by Victor Knowles
When was the last time you thought seriously about the return of Christ and the final judgment? Often we get so caught up in daily living we seldom think about end-time events.
When I was 12 years old we had a “morning watch” at Christian Service Camp. Before breakfast we would scatter out to read our Bibles, pray, and then survey the skies and think about Christ’s return. Could it be today? Intense moments like those forced me to think and led to my conversion to Christ at Pine Lake Bible Camp near Eldora, Iowa in the summer of 1958. Perhaps we adults should have a morning watch before we have our morning coffee.
There is really no excuse for living the way we do—seldom thinking about the return of Christ and the final judgment. Jesus said in Matthew 24:37, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Notice the jarring juxtaposition: As it was, so it will be. The way it was in the days of Noah is how it will be before Jesus Christ returns.
Connecting the Dots
What were people doing before the great flood came and swept them away? According to Jesus they were “eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38). Sounds innocent enough at first glance, doesn’t it? But The Message renders this verse, “Everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark.” Evidently their “carrying on” and “having a good time” were not as innocent as they appeared.
If we factor in four parallel passages (Genesis 6:1-7; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:3-7) we can better understand what was going on in those decadent days—some incredibly evil stuff. Then connect the dots from “as it was” to “so it will be.” We are living in parallel (and perilous) times. I see seven parallels in these texts—seven flood warnings issued from God’s Spiritual Weather Channel. Five are negative and two are positive.
Seven Flood Warnings
There was an inordinate emphasis on physical and material things. They were eating and drinking to excess—gluttony and drunkenness. Little or no thought was given to spiritual concerns or needs. “Eat, drink and be merry” was the mindless motto of the day.
Unrestrained sexual desires were fulfilled. Their “marrying and giving in marriage” were in reality “promiscuous marriages without regard to spiritual character” (Pulpit Commentary). Women were chosen because of their physical attributes, which were no doubt flaunted, thus inflaming men’s lusts.
They had the wrong heroes. Men of great physical renown (the Nephilim, of Genesis 6:4) were applauded and rewarded for their extraordinary exploits.
The earth was filled with violence. The bloodletting started when Cain killed his brother. Then Lamech, the first polygamist, killed a young man and bragged to his wives about it (Genesis 4:23). Brutality and cruelty were twin terrors that stalked the earth. No one felt safe or secure.
Wickedness escalated to the tipping point. Both men and women shamelessly and publicly practiced and paraded their sin, even before God. Humanity (“all flesh”) gradually corrupted itself. “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). The people were not born complete moral degenerates, but they quickly became such.
One man, Noah, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. In the midst of a corrupt culture, one man stood out like a lighthouse in the darkness. Noah and his family became the lone recipients of God’s grace. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).
The Spirit of God worked with mankind. God graciously gave them time to change their ways. “My Spirit will not contend with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). Noah was commissioned to build an ark and preach the message of righteousness (right thinking and living). In this way God’s Spirit contended with his sinful creatures.
These, then, were the conditions in the days of Noah, before the flood came.
Making the Application
“As it was . . . so it will be.” One would have to be as blind as the men of Sodom and Gomorrah not to see that all signs today, especially the seven flood warnings from God’s Spiritual Weather Channel, point to the soon return of Jesus Christ. Is there an excessive emphasis in our day on material and physical things? Has our society become sex-saturated everywhere you look (or shouldn’t look)? Are our children’s heroes the wrong kind of men and women? Is there any place in our land (the home, the schoolhouse, the church sanctuary, and even the womb) that is truly safe from the invasion of violence? Isn’t it evident that humanity is in an accelerated, warp-speed, moral free-fall? One of television’s most popular shows, “Mad Men,” begins each episode with a slow-motion scene of the silhouette of a man in a moral free-fall. But is it not also true that God’s Spirit still strives with sinful individuals through those who faithfully preach the message of right thinking and right living? And that those who turn to God and live for him may still find grace in the eyes of the Lord? “As it was . . . so it will be.” These, then, are the current conditions that exist before Christ will come again to judge the world.
Here Comes the Judge!
There are more than 300 references to the second coming of Christ in Scripture. None of us can say, “No one warned me about this.” History has an appointed end. Jesus said, “I will come again” (John 14:3). That should be sufficient. It was for the early Christians. To them the return of Christ was the “blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The return of Christ is our only hope of being resurrected from the grave and being taken off this doomed planet (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Every time you see a cloud it should be a reminder that Jesus ascended to Heaven in a cloud and that he shall return in like manner (Acts 1:9-11). Every time you attend a wedding you should remember the parable of the 10 virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” (Matthew 25:6). But only five were ready to meet him. The foolish unprepared ones were shut out of the banquet feast. Every time you read in the newspaper about a burglary or robbery please remember that Jesus will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Every time you stand in a cemetery for the funeral of a war veteran and hear the trumpeter play “Taps” remember that Jesus will come again “with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Every time you drive by a courthouse you should remember that Jesus is coming to preside as the judge in a court from which there is no appeal (Hebrews 9:27).
Almighty God has given authority to Jesus to be the judge (John 5:27). Paul told the Athenians that God has “set a day when he will judge the world with justice by that man he has appointed” (Acts 17:31). We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10). All nations will be ushered into the courtroom (Matthew 25:32), the living and the dead (Acts 10:42), the small and the great (Revelation 20:12). Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10, 11). Only those who accepted the judgment of sin through Christ’s death on the cross will be rewarded with eternal life; those who rejected it will be sentenced to everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46).
Radio evangelist Harold Camping has set May 21, 2011 as the day Christ will return. For years foolish people have set the date of Christ’s return, but Jesus declared that no one knows the hour or the day when he will return, not even the angels; not even himself (Matthew 24:36). But we do know that his coming will be unexpected (Matthew 24:42-44), audible (John 5:28), visible (Revelation 1:7), and spectacular (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). For all but the speculators, that should be sufficient.
In spite of amazing advances in science and technology, the Bible says the world will go from bad to worse before Christ comes again (2 Timothy 3:13). The hands on God’s prophetic clock are moving inexorably toward the midnight hour. What should we do in the meantime? In his book World Aflame (Simon & Schuster, 1977), Billy Graham makes four excellent suggestions: prepare with urgency (Matthew 24:44), wait with patience (Hebrews 10:36-38), watch with anticipation (Philippians 3:20), and work with zeal (Matthew 24:46).
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Victor Knowles is founder and president of POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, MO. www.poeministries.org
More on the Second Coming
Dig into more Scriptures about Jesus’ second coming by reading these previous Lookout articles:
1 Thessalonians 5
by Sam Stone
2 Thessalonians 1
by Sam Stone
2 Peter 3
by Sam Stone