By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Since the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, does that mean that He knows when Christ is coming again?
Reply: It is true that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God. “For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). The idea here is that, as no one knows the thoughts of a man but the man himself, so no one knows the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God. And, as no one can know the thoughts of a man unless he reveals them, so no one can know the thoughts of God unless He reveals them. Thus what He wants us to know He has revealed by the Holy Spirit. God is the author of the Bible, so it is the word of God. His word is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). But now we have access to God’s word, made possible by the Holy Spirit who revealed it. This is divine revelation.
As to when Christ is coming again, did the Holy Spirit have knowledge that Jesus did not have? Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.” Whether the event referred to here is the destruction of Jerusalem which was at hand (the day of calamity), or the second coming of Christ at the end of the world which is yet to come, is not the issue here. The question is: did the Holy Spirit know something that Jesus did not know?
The three persons in the Godhead know all things (Jn. 16:30; 21:17; 1 Jn. 3:20; etc.). But what is overlooked by some is that any one of the three may limit the exercise of His own knowledge. Calvinists assume that God has foreknown from eternity everything that is to come and pass and that His decrees are immutable. This, of course, is the basis of their doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation, But there are some things which God may choose not to know. We mortal beings, therefore, are presumptuous when we attempt to probe the mind of God, Christ or the Holy Spirit to determine what they know or what they do not know. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34).
Omniscience is an attribute of deity. This attribute enables Jesus to even know what man thinks (Jn. 2:25); only deity has such knowledge. Why then did Jesus not know when He would return? Jesus was incarnate here upon earth. Since He had a human body, He also had a human mind. We are told in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature. . . .” While a child at Nazareth, He most likely learned the carpenter’s trade and continued to grow mentally and physically. A finite mind would not contain all knowledge. His divine nature, on the other hand, was omniscient, as we stated. This is not to say that His human mind had any erroneous ideas. On His human side (He was made in the likeness of men, Phil. 2:7), He was not omniscient or omnipotent else He would not have been tempted to sin. But He was tempted (Matt. 4:1; Heb. 4:15). In His human nature, if He could not sin, then how could He be tempted at all?
The Holy Spirt can know when Christ is coming again, but we must not presume to probe whether He does or not; because He can opt to limit His own omniscience. This being the case, we really do not know whether He does or does not know when Christ will come again. Jesus apparently did not exercise His divine attribute of omniscience to know when He would return. He exercised His human mind as to this event; therefore, from the standpoint of a man, He did not know the time of His future return. Our finite minds are completely incapable of comprehending everything that is involved in this matter. R.C.H. Lenski sums it up well in his comment on Matthew 24:36. “How the incarnate Son could thus restrict the use of his divine attributes is one of the mysteries of His person; the fact is beyond dispute” (The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 955).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 3, pp. 72, 78
February 7, 1985