Matthew 24:36-44 (NIV) “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
This portion of Jesus’ discourse is applicable to the judgment due to fall on Jerusalem, but even more to His final return. In both cases, things will happen very quickly, and those who do not have eyes to see the signs will be caught unaware until escape is no longer possible.
The illustration that Jesus gives is the days of Noah. Noah had been building the boat for years at the time the flood came. He had even been warning the people nearby of the coming judgment (2 Peter 2:5). But even when pairs of animals started showing up at the ark (Genesis 7:8-9), the people didn’t pay attention. A global flood seemed too far-fetched. And so they just kept on living their normal lives, making plans for a future that would never come. And then, on the fateful day, the flood broke loose, and all of them were taken away. All that were left were those on the ark.
In the same way, those in Jerusalem would ignore the warnings of Jesus, and later His followers, of God’s impending judgment on the city. A conquest by Rome and the destruction of the temple seemed too far-fetched. They would keep on living their normal lives, and making plans for a future that wouldn’t come. By the time the Roman army showed up, it would be too late to escape.
And at the end of the ages it will be the same. Many people will continue to ignore the words of Jesus and of His followers warning of the judgment to come, and will choose instead to continue in their own ways. The end of the world will seem too far-fetched. So many will keep on living their normal lives, and making plans for a future that won’t come, rationalizing away the signs of the end as they manifest themselves. But when Jesus appears in the clouds, it will be too late to find a way of escape. And all of those who are not following Jesus will be swept away to an eternity separated from God.
Jesus’ overarching theme in this section of His discourse is to live ready for Jesus’ return at any moment. Like a homeowner, care must be taken before the thief breaks in, or it will be too late. Even though there will be signs leading up to Jesus’ return, it is human nature to discount them or explain them away instead of seeing them clearly and responding by making sure we are ready. But Jesus’ people will have no excuse if they are not ready on that day, regardless of signs, or whether or not they are recognized as such. He has given warning after warning that we are to live in a state of continual readiness.
Father this paints a VERY clear picture. We might miss some of the signs, but that won’t be a problem if we will simply live ready for Jesus’ return at any moment. Help me to do just that, Lord, today and every day. Amen.