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As in the Days of Noah...

Noah's Ark

by Dennis Pollock

With all the critics and scoffers who mock our Lord’s return, it is important for us to see that Jesus Himself was not shy when speaking of and teaching about the last days. He makes it clear that our world as we know it will at some point in history come to a crashing halt, with some pretty spectacular cosmic fireworks marking its demise. He describes the final days leading up to His return as a time of “great tribulation” and warns His followers to always watch for “that Day.”

At one point His disciples, having no doubt heard their Master speak of these things numerous times, could not resist from asking Him about the precise timing involved and the particular sign that would indicate that this spectacular and climactic end of the age was at hand. While resting on the Mount of Olives, they said to Jesus:

 Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?  (Matthew 24:3)

It is nearly as informative to note what Jesus did not say, as what He did say. He did not give the reply many Christians would have, and tell them that this was strictly none of their business - they should be about the work of the church, winning souls, praying, encouraging each other, helping the poor - and leave this business of the end of the age in the hands of God. No, He did something rather surprising - He actually answered the question. In fact He not only answered it, but gave them what probably amounted to far more information than they expected. Our Lord went into great detail as to the conditions of the world in the last days, and the observable signs which would tell insightful believers that the coming of Christ was at hand.

In this study we will limit ourselves to one particular sign - the state of society in the last days. In a few short verses we are given a glimpse of the nature of our world in those perilous times just prior to the return of the Lord Jesus. We are told that the best way to understand the condition of our world in the last days is to look back to two particular Biblical stories - the story of the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If we carefully analyze these two Bible events, we will have a pattern by which to compare our own world conditions and determine how close or distant we may be to Christ’s return.

Days of Noah

Jesus tells us, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man" (Luke 17:26). The question then becomes, “So just how was it in the days of Noah?” Of course this is a no-brainer for anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the Bible. Noah lived in a world that was exceedingly wicked, indeed so wicked that God determined to destroy every living person on the earth with the exception of Noah and his family. The Bible says: “So God looked upon the earth and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.; And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me…” The people of the world were evil, spectacularly so. God has always had to endure wicked men living on the earth, but in this case the degree of their wickedness was at such a high level that it seemed better to the Creator to do away with the general population and start over.

One may wonder if there was any prevailing sin that especially displeased God, and indeed there was. The Bible tells us: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). No doubt there was a great deal of lying, cursing, and blasphemy, and numerous other sins, but in Noah’s day violence had risen to such a level that it brought the strongest possible reaction from a holy God – the Creator of the earth was ready to hit the redo button and start all over.

The Bible tells us that God is love. Jesus says,, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Kindness is declared to be one of the fruits which the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of those who abide in Jesus. Paul appealed to the Corinthians “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”  It is God’s gentle, kind, and loving nature that causes Him to absolutely abhor the violence that humans commit toward one another. The world in which Noah lived was a violent , brutal world, where murder, rape, and beatings were common, and where the stronger took advantage of the weaker.

Days of Lot

The other Biblical society Jesus used to illustrate the condition of our world in the last days was the time of Lot. Once again you have a people God determined to destroy for their wickedness. The Bible says about the men who lived in Sodom in Lot’s time: “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13). Of course all men who have not experienced the grace of Jesus Christ are sinners, and are offensive to God (although still loved by Him!) but in the case of the men of Sodom, these men were not just wicked - they were “exceedingly wicked,” according to the inspired Scriptures.

Unlike Genesis, God does not tell Lot what bothers Him so much with these folks, but it is not too difficult to guess. When God sends angels to escort Lot and his family out of this wicked city, the Bible says, “The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally (have homosexual sex with them)” (Genesis 19:4,5). These men were not merely sexually immoral in a general, “as the opportunity permits” kind of way. They were violent, cruel, perverse, and aggressive. And this sexual obsession had permeated the entire community. Note the inclusive description of these vile men: “the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter…” The spiritual disease of sexuality run amok had infected the entire region, and so corrupted Sodom that the only possible remedy was its complete destruction. God tells Lot: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great... their sin is very grave” (Genesis 18:20).

These, then, are the two societies Jesus uses to describe the conditions of our world in those final days preceding His return to gather His people to Himself and ultimately take His rightful place as Lord over all the earth. If any generation wonders, “Just how close are we to the return of Jesus,” all they need do is read the stories of Noah and Lot and ask themselves, “How does our generation compare?”

Our Generation

Cell phone users

So how do we compare? In terms of sexual immorality and license, we line up very closely. No other generation since Bible times has been as sexualized as ours. Our obsession with sex is so far beyond traditional boundaries, an alien from another planet would conclude that we must have surely just recently discovered it. Television sit-coms compete to see who can jam the most sex jokes in a twenty-two minute program. Nudity is routinely shown not only in movies, but also on television. Go to any magazine rack in your neighborhood grocery store and you find article titles proudly emblazoned across the covers telling you how to have better sex, more sex, and more creative sex. Homosexuality is pushed robustly by the news media, attempting desperately to convince one and all that if you believe what the Bible says about it, you are surely a hater, a bigot, and a thoroughly despicable person.

When it comes to violence many might argue that we are not nearly so violent as previous generations. But strangely, when I was a boy growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, I don’t remember hearing about school shootings, terrorists chopping innocent people’s heads off, or serial killers constantly filling our news broadcasts. But undoubtedly the worst and most pervasive form of violence in our generation is a specific type of murder - the legalized, methodical, society-sanctioned, sterilized slaughter of unborn babies done by doctors wearing white coats and speaking of zygotes and fetuses so as not to give anyone the impression that they are actually killing a human being. Every year in America over one million unborn babies are slaughtered on the altar of convenience, while we blissfully go about our business, pretending that the Holy God of the Bible does not see or care.

“As it was in the days of Noah… as it was in the days of Lot, so will it be in the days of the Son of man.” If any generation could ever be said to closely resemble the dark, violent, sexually immoral days of the two most wicked societies the Bible describes, our generation surely qualifies. Jesus said something further that is most interesting. He described the people of those days going about their normal daily business. He speaks of them eating, drinking, having weddings, building, planting, buying, and selling. Why mention this? These are things all people from every society do all the time. They are legitimate, ordinary activities that you will find in America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and anywhere else you go where men and women live on this earth.

Jesus seems to highlight these ordinary activities to contrast that which will follow. While the men and women of Noah’s day were eating, drinking, and attending weddings,, and while the folks of Lot’s community were building, planting, buying, and selling, sudden destruction came from God and wiped them all out. While they went about their business, wrath and destruction loomed overhead. There was one thing far more needful that they were not doing - they were not repenting and crying out to their offended Creator for mercy. Jesus tells us as it was then, so it will be at the end of our present age.

The Good News

Up to this point, the picture is not especially encouraging. But as we study these stories, we find a very positive element in each of them. In both Noah’s day and Lot’s day there were people who were spared the wrath of a holy God. The Bible says about Noah, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Lot had a couple of powerful angels join him to act as protectors and escorts to move him and his family safely from the place doomed to destruction. Both men were spared, along with those from their families who had enough sense to take God’s warnings to heart.

As it was in those days, so it will be in the days of the Son of man. Jesus tells us, “Pray that you may be able to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Paul writes, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus promises the church at Philadelphia, “I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.”

Those who are born again through faith in Jesus are exempt from destruction, and promised deliverance, not because of our sterling character, superior wisdom, or impeccable history, but because Jesus Christ died on a wooden cross on our behalf. He took on the ugliness of sin for us, that the pristine righteousness of our awesome Creator, the transcendent, brilliant, unmatched holiness of God might be mysteriously applied to us and transferred into our moral bank account.

Are we getting close to the return of Jesus? It certainly looks like it. But whether that Day will occur this week, next month, or whether we will live out our years and die of old age, we can be sure that we are safe, everlastingly safe in the righteousness of Jesus, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. His death on the cross and resurrection three days later make it possible for us, like Noah, to find grace in the eyes of the Lord.

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