Every prophet of God is inerrant in his foretellings given through God’s Word. Each prophecy must be considered solemnly and soberly. God said the following through one of His prophets, the Apostle Peter: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1: 20-21).
Jesus’ Prophetic Words
How much more solemnly and soberly should the prophetic words of Jesus Christ, who is God himself, be poured over with prayerful, reverential awe. It is with this realization, while pondering these strange times, that I was impressed to revisit the passages from one of the Lord’s prophecies I and others have used numerous times in thinking upon things to come. I am usually hesitant to use such an extensive block of Scripture in this space-limited forum. However, I believe it is good to look at the prophecies involved here, rather than send the reader off to look up the Lord’s words.
Jesus spoke about two specific generations of antiquity. He did so to forewarn one particular future generation, the generation that will be alive at the time He returns to intervene into the affairs of mankind.
”And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Lk. 17:26-27).
God’s People Hated, But Work Continues
The primary point I want to address in Jesus’ prophecy about the earliest generations–the antediluvians of Noah’s day—is that Noah and his seven family members had been pushed to the limits of their unwelcome status upon earth by the beastly, anti-God masses that inhabited the planet. Noah and the others had no choice but to trust God in His instructions to build the ark, in preparation for leaving the hate-filled environs that surrounded them. Noah didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but he did trust God to deliver him and the others. The others were perhaps less certain than Noah of things to come, but the proverbial handwriting was on the wall. Violence and corruption filled the whole earth. Hatred against them was pressing in from every quarter. They believed God was going to move by supernatural cataclysm as Noah preached forewarnings of judgment that was certain to fall. These eight souls didn’t dig bunkers and accumulate weapons of war against the world of violent, corrupt earthdwellers. They took God’s plan to construct the ark and carried it out to the letter.They trusted God, not human instrumentalities, as they believed the day of God’s judgment and wrath would surely come. They were true believers. They took God at His Word, through His preacher, Noah.
While Noah and the others worked on constructing the vessel–which most likely no one could fully fathom, regarding its purpose because it had never even rained, much less come a flood–the mocking, demon-indwelt people threatened the believers, wanting these judgmental religious fanatics gone from their presence. Just as the hatred reached a crescendo, with the totally corrupted masses groping viciously to get their fingers around the throats of the believers, God told Noah to go inside the ark, now fully prepared, and the Lord himself sealed the door.
The “work” was complete. Noah and his family had carried out the Lord’s directive to build a vessel upon which anyone who would believe could enter for safety from His coming judgment. The God-haters got their way; God’s people were lifted above the floodwaters that destroyed all of incorrigibly wicked mankind.
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were likewise as corrupt as the whole world of Noah’s pre-flood time. Jesus tells us about Lot’s time, in continuing His prophecy of earth’s final days: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Lk. 17: 28-30).
Day Of Lord A Stunning Surprise
Jesus is forewarning here of a specific “day” when He says: “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” That is the day the entire Book of the Revelation addresses. It is the day that begins, according to Jesus, like a “thief in the night” experience for the world.
Jesus prophesied about His stunning return to intervene in the activities of mankind on Planet Earth using metaphorical language that you and I would not use in describing our Lord. He said: “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Lk. 12: 39-40).
The Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter address this special “day” using similar metaphorical language. Paul described how Jesus’ return at the end of the age will begin: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2).
Peter foretold how the Lord’s second coming will begin, in describing that astounding “day” in its totality: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).
We should understand, then, that the “day of the Lord” starts Christ’s second coming from the moment He breaks in upon an unexpecting world of rebellious earth-dwellers. That “day of the Lord” lasts through to the complete remaking of the heavens and the earth, as reported by John, who recorded the vision he was given:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:1-5).
The Lord himself expounded upon what that day would be like. I believe He spoke directly to what the very start of that day would be like for both God’s children (all born-again into God’s family through belief in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross) and for unbelievers who are alive at the time of His sudden, “thief in the night” break-in upon the world:
“In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Lk. 17:31-37).
Again, this corresponds to the words of Jesus: “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Lk. 21:39-40).
Significant Differing View
Some--likely, most--of the great seminary scholars in premillennial, pretrib teachers of eschatology hold that the Scriptures in these passages predict the time of the tribulation, just before Christ returns in the Second Advent. They for the most part believe that these passages refer to the people who are taken are taken to punishment to suffer God’s wrath and judgment.
I fall into the Dave Hunt camp regarding these matters. I am more and more of the conviction that these prophecies, given in more or less parabolic language by the Lord, are not about the last of the tribulation era, but of the time when the Lord calls the Church to be with Him–the time of rapture.
Actually, I believe the Lord is talking about both the middle of that tribulation hour in the first part of His prophecy, and the time of rapture in the second part of that prophecy.
First, Jesus says: “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
Remember Lot's wife.
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it…”
Jesus was talking about, I’m convinced, the same directive to the Jews as He gives in the Matthew Olivet Discourse:
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24: 15-21).
As Different As Day And Night
The second part of Jesus’ prophecy is not about the “day”–the time when the Jews are in the middle of the “day of the Lord”–the middle of the seven-year tribulation when antichrist is in the temple declaring himself to be god. Jesus talks next about “in that night.” It is the end of the Church Age to which I’m convinced He is referring. He abruptly stops foretelling the conditions in the middle of the “day of the Lord” and reverts to talking about “that night,” the night into which He likens the unguarded moment when the thief breaks in. And, note that this time of taking is in all different time zones, referring to both time of sleep and of the working day: “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
Jesus Not PC
One of the problems many seminarians will argue is that Jesus can’t be talking about His taking people in the rapture because of the distasteful, even grisly, analogy he draws in describing this one-taken, one-left account: “And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.”
Jesus would never make such a reference in describing His bride, the church, as "eagles” ("vultures" in Biblical vernacular), or to himself as a dead body (after all, He is the Resurrected Lord!).
That argument is a very weak one. We see where the Lord gives the analogy of His breaking in on an unsuspecting world, likening himself to a thief. That's not a very attractive description of the Living God. He is the Creator of all things, and by Him all things are held together. Jesus Christ, however, who is God, doesn’t have to worry about the political correctness or the false niceties of this phony world system. He makes His points in the strongest of terms at times because He doesn’t want the fallen minds of men to miss His point.
This is the description of the rapture, I believe, as my friend Dave Hunt has written. And, why should we not trust that the Lord of heaven would forewarn in the strongest terms about the stupefying event that will mean absolute joy and ecstasy to believers alive at the time of its occurrence, and abject terror to those who do not know Christ for salvation?
He would not, and did not, in my view, leave such an astoundingly vital prophecy to the Apostle Paul without adding His own words of foretelling. As a matter of fact, as I’ve often expressed, I believe that Jesus’ words as recorded in the Gospel account by John were about the “mystery,” which Paul later prophesied as recorded in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).
As also expressed many times before, I believe that the Scriptures of prophecy about the days of Noah and the days of Lot, as well as Jesus’ words about the thief in the night breaking in on an unsuspecting world, cannot be the time of the end of the tribulation when Christ returns. Perhaps as many as two-thirds of the world’s population will have died by the time the horrendous wrath of God has fallen in judgment upon the wicked world of earth dwellers. It will NOT be business as usual. Men will not be building, marrying, buying, or selling in anywhere near the normal fashion Jesus says they will be doing when He describes the days of Noah and Lot in the Luke 17 accounts. It will be hell on earth at that time.
Frightening/Exciting Time To Be Alive
This is a generation which can, if one’s head isn’t buried in the sand, sense the groping fingers of ungodly forces reaching, grasping to strangle anything that puts forward the name of Jesus Christ and his righteousness. In sheer political terms, there can be seen on the horizon legislation such as the “fairness doctrine” that would stifle biblical teaching against the abominable practice of homosexuality. Legislation to increase legalization parameters for killing babies in the mother’s wombs awaits the development of a super-majority in Congress that can’t be overridden by presidential veto, or even filibustered against in the legislative process. There now will be a president who seems favorably inclined toward supporting both of these egregious proposals.
Time and time again, we have pointed to the signals that illustrate dramatically the almost certainty that the present generation is within the conditions and experiencing the birthpang convulsions Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse. The geopolitical upheavals moving the world toward globalization at a dazzling rate, with the sudden economic meltdown drawing even avowed foes into new arrangements in order to try to avert international financial collapse, should alert children of God that the shout “Come up here!” can’t be far from happening. At the same time, the terrifying prospect for those who will be left behind is a mind-boggling matter for those who truly understand the events that put lost human beings on the cusp of apocalypse. The operative instruction for this late hour of the age is that we who name the name of Christ must be about the Father’s business.