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Are We Living in “The Days of Noah”?

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A friend sent me a link to a podcast by Dr. R. Scott Clark on an eschatology series titled “As It Was in the Days of Noah.” Dr. Scott has taught at Westminster Seminary California since 1997 and at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, and Concordia University, Irvine. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, so I'm quite familiar with his view of eschatology.

Dr. Scott’s series is based on Luke 17:22–31 that has parallels with Matthew 24:37–41. He writes in his summary of his series:

The Apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, interprets Luke 17 for us. He tells us what it means to say, “as it was in the days of Noah…” [1 Pet. 3:20]. That analogy is not just a way of talking about the return of Jesus. It is a way of characterizing the whole of the Christian life between the ascension of Christ and his return. We are now in the same sort of place as Noah was in his day.

Does Luke 17 and its parallel passages characterize “the whole of the Christian life between the ascension of Christ and his return”? I don’t believe it does. Luke 17, Matthew 24, and Luke 21 are describing events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and judgment on that generation. I deal with this conclusion in my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Wars and Rumors of Wars, and Last Days Madness.

While much of what Dr. Scott will say about his series on eschatology will be worthwhile, since he is not a dispensationalist, some of it will miss the mark. Let me explain.

To help His listeners better understand the timing and circumstances of the events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple before their generation would pass away, Jesus draws on a familiar Old Testament judgment event—the flood. Jesus, teaching by analogy, shows how the coming of the flood waters and His own judgment coming on that generation (Mt. 24:33–34) are similar.

In Noah’s time we read about “those days which were before the flood” and “the day that NOAH ENTERED THE ARK” (Matt. 24:38). Both happened in Noah’s generation not separated by thousands of years (Gen. 6:9; 1 Pet. 3:20). Similarly, there were days before the coming of the Son of Man and the day of the coming of the Son of Man. Both refer to the generation to whom He was addressing.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

A complete exposition of Matthew 24 with additional material and crucial passages from Matthew 23. It also includes a condensed version of the longer exposition for easy reference.

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The same people were involved in both the “days before” and “the day of” the Son of Man. Those who “were eating and drinking” and “marrying and giving in marriage” were the same people who were shut out on “the day that Noah entered the ark.” Noah entered the ark on a single day similar to the way Jesus as the Son of Man came on the “clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30) before that generation passed away (24:34), a day and hour known only to the Father (24:36). “Some shall be rescued from the destruction of Jerusalem, like Lot out of the burning of Sodom: while others, no ways perhaps different in outward circumstances, shall be left to perish in it.” [1]

Jesus says that His coming “will be just like the days of Noah” (Matt. 24:37). The people were doing normal things—“eating and drinking” and “marrying and giving in marriage.” Jesus is telling His audience that life will be going on as usual when He returns in judgment against Jerusalem before their generation passed away.

Jesus is not describing evil behavior like drunkenness and sexual sins like “‘exchanging mates’ or ‘wife swapping,’ contrary to what M. R. DeHaan and Jack Van Impe claim. [2]

“Marrying and given in marriage” is a phrase to describe, well, “marrying and giving in marriage” (see Matt. 22:30). Families do it every day. Men and women marry, and parents give their daughters away in marriage. D. A. Carson’s comments are helpful:

[T]hat the coming of the Son of Man takes place at an unknown time can only be true if in fact life seems to be going on pretty much as usual—just as in the days before the flood (v. 37). People follow their ordinary pursuits (v. 38). Despite the distress, persecutions, and upheavals (vv. 4–28), life goes on: people eat, drink, and marry. There is no overt typological usage of the Flood as judgment here, nor any mention of the sin of that generation. [3]

Support for Carson’s interpretation can be found in Luke’s account of the time just before Sodom’s destruction: “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:28).

Buying, selling, planting, and building describe life going on as usual without any regard to an impending judgment.

Dispensationalist Darrell L. Bock admits that the idea of “moral corruption ... is not emphasized in Luke’s description.” [4] No one disputes that Noah and Lot lived in a time of moral corruption that brought judgment. Jesus’ point, however, is that the people in Noah’s and Lot’s day went on with their lives as if the promise of imminent judgment was inconceivable. The same was true of the generation of Jesus' day.

The scoffers that Peter mentions are not distant future scoffers (2 Peter 3:3–4; see 2 Chron. 36:15–16). They were scoffers living in the last days of the old covenant age that Jesus said would end before their generation passed away (Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 1:20) that they believed would stand forever. This is why Peter could write, “Now the end of all things as drawn near” (1 Peter 4:7), not multiple generations in the distant future. The temple was still standing, so they scoffed at Jesus’ prophecy (Matt. 24:34). In fact, the temple was more glorious than ever. They claimed that God have given them this marvelous structure to validate their religion.

Identifying the Real Last Days Scoffers

What were the scoffers in Peter’s day scoffing at when they asked, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:3) The simple fact is, the New Testament writers, including Peter (1 Peter 4:7; cf. Heb. 9:26), taught that Jesus would return “shortly” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), before the last apostle died (John 21:18–24; Matt.16:27–28), within a generation (Matt. 24:34), because the time was “near” for them (James 5:7–9; Rev. 1:3) that the old covenant was in the process of passing away.

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Luke 17:22–37 describes five Olivet-Discourse prophetic events that are identical to those found in Matthew 24 that is a prophecy about the destruction of the temple (vv. 1–3) and the judgment on Israel at that time and place. Since this is true, Luke 17 is also about that same time and series of events since it is parallel to the events found in Matthew 24:1–41. Ray Summers writes:

This is a most difficult passage. The overall reference appears to be to the coming of the Son of Man—Christ—in judgment at the end of the age. Some small parts of it, however, are repeated in Luke 21 in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), and larger parts of it are in Matthew 24, also in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. The entire complex cautions one against dogmatism in interpreting. [5]

Taking Matthew 24 as the standard, Luke 17:26–27 places the Noah’s ark analogy (Matt. 24:37–39) before the events of Matthew 24:17–18 (“let him who is on the housetop not go down”), verse 27 (“for just as the lightning comes from the east”), and verse 28 (“wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”). If the five prophetic events of Matthew 24 that are found in Luke 17:22–37 are numbered 1–2–3–4–5, Luke’s numbering of the same events would be 2–4–1–5–3. (See accompanying chart below and my book Last Days Madness)

Last Days Madness

Last Days Madness covers a multitude of prophetic passages and topics, including a full exposition of Matthew 24-25.

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Joel McDurmon writes the following in his book Jesus v. Jerusalem:

Meanwhile, the faithful are prepared, ready for the time to come. … In Noah’s case, it was via the Ark; Lot’s case required a literal exodus. So would it be for Jesus’ disciples: they had to be prepared to leave directly from the housetop, with no stop for gathering possessions. Don’t be like Lot’s wife, who looked back. She was not fit for the Kingdom of God (recall Jesus teaching this very lesson at the outset of this journey, Luke 9:62). [6]

Dr. Scott considers “the days of Noah” theme as prima facie evidence for amillennialism, that we are always living on the precipice of an end-time event, in his case, the Second Coming of Jesus. This is the view of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), to which Dr. Scott subscribes. The same is true of the Second Helvetic Confession (1562/1564) that considers Matthew 24 and 25, 2 Thessalonians 2, and 3 Timothy 3 and 4 to refer to distant end-time events. While this is a popular position to hold, Luke 17:22–31 and Matthew 24:37–41 (and many other passages) do not support such a view.

Here's how one amillennialist explains his position:

The future is rosy for the Church in that she will have the privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 5:41) and that, despite all the machinations and cruelty of the Antichrist, the gross deception of the false prophet, and the abounding apostasy all around her, not one elect believer will ever be fatally deceived as to depart from Christ (Matt. 24:24). 

Can you image what the world would be like today if the early church had been amillennial? The world that this Reformed pastor lives in with its freedoms would not exist. Must we capitulate to the evils of the day so that our lives are ones of perpetual suffering for Jesus? The work of the gospel in the world created a better world. I suggest he read Vishal Mangalwadi's book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization.

From Last Days Madness, page 444.
  1. Thomas Newton, Dissertations on the Prophecies, Which Have Remarkably Been Fulfilled, and at This Time are Fulfilling in the World (London: J.F. Dove, 1754), 379.[]
  2. Jack Van Impe, The Great Escape: Preparing for the Rapture, the Next Event on God’s Prophetic Clock (Nashville, TN: Word, 1998), 127.[]
  3. D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed., Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:509. Also see N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 365–366.[]
  4. Luke: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 2:1432–33.[]
  5. Ray Summers, Commentary on Luke: Jesus, the Universal Savior (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1972), 202.[]
  6. Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011), 28.[]
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