact all those things would occur in that generation. What’s left for the Holy Spirit to reveal, except the day and the hour?
We need to keep in mind that the Father **did** know the day and the hour. Revelation 1:1 tells us that the Father, who knew the day and the hour, gave the Revelation to Jesus, who then was to give that revelation to his disciples, and the revelation concerned “things which must shortly come to pass.” What is Revelation about? Isn’t it about the coming of Jesus? Isn’t it about the judgment of the living and the dead, the coming of the Kingdom and the judgment upon mystery Babylon (Jerusalem)? All this is old news, unless the day and the hour was to be revealed in John’s testimony. Jesus spoke about all these things in the Olivet Discourse. The one thing he couldn’t reveal was the day and the hour. Was that revealed in John’s testimony, which he received from Jesus?
Paul told his readers in the first century AD, “And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers” (Romans 13:11 – NET; emphasis mine). I’ve already discussed this scripture , showing it demonstrates that the hour was known by the time of Paul’s writing. That is, both the day (the larger bloc of time) and he hour (the smaller and more specific bloc of time) was known by the Apostles and revealed to the churches. However, I mention it again here to highlight what Jesus told the church of Sardis.
Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
If the church of Sardis couldn’t know the day and the hour, Jesus’ warning would be like an empty threat. We aren’t talking about a specific hour in a specific day here, we are speaking of the awareness of the nearness of Jesus’ coming in their lifetimes. The day and the hour isn’t speaking of May 21st at 3 AM. The disciples still had to watch, but they knew the watch in which Jesus would return. They had a very specific timetable by the time the book of Revelation was given to John.