For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt 24:37–39)
Someone sent me a piece where Jeff Kinley is quoted on his book As It Was in the Days of Noah: Warnings from Bible Prophecy About the Coming Global Storm. I want to respond to his misinterpretation of Jesus’ warning “As It Was in the Days of Noah.” Pretribulationists are notorious for mishandling the Olivet Discourse and this instance is not an exception.
The news story states:
The author, who believes Noah, the flood and the ark unfolded as the Bible recounts, draws parallels between contemporary culture and the “pandemic godlessness of the earth” during Noah’s in his new book “As It Was in the Days of Noah. Human behavior then and now, he posits, isn’t all that different. “Humanity had forgotten God so literally every man just did what they thought was right in their own eyes,” Kinley said of the days of Noah. . . . .While he said it’s impossible to judge when the end times might unfold, Kinley described the current conditions as matching those presented in the Bible, citing Matthew 24, among other references.
This is not correct. Kinley fails to see the obvious point that Jesus was making in his Olivet Discourse when he used the Noahic analogy.
First, Jesus just finished explaining that the Antichrist must arrive first to persecute the people of God during the great tribulation before the coming of Christ (Matt 24:15–22). Similarly, the book of Revelation states that God has ordained a certain number of martyrs before he pours out his wrath: “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?’ Each of them was given a long white robe and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been” (Rev 6:10–11). So the last generation of the church will be persecuted greatly before Christ returns to judge the world.
I find it careless of prophecy teachers (mostly pretribulationists) who skip over this little fact about the church facing the Antichrist before Jesus returns. These teachers are always taking about “signs” before the second coming and yet they miss the most important one! This is the very sign that Jesus, Paul, and the book of Revelation highlight in their teachings.
Second, Jesus then states in his Olivet Discourse that we do not know the day or hour when those days of persecution will be cut short with the coming of Christ in the clouds to gather his people and unleash his judgment upon the world. It will be back-to-back events (vv. 27–31). To illustrate these back-to-back events when Christ arrives on the clouds Jesus uses the Noahic analogy to teach that his return will be unexpected for the ungodly. They will be oblivious to the wrath of God. That is the whole point. Jesus’ point is not intending to show how “immoral” people were in the days of Noah (even though they were immoral and it would had carried that connotation with his listeners). He indented his illustration to show the unexpectedness of the wicked at his parousia. That is, people were going on with their everyday activities as they were unprepared for the impending judgment, as it was in the day of Noah. Kinley in passing mentions this in his book (p. 66), but he changes the meaning to make Jesus intend he is speaking of their immorality. Incidentally, the immediate context of the following agricultural illustration militates against his interpertation as it addresses suddenness not immorality (Matt 24:39–41).
Here is what I wrote on this issue in my book Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord (pp. 126–128; cf. 218–220):
[The] pattern of deliverance before God’s eschatological wrath is especially seen in Jesus’ teaching where he emphasizes the back-to-back nature of deliverance and judgment.
“The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. Then people will say to you, ‘Look, there he is!’ or ‘Look, here he is!’ Do not go out or chase after them. For just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage—right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:22–27, emphasis mine; cf. Matt. 24:37–41)
In this passage, there are at least three important truths regarding Christ’s return. First, the sign of his second coming will be like lightning that will light up the sky. In Part 2, we covered this in our examination of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:3, 27, 30). This will be his Shekinah glory announcing his divine presence to the entire world. Second, Jesus likens unbelievers at the time of the flood to unbelievers at the time of his second coming. Jesus says people were going on with their everyday affairs of eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage. He does not make reference to gluttony, drunkenness, and immorality. To be sure, the antediluvian world was egregiously God-hating and self-loving (Gen. 6:11–13), and it is safe to assume that they were engaging in gluttony, drunkenness, and immorality (2 Pet. 2:5). But that is not the point Jesus makes here. He is highlighting that they were going on with their everyday activities, indifferent and oblivious of God’s coming wrath. In short, the people of Noah’s day were unprepared when the flood came. So will it be in the days at the coming of Christ. People will be going on with their everyday business, living only to please themselves. Paul is consistent with this truth, teaching that at the onset of the day of the Lord unbelievers will be saying, “‘peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). The third point Jesus makes is that this obliviousness occurred “right up to the day” Noah entered the ark. The same day they entered, the flood began, not two days or five days or seven days later. The deluge began the very day Noah and his family entered the ark and shut the door (see Genesis 7:1–18). Noah was told that he had seven days to corral all the animals because “in seven days I will cause it to rain” (Gen. 7:4). At the end of the seven days, “all the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Gen. 7:11). This happened “on that very day Noah entered the ark” (Gen. 7:13). There will be no gap of days, weeks, or months, between the deliverance of the righteous and the unleashing of God’s wrath at his return. It will be back to back.
To make sure he is not misunderstood about this truth, Jesus emphasizes this point by citing the episode of Lot and Sodom.
“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:28–35, emphasis mine)
In the days of Lot—just as in the days of Noah—people were going on with their everyday tasks, “eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building.” They were unaware and unprepared for God’s impending judgment. His judgment began on the same day of Lot’s deliverance. “On the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all” (cf. Gen. 19:23–28). Accordingly, it “will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”