"As in the Days of Noah"
Sane and Sensible Perspectives on the Last Days
Twisting the Words
This illustration by Jesus is a perfect example of how words in scripture can be lifted out of their context, then have their meaning completely twisted, so that they bear no relationship to the thought of the original passage. No one ever believes that they do this. Yet, sadly, it happens frequently and can happen to any of us, especially if we think it can't ("let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" 1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV).
In this passage, for instance, we have the unmistakeable thought of people being taken away. "One will be taken and one left" is stated not once, but twice. So, can we say, "Aha! Here is clear proof that some will be taken out of harm's way by the Rapture! Make sure you're not left behind to go through the Tribulation." I have heard many people teach it just this way. But, before we start jumping for joy, let's listen to what Jesus was actually saying.
37 “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:37-44 ESV
Jesus's first point is that the coming of the Son of Man will have a clear similarity to the the way things were in the days of Noah. He describes those times as one in which ordinary people were "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day when Noah entered the ark." In other words, for those doomed people it was life as usual. They had no idea that the flood of judgement was coming. They saw what Noah was doing to prepare by building a massive ark--how could they miss it? They also heard him preaching that they needed to repent. But, they utterly disregarded these two warning signs.
Let's not think that there is no analogy to the Tribulation here, simply because Jesus describes the days of Noah as ordinary life. Jesus could easily have described those days as a period of extreme lawlessness: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5 ESV). It was also a time of unprecedented violence: "And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them" (Genesis 6:13 ESV). Both Jesus and His immediate audience would have known what the scriptures said about why the flood came in those days. Those days only seemed ordinary to the people, because they were so far gone from God that violence, sexual immorality and wickedness had become the "new normal." From the Lord God's perspective those days were far from ordinary!
Sounds like our own day, right? Jesus' point isn't that those days were ordinary, but that the wicked of that generation "were unaware." They didn't heed the signs, didn't repent, and didn't prepare. The flood caught them totally by surprise. When the waters rose, it was too late for them to escape. They were all "swept away." Not all, of course. Jesus didn't need to say it, because every believer (then and now) knows the rest of the story. Noah and his family had been living a repentent, faithful life. They had prepared. The flood didn't take them by surprise. They rode it out within the ark that the Lord helped them build. The ark kept them safe in the midst of the flood. They emerged to a renewed and cleansed earth on the other side of judgement--once the flood had passed.
All of these considerations are a part of what it means to reference "the days of Noah." Having done that, Jesus extends the analogy in our direction.