"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:35-36)
When will this 'day or hour' happen?As discussed with the previous text, some make the case that Jesus is speaking of the end of the world - someday in the not too distant future when all the sinners will be annihilated and Jesus will ride over the clouds on horseback or something and sweep up all those who are saved.
Is this true? Well, first of all, Jesus spoke these words over 2,000 years ago, and what they describe still hasn't happened. So was Jesus taking his disciples for a ride? Was he threatening them with the end of the world when it was not going to happen for thousands of years after their bodies were dead and decomposed?
Don't be ridiculous. Jesus is speaking about a real day and hour that something will happen to each of us. Let's understand Jesus' statement here carefully.
What did he mean by 'heaven and earth will pass away'?The "heaven" that Jesus is referring to here, from the Greek οὐρανός (ouranos), which means, according to the lexicon, "the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it, the universe, the world, the aerial heavens or sky, the region where the clouds and the tempests gather, and where thunder and lightning are produced" and "the sidereal or starry heavens."
In other words, Jesus is not speaking of "heaven" as in the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is eternal.
Rather, Jesus is speaking of the temporary nature of the physical universe, which includes the earth - translated from the Greek word γῆ (gē), which means "arable land," and "the ground, the earth as a standing place." It also includes the sky - translated from οὐρανός (ouranos) in this context.
This entire physical world is temporary. It has a beginning and it has an end. This has been confirmed as we've seen entire solar systems explode and collapse into black holes. This illustrates that each universe is temporary - along with all of the planets and life forms - physical bodies - that live within each universe.
What does 'my words will never pass away' mean?"Words" here is being translated from the Greek word λόγος (logos), which means teaching or doctrine according to the lexicon. In fact, "words" is a poor translation choice because Jesus is not speaking of "words" - he is speaking of his teachings.
So why will his teachings "never pass away?" Because they are coming from the Supreme Being. Jesus confirmed this when he said:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)and
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)These verses and others clearly illustrate that Jesus is speaking for the Supreme Being. Therefore, his teachings were coming from God - and because God is eternal, Jesus' teachings are also eternal.
Why does 'no one know about that day or hour'?If Jesus is predicting the end of the world in the future, why would he say this? It would be a contradiction to say he is predicting the end of the world but he doesn't know when it will happen.
So what is "that day and hour" that Jesus is referring to here then?
The particular "day and hour" Jesus is discussing with his disciples "privately" (Matt. 24:3) is their moment of death.
This is clear because Jesus is speaking of a moment - not an hour. This is confirmed by the use of the Greek word ὥρα - which has been translated here to "hour." Rather, the word means, "any definite time, point of time, moment."
Now if we consider this logically, this cannot be referring to some kind of "end of the world" scenario as described by some. Their scenario would take some time - for Jesus to ride through the sky and kill all the sinners and save all the "saved" - and therefore make judgment upon each person.
Thus Jesus could not be describing this. Even if we accepted that ὥρα did mean "hour" - which it doesn't here - then it also could not take an hour even, as they are describing it - with all the billions of people around the planet, plus all the billions of people who would be hanging out in the Church's speculative "purgatory" state awaiting judgment.
But death is a different matter. A person's physical body may go downhill for a while but there is one moment - that moment when the spirit-person leaves the physical body - the time of death occurs. This departure takes place at a particular moment in time. This is the "moment" Jesus is referring to here.
What does 'not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father' mean?Jesus is clearly describing the moment of death here - a moment no one but the Supreme Being knows in advance.
This particular day and hour of each his followers' deaths is uncertain to everyone but God.
As Jesus describes, he, nor the angels in the spiritual realm do not know when the physical body will die and the spirit-person leaves.
So why is this a big deal? Why is Jesus discussing the time of death with his disciples? Because they were concerned about the coming Jewish-Roman wars that Jesus was predicting prior to this. Jesus was foretelling - in the verses surrounding this one - that they will likely die along with the hundreds of thousands of other Jews and early Christians who died at the hands of the Romans. This occurred in a brutal war that began about 30 years after this discussion and ended more than six decades later.
This is indicated with statements such as, "let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matt. 24:16) and "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (Matt. 24:34).
During the Jewish-Roman wars - which began around 66 AD and lasted through about 130 AD - the Romans brutalized the Israelites. They burnt down most of their cities and villages, including their temples and libraries. Hundreds of thousands and likely millions- including most of Jesus' followers - were massacred. Jesus was warning them of this event.
So certainly his disciples became worried - but Jesus is giving them reassurance. He is telling them that while their physical bodies are temporary - and will die one day - his teachings coming from the Supreme Being were not temporary. He was telling them that they could rely upon his teachings.
At the moment of death, we lose everything. We lose all the money we've made and saved. We lose the house, cars, and whatever other material possessions we've accumulated. We also lose all of our relationships. We are no longer the husband or wife of someone else. We are no longer the father or mother of someone.
We also lose our reputation and any fame we might possess. Our entire identity is stripped away. All vanishes with a blink of the eye and the stop of a heartbeat.
Why? Because all of these are related to the physical body we are wearing. Once the physical body dies and we leave it behind, we also leave all these other elements behind as we move to our next destination.
What happens at the moment of death?What Jesus is saying is that at the moment of death, the physical world will vanish as we separate from the physical body. This includes the earth below our feet and the sky over our heads. The entire environment will disappear.
The physical body is simply a tool that gives us access the environment of the physical world. The physical world is like a virtual landscape in a computer program or a video game - often referred to as the environment.
Just consider accessing the environment of a particular video game. We need a computer loaded with a particular program to access this environment. We also need a computer monitor, a keyboard and some other gear (mouse, joystick, whatever) to access the computer game's tools. Without the computer, the program, the monitor, keyboard and gear, we could not access the video game's virtual environment.
It is the same with the physical world. The environment of the physical world is accessible by someone with a physical body. The senses of the physical body can be compared with the computer's monitor and speakers, and our ability to manipulate the body through the brain is like manipulating a computer program with the mouse or keyboard.
And just as a person can get up from the computer and turn it off, we immediately leave the environment of the physical world when our physical body dies.
Of course, there is a short period of time after death where a person may still observe the physical world with the more subtle bodies which include the mind - as evidenced by clinical death studies. Depending upon our destination, we will likely carry this subtle physical covering to our next destination.
However, for some people - those who have committed suicide or have spent a considerable amount of their lives in drunkenness or drug abuse - they may become locked in a state of suspension within the subtle environment and their subtle physical body. This is because they cut their body's life short. They must now make up that time with a residual subtle body.
In this subtle (ghostly) body, the person can observe the physical world but is unable - except in some rare cases - to manipulate or engage in it. This might be compared to watching a video game but not being able to access any controls in order to participate. It is a state filled with emptiness and frustration, as we see those we knew, but cannot contact them.
The physical world can also be accessed by angels and God at any time. Because God is the ultimate "Programmer" of the physical world, He has free reign. He also often sends angels from the spiritual world to help particular individuals. This is His prerogative, as the Owner of this virtual landscape, the physical world.
By saying, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away," Jesus is telling his students they can take away his teachings. Even though their bodies will pass away, they can take his teachings with them at the time of death of the body and thus return to the spiritual realm with their spiritual selves. And what was Jesus' most important teaching?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-40)