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Matthew 24:36 reads:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)

Wouldn't Post-Trib adherents be able to say that you could indeed calculate the exact day of Christ's return, because it would be exactly 7 years from the signing/enforcing of the peace treaty with Israel that's prophesied in the Bible?

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  • I've made an edit to your post for grammar and clarity, but I believe it is still in line with what you were originally asking. – 3961 May 28 '15 at 0:15
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    Not everyone agrees a 'seven year peace treaty' is prophesied in the bible. – Mark Edward May 29 '15 at 14:52
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You are really asking two questions here:

  • Do post-tribulation premillennialists believe that the Bible prophesies any events that can be used to make an exact prediction of the timing of Christ's Second Coming?
  • If so, how do post-tribulation premillennialists square this with Matthew 24:36?

The question that needs to be primarily addressed is actually the first one, not the second. Two prominent post-tribulation premillennialists, George E. Ladd and Wayne Grudem, argue that the signs prophesied in the Bible are not of a nature that we can draw firm conclusions regarding the timing of Christ's return.

Non-dispensationalists like Grudem do not find that Daniel 9 and related passages provide evidence of a literal, fixed-length peace treaty with Israel. Rather, the signs he sees taught in Scripture that must be fulfilled prior to Christ's Second Coming are the following:

  1. Preaching of the Gospel to all nations (Mark 13:10)
    • Probably not fulfilled, but possible in light of Paul's language in Colossians 1:5–6, "in the whole world."
  2. Great tribulation (Mark 13:7–8)
    • Probably not fulfilled, but possible that it was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem (AD 66–70).
  3. False prophets (Mark 13:22)
    • Probably not fulfilled, but it may have been fulfilled in the many examples of false prophets that have arisen throughout Christian history.
  4. Signs in the heavens (Mark 13:24–25)
    • Almost certainly not fulfilled. However, "they could occur very quickly," on the order of minutes or hours, and thus this does not suggest that Christ could not return at any time.
  5. Appearance of the Man of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:1–10)
    • Probably not fulfilled, but it is still possible that the "man of lawlessness" could refer to a historical figure, whether a Roman emperor or a Hitler/Stalin.
  6. All Israel to be saved (Romans 11:26)
    • Probably not fulfilled, but perhaps Paul referred simply to the kind of Jewish conversion to Christianity that we have seen throughout church history.

Given this analysis, Grudem concludes that Christ's return is imminent, and that the only the unfulfilled "signs in the heavens" could be used as a predictor. However, because they may last only an extremely brief time, we must admit that Christ could return at any time, and we cannot predict his coming:

The only sign that seems certainly not to have occurred, the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, could occur within the space of a few minutes, and therefore it seems appropriate to say that Christ could now return at any hour of the day or night. (Systematic Theology, chapter 54)

Ladd's approach is similar. Dealing with Jesus's predictions in the Olivet Discourse, he writes:

The Olivet Discourse describes no signs by which the end can be calculated. [...] False messiahs will arise; wars will occur; "but the end is not yet" (Mark 13:7). These events are not signs of an imminent end; they will occur, but the end delays. Rather than being signs of the end, they are only "the beginning of woes" (Mark 13:8) which will mark the entire age. (The Presence of the Future, 326–27)

Ladd thus sees "no conflict between the Olivet Discourse and Jesus'saying that the end will come without signs which can be calculated." Other signs that he accepts, like that of the Gospel being preached to all nations, can't be used for calculations either, since it is difficult to know when they are fulfilled.

Summary

Post-tribulation premillennialists, and more generally most non-dispensationalists, are hesitant to literally interpret the Bible's apocalyptic passages. Thus, they typically do not see any of the events signalling the return of Christ to be sufficiently specific as to allow anyone to calculate the date of Christ's return.

Thus, Matthew 24:36 and similar passages do not need to be explained: "Post-tribs" hold that Jesus is clearly teaching that no man can know the day or the hour, and neither can any man predict it on the basis of the fulfillment of signs.

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Regardless of one's theory about the order of events surrounding the second coming -- Pre-Trib, Post-Trib, Arapturist, whatever, one easy answer that I have heard is that Matthew 24 says that no one can know the day or the hour ... but it doesn't say you can't know the year. So as long as the second coming is not exactly 7 years to the hour from the event that starts the count-down, as long as we allow for some "rounding error", then still no one could know the exact day and hour. If I said to you, "I plan to retire in seven years", you wouldn't say, "Okay, so it's 9:28 on May 28, 2015 now, he's planning to begin his retirement at 9:28 on May 28, 2022." If I really retired in April or June or July of 2022, few would seriously say that I was mistaken or lying when I said "in seven years" on May 28. It's common to round numbers off.

Another answer is that Jesus was saying that no one can know when the event that starts the countdown will come, not the Second Coming. Pre-Tribbers will commonly say that there are no prophecies that remain to be fulfilled before the Rapture can happen, so it could come at any time. I think Post-Tribbers would say the same about whatever event they would use to mark the start of the Tribulation -- whether that's the signing of a treaty between the Antichrist and Israel or some other event.

(I add that hedge because I don't think all Post-Tribbers would use this treaty as the starting point of the Tribulation.)

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  • I don't think Post-tribbers would say the 7 years begins with the rapture. Did you mean to say they believe the 7 years ends with the Rapture? – Jean Harris May 29 '15 at 0:20
  • @JeanHarris You are absolutely correct. The OP said "Post-Trib", in my answer I "Post-Trib", and I then proceeded to describe a Pre-Trib position. I did say Pre-Trib later on but by then anyone reading my answer was no doubt hopelessly confused. I've edited my answer to, I hope, be less incoherent. – Jay May 29 '15 at 5:41
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This is an uncommon interpretation, but note that Matthew 24:36 is in present tense – it says "no man knows," not "no man can know" or "no man will know." Only the Father knew the day and hour at the time the passage in Matthew was written – but that doesn't preclude the Father from revealing a more specific time later on, through continuing revelation or through fulfillment of a prophecy.

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  • Welcome to the site. I bet this interpretation does indeed exist, but the answer would be better if you sourced it (i.e. provide a link with to someone who is supporting this view). I do see a problem, though. The Post-Trib theology states that the Tribulation will be a very specific amount of time, so any person with a calculator and calendar could figure it out. That is what the question is asking an explanation for. – 3961 May 29 '15 at 16:14
  • Good point – I removed my extra commentary that doesn't really help answer the question. – Samuel Bradshaw May 30 '15 at 0:10

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