Luke 17:26-37 (NIV) “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
“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. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
“Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
Jesus uses two distinct events, the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom, as illustrations of what it will be like when He returns. The first thing that both events have in common is that God’s judgment was poured out on many people living outside of His law – in Noah’s day, on all humanity, and in Lot’s day, on all of the people of the plain near the Dead Sea. The second thing is that, in both cases, God removed the righteous people (as well as some of their family members who weren’t necessarily righteous, but who were saved by grace) before His wrath arrived on the rest.
In Noah’s case (Genesis 6-9), God warned Him in enough time to build the ark, and used it to save not only Noah, but representatives of all of the air breathing animal kinds. Noah and his wife were saved, along with three of their sons and their wives, so that they could repopulate the earth after the flood.
In Lot’s case (Genesis 19), Lot was saved by being led by two destroying angels out of the city at daybreak, along with his wife and two of his daughters. He was told to flee to the mountains, but was fearful, and begged to be allowed to flee instead to the smallest of the five cities of the plain, Zoar. The angels graciously allowed it, and Zoar itself was spared from immediate annihilation because of Lot taking refuge there, although the people who lived there didn’t realize how close they had come to sharing the fate of Sodom. Lot’s wife was lost, turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back toward Sodom, and Lot’s daughters turned out to be very worldly and corrupt. But Lot himself was protected from the destruction.
The point Jesus was making was that His return would resemble those times of judgment. In both cases, the judgment that fell caught the vast majority of people by surprise, completely destroying them in the midst of living out their day-to-day lives, leaving no survivors. And, in both cases, the righteous were taken out the way before the destruction hit, so that they were not destroyed along with the unrighteous.
Jesus warned that His coming would arrive suddenly, while people were going about their normal lives, thinking it is just an ordinary day. But before the disaster hits, God will take His people out of the way, so that they will survive. But the destruction of those who do not follow Jesus, and any who turn away at the last minute (“Remember Lot’s wife!”) will be complete. They will be swept away just as surely and completely as those left outside of the ark, just as surely and completely as those left in Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain.
Father, I have read and been told about many different scenarios of Jesus’ return. But He Himself didn’t give a great many specifics. This, though, tells us all that we need to know. It tells us that when He returns the people of Your kingdom will be saved, and those not in Your kingdom will be destroyed. So we know that we need to make sure that we belong to You, and to urge those that we love into Your kingdom before that day, so that they can be saved as well. Thank you for this clear warning. Amen.