Did - Or Did Not - Jesus Know?


This verse was read at Masses last Friday and raised again a question that has often bothered me about the return of Christ:

“Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Matthew 23

(This followed instructions Our Lord was giving to His apostles about going out to proclaim the gospel.)

I have noticed several other incidences where Jesus gives His followers the distinct impression that His return to the earth would be within their lifetimes (“before this generation passes away…”). I have heard a few tortured explanations for this apparent misinformation, such as the word “generation” means “all mankind” (?)or “a thousand years is as a day to God” (so it’s really only been two DAYs since He left, not 2000 years). However, the quotation above makes it VERY CLEAR that Jesus is saying that He will return BEFORE the apostles “finish the towns of Israel” - that is, before they finished spreading the gospel throughout Israel.

Now we know that Christ has a dual nature: true God and true Man. In other instances, He told His followers that “only the Father knows” the answer to some question they posed.

My question then is: Did Jesus KNOW when He would return to earth, or did He not? If not, is this because, in His human nature (which is, of course, limited as ours - except for sin) this fact (and perhaps others as well) was somehow hidden from His consciousness - reserved only for the knowledge of the Father, as He infers?

If that is the case, however, how can we assert that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are truly EQUAL. God is omniscient…He knows ALL THINGS by His very nature. So if the Son does NOT know any particular fact - because of his limited human nature - then wouldn’t that necessarily mean that He is NOT omniscient? - at least not in His human nature? I have a hard time trying to imagine how “one half” of Jesus did not know what the “other half” was thinking, but this seems to be the case!

In addition, since Jesus is THE TRUTH, how could He deliberately mislead the apostles (or so it seems) to believe that His return would happen before they “finish(ed) the towns of Israel”? (And I think that the meaning of that sentence is quite clear, so let’s try to avoid semantics!) If He was merely trying to increase their fervor for the gospel (and self-sacrifice) in this way, that is understandable. However, the deception of the apostles remains a logical problem seems to be a contradiction of the divine nature of Christ.

Anyone able to shed some light via Church teaching?



Jesus’ return in Judgment had a mini-fulfillment for Israel in 70AD when Jerusalem was sacked. That’s where Israel was punished for the numerous sins against God.

The true fulfillment will be of course on the day of Judgment.



You might want to check out an earlier thread on this forum titled The Parousia, Christ’s Second Coming .

This post was interesting:



The question seems to me to be whether Jesus was referring in Mt 10:23 to the Second Coming, or to the Resurrection, or simply to their meeting again before the Crucifixion.

And we do not know for sure (or do we? I’m willing to be wrong about this) that the 12 Apostles ever got to all the towns of Israel before they all died.




While you have shed the light of other possibilities on the meaning of this passage, it still remains that the apostles definitely believed that Jesus would return to establish His kingdom on earth SOON…within their own “generation”. My question, therefore, remains: Why did Jesus allow them to be so misled? Remember, He is God and also The Truth.

As for the other reply which refers to how God came in judgment “on a cloud” but without being visible in an earlier time, remember that Jesus also said “You will SEE the Son of Man, riding on the clouds of heaven…” So the apostles believed this, of course. They also believed that Jesus would return to earth soon - according to earthly time. Jesus certainly knew that being human, that is how they would interpret his words. Why didn’t He clarify for them? Or did He not know Himself?

One possible explanation is that God CHANGED HIS MIND after Jesus’ death and resurrection…that He extended the time before the final judgment so that more souls could be saved. However, Jesus, as God, sees the future and must have known that this would come about…the extension, that is…so the question still remains: why didn’t He allow the apostles to know that He would not return for thousands of years? Why wasn’t The Truth clearer when He was trying to teach all men?



Ummmmmmm…to my silly head the first thing that pops up when I hear this verse is OF COURSE every bit of it is true! He came just as soon as they began recognizing His Real Presence in the Eucharist! The Son of Man comes to dwell in us in the most Blessed Sacrament and of course they were still preaching when they began having Mass and transubstantiating the bread and wine into His Sacred Body & Blood and they saw Him!

I know that this verse and several like it are often reserved for searching for the deeper eschatological mystagogy about the second coming, etc., but I’m too dense for the deep stuff I think. I’m happy with the surface stuff. I go to Adoration and see all I need to - Jesus sitting and praying with me and listening to my prayers and the thousands of prayers of us all who visit Him in the Sacred Species. And there I find my own “answer” to the deeper question of “…but when He comes will He find faith on earth?” He sure will if there is an Adoration Chapel open and Adorers in attendance at His house! :smiley:





I don’t know what was in the mind of Jesus; but this much can at least be said: As God, He knew everything; As man, his knowledge was limited. He is one Person, but had both a human and a divine nature. In his divine nature, he knew all. In his human nature, his knowledge was inevitably limited by his human nature.




Well this is my SECOND ATTEMPT TO REPLY. The first one disappeared when I tried to preview it.



Of course, you are correct about the meaning of the Mass. However, it seems obvious from the gospels that the apostles took Jesus’ statements to mean that He would soon return IN GLORY to establish His kingdom on earth. He implied that the LAST JUDGMENT would occur within their lifetimes or shortly thereafter. So…I still wonder…WHY did He allow the apostles to be misled? Especially since He also explained for them the precise meaning of His parables (as the one about the sower and the seed), which He did NOT explain to the rest of the people hearing it. It seems strange that He would want the apostles to understand so much about His parables and about those scriptures which “prefigured” His life…yet leave them confused on this point.



I am always fascinated how God fulfills apparently contradictory expectations in “out of the box” ways. The Messiah must come from David’s line, but it was cursed so that he couldn’t come from David’s line. The solution, a virgin birth.

There is one God, and three persons…
He chose us, and asks us to choose Him.

Lots of doctrines have solutions that confound our scholarly expectations.

There is a plausible solution to the apparently contradictory expectations for the end times. It is found in sequential parallels with the book of Matthew,

The book of Matthew can be broken into four blocks:

1. Jesus as King or Here comes the King! Matt 1-4 
2. Sermon on the mount or Who is in His Kingdom? Matt 5 - 11:27 
3. Nature of the Kingdom of God or His Kingdom is not of this world. Matt 12-22 
4. Matthew's Eschatology or His Kingdom Established. Matt 23-28 
The last three blocks are written in parallel outlines (similar to what you are finding) which are identified by words or concepts shared between sequences of verses. 
For example: 
In the second block, Matt 5:1 parallels Matt 8:1 by the imagery of Jesus going up and down the mountain. 
This alone would not be a significant fact were it to stand alone. But if the sequence of linking passages that continues through the rest of the book is real, then what is the message that Matthew is attempting to show us? 
Although there are interesting sermons that can be preached by discerning parallel passages. The greatest interest concerns Matthew's eschatology. Beginning in the fourth block, I will title scripture subject pairs, highlight the primary verses that link them and explain the connection if it isn't obvious.

1 Religious leaders work to be seen of men.

Matt 23:1-7 || Matt 26:1-5 
Verse 23: 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men 
Verse 26: 5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. 
Obvious connection. 

2 The humble shall be exalted.

Matt 23:8-12 || Matt 26:6-13 
Matt 23: 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. 
Matt : 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. 
The woman, who humbled herself in anointing Jesus, was exalted 

3 Judas worse than Pharisees

Matt 23:13-33 || Matt 26:14-25 
Matt 23: 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 
Matt 26: 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. 
With all the incidents involving Pharisees, he never told one of them it would have been better if he had not been born, but Judas was "twofold more the child of hell." 

4 Disciples sent…, Blood

Matt 23:34-36 || Matt 26:26-28 
Matt 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 
The disciples mentioned in Matt 26 were the ones he was sending out. Also there is use of the word "blood" in both passages as a hint of the linking. 

5 Desolate - Jesus is going away

Matt 23:37-39 || Matt 26:29-30 
Matt 23: 38,39 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. 
Matt 26: 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. 
Matthew 23:38 identifies the desolation as the absence of Jesus himself. 

6 Scattering of stones and disciples

Matt 24:1,2 ||Matt 26:31 
Matt 24: 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 
Matt 26: 31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 
Other scriptures say that we are the stones in the house that Christ built. So the scattering of the disciples matches the scattering of the stones. 

7 He is coming - when he is risen

Matt 24:3 || Matt 26:32 
Matt 24: 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 
Matt 26: 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 
The structure now points to the resurrection as his coming. 

8 The beginning of sorrows

Matt 24:4-10 || Matt 26:33-38 
Matt 24: 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 
Matt 26: 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 
The structure points to Jesus's sorrow as the beginning of sorrow. 

9 The love of many shall wax cold

Matt 24:11-12 || Matt 26:39-44 
Matt 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 
Matt 26: 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 
His own disciples love for him was cold that they could not stay awake to pray with him. 

10 The gospel

Matt 24:13-14 || Matt 26:45 
Matt 24: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 
Matt 26: 45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 
The gospel that is preached in all the world is that a Holy God became man and died at the hands of sinners.


11 The abomination of desolation

Matt 24:15 || Matt 26:46-50 
Matt 24: 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 
Matt 26: 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 
Judas' kiss was an abomination since it is what condemned the just. Pr 17:15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. Is this the abomination that caused desolation? 

12 Flee

Matt 24:16-20 || Matt 26:51-56 
Matt 24: 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 
Matt 26: 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. 

13 Tribulation

Matt 24:21-22 || Matt 26:57 - 27:14 
Matt 24: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 
The structure points to the tribulation of Jesus. What greater tribulation is theoretically possible than that of a Holy God placed in the hands of sinners, and becoming sin? 
They rushed Jesus to death. Had they not shortened the days of his tribulation, and he died in prison, no flesh anywhere or anytime would have been saved. 

14 The desolation

Matt 24:23-28 || Matt 27:15-44 
Matt 24: 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 
Matt 27: 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 
When Barrabas and Jesus are presented to Israel, Israel casts their sin on him and he becomes sin incarnate. 

15 The sun is darkened

Matt 24:29 || Matt 27:45-49 
Matt 24: 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, 
Matt 27: 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 

16 The veil/his body is rent

Matt 24:29b || Matt 27: 
Matt 24:29.and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 
Matt 27: 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 

17 He comes in the clouds

Matt 24:30 || Matt 27:62-66 
Matt 24: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 
Matt 27: 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. 
This is an odd one, while every one will see him coming in the clouds, they are watching a grave. Is it possible that when we die, we see him in the clouds? 

18 Gathering of saints

Matt 24:31 || Matt 28:1-20 
Matt 24: 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 
Matt 28: 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 
After gathering his disciples, he sent them out to harvest. 

19 Jesus didn’t lie

Matt 24:32-34 
Matt 24: 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 
All of the parallel passages that Matthew pointed to happened within weeks. 

20 Heaven and earth shall pass away

Matt 24:35 || Matt 28:20b 
Matt 24: 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 
Matt 28:20b .I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 
If he is with us always, and we see him in the air when we die, what need is there for another returning? 
If the parallels are real, do they say that we are in the harvest now? Will we be individually harvested by Christ who is able to sort the wheat and the tares. When there are two in the field and one is taken, to us it looks like he died. When two are in bed and one is taken, it looks like one went to be with the Lord in his sleep. 
Presumably, when we die, we are transported from time to eternity. As we look to our left, Adam has just barely arrived, and as we look to our right all our children and progeny are there too. We have been immediately transported to the end of the age.

In this way, his return is in each an every generation at the end of each of our lives we meet Him in the air.



We humans need apparently contradictory teachings. Or, better, we need complimentary teachings - we’re always in different places, different states of mind, etc. That’s why one day Jesus is tender and gentle and another day He’s going on and on about Hell or condemning the Pharisees - it’s brilliant psychology, since sometimes we need a tender hand and other times we need a slap on the wrist. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is “contradicting Himself” or anything of the sort - he’s just knows the human heart too well to be bogged down by mechanical consistency (as is the same with any great teacher).

Jesus made some statements that implied His coming was very soon, and others that made it seem as though it could be a while. The fact that the Apostles believed that it would be very soon is fine - maybe we should believe the same thing as well. There are times (probably more often than not) when it would help our faith to live as though the end were coming tomorrow - remember, he comes as a robber in the night.

I really don’t see it as them being misled; rather, they were prudent, always on watch for their Master’s return.



Wow! You really have been doing some studying. Although you did not address the question I raised in this thread, your references are certainly interesting. I do see certain correlations between the verses you list, yet not between them all.

In fact, I find some of your conclusions unlikely. Upon what authority do you interpret Matthew in this way? I ask because only the Church has the authority to accurately interpret scripture, which is one of the facts which separates us from our Protestant brothers. If each of us could interpret scripture for ourselves, according to our own inclination (as many Prtotestants do) the Truth would certainly become clouded by differing views.

This very fact makes me a bit uneasy whenever I open the bible to read by myself…because .there are various ways to interpret the words. However, the Church seems not to be doing a very good job at offering interpretation to the average lay Catholic. (When was the last time a priest told you during his homily where we might find accurate interpretations of the scriptures to accompany our reading?) We are left to our own devices to search out authentic Church teaching on many matters - biblical and otherwise.

Aside from this, though, the Church does acknowledge that we each face an individual judgment when we die. However, we will all also face a general judgment at the end of “times”. This is, at least, inferred when we read/hear that Our Lady suffered her heart to be pierced so that “the thoughts of many may be revealed”. But it is implied that a general judgment (with all souls present together) is necessary for such revelations. Also God’s JUSTICE will be manifested to all creatures when we witness the “rerun” of each individual’s life, the graces given him/her, and how that grace was accepted and used for God’s glory…or ignored and wasted.

So, yes, I think that a “second coming” equates to the revelation of God’s justice…and mercy…before all mankind. It may be comforting to reason, by our own interpretations, that the frightening aspects of the Last Judgment “are not necessary”, but, it seems, God has ordained that it be so for the magnification of His own mercy and glory - so that no one will be able to say the God was wrong or unfair for any reason, because “all that has been hidden will be revealed”.



Not only did the gospel message spread to all the towns of Israel but I went out to the whole world. (within the borders of the Roman empire)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come. (Mat 24:14)

St. Paul confirms that it happened.

First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world. (Rom 1:8)

because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the gospel, that has come to you. Just as in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing, so also among you, from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth (Col 1:5-6)



Your points are well made and well taken. I agree. However, my question deals with the apparent contradiction of TRUTH. Jesus took great effort to explain His parables and the earlier scriptures about Him to the apostles (while avoiding doing so for others), yet He allowed this misconception. While you are right - that it probably made them more ardent and zealous - I am still troubled by the apparent contradiction between some of Christ’s assertions and what He, as God, must have known to be true about the future.

Your final statement focuses on the reaction of the apostles, whereas mine focuses on the intent and apparent self-contradiction of the Master, who knows all things, including the future, and is Truth…yet allowed the apostles to misunderstand this important concept.

You stated “Jesus made some statements that implied His coming was very soon, and others that made it seem as though it could be a while.” I would appreciate a LIST OF REFERENCES to illustrate where and when Jesus implied that He would NOT return to the earth soon." (Anyone have this??)



We need to be careful not to assume that the coming of the Son of man on clouds means that the Son must be coming to earth. Jesus lifted the “Son of man” language directly out of Daniel.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.(Daniel 7:13-14)

Daniel says the Son of man is coming toward God not earth. So, was Jesus being misleading? Did the apostles understand Old Testament scripture enough to understand Jesus?

Luke 19:41-44 tells us Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept because it would be destroyed because they didn’t know the time of their visitation. The Sanhedrin’s rejection of their Mesiah had consequences.

At the transfiguration Jesus said “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Mat 16:27-28)

At his trial before the Sanhedrin, "Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Mat 26:64)

The prophecies in Daniel, the Transiguration, the Olivet Discourse, and the trial of Jesus, are all relating to the same event. Jesus publicly came His Kingdom in 70 A.D. when He judged the Sanhedrin and destroyed the Temple (built to be a miniature replica of the world). It was the public end of the Old Testament era. It all occurred within the generation that Jesus had promised. At the same time, the judgment of 70 A.D. is a prophecy of the final eschaton.

If you want a more indepth explaination than that I suggest you read the book “Rapture” by David B. Currie.

Peace :slight_smile:



Wow, I’m impressed by the amount of study involved by some of the posters…but it would serve the individual better to worry about one’s own personal judgement rather than the judgement of the world! The Rapture trap has mawing jaws! and swallows those who tread there without much support. Be careful.





Some in the Catholic Church teach that Christ is the ‘reflection’ of God. OT Jews always believed that the son is the equal of the father. That the father can be seen in the son.

The Church also teaches the Trinity is OT based. Genesis creation teaches us of God /the Word/ and the Spirit. Also the temple was set up on basis of Trinity concept … with a 3 fold structure [Holy of Holies (Ark of Cov.) - for high priest only, Inner sanctum - for Levite priesthood, and general zone- for Jewish people.

Christ tells us that whatever he sees in the Father … he does [reflects] to us. It makes no sense to suggest that Christ would mislead or speak w/o authority on any topic.

The parables of Christ oftentimes had double meanings. Thus, the statements about endtimes in Gospels may also of had similar double meanings. [for demise of Temple/Jews in 70 AD, & for the second coming / judgement age].

Finally, when Christ speaks of his presence in future … some may of been in regards to his H.S. to be sent.



KC wrote:
I wish I could be so contented. But as long as I can remember, I have always had so many questions about God. Now that my life draws nearer its conclusions, I feel that I’ve made so little progress - which is why I feel all the more compelled to learn.

KC, there’s nothing wrong with learning. But we will not know everything until we meet God face to face. I, too, have a lot of intellectual curiosity. When I get frustrated, I just remember this, and take heart:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 1 Cor 13:12 (RSV)

R. C. Jones, I found your long post fascinating. It also jumped to my mind that two verses you quoted support Gail’s wonderful interpretation:

Matt 23: 38,39 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Matt 26: 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

We are in the Kingdom now!



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