If you don’t like polemic, turn away now.
In an attempt to take advantage of the upcoming film Noah, Ray Comfort has produced what purports to be a documentary about the biblical view of Noah and the last days, according to Comfort.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of such an event like Noah. I am doing so myself with a short eBook, Noah: The True Story. I am not against using events like these to advance your cause. I am against the very shady and unworthy way in which it has been done.
After watching the trailer, I fully expected the standard premillennial or dispensational slant on the last days, only focusing on a presentation of those New Testament passages that refer to Noah. I expected Noah and Last Days from a premillennial perspective, but at least some attempt at solid exegesis. So I was prepared for what I would argue is bad eschatology, but at least a sincere attempt at demonstrating it.
Not only was I wrong, my expectations were nowhere in the ball park. The enormity and nature of the errors committed in Comfort’s little film are beyond mere error. These are verging on conscious dishonesty, if not already there. And all in the name of the Gospel.
There will be some of you who get upset with me for accusing Ray Comfort of dishonesty. I’ll admit it sounds harsh. But read on, and I will show you there is no other explanation short of a cavalier sloppiness with the text that would disqualify anyone from being a public teacher of Scripture.
Comfort begins with the claim that “according to Jesus, the events surrounding the life of Noah are directly related to you.” He refers to the text where Jesus says, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37; Luke 17:26–27). This all, of course, assumed Jesus was talking to you and not His audience, but more of that as we go.
Based on that verse, Comfort then makes the startling claim: “In a moment you’re going to see clearly that the end of the age is happening now.”
This is certain. There should be no doubt when we’re done.
Now this is his general thesis. I disagree, but I do not think he is lying here. I think he is truly sold to the paradigm in which this passage applies to us today, not to the audience to whom Jesus was speaking. But even here there is a crack in his sincerity. I will return to this at the end; for now, just know that he is confident, and can confidently assure you of the conclusion that the end of the age is upon us, definitively, now.
With that, he states, “Here are ten major biblical signs for which we ought to look:”
And this is where the nonsense begins. Again, this is not just about my disagreement with Comfort. It is about exegesis so outlandish it can only be explained by total incompetence or some level of dishonesty.
Alleged sign number one: “There will be money-hungry Bible teachers that will slur the faith and deceive many.” For scriptural support of this, the video shows 2 Peter 2:1–3, and recites verse 3: “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” To prove this is happening today, Comfort shows clips of “health and wealth” preachers.
Sure there’s no shortage of these guys today, but there always has been, and moreover, this passage says nothing about the last days. It also says nothing specifically about our day. On the contrary, it is focused specifically upon Peter’s day. Peter warns his audience that just as there were false prophets in Old Testament times, so, his audience should be aware that “there will be false teachers among you.” Get that: among you, first century hearers, not two thousand years in the future.
The verse also really says nothing about Noah, either. A few verses later, Peter invokes Noah to argue about the certainty of judgment upon these false prophets, but again says nothing about the last days or two thousand years in the future. Just as God surely judged the wicked in Noah’s day, and surely judged the wicked in Lot’s day, so you can rest assured He can reserve these wicked ones (first century) for judgment as well.
And indeed, John assures us that false teachers and “antichrists” had already come in their day, and it was these first-century teachers who were “those who are trying to deceive you”—in their day (1 John 2:18–27).
There have always been money-grubbing false preachers out there. The early church fathers warned against them. The middle ages burned a few, then adopted their practices. The Reformers were convinced that this verse spoke of Roman Catholic indulgences and money-grubbing, traveling evangelists like Tetzel. Today we have health and wealth. No one who knows Scripture and history is shocked, and none should think they especially mean Christ is coming back in our generation now.
The text doesn’t say this, and Comfort should have paid closer attention before claiming it did.
And besides, as long as we’re talking about money-grubbing: how about charging $19.99 for a so-called “documovie,” purportedly about Noah, that runs for only 28 minutes, says very little about Noah, and spends over the last quarter of its time in classic Comfort-style, high-pressure, 1-on-1 evangelism.
Several things: First, the title is misleading. The video says very little about Noah. It does very little if any true unpacking of the story of Noah.
Second, the description “documovie” is misleading. There is no movie element at all. It is almost entirely Ray Comfort interviewing people on the street filmed by a single hand-held camera. The interviews are interspersed with short, cheap graphics portraying floodwaters, bible verses, etc.
Third, the “documovie” is extremely short, not comparable at all to what you expect for the price—though it does say the time in one place on the website. Think of it: full-length feature films on DVD that cost millions of dollars to produce sell for less than this.
Fourth, an entire quarter-length of that very short time is devoted to a surprise gospel attack, not addressed at all to the subject the movie purports to be about. This is deceitful.
Now I know Comfort is passionate about evangelism. But this kind of hidden-agenda, stealth-attack approach is the very thing that turns away more people than it saves—because it is dishonest. It does not deliver what it promised, and it delivers something besides which it promised.
Some people will say that it’s OK because we should do anything we can do to save souls. We should reach them anyway we can. But if a preacher will effectively deceive you, and make you pay above-market prices for that pleasure, is this really honoring to God? Is this really the way of the Master? What message does this really send?
This “nothing matters more than saving souls” approach takes more away from Christ’s Commission than it wins. It shows the world that Christians will lie and extort in order to do what Christians are allegedly supposed to do. That’s the very point Comfort is decrying here, and yet he’s, in my opinion, exemplifying it.
A gospel with questionable ethics is no gospel at all.
Alleged sign number two: “there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” This is from Matthew 24:7. Yes this does pertain to Jesus’ discourse about the last days, but it says nothing about Noah, and it says nothing about us now, today.
That whole discourse pertains to Jesus’ audience, which is why He is constantly throughout that passage saying to them at that time, “you . . . you . . . you.” “See that no one leads you astray.” “They will deliver you up.” “When you see these things.” Etc.
Gary DeMar does a fine job of showing that, indeed, the famines and earthquakes were taking place in those times. Acts 11:27–29 says very clearly there was a great famine over all the world at that time. Secular historians of the period wrote about famines as well—Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus all record them. Likewise, Acts 16:26 records a great earthquake. Again, others are recorded by secular historians of the period.
So there is no question here that this was a first century phenomenon just as much as today, except back then, there were enough of them concentrated in the Mediterranean world that Jesus’ audience and their generation would have experienced it clearly enough.
Just for the record, Comfort’s point here is merely in error. There is no apparent particular dishonesty on this point.
Alleged sign number three: “the moon will become blood red” (Acts 2:20). Again this is just error, but here it is particularly sloppy. All he had to do was back up a few verses in the context and see that Peter was reciting that verse for the specific purpose of saying it was being fulfilled right there, then, at that time. With the disciples speaking in tongues in public and being accused of drunkenness at nine in the morning, Peter responded concerning that Pentecost event:
For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. . . . And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:15–20).
This is it, folks. That was roughly AD 30. First century. Moon to blood, per Peter. Not today. Make of that what interpretation you will, but you can’t deny Peter’s confirmation of the timing.
Jesus had also referenced this phenomenon in Matthew 24:29. The problem for Comfort’s claim that this is proof we are in the last days now is that in the very passage Comfort quoted to make his point, Peter said it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost way back in the first century.
Alleged sign number four: “blasphemy will become commonplace.” Comfort bases this on 2Timothy 3:1, 2. This is a very common passage quoted because it does say “in the last days,” but again, what “last days” are we talking about here? A “last days” two thousand years in Paul’s future, or the last days of that old covenant administration that Jesus said would be destroyed, block by block (Matt. 24:1–2), in that generation (Matt. 24:34) and Hebrews says was already then passing away (Heb. 8:13)?
Paul was speaking to his audience, and fully expected them to see such blasphemers, because he instructs his readers, then, to “avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:5). Must have been some of them around already.
He also said such men “will not get very far,” but “their folly will be plain to all.” So Paul did not expect a society overrun and pervaded (“commonplace”) by such men, but for them to fail in their efforts because everyone (“all”) plainly saw through them.
This is not the picture Comfort paints. He interviews several people about how bad Hollywood movies have gotten in regard to using the Lord’s name as a curse word. That may be a genuine problem, but it has nothing to do with what 2 Timothy 3 is talking about.
Alleged sign number five: “an increase in the acceptance of homosexuality” (Luke 17:28–30). Here’s where I began to get angry. This “sign” is obviously calculated to describe our time and make people think the Bible says we’re in the last days because of something that is so uniquely in the news in our time. But the Bible says nothing of the sort. Not only does it not, it doesn’t come close to that, and Ray Comfort has done some creative manipulation of the text in order to make this claim.
The creative edits he makes here is why I began to suspect some level of dishonesty.
In order to make this claim, Comfort shows a screenshot of an edited Bible verse from Luke 17:28–30. It is deceptive, but it is accompanied by a voice-over that is even worse that the on-screen edit.
The on-screen verse says, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot… But the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
The voice over, as the screen focuses and re-focuses on the sections of the passage that are read, says this:
“Another sign of the end of the age is an increase in acceptance of homosexuality, as there was in the days of Sodom; even so will it be in the day that the son of man is revealed.”
Now that is creative. It is also a very misleading use of Scripture.
There is no denying that homosexuality is sin. But it has nothing to do with why Jesus referred to Lot in this passage. Just as Peter did for point one above, Jesus was only referring to Noah, and then to Lot, to argue that people will be living their lives normally and will be taken by judgment unsuspectingly. That is all; the text has no other intentions or references.
It in fact says nothing about homosexuality at all. It says everything only about normal life being carried on: eating, drinking, and family. Here’s the unedited version (with the parts Comfort took out in bold):
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26–30).
There is no reference to homosexuality at all, let alone an “increased acceptance” of it. Only the cycles of normal life while being oblivious to coming judgment.
Now here’s my problem: Ray Comfort had to be conscious of exactly what he was leaving out. And that section, if he had read it and stuck to it, would not have allowed him to make the point he wanted to make. So, he put in an ellipsis, and made up his own context for the sake of his agenda.
Then, on top of the little ellipsis, Comfort and his accompanying voice talent spoke an even greater elliptical version, with his own words added onto the front end, as if it were one seamless sentence from the Word of God. It was not.
There’s a word for this: eisegesis, or, reading one’s own preferred meanings into a text where they do not fit. When this is done consciously, there is also a word for it: deceit. I am sorry, but I don’t see how it can be explained otherwise.
If a preacher is willing to twist scripture so transparently like this, how can you trust anything else he says?
And if your eschatology is resting on such a twisted edifice, it may be time to consider something that rests more soundly on the actual text.
Alleged sign number six: “religious hypocrisy will be prevalent” (2 Tim. 3:5). This is the same passage as point four above, and so falls under the same criticisms. Comfort spends nearly the whole time needling people who profess to be Christians about watching R-rated movies and watching the “sex scenes.”
Granted, there are plenty of professed Christians with compromised ethics. It’s always easy to needle people in regard to sexuality on these, but if this is the extent of “religious hypocrisy” which proves we’re in the last days, then when have we not been?
Then there is a bit of overstatement: “Hollywood is nothing but a glorified pimp who provides clientele for America, actors who will take their clothes off and prostitute themselves for money.”
I may have to add this statement to a future edition of my Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, particularly the fallacy of “Reductionism” (see pp. 114–121).
What about hypocrisy in dozens of other areas? For example, say, Christian ministries bordering on false advertising and selling videos filled with half-truths and hidden agendas?
Alleged sign number seven: “People will deny that God created the heavens and that He judged the world through Noah’s flood” (2 Pet. 3:3, 5, 6). Well, people may do that, but that’s not what the text in question is talking about. Again, here is another text ripped from context, added to, and all to make a point Comfort wants to make about modern society.
The text reads,
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished (2 Pet. 3:3–6).
The text does not say these “scoffers” deny that God created the heavens or that Noah’s flood occurred. On the contrary, they specifically refer to the world as “creation”? They are not Darwinists or evolutionists, they are creationists.
It says specifically that their scoffing amounts to the question, “Where is the promise of his coming?” The disciples, following Jesus in Matthew 24, and Peter’s claim of fulfillment of Joel in Acts 2, were predicting a cataclysmic judgment upon Jerusalem and unbelieving Israel. These scoffers are denying that this judgment “coming” would happen, because everything continued as normal as it ever had “since creation.”
Peter says that this argument “deliberately overlooks” the story of Noah. He does not say they denied the flood of Noah took place; he says their argument overlooks the fact. “Hey guys, you’re forgetting something: God judged the world in Noah’s time, and He can destroy this place, too.” And He did, in AD 70.
This is not describing modern-day uniformitarianism, Darwinism, skepticism, atheism, etc. It is Peter referring to the Noah story in the exact same way Jesus did in Matthew 24 and Luke 17:26–27. People would be caught unaware because they did not factor in the significance of covenantal judgment like Noah’s for their own time.
So while there may be people who deny creation and Noah’s flood today, this has nothing to do with the last days referred to in 2 Peter 3, and in fact the text is not even talking about people who deny those things. The scoffers of 2 Peter 3 actually affirm creation, and simply overlooked the significance of the flood in their scoffing. Again, these are truly sloppy oversights unfitting of any would-be professional teacher.
Alleged sign number eight: it will be “marked by fear of the future” (Luke 21:26). No real big issue here except, again, the timing and scope. This is part of Luke’s version of what Jesus taught in the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24. The immediate context makes it clear this has specific reference to setting in which Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, people are literally falling by the sword, and Jerusalem is trodden down by Gentiles (Luke 21:20–24). Two verses later, Jesus says men’s hearts will then fail because of what is happening.
So when Ray Comfort walks around and asks people on the street randomly, in general, if they are “fearful of the future,” this is about as far removed from the meaning of that text as it could be. To use it as proof of the last days now is downright silly.
And again, when has this, in general, not been true? And that leads us to Comfort’s attempt to insulate himself from criticism:
Alleged sign number nine: “scoffers will mock the second coming by saying these signs have always been around” (2 Pet 3:3, 4). Oh my! I’ve done that like six times in this one article alone! I must be confirming Ray Comfort’s “signs” as we speak. I can just see him pointing at me: “Look! He said it again!”
This type of defense is not tough to break through, especially when you recognize that, once again, the text is pulled out of context and doesn’t even say what he claims it says.
The Scripture in question reads:
scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Now, you read that and tell me where it says anything about how “these signs” (any particular signs, let alone the ones Comfort has presented) “have always been around.” It says nothing about any particular signs, or any signs of the last days. It says the opposite: it was the argument of the scoffers that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. No signs had taken place at all—not that signs had been taking place the whole time.
In sum, they were scoffers for denying the fact that Jesus was about to come in judgment; not that these signs had always been around.
So this claim is purely manufactured. But why would Comfort make up a claim like this? It makes a convenient way to dismiss critics like me, and others, who say these alleged “signs” Comfort is pointing to in order to highlight now as the last days have always been around.
And that is in fact true. What made them special “signs” to the Apostles’ generation was their concentration in and around the Roman Empire, and specifically at a time when Jerusalem was surrounded by armies, and specifically confirmed by apostolic testimony at the time that those were the last days, such as Peter in Acts 2 as we have seen. Again, this all took place exactly on cue in that generation, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Alleged sign number ten: people are ignoring the warning of the Gospel: they’re eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage (Matt. 24:37–39).
Of all the alleged signs, Comfort gets closest to the actual text here. Indeed, it was this very verse he excised earlier when trying to argue about “increased acceptance of homosexuality.” Now he says it refers simply to carrying on with normal life while ignoring the warning of the Gospel. Indeed! That was the only reason Jesus referenced Noah in these passages at all.
But his pictorial application of this is a howler: he actually flips to a scene of people enjoying champagne at a wedding.
Really? Is this a sign of the end times? Is that what the point of the passage means? When people are getting married and “drinking” we should expect Jesus to return suddenly? Come on. And again, when as there not been a time in which people were eating, drinking, and marrying?
That’s not the point of the passage, and it does not refer to today. Eating, drinking, and marrying are not signs of the last days. They are signs of normal life. Jesus’ point was that His generation must not be so distracted by normal life that they ignore the warning that society-wide judgment was coming, as if nothing was coming, just as happened to many people in Noah’s and Lot’s days.
It was at this point, at about 21:10 through the video, that Comfort turns to his brand of high-pressure evangelism for the rest of the flick.
While I support evangelism, obviously, I did not pay twenty bucks to watch Ray Comfort needle people on the spot about their sins. I paid to hear about Noah and the Last Days. Considering he spent the last seven out of 28 minutes doing this, I want at least 25 percent of my money back.
Considering how little real attention was paid to Noah or the text of Scripture at all, and considering how poorly this flick was thrown together, I really think I want it all back.
And I do so especially after Ray made a little caveat at the end. At about the 27:50, Comfort states that “respected Bible scholars may disagree on the timing of some of these signs. . . .”
But if that is a fact, why did he begin video claiming that “you’re going to see clearly that the end of the age is happening now.” Which is it? Do “respected” scholars disagree, is it “clearly” happening “now”? You can’t have it both ways.
And if Comfort knew ahead of time that there is respectable disagreement, why would he present the whole thing as certain from the beginning?
Why would he pervert and twist Scripture—openly add to and take away from it—in order to prove the “now” claim he began with? Why would he go to such lengths to maintain a narrative he has to know is dubious at best, he has to know he made part of it up, if he knows there are respected disagreements out there?
Again, he has to know exactly what he is doing. And for this there is no other word than deceit. Like I said earlier, this is not about my disagreement with him alone, it is about the lengths he would go to maintain his outrageous claims that are nowhere found in Scripture—just to make it sound like Scripture is speaking specifically about today.
In short, he knows what he did, and he knows better. This is beyond sloppy error. It is in places dishonest. As conscious as he has to be of this, it is bordering on fraud in my opinion.