Studies On Christ’s Olivet Discourse
Dr. Frederick A. Tatford of East Sussex, England, is President of the Prophetic Witness Movement International. This is the eighth study in his extended series on Christ’s Olivet Discourse.
The Days Of Noah
Having stated that the date of the Second Advent was unknown to men or angels, our Lord proceeded to impart further information regarding the conditions existing at the time of that event. Somewhat remarkably He compared them with the conditions of the antediluvian world and inferentially likened the judicial effects of that day to those at the time of the deluge.
“As were the days of Noah,” He said, “so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered into the ark, and did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matt. 24:37-41; Luke 17: 25-27).
The flood was a judgment upon a corrupt and reprobate world. The state of evil is only hinted at in the Genesis record, but it is there stated that the whole purpose and desire of men’s hearts was consistently evil. Wickedness abounded and, in addition, there was sexual perversity unprecedented in earlier history, for angelic beings apparently cohabited with mankind. The corruption was so appalling that God is said to have repented having made man (Gen. 6:1-6) . If the earth was to be saved from irretrievable rottenness, there was no alternative but to destroy the utterly depraved mass, and the flood was poured out for this purpose. With the exception of a small remnant of eight individuals, the human race was blotted out in an overwhelming judgment.
History Will Repeat Itself
The implication of our Lord’s comparison was almost undoubtedly that the conditions at the time of His Second Advent would be similar in character to those of Noah’s day and that evil and corruption would again be rampant. Current conditions certainly indicate the probability that history is in process of repeating itself. Moral and spiritual conditions are deteriorating rapidly and all restraints upon evil are being discarded.
The words uttered on Olivet, however, obviously possessed another significance. The antediluvians were engaged in the normal activities of life. Business and domestic affairs were being conducted in the usual fashion. There may have been an obsession with the material and the sexual, but the point made was that conduct and practices, in general, were perfectly normal. And this continued up to the very day when Noah entered the ark. For years the people had ridiculed the warnings of the patriarch (1 Pet. 3:20) but, when the ark was complete, the judgment fell and only those who had entered the ark were preserved. All others were swept to their death in the swirling waters.
The Lucan record also includes a reference to the later days of Lot. Those among whom he lived ate and drank, bought and sold, planted and built — engaged in the normal occupations of life as those in the earlier days of Noah — but their moral and spiritual condition was deplorable. To this day the name of the city in which Lot lived is still used almost as a synonym for homosexuality and it is evident that sexual immorality and perversity were prevalent.
The practices of the cities of the plain continued unchecked until the day of Lot’s departure from Sodom, but then judgment fell. Fire and-brimstone rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Only Lot and his two daughters were saved (Gen. 19:24, 25). As it was in the days of Lot, so will it be, declared the Master, in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Lot’s wife looked back desiringly to the city she had left, deliberately disobeying the angelic instruction, and paid the penalty for her disobedience (Gen. 19:26), and the Lord bade His followers to remember Lot’s wife and inferentially the fate which befell her (Luke 17:28, 29, 32).
As judgment fell in the days of Noah and again in the days of Lot, so will sudden judgment fall at the coming of the Son of Man to earth. Zechariah predicted that a plague with effects comparable to those of a nuclear explosion will be experienced by the enemies of Israel in that day (Zech. 14:12). Malachi stated that the proud and wicked will be destroyed as by fire (Mal. 4:1). Daniel prophesied that earthly powers would be pulverised and blown away like the chaff of the threshing floor (Dan. 2:35, 44, 45). The Apocalyptic seer declared, that the mass of rebels would be slain by the power of Christ and their bodies given to fowls of the air (Rev. 19:21).
At our Lord’s earthly tribunal, He will divide the sheep from the goats; one will be blessed and the other condemned (Matt. 25:31-46). He now declared that judgment would be selective. Two would be working in a field; one would be snatched away in judgment and the other left for blessing. Two women would be grinding in the mill; one would be taken and the other left. In the blackness of night, on the other side of the world, two people would be sleeping together; one would be taken in judgment and the other left for blessing (Matt. 24:40, 41; Luke 17:34-36).
The illustrations used by our Lord are often applied to the circumstances at His coming for the Church (1 Thess. 4:15-17). The application is, of course, quite appropriate since what He described in reference to His return in judgment will also occur at His coming to the air. At the rapture of the Church, however, one will be snatched away for eternal blessing (not in judgment) and another left behind for the judgment of the ensuing period (not for millenial blessing). However applicable the illustrations to the event, they were nevertheless intended primarily as indicative of what would occur in the day of judgment which will be ushered in at the Second Advent.
Because they did not know when the Son of Man would come, He enjoined them, in the light of these things, to watch and pray, and to take heed to themselves lest they should be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness or with the cares of this life and that day should consequently come upon them suddenly and take them unawares. For, just as a snare or trap catches the unwary, so would that day come upon all who dwelt upon the face of the whole earth. The anticipation of the Second Advent should have a salutary effect. Similarly, of course, the hope of Christ’s coming should have a sanctifying effect upon the Christian (1 John 2:28; 3:3).
Our Lord enjoined them to be vigilant at all times, praying unceasingly that they might have strength to pass safely through all the troubles that were to come and eventually to stand before the Son of Man, inferentially to be accepted by Him (Matt. 24:42; Mark 13:33; Luke 21:34-36. The Christian’s standing before God is in the merits of Christ. Those believers of a latter day will have to prove the reality of their faith by their endurance and will thereby demonstrate their worthiness to stand before the Son of Man.
Only Matthew records the further illustration used by our Lord to emphasize the necessity for watchfulness. In ordinary life a thief does not give prior notification of his intention to break into a house nor intimate the time at which he proposes to engage on his nefarious activity. If the householder had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, said the Lord, he would have kept watch and would not have suffered his house to be broken into. Those to whom this message applied should therefore, be similarly prepared, for the Son of Man would come at an hour when they did not expect Him (Matt. 24:43, 44). The need for vigilance and readiness for His coming was evident and, for different reasons, the same exhortation is pertinent to the Christian today.