Days of Noah

Just as the unprepared were destroyed by the Flood, so unrepentant men and apostates will be overtaken by destruction when Jesus returns

Jesus compares the final years before his return to the period leading up to the Great Flood. “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be.” Some take this as a prediction of the return of the same conditions that existed in Noah’s day, a repetition of the moral anarchy and violence that prompted God to send the floodwaters.

Commerce - Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash
[Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash]

While all periods of human history have featured chaos, immorality, and catastrophes, that interpretation of Christ’s words ignores their literary context and the point of the analogy.

The fuller version of his saying is recorded in the gospel of Luke which compares this final period to both the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot,” and in both instances, stressing the same point - (Luke 17:26-30).

ALWAYS PREPARED


Since no one except God knows the timing of that day, Christ’s disciples remain ever vigilant and prepared for its sudden arrival.

The comparison with the “days of Noah” illustrates the point. Jesus says nothing about the return of gross sin, violence, or terrestrial upheaval - whether such things will occur in history’s final years IS NOT THE POINT.

Instead, just as before the Flood, men will go about their daily routines, “eating, drinking, marrying, planting, building, buying and selling.” This describes everyday life, NOT chaos or egregious sin. They will go about their daily business as if nothing untoward will ever occur despite the testimony of preachers of righteousness - (2 Peter 2:5, “If God did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness…).

Just before the Flood, the problem was the failure of humanity to heed the call for repentance issued by Noah. Men lived as if the judgment would never come until the very moment when destruction fell.

The analogy stresses man’s indifference to such warnings of inevitable judgment, and NOT the wickedness of that generation. Only Noah and his family believed God “about things not yet seen,” and therefore, he prepared the ark - (Hebrews 11:7).

WITHOUT OBVIOUS “SIGNS


For the rest of humanity, the Flood arrived without warning, as if Noah had failed to alert his neighbors about what was coming. They did not listen, and perhaps, they consciously closed their ears to his voice.

And so, likewise, the sudden arrival of the “Son of Man” will catch many off their guard. The conditions described by Jesus portray NORMALCY, NOT CHAOS.

And in the account in Luke, Jesus states that the kingdom will not come “with observable signs” (paratérésis). This translates a Greek word used by medical practitioners for diagnosing diseases from observable symptoms, and for making careful astronomical observations.

The timing of his arrival cannot be calculated by discerning the significance of cosmic signs. When he does come, it will be like “lightning flashing out of the one part under heaven and flashing into the other part under heaven” - sudden, unmistakable, and visible to all.

Jesus added an illustration from the “days of Lot.” Before the “Son of Man” arrives, people will conduct their regular affairs, “eating, drinking, marrying, being given in marriage, buying, selling, planting and building.” But in Lot’s time, fire fell suddenly from heaven and destroyed the city of Sodom, and so “will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus also warns against becoming too comfortable in this life. Disciples must take heed “lest at any time your hearts are overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and so that day COMES UPON (ephistémi) you UNEXPECTED (aiphnidios). For just as a snare shall it come upon all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch, therefore, and pray always to be accounted worthy TO ESCAPE (ekpheugō) all these things.” – (Luke 21:34-36).

Daybreak castle - Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash
[Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash]

The Apostle Paul uses this same saying of Jesus in his letter to the Thessalonians when making a similar point:

  • (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) - “For yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord is coming thus as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety,’ then UNEXPECTED (aiphnidios) destruction COMES UPON (ephistémi) them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall NOT ESCAPE (ekpheugō).”

The Greek term rendered “unexpected” (aiphnidios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in these two passages.

WHEN LEAST EXPECTED


And according to Paul, the “Day of the Lord” will arrive when it is least expected, “just like a thief in the night.” And humanity’s claim cited by Paul in the passage to have established “peace and safety” points to times of normalcy, not chaos, upheaval, or violence. Likewise, Peter warns of the coming time when:

  • Scoffers walking after their own lusts who will scoff; Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation!” - (2 Peter 3:2-4).

In times of global catastrophes, even atheists tend to believe something “apocalyptic” is imminent. But during times of peace and prosperity, the human temptation is to assume that life will continue as usual.

Thus, Jesus paints a picture of normalcy for the period leading up to his return, not one characterized by cosmic catastrophes, unrestrained violence, and moral anarchy. The unprepared will be overtaken by his sudden and unexpected “arrival.” And therefore, his disciples must always be prepared for that day.



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