Tuesday, October 12, 2010

As It Was in the Days of Noah: Rapture or Second Coming?

We read some fascinating words given to us by Jesus in Matthew 24:37-42, wherein He says:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
I have read several commentaries supporting that it is the Rapture being discussed in those passages, to include commentaries from leading eschatologists.  However, I have also read or heard people comment that those verses are not about the Rapture; but, rather, are about the Second Coming.  They go on to note men were especially evil in the days of Noah just as it will be before the Second Coming. Another group of people agree that people were evil in the days of Noah and, therefore, they conclude those verses are describing the Rapture during or after the Tribulation.

I believe that scriptural analysis of those verses support that the Rapture is being discussed and, as a result, it is there that a ministry to lukewarm Christians and those not yet saved can be assisted. Although not the only place, there we can make an easy reference for people that the Rapture is imminent and, thus, emphasize that one should be examining their spiritual condition less they be left behind.  We know that being on the watch is supported throughout scripture, but I believe the days of Noah analogy really drives home the point.


Let's examine what God's Word says: for exactly what it says and neither add nor take away from what is said.  First, we should note that Jesus does not say "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. People were wicked and their hearts evil..."  Nor do the words even remotely resemble, for example, what we find in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 to describe evil people in the end times, "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."  Obviously Jesus could have used many words and/or examples to make a point that it will be like when men were evil if that is the comparison He was conveying to us.

Jesus also did not just leave it up to us to guess the similarities between the days of Noah and what is being said by skipping from "As it was in the days of Noah..." immediately to "...that is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." Had He done so, we would have been left to guess which similarity is being made.  In fact, I can see where it may have been more likely attributed to a time when mankind was evil and, therefore, all but Noah and his family were destroyed because that was the resounding theme about the days of Noah.

What Jesus did not say or leave for us to guess actually lends more support that Jesus did not want us to make the conclusion that the comparison was about when men were evil, because then we are left with the words that He actually chose to use.  That is, He specifically mentioned people were eating, drinking, and marrying.  Luke chapter 17 also explains Jesus made a further comparison to the days of Lot when people were working, buying and selling, and building.  Again, notice that while the crux of what almost everyone knows about the days of Lot was that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because people were evil, Jesus specifically chose words to compare the time to how people were going about their normal lives without being aware of their imminent doom.

Also keep in mind that the Rapture affects two people: those that will be left behind to live through the tribulation and those that will be taken away. The words Jesus specifically chose to use clearly represent a time when people were going about their everyday life: just as we are today!

Furthermore, let's contrast a time when people are eating, drinking, marrying, working, and building to what we know about how it will be during the Tribulation:

Per Revelation 6:6, it will require a day's wages just to buy food.

Revelation 6:15-17 explains people will wish they could die and will be hiding in caves and rocks:
"Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
Revelation 8:7 describes, "...a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up."

Revelation 8:8-9 says, "...A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed."

We read in Revelation 8:11 that, "...A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter."

Per Revelation 8:12, "...A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night."

Again in Revelation 9:6 we see a description of people literally seeking death in vain hopes to escape their torment: "During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them."

Thus, if we compare "people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" to a time when there will be food and water shortages, catastrophic events that cause mass human destruction, trees and grass being scorched, water turning to poison, seas turning to blood, and people literally seeking death, it just doesn't make sense that it is the same time period being discussed. In fact, if we try to place the Second Coming just after the Great Tribulation with the knowledge that Jesus specifically described the days of Noah (and Lot) as a time when people were going about their everyday lives, then it would substantially undermine the severity of all that is going to happen during the Great Tribulation.  We would then be saying that people will be going about life as usual despite all that happened during the Great Tribulation. It would present a huge discrepancy in scripture to do that.


I can see where one might erroneously think that, because those passage are found so late in the Olivet Discourse, they must be referring to the Second Coming.  However, we see passages discussing the Second Coming before we see the days of Noah passages, for in Matthew 24:30 we read, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

Less anyone think those verses are describing the Rapture, we should compare them to the verses clearly describing the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 we read:
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.
While those passage may initially seem similar, a careful study reveals notable differences that distinguish the two events from one another:
  • The verses in Matthew describe believers being gathered after Jesus returns to earth, while the verses in 1 Thessalonians describe believers being gathered in the air.
  • We read in Matthew that believers will be gathered by angels, which is not that same as 1 Thessalonians where they are being gathered by the Lord Himself.
  • Matthew does not discuss any resurrection of bodies, yet that is one of the most notable points being made in 1 Thessalonians.

Backing up in scripture just a little, we see that starting with Luke 21:28 the discussion must have exited a sequential discussion, as Luke records Jesus saying “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (emphasis added).  That verse comes right after Luke's description of the Second Coming, already noted above, which gives us clues that the verses that follow are "starting over" sequentially.  Another problem with placing the Second Coming at Matthew 24:37-42 is that we would have a contradiction, for in Matthew 24:29-30 (describing the Second Coming) Jesus provides reference to when it will happen: "immediately after the distress (tribulation) of those days".  Yet in Matthew 24:36 (where He introduces "the days of Noah" discussion) Jesus once again emphasizes that no one knows about the timing, which is consistent with other references to the fact the timing of the Rapture is not known.

The timing of the Second Coming, however, will be something that can be calculated. First, we know that it will happen "immediately after the tribulation" (Matthew 24:29).  Therefore, other places in scripture can be used to calculate the Second Coming with a great deal of precision.  For example, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:6 explain that the Great Tribulation will last 3.5 years, and Matthew 24:15 confirms Daniel 9:27 where we learn that the Great Tribulation will commence with a specific and observable event: the Abomination of Desolation (when the Antichrist sets himself up in the temple and proclaims to be God).  Thus, we know the Second Coming will be 3.5 years after the Abomination of Desolation. Also, according to both Revelation 11:3 and Revelation 12:6 people will know that the last half of the tribulation will last precisely 1,260 days.


Some believe it is the Second Coming being referred to because we know that Matthew is writing to the Jews; thus, the passages must be about the events that happened in A.D. 70 and/or since the Jews will not participate in the Rapture, it cannot be about the Rapture.  As noted before, we have already seen the Second Coming discussed in previous verses of the Olivet Discourse.  Also, the return of Christ was not anything that happened in A.D. 70 (see Myths About Studying Bible Prophecy).

In fact, when the Rapture happens the Jewish people as much or more than any people will be forced to reflect on "what happened".  I believe the Rapture, along with Messianic prophecy, will be something the 144,000 witnesses will be explaining to all those left behind, particularly the Jews to whom Matthew is writing and the witnesses are particularly indended for.  Moreover, for now at least, those of us reading those verses are Christians (the "Church"), which provides substantial evidence that what is written in Matthew is also very much intended for the Church.

Along those lines, others claim the words are meant to address those that are taken away for judgment.  Yet within the text itself we find these words to explain that the words are meant for believers, not unbelievers, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42)  The only people that refer to the Son of Man as "their Lord" are believers.  The concept is echoed just a few verses later (Matthew 24:44).  It is apparent the Days of Noah analogy is intended for people that should be keeping watch, which are believers!

As I conclude this article, I would like to remind everyone that we're told throughout scripture that the Rapture will take many people by surprise. Therefore, as we go about our daily lives (eating and drinking, marrying, working, building, etc.), we should follow the words of Jesus in Luke 21:36, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."  


  1. Someone sent this via e-mail: Good info...thanks. I read that several times. I do have a question though. How do you fit Luke 17:36-37 into this picture? Those taken away were to the vultures. Wouldn't that suggest the event to be the 2nd Coming with those that were left behind going into the Tribulation?

  2. Growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, I can say I've watched vultures many times. They are very majestic as they soar from afar. Once they spot a meal, they first circle it for a long time (sometimes hours) and the exact location of the meal is not easily known since they fly very high above and initially make very large circles. Only with careful observation can one see that they very slowly descend in their circling pattern, and eventually the location of the meal can be determined if one is watching closely. Forgive the morbid curiosity and boredom of a 12-year-old boy. ;-)

    To understand the parable, we need to back up just a bit and understand that Jesus is answering His disciples' question "Where, Lord?". (Which is not the same as "WHAT will happen?"). Thus, His mini-parable enables Jesus to avoid answering the disciples' question precisely (much like He did not answer their WHEN question precisely elsewhere). One can even imagine that perhaps as Jesus was speaking He looked around for an analogy and saw some vultures circling off in the distance. When put in that context of what we know about vultures and the question Jesus was asked, I believe the parable can be likened to the Rapture, where we can see some signs to indicate the end is near, but no further precision about that event is given until just before it happens. In other words, after asked to say where, Jesus simply says it's like when Vultures gather and the where is not yet apparent, but eventually it will be.

    Are you like me and wish Jesus had a "reporter" as one of the disciples? One that would ask the probing "follow up" questions. :-) Praise God He did keep His word somewhat a mystery until His perfect timing. I'm sure He continues to do so and am excited to see what He has yet to reveal!

    I hope I have helped.

  3. Jesus told us that He is "coming in an hour when ye think not." (Luke 12:40)

    Thank you Jeff. God bless you brother.
    todd tomasella

  4. Very good point about the days of Noah. That's a good argument for the rapture, not the Second Coming. The Tribulation will so horrible that life won't be going on as usual.
    God bless,
    Kent Crockett
    www.kentcrockett.com (Prophecy Bible studies)