Jesus referred to two events to illustrate the condition of the world just before his return: Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom in Lot’s day. What are the similarities, and what can we learn for ourselves about these events?
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. [Matthew 24:37-39]
It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. [Luke 17:28-30]
Not Sin but Self indulgence
We do know that the world of Noah and Lot was supremely wicked. (See for example Genesis 6:5,11,12) However, interestingly, it is not the violence and immorality that Jesus picks out as the main problem, but the self-indulgence and the lack of awareness of approaching judgement.
The people in Noah’s world, and in Sodom, were carrying on their lives as normal (or what they perceived as normal) until the very day disaster struck – this was the main point of the warning Jesus gave his disciples!
Not evildoing, but pride, materialism, pleasure – eating and drinking, marrying, buying and selling, building and planning, having a good time and enjoying life – these were not “evil” things in themselves but they had become (as for the people of Laodicea) their main focus in life. Thus, in the end, it became their stumbling block!
Laodicea is the pattern of the last days Church. Let’s take a brief look at their condition too:
The Laodicean church has nothing to commend it. Jesus begins the message with condemnation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Jesus emphasizes their “lukewarm,” apathetic nature three times. … With their apathy came a spiritual blindness; they claimed to be rich, blessed and self-sufficient. Perhaps they were rich in material things. But, spiritually, the Laodiceans were in a wretched, pitiful condition, made all the worse in that they could not see their need. This was a church filled with self-deceived hypocrites. [Source]
That which is more important to you than God, will in the end enslave you. It will stumble you.
If there is someone or something you couldn’t ever do without, and you wouldn’t dream of giving it up even if the Lord commanded, THAT is the thing that will hold you back in the last hour. If this life is more precious to you than God’s Kingdom, you are on the wrong side of it already.
Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment … But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:22-31).
God is not asking anyone to go without food, or love, or possessions, or enjoyment, but these things should not come FIRST.
If you love your life you will lose it
Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt 16:24-26
Lessons from Noah and Lot
1. Remember Lot’s wife!
On that day, [the day of sudden destruction] let no one on the housetop come down to retrieve his possessions. Likewise, let no one in the field return for anything he has left behind. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. [Luke 17:31-33]
As Christians, we live in the world, but we must not be part of the world. (II Corinthians 6:17-18). Lot’s wife was too attached to the city where she lived. She might have thought about her possessions, the loved ones or relatives she left, her friends, plans, and dreams. All or any of these made her look back. Whatever the reason, she thought the things in the city to be more important than the commandments of God (who had commanded them to escape and NOT look back).
There is a proper order of priorities in life. We must put God first above all else. … looking back during the final destruction of the two cities is the final straw that broke the camel’s back. But she had “looked back” many times before, and THAT prevented her from being saved. [Source]
2. People scoffed at the idea of judgement
Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law… and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. Genesis 19:14
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own desires, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:3-5
There is so much scoffing today that the description above surely applies. We ARE in the last days.
Whereas in days gone by there might have been a reaction of unbelief, today the laughter and mockery is loud and long. That is because there is no fear of God, no restraint for wrongdoing, no belief in judgement, nor faith in the word of God.
3. Disaster was SUDDEN; don’t be unprepared.
Even though the people of Noah’s world and Sodom had warning in advance of what would happen, they ignored it; the final day dawned suddenly and they were still unprepared.
This is seen also in the parable of the ten bridesmaids who went out to await the Lord’s return. They all fell asleep but only five woke up prepared. (Matt 25: 1-13)
The day of destruction described by Jesus happened so suddenly that there wasn’t even time to collect your belongings before fleeing. [Matthew 24:18]. Yet believers DID have prior warning of the event, despite not knowing the exact “day or hour”.
History records that on the eve of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Christians fled the city, heeding the commands of Jesus.
“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.” Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)
We cannot say there was NO warning! It’s just that nobody listened.
Lot appealed to his family; Noah built the Ark in public, and was warned seven days in advance (when the rain began to fall) that it would cause a flood from which none could escape. That gave him time to load the animals and fodder, as commanded, and during that time anyone else could have had a last-minute change of mind, and joined Noah and his family – but even in the ever-increasing amount of rain they did not.
‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage— **right up to the day** Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:22–27, cf. Gen 7:1–18) At the end of the seven days “all the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Gen 7:11).
With Lot, the destruction was held back for a short time to allow Lot to escape. [Genesis 19:22]
So we have a simultaneous time of warning for those who will heed AND a sudden unexpected destruction for those who will not. Of which group are you?
4. God takes the initiative in rescuing his people.
Knowing that some will need rescuing, God makes a provision beforehand. Noah built the Ark; Angels were dispatched to rescue Lot and his family. God doesn’t allow disaster to come without making a preparation, BUT, it DOES require that we believe him and take advantage of his provision. (The opposite of scoffing).
God Shut The Door
- When Noah obeyed the Lord to enter the Ark, and the flood began, it was God who shut the door, (Genesis 7:16) and from that moment judgement was inevitable. Nobody else could enter.
- When besieged by the men of Sodom, the angels pulled Lot back into the house and they “shut the door” (Genesis 19:10)
- Again, in the case of the ten bridesmaids, the Bridegroom arrived for the wedding feast, went in and “the door was shut” (Matt 25:11).
Then we see the fate of the prepared and the unprepared.
Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later, the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13
The unprepared came too late and found the door shut. They then began shouting “Lord, let us in” – just as the hypocrites do in Matthew 7:22.
Also Jesus said, “many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ (Luke 13:24,25)
A Greater Sin Than Sodom
To return to the first point that I made, it’s not just wickedness that causes a spiritual blindness, nor ungodly willfulness that refuses God’s rescue attempt, it is the “greater sin than Sodom” referred to in Ezekiel.
“As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.” Ezekiel 16:48-50
God is speaking to Jerusalem – His people! Just as he wrote to Laodicea, his Church! But he declares that her sins are greater than those of Sodom – think of that. Their sin, and the same sins that were such an irritant to the Lord that it caused him to vomit Laodiceans out of his body, were “Pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
Somehow, the good times are more corrosive than the bad ones. Those who “have it all” are much more inclined to be indifferent to the suffering of others, and much less inclined to endure hardship. They tend to fight for their own rights and privileges, and for their own continued prosperity, instead of fighting corruption and greed – conforming to the world’s standards, compromising themselves in the presence of evil.
The Rich Have a Hard Time Entering Heaven
When the rich young man to whom Jesus preached heard that he would need to give up his way of life, “he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’.” [Matthew 19:23]
The seed sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. [Matthew 13:22]
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. [1 Corinthians 1:26,27]
5. It is the faithful FEW who are saved.
Some say the population back in Noah’s day was in the millions. And yet only eight people were saved! Perhaps, as today, many professed to know God, but given the choice to follow him or to continue in idle pleasures and prosperity, they shut their ears.
Likewise, few made it out of Sodom despite Lot having lived there for years trying to present a more wholesome and God-honouring way of life.
Lot was a respected and influential resident – a relative of Abraham, and one of the ruling elite who “sat in the gate” of Sodom. The gates of a city contained recesses which were the resort of leading citizens; and in which business was transacted, bargains made, and justice administered, [compare Genesis 23:10; Genesis 23:18, Genesis 34:20; Deuteronomy 21:19; Ruth 4:1]
Just as Noah would have preached to the people as he built the ark, 2 Peter 2:7 confirms that Lot ‘vexed his soul from day to day with the unlawful deeds’ of Sodom. Yet nobody would listen, and the final judgement came unexpectedly.
And the same is happening around the world today! People are sick of hearing the truth! God is calling, but few listen.
From all the comparisons of the days of Noah and Lot, we reach the same conclusion as that of Jesus: Be prepared!
Don’t become so caught up in the enjoyment of life and the deception of riches that you can no longer “see the wood for the trees”. Step back and look at the entire ‘wood’ instead of rejoicing in each individual tree. The fact that your table is groaning with food, that you have a good job, that you can afford every modern convenience, that you are living in comfort and freedom – these things may be God’s blessings to you but they are not the end goal.
Summarised, the five main points above spell out a story of caution, and a warning against indifference.
- Don’t look back at this life as if it’s worth salvaging, longing for the things that are temporary
- Take heed of what’s taking place in the world and don’t get slack or scoff at the warning signs
- The final disaster will come suddenly; make spiritual preparations beforehand
- Pray, be faithful to God, and trust HIM alone to keep you – nothing else offers sanctuary
- Few will be saved, and those few are the despised minority who took a stand on God’s truth, nothing else
Finally, as I’ve said before, it is NOT the prospect of persecution that causes us to err, but the lure of this world and all its ease.
The Book of Revelation – although describing horrors and wars – describes the final deception as something almost impossible to escape. As Jesus said, the delusion of the end days would be such that it could “deceive even the very elect” – that is powerful magic!!
The devil knows that Christians are strengthened in faith and made bold by suffering for the Lord. Endurance brings us closer to God, whereas peace, prosperity and self indulgence turns us away from God. A much more effective strategy for attaining worship for himself is for the devil to offer the desires of every heart, to become the “saviour” of mankind.
If your desires in this life (however worthy) are anything but God’s will, you are open to deception. The devil will offer you gratification on a plate, you will cease to be prepared, you will begin to scoff, and may end up either as Lot’s wife, or (even worse) as the people in the days of Noah, or those frantically knocking on a shut door.