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Hypostatic Union: Did Jesus know when he was coming back?

Does the Bible teach the doctrine of the Trinity? How is it that only the Father, and not the Son knows the timing of the second coming of Christ?

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Louise G wrote in:

Hi, great magazine, but I take issue with the references to God and Jesus being one.

They may be one in spirit and Jesus is the reflection of his Father and Jehovah’s intermediary, but they are two separate entities. The Scripture which informs us that only The Father knows the time of the end seems irrefutable in this concept: Matthew 24:36.

CMI’s Joel Tay responds:

Dear Louise,

Thank you for your feedback.

Concerning your statement about references to God and Jesus being one, the Bible is clear that God consists of three Persons–Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and these three Persons are one (Doctrine of the Trinity). Before we deal with Matthew 24:36, let us elaborate first on why we believe the Trinity, followed by a brief discussion on the hypostatic union (i.e. Jesus’ nature as both God and man).

I’d ask that you read the following first, because the information here would shed light on the Trinity.

As explained by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, in this article on the Trinity:

  1. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:8). Note that the Hebrew word for ‘one’ is echad which means composite unity—it is used in Genesis 2:24 where the husband and wife become ‘one flesh’. The word for absolute unity is yachid which is never used of God in the Scripture.
  2. The Father is called God (John 6:27, Ephesians 4:6).
  3. The Son is called God (Hebrews 1:8). He is also called ‘I am’ in John 8:58 cf. Exodus 3:14—see below for more biblical proof). He has always existed (John 1:1–3, 8:56–58), but took on full human nature in addition to His divine nature at the Incarnation (John 1:14, Philippians 2:5–11).
  4. The Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3–4), and is personal (Acts 13:2), not some impersonal force as the Jehovah’s Witness cult believes.
  5. They are distinct, e.g. at the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16–17 all three were present and distinct. The Son is baptized, the Father speaks from Heaven, and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, flies down and lands on the Son. See the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.’ Note that the word ‘name’ is singular, showing that all three Persons are one Being.

Doceticism and the Kenotic Heresy

It is important to note, that when the Bible speaks of Jesus emptying Himself, Philippians 2:7 tells us that Christ accomplished this by taking on the form of a bondservant. That is, Christ’s humanity came about by an addition rather than subtraction from his divine nature. This distinction is important in order to avoid both the kenotic heresy as well as Docetism. Docetism teaches that Jesus was fully divine and did not have a real human nature/body. In contrast, the kenotic heresy teaches the opposite—namely, that Jesus, in emptying himself, lost some or all of his divine attributes. Both Docetism and Kenosis are heresies.

In contrast to these heresies, the Bible teaches us that Jesus, through his incarnation, was both fully God and fully man.

Here are some verses that speak of Christ’s humanity:

Here are some verses that speak of Christ’s divinity:

Suggested Reading

References and notes

  1. Or a copulative και Return to text.
  2. For Further Reading, refer to:White, J., Granville Sharp's Rule: Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Retrieved July 11, 2016, from vintage.aomin.org/GRANVILL.html. Return to text.
  3. Sparks, K., “After Inerrancy, Evangelicals and the Bible in the Postmodern Age, part 4” Biologos Forum, 26 June 2010. Return to text.
  4. From the Greek in this passage, ἐκένωσεν ekenōsen. Return to text.
Or a copulative και
For Further Reading, refer to:White, J., Granville Sharp's Rule: Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Retrieved July 11, 2016, from vintage.aomin.org/GRANVILL.html.
Sparks, K., “After Inerrancy, Evangelicals and the Bible in the Postmodern Age, part 4” Biologos Forum, 26 June 2010.
From the Greek in this passage, ἐκένωσεν ekenōsen.

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Further Reading

Readers’ comments
Geoff C. W., Australia, 27 August 2016
In regard to Jesus' divinity, that He is God, I believe it is significant that on the several occasions when Jesus is worshipped (as recorded in the Bible), including in heaven (later, in our time), he never tells the worshippers that it is wrong to worship him. He accepts their worship. And the Father is pleased with the Son, so He must be OK with this - and He, the Father, certainly wouldn't allow this to go on in heaven if it was wrong. But only God is to be worshipped, so it follows that Jesus must be God.
Shamus M., Australia, 27 August 2016
Great article , well explained and easily understood.
anthony B., France, 27 August 2016
I confess I had never heard of Granville Sharp but it is well worth reading about him and his contributions in the abolition of slavery.
Ron M., United States, 27 August 2016
Good article indeed, but could use some clarification. Strictly speaking, the Granville Sharp rule applies only to singular words. I do not remember you stating that when you explained the rule. Also, there are differences among those who hold to the kenosis. I do not like it that liberals try to ruin a good word. It is a good biblical word and we do not need to let liberals or cults or history deprive us from using it. It need not mean anything different from what you clearly state you believe about the incarnation. Jesus never gave up any attributes of deity; he voluntary and temporarily laid aside the independent exercise of certain ones during the incarnation. That is how the verb is used in the NT.
Joel Tay responds
Dear Ron M. We appreciate your comments. I have added the word "singular" to provide better clarity on Granville Sharp's Rule. The text now reads: "Granville Sharp’s rule applies when two singular nouns ..."
Mark C., United States, 27 August 2016
Great article and it brings up a question I've never been able to get answered (which I acknowledge will be an opinion because I don't believe the Bible addresses it.) Since Jesus, as you state, "increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man," do you have an opinion as to when He knew that He was God?
Joel Tay responds
Hi Mark, Thank you for your question. The Bible does not tell us the exact moment Jesus knew He was God. For this reason, we need to be careful not to go beyond what the Scripture says. Nevertheless, there seem to be some clues that indicate to us that Jesus would have known that He was God from an early age. For example, when Jesus was in the Temple for three days when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:40-52), He specifically addressed the Temple as His Father’s house. This does seem to indicate that He knew He was God. Jesus would also have been very different growing up, since He would not have committed any sins. This would have been obvious to those in his immediate family. Furthermore, consider the angel’s words to Mary in Luke 1 when she was informed about her pregnancy:
Luke 1:32—He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. [Emphasis mine]
Luke 1:35—And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holythe Son of God. [Emphasis mine]
Furthermore, when Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed:
Luke 1:43—And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [Emphasis mine]
These three verses seem to indicate that both Mary and Elizabeth understood that Jesus was God and believed it (cf. Luke 1:45) Hence, it seems reasonable to say Jesus would have been raised up as a child, consistent with the ‎knowledge of his divinity from an early age. ‎ I hope this answers your question. Joel Tay
peter M., United States, 27 August 2016
See John 10:30; 38, "I and the Father are one... know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” I was told that in a Jewish family, the son would build an addition onto his parents home where he and his bride would live after they married, but it was the son's father who would tell his son when to go to get his bride to bring her home. The son and his father were in agreement, but the son submitted to his father's will out of love. Just food for thought on the deep and wonderful mystery we call the Hypostatic Union.
Phil K., United States, 28 August 2016
Regarding the Kenotic Heresy, which is a misinterpretation of Philippians 2:6-7, there is a nice illustration of this in John 13:3-5 where Jesus washed the disciple's feet. He first removed his garments which gave him comfort and dignity to become a servant and wash his disciples feet. Jesus never gave up his position as Master. He never gave up being the Son of God. But He humbled himself to become their servant just as Philippians explains that Jesus humbled himself to become a man to die for our sins. He removed his robe of glory for a short while, but not his divinity.
Jeff H., United States, 29 August 2016
I doubt that many of you there are of this persuasion, but it is also possible that Jesus didn't know because the Father had not yet decided when it would happen. So the decision was still in the Father's hands and no one else could then know it.
Joel Tay responds
Dear Jeff Harvey, Your proposal would require entertaining some form of open theism—a position we regard as lying outside the limits allowed by orthodox Christian doctrine. Please refer to the following article where we discuss open theism: Did God create an open universe?
Nathanael L., United Kingdom, 30 August 2016
I have a not totally related question, but in the Titus quote, does the Granville Sharpe rule also apply to the first pairing: τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης the blessed hope, and glorious appearing Does it work when the nouns are qualified by other words, as here?
Joel Tay responds
The Granville Sharp rule only applies absolutely to singular personal, non-proper nouns. Therefore it doesn't apply to the first pairing even though the construction is quite similar.
Anthony A., United States, 30 August 2016
Great article. Very well explained. I had never thought of the aspect of God being love and the implication of a divine-less Jesus. Good stuff.
Robert L., Australia, 2 September 2016
I have a few problems with the conception of Jesus having limited knowledge. Firstly in my Bible (NIV) there is a footnote to say that some manuscripts do not have "nor the Son". Secondly both John 16.30 and John 21. 17 make it clear that Peter and the disciples believed that Jesus knew all things. Is it possible that the manuscripts that omit "nor the Son" are the more reliable ones?
Joel Tay responds
Hi Robert, In Matthew 24:36, there is indeed a variant where a couple of manuscripts do not have the phrase "nor the son". The KJV for example, does not include this phrase. However, appealing to this variant does not solve anything. This is because in Mark 13:32, the same phrase also appears —"neither the Son". Yet there is unanimous agreement among all the different translations that this is the original reading. Mark 13:32 (ESV) “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:32 (KJV) But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Hans B., Australia, 2 September 2016
Best article I have read for a long time. Great teaching.
Ever S T., El Salvador, 9 September 2016
Excellent article! However I believe it is necessary to add the following bible verse: 1 Cor 2:11 International Standard Version Is there anyone who can understand his own thoughts except his own inner spirit? In the same way, no one can know the thoughts of God except God's Spirit. Sometimes the Bad Witnesses, take Matthew verse where it says "No one knows but my father only", claiming like if the third person of the Trinity didn't know. However 1 Corinthians 2:11 proves them wrong.
Joel Tay responds
Thanks Ever S.T., As we have pointed out in our article: The Matthew 24:36 reference to Jesus' ignorance of his second coming is to be read in the context of Jesus emptying himself by taking the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:5–8), and was for a little while, made lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9) In His resurrected state, Christ would now most certainly know the timing of his second coming.