The subject of the end times seems to be on nearly everyone’s mind. From the political scene, as it is developing around the world (particularly in the Middle East and Asia), to the ever increasing outbreaks of diseases (food borne, sexually transmitted, etc.), to natural disasters like the threat of “global warming” or an impact by an asteroid, one thing most people agree on is that humanity’s days are numbered.
When one turns to the pages of the book of Revelation, in what seems to describe the series of events of the last days, he or she can quickly get an “apocalyptic” view of what lies ahead for planet earth. [Note that the term “apocalyptic” has come to mean “catastrophic, cataclysmic, and disastrous.” However, it is suitable for all the events of the Book of Revelation – bad and good – since the Greek word from which it comes to English is apokalupsis, which simply means “revelation,” and happens to be the first word of the Greek translation of “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1).]
In chapters 8 and 9 of Revelation, we read John’s vision concerning seven angels which had seven trumpets. At the sounding of each trumpet, a new calamity befalls the earth. When the first trumpet blew, a third part of the trees were burned up and all of the grass. At the second trumpet, a third part of the sea became blood, killing a third of all the creatures in the sea and destroying a third part of the ships. The third angel sounded, and a third of the rivers and springs were made undrinkable. The fourth trumpet blew, and the sun, moon and stars all became one-third dimmer. When the sixth angel sounded, a third of men were killed by fire, smoke and brimstone from the mouths of 200 million horses. After all of this, the remaining two-thirds of men did not repent: that is when things really began to get bad.
Just this small glimpse of the evil slated to befall the earth does not paint for us a very optimistic picture of the future. While it is certain that, in the end, all turns out well for the believers and the planet, the Word of God foretells quite a bumpy ride between now and then.
Jesus spoke of the last days and of the calamity which they would hold. He also spoke concerning the days leading up to those dark times, likening them to the days of Noah before the flood destroyed all but those who were safely in the ark which he built. Jesus said, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37-39). Luke transcribed it almost identically, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27).
When we consider both of these passages, we find the following two things seem to be considered by Jesus as the most noteworthy characteristics of mankind before the flood: 1) they were eating and drinking, and 2) they were marrying and giving in marriage.
I would like to note here that the terminology of the second item reflects a different usage in language from that of modern English. Whereas today we say “he was married,” and “she was married,” it used to be that men were married, and women were “given in marriage.” This phrase, then, refers to the nuptials of both men and women.
That being said, looking at the content of Jesus’ words here, many have boiled it down to mean, “everything was business as usual” until the flood came. But is that all that Jesus was saying, that the days leading up to the return of the Son of Man are going to be just “business as usual,” or did He have something more particular in mind as He referenced these specific societal trends of the days before the flood?
If the Lord compared the last days to the days leading up to the flood, and we are supposing that He was saying that it would be “business as usual,” the question should likely be asked, “Was it ‘business as usual’ in the days leading up to the flood?” For that, we will look at the narrative in the Book of Genesis.
First, as the Scripture declares, every imagination of the thoughts of the hearts of men was only evil continually. Jesus said that, in the days of Noah, men were “eating and drinking.” This statement is not speaking of the inherent need of man to nourish himself, but to the riotous activities in which they were engaged. We have a similar description of the children of Israel while Moses was on the mount of God. The Israelites had made themselves a golden calf, and proclaimed a feast before their new god. “And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:6). They were not merely nourishing themselves, they were reveling in idolatry.
Second, “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:1-2). After the sin of Cain, God divided him from the rest of the descendants of Adam. Cain went off to develop a society of his own, separated from the rest of humanity. The Lord’s intent was to keep that root of bitterness from defiling the whole of mankind, so He kept the two “families” apart.
When Seth was born, Eve said, “God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” In Gen. 5:3, it says, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.” A simple law of algebra states, “If A=B, and B=C, then A=C.” Seth was “in the likeness, and after the image” of Adam. Adam was made in God’s image, after His likeness. Therefore, Seth was in the likeness of God. Luke confirms the pedigree of Seth in Luke 23-38, “Jesus himself … being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, …which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
Thus, beginning with Cain and Seth, there were two distinct families of man: the sons of God and the sons (and daughters) of men. These two families were separated by God, and were not to mingle. Over time, however, Seth’s descendants (the sons of God), began to take to themselves wives of Cain’s descendants (the daughters of men).
Man’s wickedness filled the land, but the violation of God’s will through the intermarriage between the two families of man was the last straw. Seth’s descendants had ceased to be separate from the wicked seed of Cain, and God determined to destroy the earth by a flood.
So, it can be understood that it was not “business as usual” in the days leading up to the flood, but times had indeed changed. Man had wholly given himself over to wickedness, and those whom God had separated unto Himself had turned from His way, and disobeyed His law. Noah alone found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and he, his family and two of every living creature were spared in the ark, while all others died.
This is the intention of Jesus’ words concerning the time of the end: not that it would be “business as usual,” but a drastic change. Once again, the children of God would turn away from His will. They would revel in idolatry and mingle themselves with the world. Paul agreed, saying, that the Lord would return only after “a falling away” occurred among God’s people (2 Thess. 2:1-3).
And so it is today. God’s children bow at the altar of the golden calf of prosperity, and other idolatrous doctrines, for the Word says, their “stock [idol] is a doctrine of vanities” (Jer. 10:8). At the same time, professed children of God, from pulpit to pew, have become so intermingled with the unbelievers that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. As Ezekiel said, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezek. 22:26).
It is not the wicked sinners that bring the wrath of God, but the disobedience of His children that are the real problem. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13). When the children of God cease to be separate from the children of the devil, it will not matter how many victory songs they sing. Almighty God warned His people, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee … Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee…” (Deut. 28:15-68).
Divorce, cohabitation, gluttony, covetousness – all of these are as abundant among professed Christians as they are among the unbeliever. This cannot continue. God, in His mercy, must consume the wickedness before it consumes the righteous.
Jesus said that, in the days of Noah, it was no longer business as usual, but a great violation of God’s will had prevailed in their society. Furthermore, He said that they were ignorant of their imminent destruction. So also have many professed believers strayed from the right way, and have blasphemed the Word of God, yet they ignorantly await deliverance that will not come. They indulge in “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence [lust], and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:5-6).
As the foolish virgins of Matthew chapter 25, many shall head off to meet the bridegroom, but find themselves in outer darkness. Where do you stand before your Lord? Do you feel that by professing a belief in Jesus, you have a pass to do whatever you want, while waiting for the Lord to whisk you away to glory? Are you a Christian in name only, or have you completely sold out to God, and submitted your will unto His?
We must heed the exhortation of the Lord at the mouth of Zephaniah, “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:1-3).
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.