What Jesus Really Meant When He Spoke of the ‘Days of Noah’
It might not be what you think.
Have you heard this before? “We know that the last days will be wicked. Very wicked. Just like the days of Noah. That’s what Jesus said.”
One website states, “Jesus said that the end times would be like the days of Noah and Lot. Are we living in a day like that?”
Another site explains, “Regardless of how one interprets Matthew 24, there’s no doubt that Christ referred to the rebellion and judgment in Noah’s day, which He compared to mankind’s subsequent rebellion and impending judgment. It’s a sober warning for any generation to consider.”
A pastor on YouTube argues that, just as Noah’s day was marked by the great flood, so our day has been marked by massive hurricanes like Harvey, which dumped unprecedented amounts of water on our land.
Another Christian teacher goes even further, suggesting a potential connection to aliens:
There continues to be a flow of articles, books, and entertainment programs dealing with UFO’s, aliens, and the like. Many wonder if there is a connection or relationship to the prediction of our Lord in Luke 17:26: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.”
The emergence of the ‘Nephilim’ was what brought about the Flood of Noah. Who were they? Is the current interest in the possibility of “alien” involvements some how of Biblical relevance?
The truth is that Jesus did make a comparison between the last days and the days of Noah. But His primary point was not that there would be great wickedness in the last days, as there was in the days of Noah. Instead, His point was simple and clear, as we’ll see by reading His words firsthand.
What Was Jesus’ Point?
But first, a few caveats.
I’m not denying that the last days will be marked by great wickedness.
I’m not saying that there are no comparisons between the days of Noah and the final generation. I’m simply questioning if that was the Lord’s main point.
I’m not denying that there will be great judgment at the end of the age, just as there was in Noah’s day. That, in fact, was a clear point Jesus was making.
As for those looking for parallels between Noah’s day and ours (if we are the last generation or nearly the last), how about this? Jewish tradition states that a straw that broke the camel’s back in Noah’s day, bringing on the flood, was that men were marrying men as well as animals. (See Genesis Rabbah 26:5.) What do you know!
The question, again, is this: Was Jesus telling us that the final generation would be marked by extreme rebellion and wickedness, just as Noah’s generation was? Let’s look at His words.
In Noah’s Day, They Were Oblivious to Impending Judgment
In Matthew’s Gospel He said, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. [The Son of Man was the way Jesus often referred to Himself. He’s talking about His return here at the end of the age.] For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39).
What were the people of Noah’s day doing before the flood came? They were living their normal lives. They were going about their normal business and conducting their normal affairs. They were oblivious to the fact that the end was near.
Jesus says that’s how it will be for non-believers before He comes. They’ll be going on with their normal activities, not realizing the end is at hand.
In Luke’s Gospel He adds: “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” (Lk. 17:28-30).
Here, too, the emphasis is not on the wickedness of the people of Sodom but rather on their lack of awareness of what was at the door. They were about to be destroyed but had no clue. So it will be with worldly people at the end of the age.
What The Experts Say
What do the major commentators say about Jesus’ words? Here’s a tiny sampling:
The comparison with the days of Noah serves to emphasize what is meant by ignorance about the time of the Parousia [Second Coming]. The people of that day, in the time before the flood, lived their daily lives. They ate and drank; the young men married, and the fathers gave their daughters in marriage. They suspected nothing. Then the flood came over them and destroyed them. The comparison implies that the parousia of the Son of Man is a catastrophe, something as destructive as the flood.
Donald A. Hagner:
The people of Noah’s day were oblivious to all else than their own pleasurable living. And they had no inkling of the judgment that was to come upon them until it was too late.
Jesus refers to life in the pre-Flood days. The Old Testament informs us that the people of that day were sinners, and indeed that it was their exceeding sinfulness that brought down the Flood on them. But Jesus refers to none of this. He reminds his hearers that life before the Flood was in many respects like life in their own day. People were engaged in eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage (the verbs normally used of the man and of the woman respectively). We should notice that there is nothing sinful in the activities Jesus mentions; these actions are the stuff of life. No community could exist without them. And these actions continued right up to the day Noah entered the ark.
So also Christ’s return will interrupt people in the ordinary activities of life.
The Point is Unpreparedness
Of course, it’s more exciting to make all kinds of comparisons between our day and the days of Noah. I don’t doubt that such parallels exist.
I’m simply saying that was not the point Jesus was making. His emphasis was quite clear, as noted by R. T. France: “But the main point is the unpreparedness of Noah’s contemporaries.”
As for the argument that the Nephilim from Noah’s day are connected to aliens today, let’s file that one away with the prediction that Jesus would return on September 23, 2017.