Jesus tells us that immediately prior to His coming back, society will be just as it was in the days of Noah (see Matthew 24:38-39). Notice that Jesus doesn’t mention a single sin in this description. We all know it’s not a sin to eat or drink proper beverages, or to get engaged or be married. Nor is it a sin to buy, sell, plant or build. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things and Jesus isn’t condemning these activities. Rather, He’s showing us these everyday happenings, as if to say, “That’s what life will be like when I return. It will be like any other ordinary day, when people aren’t expecting something to happen.”
So, what is Jesus saying about these ordinary scenes? Simply put, He is describing people who had determined to reject God’s warnings of judgment. Remember, Noah prophesied to his society for a hundred and twenty years, warning that total destruction was coming. But, as Scripture says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
This is exactly what is happening today. There has been a frenzy of buying and selling, eating and drinking, planting and building. Multitudes are obsessed with personal gain, and they turn off any negative message that might hinder their pursuits.
A godly woman wrote to me about a conversation she had with an elderly Jewish woman. This Holocaust survivor told her, “What is happening in America today reminds me of what happened in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. All the warnings were ignored. I was only a child, but I still remember the huge parties that continued into the night even after Hitler started jailing Jews and shipping them off to the gas chambers.
“I remember the older Jews saying, ‘It can’t happen here, not in an educated, civilized society like Germany.’ Just a few weeks later, those same people were being pushed like cattle into rail cars headed for the concentration camps. They had thought the good times and prosperity would last forever.”
The warning cry has once again gone out to the Lord’s Church: “Jesus is coming! The Bridegroom is on His way. Adorn yourself, and be ready to go out to meet Him. Look up, for redemption is nigh!” Yet, even so, Jesus warns that people will ignore the call. They will be going about their business, giving no thought to His coming, ignoring all the prophetic signs. This premeditated apathy will be the very sign that He is coming!
We can be sure God is going to judge the wicked—without question a payday is coming. When that time arrives, all mockers, God-haters and wicked people will be called to give an account. The books will be opened and every vile deed will be made manifest, revealing all that these evil ones did against God’s authority. Their deeds will be judged severely, and the wicked will be cast out of God’s presence eternally.
Jesus assured His disciples, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7). He was saying, “Yes, God will one day deal with those who have mocked, persecuted, jailed and killed His people. The cry of the persecuted church has been heard and He will avenge them speedily.” Yet, Jesus then asks in the next sentence, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (18:8).
Christ’s question at the end of this passage signals His greatest concern. He is saying, “When I come back, I’ll be looking for a people who have believed My promise to return for them. The question is whether those people will be ready and waiting for Me. Will they be weaned from this world, yearning for Me to take them home as My Bride? Will they be spotless, or soiled with the spirit of the age? Will I arrive to find them crying, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’?”
“Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
Jesus did not give us the date of His coming, but He did tell us what society would be like then. He goes on to describe what the prevailing conduct of humankind will be like when He returns.
“As in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah 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 be” (24:38–39).
“These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:17, ESV).
What does it look like to carry out the kind of love Jesus describes? The Apostle Paul helps by showing what happens when we don’t live out this kind of love. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul lays out two types of sin. On the one hand he identifies gross sins, the kind we associate with outward behavior, such as sexual sins or substance abuse. But he also lays out a second type of sin—relational sin—and shows how it is just as deadly and destructive. Relational sin affects our souls to depths we never could imagine. It has an awful effect not only on our witness to the world but on the deepest parts of our being, and spreads to those around us.
Paul brings this to light in the Corinthian church by pointing out a glaring problem: the divisions among them. “I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). Note the final word in this list: disorder. This is an indication that relational sin is at work.
Each one of the things Paul lists here has to do with failing to love as Christ loved. In these terms, it’s easy to see how love can’t be just a sentimental gesture. It is a battle to be fought, and the weapons we bring are forgiveness, grace, mercy and justice.
One of the Corinthians’ conflicts involved the teaching they would accept. Some said they would follow only Peter’s direction, while others followed Paul. Paul had to tell them, “I can’t address you as mature people while you’re in this condition. It’s carnal. You’re reasoning through your flesh.”
The Greek word Paul uses for flesh indicates the skin or fatty tissue of the body. But, of course, Paul is describing the condition of their soul. He’s telling the Corinthians they’re caught up in an earthbound way of living rather than walking out the Spirit-filled life.
But as Jesus and Paul both point out, refusing to love at even the most mundane level can have huge consequences, leading to grief, alienation and regret. Strife in a relationship usually ends up affecting a larger circle of friends or family. In turn, that can extend to an entire community, as Paul showed was happening among the Corinthians. To love as Jesus loves, even in what seems like a small matter, isn’t a choice—it’s a spiritual discipline.
You and I live in a time of much uncertainty about tomorrow. We do not know what the future holds for America’s economy or that of other nations. You may have a job today, but there is no guarantee that you will still have it next year or even next week. Yet, thank God that we as believers in Christ have been given an incredible promise of provision—particularly in a time when provision seems so scarce. Consider the words of King David in Psalm 37: “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (37:25).
I can personally attest to the truth of this verse, having witnessed the tangible provision of God coming into the lives, families and homes of those who have made the choice to walk in the righteousness of Christ.
Psalm 37 continues, “He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever” (37:26-28).
David penned these words during a time of great wickedness. Those who desired to follow God were becoming anxious and perhaps even angry, much like we see happening in our day. Nevertheless, David knew that wickedness always leads to a destructive end, and he encouraged the people of God not to lose heart in the midst of such a difficult season. “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found” (37:35-36). In other words, though the wicked seem to have the upper hand in almost every area, the season of wickedness will soon be over.
David continued, “Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the future of the wicked shall be cut off” (37:37-38).
And so we are reminded that no matter what is happening in the world around us, as we live for God and put our trust in Him, we will find Him to be our strength and our deliverer!
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
The Apostle Peter tells us there’s a reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet. He writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Our Lord is abundant in patience toward the ungodly.
Personally, I am amazed at God’s patience with us in this generation. The moral slide is grievous even to secular observers. Even if you try to keep a clean conscience, your mind is saturated with reports of the evils happening every day. Some things are so vile as to be incomprehensible: murders in schools, child abuse, militant homosexuality, unspeakable atrocities.
Often our hearts cry out, “Lord, when will there be justice? When will You bring evildoers to judgment?” We wonder why God waits so long to deal with the unspeakable wickedness so rampant today. We picture the scene when evildoers finally kneel before the Lord, facing His holiness.
But Peter says Jesus isn’t focusing on judgment right now, even for the worst of sinners. Rather, our Lord is preoccupied with mercy. He is longsuffering toward the worst of evildoers. And He’s waiting to show mercy to every unrepentant sinner, wooing and pursuing them.
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (3:11–14, italics mine).
We can spend our days preoccupied with signs of the times, in the Middle East, or elsewhere. But God says, “Look to your own heart. Be sure you’re diligent to keep My Word.” Paul adds, “Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). He then warns us not to judge others, and to be careful not to become a stumbling block to a brother and cause him to fall.