One day,the disciples of Jesus came to him with a question:
“What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 NIV).
In other words, “Lord, how will we know we are in the end times?”
Jesus told them, “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” (verses 37–39 NIV).
In giving this statement, Christ was, for starters, confirming the historicity of the Great Flood and the fact there was a Great Flood, there was an ark filled with animals, and there was a man named Noah. Jesus was telling us this isn’t a fable. It isn’t a myth.
But he also was encouraging us to look carefully at the way things were before the Flood, because they also would characterize the days before his return.
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
There are a lot of striking parallels between the times of Noah and our times today. In effect, Noah was what we might describe as a last-days believer. He was in the last days of Planet Earth as it was known then.
Noah was living in the shadow of an impending judgment. And despite the wickedness of the culture, Noah managed to live a godly life in an ungodly world.
Genesis 6 give us a description of the days in which Noah lived:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.” (verses 5–7 NIV)
The original language indicated the wickedness of the human race had reached a high degree, or the highest pitch. It was full to the brim. Think of an overflowing trash can. Or worse yet, think of an overflowing septic tank. That is what Planet Earth looked like at this time. It was stinking to high heaven. And God took notice.
Against this very dark background was Noah, who walked with God. The Bible says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NKJV). Does that mean God had grace on Noah because he lived a righteous life? No, it is actually the opposite. The word grace means “unmerited favor.” God had grace on Noah. God extended grace toward Noah, and Noah responded to that grace. He lived a godly life because he understood how much God loved him.
God told Noah to build an ark, and he built it. It was massive, weighing in at about 13,960 tons. That would place the ark well within the category of large, metal, ocean-going vessels today. It wasn’t until the 1800s that a ship was built that exceeded the capacity of Noah’s ark.
It’s interesting to note that after the ark was built and they were getting ready to leave, Noah left the door open for seven days. It is a little different than the story in the recent film, where Noah, played by Russell Crowe, was killing people who tried to get on the ark. That didn’t happen. The door was open, but no one came – until it started raining, that is. Then it was too late.
It’s like the times in which we are living. The door is open for people to believe. The door is open for people to be forgiven of their sins. And it will be open throughout the last days.
Noah, his family and all those animals spent a year at sea. Finally they reached land and were able to leave the ark again. Then we read, “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1 NKJV). Maybe Noah was wondering whether the Lord was paying attention. But God always finishes what he begins.
The Spirit of God blew across the land, the clouds began to dissipate, the sun appeared, and the grass, plants and trees came back to life. Now, if I had been stuck on a boat for a year and finally reached land, I would probably run around for about two months, just happy to be on terra firma.
But the first thing Noah did was build an altar to the Lord.
The Bible says that “Noah moved with godly fear” (Hebrews 11:7 NKJV). In other words, Noah had a wholesome dread of displeasing God. He walked and talked with God, and he listened as well. He worshiped God and remembered God. Why is that important? Because sometimes we forget God. We are very aware of God when we have a problem. We pray and pray, and the Lord comes through. Then we say, “Thanks God! See you next crisis.”
God wants us to give thanks. It is common courtesy to say thank you when someone does something for you. Noah had his priorities straight. Noah was thankful.
We should do the same with God. Have you taken the time recently to thank Him?
Originally, Thanksgiving was a religious holiday and, more to the point, a Christian holiday. I think we need to put things in perspective and remember this holiday isn’t just about eating; it is about giving thanks.
The psalmist said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Psalm 107:1). God is worthy of our thanks and praise.
Greg Laurie is an American author and pastor who serves as the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, Harvest Church at Kumulani in Kapalua, Hawaii, and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California.