Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Signs of the Times (8)

Written by Rev. J.W. Wullschleger
Read: Matthew 24: 36Ð42
Parallel passages: Mark 13:32Ð33; Luke 17: 26Ð36 and 21: 34Ð36

In the previous instalments we studied the signs leading up to the final day of ChristÕs return and the coming of that day. Christ concluded this part of His discourse with a solemn, ÒVerily I say unto youÉ Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass awayÓ (vs.35). After this verse Jesus changes His focus somewhat. Until chapter 25 verse 31 He does not continue His speech on what shall happen on that last day. Now Christ starts dealing with the question, ÒWhen shall these things be?Ó (vs.3). Our Lord does not give an exact answer as to day and hour. The main thrust of His answer is: Be watchful! This exhortation is further enforced by a number of parables: the faithful and the evil servant, the ten virgins, and the talents. This section, chapter 24:36 to 25:30 is the middle section of ChristÕs Discourse on the Last Things. We can call it an intermezzo.

ÒBut of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father onlyÓ (vs.36). ÒThat dayÓ is the day of ChristÕs return and the end of the world. The reference to the destruction of Jerusalem may still be present, but it is fading. The simple answer to the question, ÒWhen shall these things be?Ó is, no one knows. This is one of the secrets of the Father, which He has not revealed to man. Even the angels in heaven, who stand before God and who know a lot more than we do, do not know it. Apparently, this is Ônone of our business.Õ GodÕs Word does not satisfy our curiosity, but teaches us to live by faith. Not a few people try to tell us the exact day of JesusÕ Second Coming. DonÕt believe them! All predictions have proven to be false up to now. This text proves the futility of every attempt to predict the date of ChristÕs return.

Although we are not allowed to know that day, we are not left in the dark about the character of that time. Christ draws a parallel from NoahÕs days. ÒBut as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man beÓ (vs.37). What were those days like? Jesus tells us in the next verses. ÒFor 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 beÓ (vs.38 and 39).

One may wonder what is so special about the eating and drinking and marriage. These are both gifts of God: the one for the preservation of human life, the other for the preservation of the human race. As such, they may be received with thanksgiving. The sin of those people was that this was all they lived for. They had no higher purpose in life than living for their temporal, carnal pleasures. What made their sin even more grievous, was that they did all this in defiance of the preaching of Noah. They saw him building the ark for the space of 120 years. Every stroke of his hammer was a sermon to the men of his age: God is coming in judgment! Nevertheless, instead of repenting, the people went on eating, drinking, and marrying. Christ says, that they did not know that judgment was coming until the flood came and took them all away. This means that they did not believe it. They did not want to know it, because it interfered with their carnal interests. NoahÕs serious preaching conflicted with their sinful lifestyle. They laughed about this pessimist, this doom preacher.

IsnÕt it as if we receive a picture of what is going on today? The Gospel is being preached from the housetops as it were, today. And what is the result? Many hear it, listen to it, and go on with their daily life. Is it not sadly true that this applies not only to the people of the world, but also for many churchgoers? Have you yielded a believing and obedient heart to the Gospel? Have you turned to the Lord with a repentant heart? It will not help you to call upon the Name of the Lord in that day when He comes. Then it will be too late. ÒSeek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is nearÓ (Isaiah 55:6)!

The world of NoahÕs days did not believe his message. They were willingly ignorant. Until the day Noah entered into the ark, and it started raining! All people who were not in the ark then, drowned in the water. No one excepted!

The application our Lord makes, is ÒSo shall also the coming of the Son of man be.Ó Here we should not limit the comparison to one aspect of the days of Noah, but to all that Christ says about it. The attitude of the people will be the same: plenty of warning, but utter unprepared. The Day of Judgment will come suddenly and will not exclude anyone. The unbelievers will perish in the flood of GodÕs wrath that will be poured out upon them.

That day will also be a day of separation. ÒThen shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left (vs.40,41). This is a final separation. Some are taken to be with the Lord forever; others are left to perish forever.

There are a few details in the text that we should not overlook. First of all, life will be going on as always, when Christ appears. There will be business as usual. People will be working in the office or on the farm. Others will be solemnizing their marriage or preparing for it. Mothers will be busy in their homes, the children at school. You can fill it in the activities.

Moreover, the text indicates that GodÕs people live in the world, though they are not of the world. Believer and unbeliever shall be on the same field, in the same mill, even in the same bed (Lk.17: 34). The picture Christ is using is of the ordinary hand-mill, made up of two round, flat stones with a handle near the edge of the upper stone. In those days the women turned such mills. Notice, too, the subtle difference between both verses. The one verse speaks about two men, the other about two women. The ultimate difference in the world is not between male and female, rich and poor, etc. The difference is ultimately only between saved and lost. The only thing that will count in the Day of Judgment is: being saved in the Ark, Christ, or perishing outside of Him.

Dispensationalists give a different interpretation of the text. They apply the text to ChristÕs Òcoming for the saints,Ó His coming to take up His church with Him for a seven-year-period. The believers will be taken (the rapture), whereas the others stay behind on earth. They will go through the great tribulation. After this, Christ shall come Òwith the saintsÓ to establish His kingdom in Israel and to reign for a thousand years on earth. All nations shall come and bow before Him. They that are left (vs. 40 and 41) receive a message of hope. They will have a second chance during the millennium.

However, this is not what Christ is saying. Christ compares the coming of the Son of Man with the flood. The day of the flood was final. In the same way, everything will be finalized on the day of JesusÕ coming. A different interpretation would take away from the seriousness of ChristÕs words. The text does not leave room for being unprepared. It is rather an exhortation to watchfulness and preparedness. Now the question is: are you prepared?

Questions for Discussion.
1. What is the difference between the ÒknowingÓ of verse 36 and of verse 39?
2. We usually distinguish between GodÕs Ôsecret willÕ and his Ôrevealed will.Õ Can you show how both appear in this passage?
3. Why is it wrong to try to calculate the day of ChristÕs return?
4. Mark 12:32 says that even the Son does not know that day. What would be the meaning of this?
5. Are there more parallels between NoahÕs days and the last days? Read Genesis 6:1Ð5. How does this apply to our days?
6. In the light of this passage, what message should the people hear today? What is your response to that message?

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