The Coming of The Son of Man: Matthew 24:36-44
By Ted Schroder,
November 27, 2016
In the season of Advent we look to the coming of Christ, "We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light. We look then beyond his first coming and await the second" (Cyril of Jerusalem 386).
Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man...."
The analogy of Noah's flood as a type of the second coming reminds us of the characteristics of the end of this life, when Jesus comes for us.
His coming affects all of us. "The flood came and took them all away." Death is universal. We must learn to talk about death and dying in the church and not outsource end of life issues to healthcare systems. In medicine, death is the ultimate enemy, and we expend much effort to stave it off. This is why we put everyone on life support the moment any organ begins to fail, and why we offer chemotherapy to patients dying of widely metastatic cancer. This is why we call 911 and rush to the hospital every time someone passes out. Because we are living so much longer than any previous generation we deny the reality of the finish line. Just as the flood swept them all away, so Jesus will come for all of us at the end of time. There is no inequality about this destiny. It does not matter whether we are wealthy, with great assets, fat stock portfolios, substantial net worth, owners of valuable real estate, living a luxurious lifestyle -- the flood took them all away. There was no way they could escape it. Death laughs at the miser and merchant, billionaire and the powerful, all were swallowed up by the flood.
There were some in the days of Noah who were extremely poor. They worked hard to gain enough to keep body and soul together and they suffered much in this life, yet they too were not spared. The flood swept away the pauper and the prince. As the great will not purchase an escape by his investments, neither will the poor be delivered by their poverty. The grace and justice of God are independent of society, and rank, and state, and condition. God measures no one by his possessions but by his faith, and he who has little faith is lost. Jesus said, that it is by your faith that you are saved. He said to the religious leader Nicodemus that you must be born again of the Spirit if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven.
There were learned scholars in the days of Noah who had searched the stars, deciphered the universe, pried into the secrets of the earth, ransacked science and had pierced into the innermost recesses of knowledge, but when the flood came it swept them all away. The philosopher, the academics, the jurists, the clergy were not able to escape by all that they had ever learned. Knowledge is no life-vest, rhetoric is no lifeboat. All with their science were swept away. The only knowledge that could save us is knowing the true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.
Among those who perished in Noah's flood there were very many spiritual and religious people. There were others who were materialists, who did not believe in God, but they too were swept away. Neither vague spirituality nor doubt offer any hope on the last day. There were those who ridiculed Noah, who laughed at his building an ark, but the flood came and took them all away. There was an end to their sarcasms and their jeers. So it will be in the coming of the Son of Man for those who ridiculed the Gospel of Christ. Their laughter shall have no power over death. There will be no room for unbelief in that last day when "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised."
There were other people, who, when they heard about Noah, criticized his building. They pointed out the defects in the ark and its design. They doubted its ability to be seaworthy, and thought that they could have built it a great deal better. So now we constantly find people who look at the imperfections and faults of Christians and the church and compare them unfavorably with secular philanthropists and foundations. But the sharpest and severest critics if they are unbelieving and not inside the ark will be taken away by the flood.
Why is it that men and women in the days of Noah "knew nothing that would happen until the flood came and took them all away"?
First, there is often an indifference about the state of their souls. You may be careful about the state of your body. You may exercise regularly, eat wisely, consult doctors when suspicious of a physical problem, seek advice and have surgery so that your life is preserved. And yet the preservation of the highest part of your life seems to be a matter of no consequence at all. The task of becoming your true self is to be found in your spirit, your soul. We are more than animals that live by instinct. We are made in the image of God designed for a personal relationship by the love of Christ. It is illogical and insane to be indifferent to the state of your soul.
Second, there is often lack of faith. No one believed Noah. Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8). He wept over Jerusalem because they did not believe what would bring them peace. "Because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luke 19:44).
Third, they were preoccupied with pleasure. "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" (Matthew 24:38). They were carrying on as though this life was all that there was and that there was no eternity. They did not realize that this life is a preparation for the life to come. They were so earthly minded that there was no thought to being heavenly minded. "The world and its desires passes away but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).
Lastly, Jesus urges us to keep watch because we do not know on what day our Lord will come. Noah and his family were safe in the ark when the rains came. They were ready for the day of the flood. Jesus calls us to be ready, for we know not when the Son of Man will come for us. All who were in the ark were safe from the storm. When the storm of our last days come upon us, and our physical bodies deteriorate, we need the security and safety of being in Christ. He will carry us safely upwards and nearer to the heavens of God who loves us. We "will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with aloud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Matthew 24:30,31).
If you believe in Christ as your Savior, and you have made him your Lord -- if you trust in him -- you are safe, come what may.
(I am indebted to C.H. Spurgeon for his sermon, Noah's Flood, March 5, 1868)
The Rev. Ted Schroder is pastor of Amelia chapel on Amelia Island, Florida
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