"The day and hour no one knows"

by Voice of Judah

The Popular Christian Understanding

What is the “the day and hour no one knows”? In mainstream christian understanding it’s the time of the return of Jesus to the earth, or his second coming. Jesus speaks of the end times in Matthew chapters 24-25, and in Matthew 24:36 He uses this peculiar phrase in reference to the timing of His return.

Reading that phrase with a 21st century, western christian context it would mean most people think it means: that Jesus is returning on a random day which no one knows. It could be today, tomorrow or some arbitrary day in the future. No one knows - just like the Bible says. That’s why in many christian circles they tell you to be “rapture-ready!” Jesus can return at any moment! The famous Left Behind book series sensationalizes this concept and weaves a dramatic plot for those who were not raptured and are “left behind” to face the devastating, end times events on the earth.

But guess what? And this may rock your socks off. If you lose the 21st century, western christian mindset and replace it with the ancient, Jewish context in which the Bible was written, then you get a completely different understanding of “the day and hour no one knows.”

The Ancient Jewish Understanding

The calendar months. In ancient Israel, the calendar months were marked by observing the lunar calendar. Meaning that as the moon went through its phases in a 29.5 day cycle, that would be one month on the calendar. On day 1 of the month the “new moon” is visible as a small, right-handed crescent early in the evening. Two weeks later or mid-month, days 14-15, the moon is full. In another two weeks, the end of the month, days 27-29, the moon wanes to a small, left-handed crescent then disappears from view for a day or two before it reappears again as the new moon (or renewed moon) and starts another cycle.

Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a Jewish phrase which means “head of the month.” It is a monthly holiday, celebrated like the sabbath as a day of rest, and  occurs each month on the first day of the month after the new moon is sighted in the sky at sunset. The new moon had to be sighted by two or more witnesses to be official. This would begin the first day of the month.

Rosh Chodesh always falls on a "day and hour no one knows". You would never know exactly when the month would start because the new moon can only be sighted as it occurs. You would know the two to three day time frame of when the new moon should be sighted, but you could never calculate the exact day beforehand because you had to actually sight the new moon to begin the first day of the month.

Sighting the new moon. Historically, two witnesses would sight the new moon and then go to the Temple and give their testimony to the Levitical priests. This was a very significant event in ancient Israel. The priests would confirm the sighting, then blow the shofar to officially proclaim Rosh Chodesh. Because the first day of the month can only be determined by sighting the new moon on the actual day and hour in which it occurs, you cannot calculate it beforehand. Thus the holiday of Rosh Chodesh, and also the first day of each month, always fell on a "day and hour no one knows." So putting that together, there were actually twelve (sometimes thirteen) times during the year when “a day and hour no one knows” occurred!


So when the disciples questioned Jesus about the timing of His return in Matthew 24, and He spoke of His return at the conclusion of end time events saying it would be on “a day and hour no one knows,” the disciples would have linked Rosh Chodesh with His return.

Furthermore, there is additional significance for this day. One of the Feasts of the Lord, Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets/Shouting), occurs on Rosh Chodesh. It is the only feast that occurs on the first day of the month at the new moon - a day and hour no one knows. When you study the Feasts of the Lord, you discover that they are rehearsals for the first and second coming of Messiah. The events and traditions of those feasts symbolize and foreshadow the events which occur when the Messiah comes to earth. The Spring Feasts reveal the events of Messiah’s first coming, and the Fall Feasts reveal the events of His second coming.

To recap and aid our understanding of the timing of end time events: the rapture cannot happen on any random “day and hour no one knows.” The phrase does not mean that. The phrase is a Jewish idiom. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time it would have been understood to be reference to Rosh Chodesh and Yom Teruah. Yom Teruah does not happen on just any day. It occurs on a literal, physical day of the ancient Jewish calendar. It is a “day and hour no one knows” only because the day cannot begin until the actual sighting of the new moon. You know the two or three day window of time when it’s going to happen, but you don’t know the actual day or hour until it occurs.

See below for an illustration of the lunar cycle and the ancient, Israel calendar.

The Ancient Israel Calendar

Counting the Days of the Month and the Appearance of the Moon 

                                                                                                                          moon calendar