It is not for you to know - The question of the apostles respected the time of the restoration; it was not whether he would do it. Accordingly, his answer meets precisely their inquiry; and he tells them in general that the time of the great events of God‘s kingdom was not to be understood by them. They had asked a similar question on a former occasion, Matthew 24:3, “Tell us when shall these things be?” Jesus had answered them then by showing them that certain signs would precede his coming, and then by saying Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” God has uniformly reproved a vain curiosity on such points, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10; Luke 12:39-40.
The times or the seasons - The difference between these words is, that the former denotes any time or period that is indefinite or uncertain; the later denotes a fixed, definite, or appropriate time. They seem to be used here to denote the periods that would mark or determine all future events.
The Father hath put - So entirely had the Father reserved the knowledge of these to himself, that it is said that even the Son did not know them. See Mark 3:32, and the notes on that place.
In his own power - That is, he has fixed them by his own authority, he will bring them about in his own time and way; and therefore it is not proper for people anxiously to inquire into them. All prophecy is remarkably obscure in regard to the time of its fulfillment. The reasons why it is so are such as the following:
(1)To excite people to watch for the events that are to come, as the time is uncertain, and they will come “like a thief in the night.”
(2)as they are to be brought about by human agency, they are so arranged as to call forth that agency. If people knew just when an event was to come to pass, they might be remiss, and feel that their own efforts were not needed.
(3)the knowledge of future scenes of the exact time, might alarm people, and absorb their thoughts so entirely as to prevent a proper attention to the present duties of life. Duty is ours now; God will provide for future scenes.
(4)promises sufficiently clear and full are therefore given us to encourage us, but not so full as to excite a vain and idle curiosity. All this is eminently true of our own death, one of the most important future scenes through which we are to pass. It is certainly before us; it is near; it cannot be long delayed; it may come at any moment. God has fixed the time, but will not inform us when it shall be. He does not gratify a vain curiosity; nor does he terrify us by announcing to us the day or the hour when we are to die, as we do a man that is to be executed. This would be to make our lives like that of a criminal sentenced to die, and we should through all our life, through fear of death, be subject to bondage, Hebrews 2:15. He has made enough known to excite us to make preparation, and to be always ready, having our loins girt about and our lamps trimmed and burning, Luke 12:35.
The times or the seasons - Χρονους η καιρους . Times here may signify any large portion of a period, era, or century - such as an Olympiad, lustrum or year; and seasons, the particular part, season, or opportunity in that period, etc., in which it might be proper to do any particular work. God has not only fixed the great periods in which he will bring about those great revolutions which his wisdom, justice, and mercy have designed, but he leaves himself at full liberty to choose those particular portions of such periods as may be best for the accomplishment of those purposes. Thus God is no necessary agent - every thing is put in his own power, εν τῃ ιδιᾳ εξουσιᾳ, under his control and authority; nor will he form decrees of which he must become the necessary executor. The infinite liberty of acting or not acting, as wisdom, justice, and goodness shall see best, is essential to God, nor can there be a point in the whole of his eternity in which he must be the necessary agent of a fixed and unalterable fate. Infinite, eternal liberty to act or not to act, to create or not create, to destroy or not destroy, belongs to God alone, and we must take care how we imagine decrees, formed even by his own prescience, in reference to futurity, which his power is from the moment of their conception laid under the necessity of performing. In every point of time and eternity, God must be free to act or not to act, as may seem best to his godly wisdom.
Let all our brethren and sisters beware of anyone who would set a time for the Lord to fulfill His word in regard to His coming, or in regard to any other promise He has made of special significance. “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” False teachers may appear to be very zealous for the work of God, and may expend means to bring their theories before the world and the church; but as they mingle error with truth, their message is one of deception, and will lead souls into false paths. They are to be met and opposed, not because they are bad men, but because they are teachers of falsehood and are endeavoring to put upon falsehood the stamp of truth. TM 55.1
What a pity it is that men will go to such pains to discover some theory of error when there is a whole storehouse of precious gems of truth by which the people might be enriched in the most holy faith. Instead of teaching truth they let their imagination dwell upon that which is new and strange, and throw themselves out of harmony with those whom God is using to bring the people up upon the platform of truth. They cast aside all that has been said in regard to unity of sentiment and feeling, and trample upon the prayer of Christ as though the unity for which He prayed were unessential, and there were no necessity for His followers to be one, even as He is one with the Father. They go off on a tangent, and, Jehulike, call to their brethren to follow their example of zeal for the Lord. TM 55.2
If their zeal led them to work in the same lines in which their brethren who have carried the heat and burden of the day are working, if they were as persevering to overcome discouragements and obstacles as their brethren have been, they might well be imitated, and God would accept them. But men are to be condemned who start out with a proclamation of wonderful light, and yet draw away from the agents whom God is leading. This was the way in which Korah, Dathan, and Abiram did, and their action is recorded as a warning to all others. We are not to do as they have done—accuse and condemn those upon whom God has laid the burden of the work. TM 55.3Read in context »
Christ gave to His disciples truths whose breadth and depth and value they little appreciated, or even comprehended, and the same condition exists among the people of God today. We too have failed to take in the greatness, to perceive the beauty of the truth which God has entrusted to us today. Should we advance in spiritual knowledge, we would see the truth developing and expanding in lines of which we have little dreamed, but it will never develop in any line that will lead us to imagine that we may know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power. Again and again have I been warned in regard to time setting. There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time. We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ. 1SM 188.1
I was searching through my writings, before coming to this meeting, to see what I should take with me to Australia, and I found an envelope on which was written, “Testimony given in regard to time setting, June 21, 1851. Preserve carefully.” I opened it, and this is what I found. It reads: 1SM 188.2Read in context »
Instead of living in expectation of some special season of excitement, we are wisely to improve present opportunities, doing that which must be done in order that souls may be saved. Instead of exhausting the powers of our mind in speculations in regard to the times and seasons which the Lord has placed in His own power, and withheld from men, we are to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit, to do present duties, to give the bread of life, unadulterated with human opinions, to souls who are perishing for the truth.—The Review and Herald, March 22, 1892. Ev 702.1
Unprecedented Opportunities—In these days of travel, the opportunities for coming in contact with men and women of all classes and of many nationalities, are much greater than in the days of Israel. The thoroughfares of travel have multiplied a thousandfold. God has wonderfully prepared the way. The agency of the printing press, with its manifold facilities, is at our command. Bibles and publications in many languages, setting forth the truth for this time, are at our hand, and can be swiftly carried to every part of the world. Ev 702.2
We are to give the last warning of God to men, and what should be our earnestness in studying the Bible, and our zeal in spreading the light!—The Review and Herald, January 25, 1906. Ev 702.3Read in context »