How could Jesus be God and not know when he’d come back?

I recently received a question about Jesus’s apparent awareness of his return and his oneness with the Father.  He wondered how the Father could know things that Jesus didn’t if they were one.

My response is below:

We should understand the trinity to teach that there is one being within which there are three persons, or centers of consciousness.  These are distinct personalities, with their own thoughts and will.  It shouldn’t be any challenge to think that they should have different thoughts.

The concern that typically comes up as it relates to Jesus’s apparent lack of awareness regarding the timing of his return is God’s essential attribute of omniscience.  If Jesus was God, and therefore omniscient, then how could there be something he did not know?

There are at least two ways of thinking through this issue.

First, we may understand that Jesus, in his human nature, did not make use of his full divine attributes.  Dr. William Lane Craig has explained it in terms of our own experience of consciousness and subconsciousness.  It may have been the case that in his humanity, Jesus did not have full access to his divine knowledge as it was subsumed in his subconscious.

Second, we could understand Jesus to be speaking figuratively.  He may have been saying something akin to, “It isn’t for me to know, but only the Father.”  This would be more of a statement that it isn’t his place to make such a proclamation.  We have precedence for this elsewhere in scripture, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he determined not to know anything but Christ and his sacrifice on the cross.  Clearly Paul knew more than that, but for the purposes of the moment he had determined not to “know” anything else.  This would also fall in line with Jesus’s reference to his return in terms of the analogy of a Jewish wedding.  In their day the son would go and prepare a place for his bride, but it was his father who determined when the time was right for him to return for her.  It was not the son’s place to decide.


Matt Bilyeu

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