Online Text Sermon - The Days of Noah, Matthew ch.24 v.37
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Days of Noah|
|Text||Matthew ch.24 v.37 |
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It is Jesus Christ Who is here speaking.
"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24, 37).
This chapter twenty-four of Matthew's Gospel is a sermon preached by the Lord Jesus Christ. We sometimes refer to it as His 'Discourse on the Last Things'. For those of you who like learned expressions the technical, theological word that we use when referring to the study of the end of the world is the word 'eschatological'. That is the word we would use; we would technically refer to this as 'Christ's Eschatological Discourse'. The 'eschaton' is a word meaning simply 'the end'. Therefore, it is easier for us to say one to another, "His sermon about the end - the end of the world."
You understand that our Lord was preaching here round about the year 30 AD. As you study this remarkable prophecy, so full of interest and information about the end of the world, you discover that He highlights two points in history, not simply one but two. I think we can see the reason why. Let me tell you what these two focal points are. The first one is something which was going to happen forty years later. We refer to it as the 'Siege of Jerusalem' and 'The End of the Jewish State'. That is fascinating because the Jewish State began again in nineteen forty-eight in the lifetime of not a few of us here. However, the Jewish State came to an end, at least that phase of it did, in the year 70 AD. Our Lord tells us in this prophetic sermon that the great temple which was a magnificent structure - ornate with gold and huge, megalithic stones - that this great building where they worshipped God in those times would be thrown down so that not one stone should be left upon another. Indeed, that is precisely what did happen. Those who go to Jerusalem today tell me that you can see the site, situation and place where the temple was but the stones were thrown down.
1. THE OVERTHROW AND DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWISH STATE
2. THE END OF THE WORLD
So there's one focal point of this great sermon: the overthrow and the destruction of the Jewish State at that time. That to us is now ancient history; it is nearly two thousand years into the past. Our Lord's words were spoken forty years before the event. It was a true prophecy. For those who want any evidence that Jesus Christ is a genuine prophet and the Son of God, there is yet more evidence. There is plenty of other evidence but that also is evidence that Christ is indeed prophetic. It was prophetic and truly forward telling events which could not be known by ordinary guesswork or human calculation. It was divine prophecy.
The second focal point that our Lord refers to is 'the end of the world': the end of all human history. When you stop to think about it, these two focal points are very interestingly related the one to the other. Let me tell you how. The overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple was the end of the Old Testament age. You could say the Old and New Testaments overlapped - for forty years to be precise. With the destruction of Jerusalem the Old Testament age had a decent burial. It was now completely gone. There was no Old Testament age left. The Jews were scattered all over the world.
Interestingly enough, in the lifetime of many of us the Jews have been returning to their own country from all over the world: America, Russia and Germany. Many of them were killed in the Nazi German concentration camps - six million of them. Now they are coming back all the time; thousands every week are returning to their own country.
There is a connection between these two events: the destruction of Jerusalem - the end of the Old Testament age; and the end of the world - the end of the New Testament age. Our Lord, having spoken about the one, also speaks about the other. You notice He does so in my text here at verse thirty-seven and following. " As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text). The Son of man is Jesus Christ Himself and His coming refers to His Second Coming. Our Lord came twice. The first time He came down to be born in Bethlehem in a manger - to live for us, to die for us, to rise again and ascend to heaven in a glorious cloud. Then there is the second coming: at the end of the world when time finally comes to its end, He is to come again, not in a state of humiliation but of glory. That's what He means here when He says, " The coming of the Son of man" (text).
Notice how He tells us about this 'end of the world' scenario. "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text). I want first of all to show you here my dear friends that our Lord is talking about two events which are related one to another. You can see that that must be the case in the very structure of the sentence. " As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text). 'As' and 'so' - that pattern of speech implies there are two things here and that these two things are similar, the one to the other: "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man (Christ) be," two things. Let us look firstly at that.
Out Lord is illustrating the kind of society which will exist when He comes back at the end of the world. That is very important information. We need to ask the question, "What sort of world is this world going to be at the end?" Is it a world in which everybody will be worshipping God? Is it going to be a world where finally there will be an answer to crime, irreligion and unstable family life? "No, no," says Christ, "don't imagine that?" Right at the end of the history of the world it will be a similar situation to that which existed in the days of Noah: "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." He compares two things and we must look at it in this way. He compares the flood of Noah's day to the end of the world and that means to say that we are to consider that when Jesus Christ refers to the flood of Noah's day He is referring to something which he believed and taught to be real and historic. The flood of Naoh's day was the greatest divine judgement upon mankind that there has ever been.
The sad thing today is that people don't seem any more to believe in divine judgement. If you listen to these clever people with their quizzes and Brains Trusts answering questions, they can answer questions on everything apart from the Bible - have you noticed? They know almost everything about almost everything but they don't know the Word of God. When we come to the Word of God, as we ought to do, we discover that the Bible is full of the theme of the judgements of God. The very first judgement that ever occurred was something that occurred in heaven: the angels sinned against God, or some of them did. The devil and his angels through pride they "left their own habitation" (Jude 6), says the Bible. They in some way rebelled against God. It is very mysterious. We can't pretend to understand the details but the effect of it was that God then judged their sin: they were cast out. They ever since have been "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day" (Jude 6). You see that in the ministry of Christ when He is casting demons out of men and women.
These demons sometimes spoke, do you remember? What they would say is this, "I know thee who thou art: the Holy One of God" (Jesus of Nazareth) (Luke 4, 34). "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8, 29). There it is; they know very well it is only a matter of time before they are eternally tormented in flames of everlasting punishment. That is something they were informed about when they were originally cast out of heaven. "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10, 18). If you want a poetical description of all of this you may be familiar with the famous book of poetry by John Milton, the Puritan poet, who wrote about Paradise Lost and Regained. There you have the magnificent description in superb English poetry of the casting out of Satan from heaven.
That is only one of the judgements. What about the judgement of the human race? My theme at the moment is that of judgement because judgement is what our Lord is talking about: "As the days of Noe were" (text) so it will be at the very end. The human race has also been placed under judgement. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they weren't allowed any more to remain in paradise. They were driven out of paradise and "Cherubims, and a flaming sword" (Genesis 3, 24) were at the gate preventing their return. They were not allowed to return to paradise. They were exiled. That was the beginning of mankind's sorrows and troubles. Sin, death and the curse and judgement of God have been on the entire world and universe from that day to this. If we don't read and know our Bibles then we are in no proper position to assess and understand what is happening in the world today.
I give you another of these judgements. I won't speak of the flood because we are coming to that in a moment. The Bible certainly tells us that the flood was a universal phenomenon. Don't you listen to these writers, whoever they are, that tell you that the flood was just in the Mesopotamian Valley - not at all. The Bible tells us concerning the flood, "All the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered" (Genesis 7, 19) with water at the time of the flood. Indeed, we are told how deep the water was over the very highest mountain: "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered" (Genesis 7, 20). A cubit is a measurement we don't often use. There is some doubt about exactly what the measurement was but a cubit is usually reckoned to be from a man's elbow to his forefinger and that is roughly one foot and a half. Calculating roughly in those general terms we discover that the highest mountain existing before the flood was covered to a depth of about twenty-one feet. Not a hundred feet - that would be unnecessarily great - but just enough water to ensure that all air-breathing creatures would die. The flood we are told is universal.
The next judgement we are told about in the Bible is the 'Tower of Babel'. We have got to recall these things because the history of the world is a history of God's judgements upon it. The Tower of Babel, again, was one of these divine interventions in the affairs of men. Mankind wanted to build this huge ziggurat, stepped pyramid as they call them. They wanted to do so in defiance of God. God had said, "Multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1, 28). Mankind did not wish to do so. They built this Tower of Babel, which was meant to reach as it were even "unto heaven" (Genesis 11, 4). It was a monument to the greatness of man and the glory of mankind. Therefore, God destroyed it and scattered the people, dispersing them through a remarkable change in the language structure of the world. Men no longer all spoke a uniform language. That was the beginning of nations because, of course, it is language which, to a large extent, governs nations. What are languages originally but simply language groups? Nations are language groups where people gather speaking the same language and they become a nation. Usually when they speak a different language they become a different nation. Even to this day in our British Isles, we have the Welsh with their pride for their language. Other languages such as Manx and Cornish have pretty well gone now. There is also Irish and Gaelic. It forms a solidarity and community atmosphere. Where people don't speak the same language they don't have very much in common. God, in that very brilliant way, scattered the nations. He forced the people to fill the earth and to replenish it as He had commanded them to do.
Then we come to that terrible judgement known as 'The judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah'. This is very up-to-date. We must never forget these judgements of God. Why did God send fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah? We are not left in any doubt about it. It's because the men especially, of that community, decided they wanted to break the natural convention. The Bible says this about them: they were "going after strange flesh" (Jude 7). Unnatural lust, something which does not occur in the animal world we are told. Because man is fallen and wicked he tried to pervert the order of God in nature and the consequence was that fire and brimstone came down and destroyed them all. Not simply ordinary fire. You may know from the book of Jude at the end of the New Testament that they are today suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 7). They are still there, these men in Sodom, they are still there - still suffering the vengeance of an eternal fire. This is still relevant for us to remember today.
Then you come later on in the Old Testament to the judgement on 'Egypt'. On this occasion, Pharaoh defied God, or tried to do. Do you remember how Moses was sent to the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, and said to him, "Let my people go" (Exodus 7, 16). Pharaoh's answer was that he did not know the Lord nor would he let Israel go (Exodus 22, 23). As a result God said that He would send these judgements on Egypt - ten plagues: water turned to blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle pests, boils, fire and hail, darkness, locusts and the slaying of the firstborn sons. Ten plagues, one after another in which God was hammering, hammering, hammering at the whole nation of Egypt until Pharaoh's heart, which had been so hardened, relented a little in that he let Israel go so far. He then chased them into the Red Sea and that most divine and amazing event took place - the water opened up. Israel went through on dry land and the waters closed and crushed Pharaoh and his entire host in the waters of the Red Sea.
Dear friends, there are these judgements and others in the Old Testament and the New and our Lord is referring to something here which is well known in my text when He refers to this particular judgement in these words - "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text).
2. THE END OF THE WORLD
Secondly, we need to understand what is meant by this reference to Noah. How does this reference to Noah help us to understand about the end of the world, which is what our Lord is talking about? It helps us like this. Our Lord here is explaining to us that at the end of the world people will be living and society will be organised in just the same way as it was immediately before the flood. What does that tell us? For one thing, it tells us that when the end of the world comes people will be living for pleasure. Our Lord describes it - "For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe 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" (text). We know something about the state of society right at the end of the world. Just on the very moment when our Lord is going to return - society will be living for its own bodily pleasures. They are not sinful in themselves. It is not a sin to eat and drink. Our very bodies are made of a digestive system for eating and drinking. Of course, we cannot live without food and drink but it is one thing to eat to live, it is an entirely different thing to live to eat. That is what society will be doing says Christ - "As the days of Noe were" (text).
The next thing we discover is that society at the end of the world will be deeply irreligious and profane. They will be living without any reference whatever to God or to His worship. You will look in vain in Genesis 6 for any reference to the people gathering for prayer or listening to preaching. Noah was a great preacher and yet for all his wonderful preaching nobody believed what he had to say. The Bible says he was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2, 5) but the people of his day paid no attention to his message. The age was an age when secular things commanded all the interest. Nobody had any interest in spiritual things in the days of Noah.
AN AGE OF COMPROMISE
We know it was an age of compromise. Did you notice in Genesis 6 the phrase that goes like this, "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose" (Genesis 6, 2). That needs to be explained. Some people have found those words a bit confusing and they want to know who these 'sons of God' are. Some people have taken the rather remarkable view that they were angels and that at that time they were angels who fell in love with beautiful ladies and married them. There is a fatal objection to that interpretation and that is that angels have no bodies and that they are not in a position to marry anyone. That doesn't explain the verse at all; it is a misunderstanding of the verse. 'The sons of God' when properly understood means - those who were born into godly families. The 'daughters of men' means - those women who were born into ungodly families. You see, after the days of Adam there were two human families. There was the godly race of Seth and you have all the names of those who descended from him: Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Enoch and Noah. All of these went along a line of godliness and then there were the rest - they were the sons and descendents of Cain and some of their names are given.
For some hundreds of years they kept apart and intermarried only with themselves but immediately before the flood, they began to intermarry. There was loss of conviction on the part of the godly families and the effect of it was that the whole church, if I can call it that, was entirely at risk. The danger was there would be no godly men or women left in the next generation. That is why God had to intervene. There would have been nothing left - no religion at all; not a single godly man or woman would have been left - so God intervened. This is one of the interesting things about God's judgement. Let me explain it like this: the world has always been sinful but in some ages, the world becomes extremely sinful, not always, but sometimes. That is how it became in the days before the flood. God tells us that, does He not - "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6, 5). "All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (Genesis 6, 12). "The end of all flesh is come before me" (Genesis 6, 13). "It repented (grieved) the Lord that he had made man(mankind)" (Genesis 6, 6). What a thing for God to have to say! That was why the judgement of the flood had to come. Our Lord's meaning is this: this is how society will be immediately before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
FULL OF VIOLENCE
One more thing about the state of society in the days before the flood is that it was full of violence. There was a reference was there not to giants: "There were giants in the earth" (Genesis 6, 4). Imagine people of the stature of Goliath of Gath - he was very nearly ten feet tall. You would have no chance at all against a man of that enormous strength. He would just wring your neck. You wouldn't have a chance. This is how society was - it was a reign of terror. No one's life was safe. No one's purity was safeguarded. Law and order had broken down. God therefore, must needs intervene with this flood, and He did. My dear friends, Jesus is telling us that that is how society is going to be right at the end of the world: "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text).
You and I need to know and understand this. Civilisation had been going for some one thousand six hundred years by the time of Noah. We can calculate that because in Genesis chapter five we know the ages of the various patriarchs. We know how old they were when they died. We know how old they were when they had children. At least within certain margins of error we can calculate how many years there were between the creation of the world and the flood. In round figures, it's one thousand six hundred years. What a condemnation of our human society that after all those years of civilisation it was so extremely corrupt that our Maker and our God had no alternative, may I respectfully say, except to blot it out and make a new start with Noah and his family.
Now for a little bit about this ark that he built. The ark took one hundred and twenty years to build; we are told that in Genesis 6 - so it was a huge structure. We know the length of it, roughly four hundred and thirty seven feet long - as near as we can calculate - and seventy-three feet wide and forty-six feet high. In other words, in round figures, one hundred and fifty yards long. It has been calculated that this ark was the largest ocean-going vessel right up through history until the nineteenth century when it was overtaken by still bigger vessels. It took one hundred and twenty years to build, as I said, and all the time it was in building, we are told, the patience of God was waiting. You know what is meant by someone's hand itching to punish: the parent who sees his child provoking again and again and again; we say his hands are itching to punish. For one reason or another, the parent may hold on to his patience a bit longer - so did God. While the ark was in preparing for the hundred and twenty years, we are told the long-suffering of God waited.
In other words, God would not bring the flood upon the world until the ark was complete. This vast floating structure wasn't a ship but a barge. It didn't have any means of propulsion - it didn't need it. All it needed to do was simply to float on these floodwaters and to save these air-breathing creatures: Noah, his wife, their three sons and their three wives, making eight people in total. Then there were the three floors. In the top floor, Noah and his family would live with the birds probably. In the next floor beneath them, the quadrupeds - the animals almost certainly were there. In the lower floor there would probably have been the reptiles.
You may say, "How long were they in there?" They were all there for a year and ten days in total when you put together all the days in which the water came down, prevailed, assuaged and dried up. A year and ten days is a long time to be all cooped up together in the ark and many critics, cynics and scoffers have said it was impossible that all those creatures would be there with mankind for all those days. Part of the explanation could be that the animals would hibernate, as animals do in certain circumstances. They would not require daily feeding as in the normal way. Anyway, God in His special Providence made this arrangement.
What we do need to remind ourselves of is this: "As the days of Noe were," in respect to society and the way it behaved, so also it is in respect to the way God judged the world. Do you see the parallel here? Christ is not only saying that as the world was wicked before the days of the flood so it will be before the second coming of Christ, He is also saying something else. As the judgement was that came upon the world in those days, so also similarly will the judgement be upon the world when Christ returns. In what respects? Three things we can notice here. Firstly, the flood was something which gave ample warning of itself before it came. You understand my meaning? If the people had had any sense at all, they would have known that the flood which God would send and which Noah forecast and preached about was not going to be sent until Noah and his family were safe in the ark. Therefore, when they just saw the ribs of the wooden structure they could safely say to themselves, "There is no flood going to come yet." When they saw the lining round the sides of this ark but no roof, they could have said, "It is not yet time for the flood." However, when they saw everything ready - when they saw the door on its hinges and when they saw the windows all round - they ought to have known that the day of the flood was near, even at hand, and so it was.
My friends, so it will be at the end of time. Mankind at the end of time will have had abundant warning of the end. Nobody will be able to say at the Day of Judgement, "You never told me it was coming." God has told us times without number in His Word. He has given multitudes of intimations of the 'End of Time' in the Bible and by circumstances. And so, "As the days of Noe were", they were unprepared - so it will be in the end of the world - they will be unprepared. Isn't that a melancholy thought? How many Bibles are there in the world? Who can count them? Millions upon million of Bibles, Testaments and texts hanging on walls and yet for all that wonderful information from God the bulk of mankind at the end of history will be as totally unprepared for the coming of Christ as the world was unready and the waters of the flood were suddenly poured upon it.
There is a second thing here. When the flood came, it was not expected. How strange! For all the intimations they had, it was not expected. They were not ready.
NOTHING WAS LEFT
The third thing is this: when the flood came of Noah's day, it was total and final devastation; nothing at all was left. That is how it will be my friends at the end of time, when our blessed and holy Saviour Jesus Christ returns in His glory. So it will be - total and final devastation. No one will escape.
There is something which you and I need to remind ourselves of and that is that God alone can make a provision for us to be ready for that day when it comes. God always provides a way of escape from His judgements, always. Did He not make a provision for Lot and his wife to flee out of Sodom? It was Lot's wife's fault that she became a pillar of salt. There was a provision made - the angels came and hurried Lot and his wife out of the city. Lot was a godly man. God will never judge the righteous and the wicked without discrimination, " As the days of Noe were." The ark, my brethren, the ark was the answer to the problem of how to save the righteous out of this world. There were but eight who entered the ark and the Word of God tells us that the Lord shut them in. As soon as Noah and his family were safe in the ark, the waters of the flood began. As soon as all God's chosen people are brought safely to faith in Christ and are under the covering of His blood and intercession, the end of the world will come. That is the teaching of Jesus Christ when He tell us, "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (text).
There is a parallelism here: a similarity. There is a comparison between the one event and the other - 'even as'...'just so'. It raises the question, "Are you living in the light of this information?" Are you conscious of your need of being delivered from the judgement when it comes? "Yes," you say, "I certainly am. I enjoy listening to a sermon now and again. One of these days I am determined to become a Christian. Soon I intend to give up my worldly ways of life. Perhaps before I'm forty I'll become a man or woman of God. Soon I will become a man who will truly follow the Lord." Well my dear friends, there were many people in the days before the flood when Noah was preparing his ark, who intended to put their lives right before the flood came. I'm afraid, in the event, the flood came too soon for them to do it. They were full of good intentions. I'm sure you must know that well-worn phrase, 'The path to hell is paved with good intentions.' Nothing could be nearer the truth.
As the waters were rising up when Noah was safe in his ark, there must have been hundreds and thousands of people all over the world who flattered themselves at first that this rain could not last and that there were plenty of trees to climb up. I can imagine that they were climbing up every good tree in sight and scoffing at the fears of the timid. Others who were more athletic would climb up hills where they thought they were safe. Those who were most athletic could climb the mountains but it did them no good because all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered, as I said, to a depth of about twenty-one feet - just enough to kill all air-breathing creatures.
You may be interested to know roughly how many people there were in the world before the flood. The Bible doesn't tell us that but it can be calculated with some mathematical probability. One of the scholars whom I was studying and reading suggests that the probable lowest figure would be about a billion. Therefore, the population of the world in Noah's day would have been something less than the population of China as it is today - about a billion. The population of China today is about one point two billion - that is over a thousand million. The population of the world before the flood was tremendously great. There was longevity before the flood; people lived to be nearly a thousand. You may say, "Why don't people live to be a thousand today?" The answer is simple. The climatic conditions changed drastically after the flood. God reduced the life expectancy of mankind gradually to what it is today about 70 years.
The world changed radically after the flood. It will change still more radically when Christ comes again. The great question is - "How will the end of the world find YOU?"
Dear friend, there is an Ark of safety provided by God for us sinners. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins. Believe in Him and you will be eternally safe.
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