Mark 13:32

I. TO WHAT IT RELATES. "That day or that hour." Proximately and very evidently these words refer to the precise date of the inauguration of Christ's kingdom, through the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), about forty years subsequent to their utterance. Through that period it was possible for any of those addressed to continue alive, and consequently they were all admonished with respect to it. But, secondarily, the absolute, final coming of the Son of man is referred to adumbratively, and so also all intermediate advents connective of these two terms of the progress of his coming. That the attention of the hearers was specially or particularly addressed to this secondary coming does not appear. There were other words which more clearly indicated it.

II. WHOM IT AFFECTED. That it should affect believers could be understood, although at first to them it must have been an occasion of perplexity; that angels should not know might be explicable on the ground that it was an earthly evolution of events, and that although in a state of blessedness and spiritual illumination their nature is finite; but that the "Son" should be ignorant is a great mystery. Yet there are considerations which throw some light even upon this. "The Father's absolute omniscience, and his consequent absolute prescience, is assumed by the Savior, even although the object of the prescience is chronologically conditional on millions of intervening free acts on the part of millions of free agents. When absolute prescience, however, is denied by the Son on the part of himself, he is, of course, referring to himself as Son, begotten on a certain day (Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33) in the Virgin's womb (Luke 1:35). He is, in other words, referring to himself, as he was self-realized in his finite nature, to be for ever distinguished from that infinite essence in which he made the worlds (John 1:3), sustains them (Colossians 1:17), sees the end from the beginning (John 6:64), and 'knows all things' (John 21:17) It is only when we proceed on a 'monophysist' hypothesis, and assume that our Savior's divinity was his only mind, and the soul of his humanity, that overwhelming difficulty is encountered" (Morison). Apart from this, although intimately connected with it, there were moral reasons for Christ's remaining ignorant. As "Christ's not knowing rests upon his knowing rightly (in a natural manner), or upon the holy extension of his range of vision (Lange), it follows that this ignorance, referring to a subject of such transcendent consequence in relation to his own work amongst men, must have formed an important element and condition of his moral and spiritual subjection to the Father. He rose through weakness, limitation of knowledge of Divine counsels (although not of Divine principles), and finitude of nature, to the full comprehension of the mind of God, and realization of the perfection of the Divine-human personality, beyond the cross. To the spiritual and perfect Christ, therefore, belongs all power; for he was made perfect through suffering and subjection. His obedience was perfect, and his gradual moral development in act and consciousness because of this limitation of knowledge.

III. HOW IT IS TO BE REGARDED BY BELIEVERS. The parabolic form of Christ's teaching here is very beautiful and striking. Vers. 34, 35 should be translated thus: "As a man away from home, having (or, who has) left his house, and given the authority to his servants, and to each his work, also commanded the porter to watch - 'Watch, therefore' (i.e. so say I, 'Watch,' etc.), ' for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh,'" etc.

(1) With watchfulnsss; that is, sleepless vigilance, which comprehends and leads to

(2) prayer and

(3) diligence. And these duties are of universal obligation (ver. 37). - M.

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man.

1. Were the day and the hour of the Saviour's advent specifically and unmistakably stated, it would contradict constantly those passages scattered throughout the whole Word of God which say He shall come as a thief in the night, etc. After the day of Pentecost the apostles received information upon this subject which they did not previously possess.

2. It would be altogether morally without practical good results, and incompatible with other portions of Scripture, if God were to tell us the precise day and the hour. What would be the practical use of telling us either?

3. Were that day made known to us, it would be gratifying a very worthless curiosity. But if there be one feature in this book more striking than another it is its utter refusal to gratify the curiosity of man.

4. Suppose that this day and hour had been made known, there is no proof that it would be believed by the unconverted masses of mankind. If the unconverted and unsanctified multitude believed it, it would do incalculable mischief.

II. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT IS MOST PROFITABLE AND MOST IMPROVING THAT WE SHOULD STUDY THE PREDICTED SIGNS; nay, our Lord condemned the men of His day, because, while they could predict wet or fine weather, from the sky at evening and at morn, they were not acquainted with the moral signs of the age in which they lived. The Scripture in every page is most explicit in giving us tokens and signs by which we are to infer either that the time is near, or that it is remote. This leads me to the great sign given here, instead of the day and the hour — the sign of Noah.

1. Notice that there is here a distinct recognition of Noah as a historic person, of the flood as a literal fact.

2. Notice here also that human nature is substantially the same in the days of Napoleon and of Queen Victoria, that it was in the days of Noah and the patriarchs before the flood. The antediluvians, or those that were in the days of Noah, when the flood came, were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. This is not stated as a sin. In the gospel, where our Lord represents the blessings that He purchased under a feast, those that were invited refused; but the ground they assigned was not any one sinful act. Where then was the sin of the antediluvians? "So shall it be when the Son of Man cometh." This is not a mere history; but also a solemn prophecy. Just as the ark was the only safety in the days of Noah, so the only safety for us this very day is Christ, the living, the glorious, the indestructible ark. Are you trusting to this ark? Are you cleaving to this Saviour? Now there is salvation for the worst and the guiltiest; but at that day, when grace shall depart like a vision, when the last fire shall cover the round globe with its piercing and its searching flames, not one cry will be heard, not one appeal for mercy will be regarded, not one sin will be for. given. The very glory of the gospel is its simplicity: "Look and live;" "Believe and thou shalt be saved."

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

The fact that we cannot know beforehand the time of Christ's coming, does not relieve us of the duty of being on the watch for it. It is because we do not know the time, that we must watch for the time. If a man wants to see the meteors which flash across the sky in the nights of August and November, he must be all the more watchful because he cannot know beforehand when they are coming. The lookout on the ocean steamer's masthead must be none the less watchful against icebergs, or headlands, or passing vessels, because be cannot know when they are to show themselves; and the denser the fog, the keener his watch must be. The time of Christ's second coming is concealed from us. The fact of that coming is foretold to us. The duty of living not only in expectancy of this event, but in prayerful watchfulness for it, is as plainly and as positively enjoined upon us, as is the requirement of any one of the ten commandments.

When it comes we know not. We know simply this — it is a fact in God's government. Slowly and steadily it is approaching. It encamps every night nearer to the race — to us — to me. We have no human almanacs that can foretell its coming. That it will come seems one of the fundamental thoughts of our mind, admitted everywhere and always. The Egyptians bore decided witness, in their books of the dead, to the coming of that day. Let not that day come upon you sleeping, said Jesus. Duty is ours — that day is God's.

(H. W. Beecher.)

First, our Saviour here declares the uncertainty of the time as to us and all creatures, when the general judgment shall be. And to express this the more emphatically, He tells us —

1. That God only knows it. He excludes from the knowledge of it, those who were most likely to know it, if God had not absolutely reserved it to Himself.

2. That the consideration of the uncertainty of the time should make us very careful to be always prepared for it. First, a general caution, "Take ye heed." From whence I shall observe, by the way, the great goodness of God to us, and His singular care of us. God hath acquainted us with whatever is necessary to direct and excite us to our duty; but He hath purposely concealed from us those things which might tend to make us slothful and careless, negligent and remiss in it. Besides this, it is always useful to the world to be kept in awe by the continual danger and terror of an approaching judgment.And it was no inconvenience at all that the apostles and first Christians had this apprehension of the nearness of that time; for no consideration could be more forcible to keep them steadfast in their profession, and to fortify them against sufferings.

1. We should resolve without delay, to put ourselves into that state and condition, in which we may not be afraid judgment should find us. In the secure and negligent posture that most men live, even the better sort of men, if judgment should overtake them, how few could be saved! So that our first care must be to get out of this dangerous state of sin and insecurity, "to break off our sins by repentance," that we may be capable of the mercy of God, and at peace with Him, before He comes to execute judgment upon the world.

2. After this great work of repentance is over, we should be very careful how we contract any new guilt, by returning to our former sins, or by the gross neglect of any part of our duty.

3. Let us neglect no opportunity of doing good, but always be employing ourselves, either in acts of religion and piety towards God, or of righteousness and charity towards men, or in such acts as are subordinate to religion.

4. We should often review our lives and call ourselves to a strict account of our actions, that, judging ourselves, we may not be judged and condemned by the Lord.

5. Another part of our preparation for the coming of our Lord is a humble trust and confidence in the virtue of His death and passion, as the only meritorious cause of the remission of our sins, and the reward of eternal life.

6. And lastly, to awaken and maintain this vigilancy and care, we should often represent to our minds the judgment of the Great Day, which will certainly come though we know not the time of it. This is the first direction our Saviour gives us: continual vigilancy and watchfulness over ourselves in general. The second direction is more particular, and that is, prayer — "Take ye heed, watch and pray." And the practice of this duty of prayer will be of great advantage to us upon these two accounts. It is very apt to awaken and excite our care and diligence in the business of religion. Prayer, indeed, supposeth that we stand in need of the Divine help; but it implies, likewise, a resolution on our part to do what we can for ourselves; otherwise we ask in vain.

7. If we use our sincere endeavours for the "effecting of what we pray for, prayer is the most effectual means to engage the Divine blessing, and assistance to second our endeavours, and to secure them from miscarriage. I proceed to the third and last part of the text, which is the reason which our Saviour here adds to enforce our care and diligence in a matter of so great concernment, viz., the uncertainty, as to us, of the particular time when this Day of Judgment will be: "Ye know not when the time is."

(J. Tillotson, D. D.)


II. THE EXHORTATION TO CIRCUMSPECTION, VIGILANCE, AND PRAYER — "Take ye heed, watch and pray." But we proceed to consider what this watchfulness implies.

1. It implies spiritual life.

2. It implies a sense of danger.

(W. Bullevant.)

I. THE FACT OF LIFE'S UNCERTAINTY. But before I attempt to fix your thoughts on life's uncertainty, there are two other kindred facts which merit attention — the certainty of death, and the nearness of it. We know not when the time is. Death is an ambush. Hence the force of "Take ye heed, watch and pray."

1. Men full of laudable, anxious, active strife of business, have in one moment been called to their higher account, prepared or unprepared.

2. More fearful still is the subject, when we consider that not only are men called away from the midst of worldly business, but are taken in the very act of sin and rebellion against God. "The third day Noah entered into the ark, the flood came and took them all away."

3. Let it, however, be clearly understood, that no degree of morality, faith, or holiness, can wholly shield us from the stroke of sudden death.

II. THE PLAIN PRACTICAL DUTY ARISING OUT OF IT — "Take ye heed," etc. A word in season. Many are heedless and unprepared to die. "Take ye heed," or you must needs miss heaven. Would we prepare to die —

1. Habitually believe in Christ.

2. Habitually commune with God.

3. Habitually aim at Christian consistency.Conclusion:

1. Address those who are obviously neither watching nor praying. Are there in the Church lukewarm professors?

2. You who are in the way to a blissful immortality.

(B. Carvosso.)

The true significance of death lies not in its physical pain, in its breaking in upon the plans of life, but in the fact that it brings men into final moral relations with God. Now let us consider, as calm and prudent men, the full effect and the true character of deferring the preparation for death until the dying hour.

1. To thus defer this preparation is to deprive life itself of one of its chief steadying elements.

2. Living without conscious preparation for death is a risk which neither prudence nor self-respect should allow. A man guards himself with a wise providence of the future. No man puts his affections as they are involved in the family to such peril. He is perpetually forethinking; working to provide against evils; making preparation today and this year for tomorrow and next year.

3. There is a view which will have weight with men who are just, and who are honestly seeking to guide themselves by principles of honour. It is the ignoring, the dishonouring of God's love, His will and His commands, all one's life, and then at death, for fear, or for the sake of interest, rushing into a settlement. A child is reprobate, and breaks away from home, and squanders all he can get, and becomes a wreck and a wretch, and apparently is to be disowned. He hears, at last, after years and years of dissipation, that his father is weakening and drawing near to death; and he scents the opportunity, and rushes home, and professes repentance and reformation, in order that his father may reconstruct his will, and leave him a part of his estate. What would you think of a child that should do that? What would you think of a child that should deliberately calculate upon it, and say in himself, "The old man has oftentimes, with tears in his eyes, warned me against my gambling companions; but there is time enough yet. He is rich, and I want a part of his money, and I know his heart, and I mean to come in for a share by and by. I am going to have my pleasure; I am going to eat, drink, and be merry; I am going to have my royal debauch with my companions; and when I see the old man is about pegging out I will go home and reform; because I do not mean to lose that property; I am going to enjoy myself as I please, and have that too"? What would you think of a child that should say that, and then keep his eye on his father, and calculate his chances and run scuttling home just in time to get his name put in the will right, in order that he might have the property? What name is there in any language that is adequate to express your feelings, toward such baseness as that? And yet, are there not in my hearing men that are living precisely so with respect to their Father who is in heaven?

4. There are prudential considerations of a very solemn nature which one should employ. Those who think that they shall prepare for death in the last hour of life, ought to consider some of their chances. As a matter of fact, more than half that die in this world die without consciousness. Not alone of those that die by accident, by sudden stroke, but of those that die by disease, more than one half die under a cloud, so that they have no use of their reason.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is always a sad day in autumn to me, when I see the change that comes over nature. Along in August, the birds are all still, and you would think that there were not any left; but if you go out into the fields you find them feeding in the trees, and hedges, and everywhere. By and by September comes, and they begin to gather together in groups; and anybody that knows what it means knows that they are getting ready to go. And then comes the later days of October — the sad, the sweet, the melancholy, the deep days of October. And the birds are less and less. And in November, high up, you see the sky streaked with waterfowl going southward; and strange noises in the night, of these pilgrims of the sky, they shall hear whose ears are attuned to natural history. Birds in flocks, one after another, wing their way to the south. Summer is gone; and I am left behind; but they are happy. And I think I can hear them singing in all those States clear down to the Gulf. They have found where the sun is never cold. With us are frosts, but not with the bird that has migrated. Oh, mother! my heart breaks with your heart when your cradle is empty; but shall I call back the child? Nay; sooner pluck a star out of heaven than call back that child to this wintry blast. Shall I call back your young and dear and blooming friend? Nay. You are left in some bitterness for a time; but make not a man out of angel again. Let him rejoice.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Two duties. —


II. THE EMOTION OF THE HEART GODWARD. Watchfulness is like the hands of the clock that point; prayer is the weight that keeps the machinery in motion.

(T. J. Judkin.)

A sentinel posted on the walls, when he discerns a hostile party advancing, does not attempt to make head against them himself, but informs his commanding officer of the enemy's approach, and leaves him to take the proper measures against the foe. So the Christian does not attempt to fight temptation in his own strength; his watchfulness lies in observing its approach, and in telling God of it by prayer.

(W. Mason.)

He that prays and watcheth not, is like him that sows a field with precious seed, but leaves the gate open for hogs to come and root it up; or him that takes great pains to get money, but no care to lay it up safely when he hath it.

(W. Gurnall.)

"Wickedness," says Sir Philip Sidney, "is like a bottomless pit, into which it is easier for a man to prevent himself falling than, having fallen, to preserve himself from falling infinitely."

"I often recall," says an old sailor, "my first night at sea. A storm had come up, and we had put back under a point of land which broke the wind a little, but still the sea had a rake on us, and we were in danger of drifting. I was on the anchor watch, and it was my duty to give warning in case the ship should drag her anchor. It was a long night to me. I was very anxious whether I should know if the ship really did drift. How could I tell? I found that, going forward and placing my hand on the chain, I could tell by the feeling of it whether the anchor was dragging or not; and how often that night I went forward and placed my hand on that chain! And very often since then I have wondered whether I am drifting away from God, and then I go away and pray. Sometimes during that long stormy night I would be startled by a rumbling sound, and I would put my hand on the chain, and find it was not the anchor dragging, but only the chain grating against the rocks on the bottom. The anchor was still firm. And sometimes now, in temptation and trial, I become afraid, and upon praying I find that away down deep in my heart I do love God, and my hope is in His salvation. And I want just to say a word to my fellow Christians: Keep an anchor watch, lest before you are aware you may be upon the rocks."


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