Last Saturday we had apple pressing on our farm. This is an annual tradition with our family. All of our boys try to make it home with their families and we make a day of it. Ideally we previously have picked many bushels of apples that are ready to process, but the tradition also includes a trip up to the “Whitney Hill,” which is a special hill on another section of our farm that has a Whitney crab apple tree. The apples on that tree are smaller in size, but very sweet and plentiful every year. We often use the juice from the Whitney tree to blend with the juice from some of the more tart apples to make a nice cider.
All fall Vivian and I have been busy picking, canning, juicing and eating the fruits of our garden and orchard. We have picked grapes from our vines, and corn, beans, and peas from our garden. Also carrots and tomatoes—all the basic vegetables. And of course more cucumbers and squash than is probably legal to possess.
I have been more involved in the growing of our garden this year than I have in the past, and as we have harvested, I have had an even greater awareness of the bounty that is provided from the soil and the labor of our hands. This fall I have been enjoying a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing the canning shelves of our basement fill up with preserves that have come right from our own farm. It all has given me a profound thankfulness to the God of heaven in its provision.
It is much like a large stack of firewood as you go into the winter. If you heat your home with firewood (as we do), there is a sense of preparedness that comes from a big wood pile that you have sawed from your own forest. These are things that give a person a satisfying feeling of self-sufficiency—one where you are not dependent upon outside sources for your living needs.
READ MORE BELOW
These autumn sentiments are not new to me this year. I grew up on a farm where every fall was filled with preparations for the winter to come, both for ourselves and for our animals. But I think that these feelings may be accentuated this year, and I believe that the times in which we live may have something to do with it.
We are living in an era when it seems like everyone is dealing with some sort of a sense of foreboding for the future. Things are different this year. For the first time in modern history, many Americans have had the experience of going to their local supermarket and finding that some very basic items were out of stock. Mostly because of pandemic restrictions against gathering in workplaces, production had been greatly curtailed. To a certain degree, it continues to be so. Supply lines have been restricted and the normal flow of business distorted. The term “food insecurity” has suddenly become words that do not only apply to some third-word African nation, but many Americans have also felt a hint of what it means.
And it is not only food insecurity. Topping the news in the first weeks of the pandemic was the shortage of PPE, and acronym that most of us had never before heard—Personal Protection Equipment. But we know it now.
Other items also were and even still are in short supply. Of course we all heard about the panic buying of toilet paper, which we all thought was a strange reaction but also made sure that we had a supply for ourselves. Sometimes certain consumer items are not available, at least in the size, color or model that we are looking for.
All of this is a new experience for many Americans. What has made this time different than other similar situations in the past is that these abnormalities are not the results of some local disaster like a flood or hurricane, but they have been nationwide. In fact, they have been worldwide.
In addition to all of this, everyday life itself seems to be coming apart in some unprecedented ways. Entire institutions that people once looked to as the protectors of society are now viewed by many as being the enemy. We knew that there were always “bad cops,” but now, as the result of a few of these making bad choices, many people are demonizing everyone who wears a police uniform. It is true that there remains racial prejudice in our country, but now the police are also pre-judged unfairly, just because of the color of their uniform.
Because of this, vandals and looters have felt unrestricted in roaming the streets, smashing and destroying and stealing. If the law attempts to intervene, it is the police force that is made out by many to be the ones who are in the wrong.
For all of us, even here in the remote Northwoods, daily life has been altered. We no longer freely go places as we did, but make careful plans about where to go and where not to go. We walk around with masks, we are told we must not shake hands or (heaven forbid) give someone a hug.
Historically, at least in the decades before 9/11, 2001, we in America had the benefits of living away from much of the trouble in the world. Wars and violent social unrest was always somewhere “over there.” Since that day we saw the twin towers burn to the ground, we have tried to come back to the old way of living, but as a nation, we have never managed to quite get there. We live with insecurities as never before. Metal detectors and security cameras are everywhere.
Now this year, with the coming of the pandemic and with the social unrest, those insecurities have deepened. And when you add the unprecedented wildfires in the western states and the storms and flooding in the south, many are feeling very vulnerable in this world.
The desire to stock up and hunker down is no longer only the attitude and lifestyle of a few anti-social weirdoes. It is commonplace, and it’s even recommended by our health experts that we do this. These are uncertain times. We must live prepared. We look to the future with questioning eyes.
Naturally, it all leads Christians to question—is Jesus about to return?
We are not the first to ask this question. The original disciples had a similar desire to know what the future would hold. It was with this in mind that one day some of them approached Jesus privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, ESV).
Then, pertaining to these days of the Son of Man, Jesus draws examples from two historical events in order to describe to his disciples the general state of affairs of society and the prevalent culture that will be evident when that day comes.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man,” Jesus said. Expanding on his teaching, Jesus then added, “…Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot” (Luke 17:26, 28, ESV).
As It Was in the Days of Noah
As Jesus spoke with his disciples, the characterization that he gave of the days of Noah was not only that they were especially evil days. Certainly, we know that those days were evil. In fact, when God gave the instructions to Noah to build the ark, God also gives his assessment of the state of the earth at that time.
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Genesis 6:11-12, NAS
It was because of this that God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13, NAS).
That the days of Noah were corrupt days, there is no question. However, when Jesus spoke of the similarities of the days of Noah with the Last Days and the Day of the Lord, the point that he seemed to be making in referring to this is not so much the commonality of wickedness. Rather, Jesus spoke of those days to demonstrate that the people of both times were so involved with their daily living to such a great extent that they were unaware of the great judgment that was about to be brought upon them.
Jesus said concerning the people at the time of Noah, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27, ESV). Jesus made the same analogy in another conversation that he had with his disciples, where he added, “And they did not understand until the flood came and took them away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:39, NAS).
The Apostle Peter’s Comments Concerning the Day of the Lord
It is much the same point that the Apostle Peter makes when talking about the coming Day of the Lord. Peter writes,
Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 2 Peter 3:3-6, ESV
We also learn from Peter that this judgment that is still to come will not be another flood. God has promised never to send a flood of that magnitude again. The future judgment that will catch many unaware will be a judgment of fire: “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7, ESV).
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10, ESV)
As he continues his description of these days, Peter says that this coming destruction by fire will be complete and will usher in the new heavens and a new earth. He comments:
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13, NAS
Like a Thief
We often hear of the comparison of the Lord to that of the coming of a thief, but it is important to note that it will be that way only for some of the people of that future day. It only will be unexpected for those of the earth who are too busy with their day-to-day lives, as were those in days of Noah. These are the ones who have invested all their efforts and their whole being into this earthly existence. For them, the day is a thief because it comes and destroys all for which they have labored.
Apostle Paul also wrote to the church in Thessalonica concerning this same subject, and just as Jesus and Peter spoke of this, Paul also made the comparison to a thief:
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NAS
Paul then contrasts this state of unpreparedness of some people with that of the alert Christian:
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5: 4-6, NAS
The Return of the Master
Jesus, in yet another passage where he was speaking to his disciples, likened the day instead to the return home of the master to where his servants were waiting. As this man was leaving on his journey, he had entrusted his belongings and tasks to his servants, giving each a separate responsibility. Jesus used this analogy to make his point:
Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. Mark 13:35-37, ESV
A Lesson Learned
This is the lesson of the days of Noah. Because of the oblivion of the people to the matters of great importance, they were not aware of the judgment that was about to fall upon them. They were too caught up in this life. Of course, these misplaced priorities will eventually lead a society toward evil as well. Indeed, this is what had happened in the days of Noah. However, even the disciple of Jesus can become caught up in this present and earthly life. We also need the admonition, “Be on the alert!”
If the people of Noah’s day had been attentive to what was happening, they would have seen the judgment coming and no doubt could have entered the ark along with Noah. That of course was not what happened, because “the earth was filled with violence because of them” (Genesis 6:13, NAS).
The point that Jesus and also both of the apostles were making in all of this is that the error of the people of the days of Noah is the same error many will make in the last days upon the earth. “And they did not understand until the flood came and took them away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:39, NAS).
As It Was in the Days of Lot
Jesus reaffirms this same point by drawing on another historical example to illustrate it—the destruction of the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:28-30, NAS)
The parallels of the days of Lot with the days of Noah are many—an utterly evil society that refused to follow the way of repentance, and with inhabitants who were oblivious to the pending and total destruction that was about to befall them. In the case of Sodom, it was the presence of Lot among the people of the city to whom these people could have turned to hear the word of God.
It is true that from the account in the Bible that describes the event, Lot did not seem to be a shining example of the holiness of God. Nevertheless, despite what we would call “Lot’s poor testimony,” Peter calls him “righteous Lot.” In fact, in order to stress his point, in a single sentence, Peter calls Lot “righteous” three times.
And if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard, that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds… (2 Peter 2:7-8, NAS)
Jesus, in bringing up this example of the days of Lot, again stresses the inattentiveness of the people to what should have been obvious to them. As were the people in the days of Noah, the Sodomites were so preoccupied with their daily lives that they had no time to notice what was true. It will be the same, Jesus says, on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
Jesus warns that this will be a day when a man’s priorities will become evident. “On that day,” Jesus told his disciples, “let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back. Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:31-32, NAS).
The story of Lot’s wife is well known. Lot and his family were told to flee the city of Sodom and escape the destruction that was to come to the city when the Lord rained upon it brimstone and fire. They were specifically told not to look back as they fled the city, but as they were fleeing, Lot’s wife must have had some regrets about leaving her home. As she looked back, she became a pillar of salt.
As amazing as this account is, we do not have any more details than these. We do not know the extent of Lot’s wife’s commitment to God, nor do we know why her look back to see what was happening to Sodom was enough to change the woman into a pillar of salt. Nor, to be fair, do we even know what it means to be turned into a pillar of salt.
Nevertheless, from the warning of Jesus to his disciples (and to us), we should understand that if we have belongings that are so important to us that we would return for them in a time of destruction, we shall suffer great harm.
“Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it,” Jesus adds, “and whoever loses his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33, NAS).
As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot, if you wish to be attentive to the times, you must ask yourself if today’s society bears any resemblance to those days. To be prepared in our own day means more than canning preserves and making firewood, it also involves attentiveness to the times and weighing them against what we are taught in the Scriptures concerning those days.
Our true security after all, is not the number of day’s worth of food that we have on hand. It is not one the size of our 401k. When the Day of the Lord comes, it is not these that will save you. Remember Lot’s wife? She looked back to yearn after what she had left behind.
Our security lies only with Jesus. We must be watchful.
There are more things about that coming day Jesus and the apostles teach us. We will look at some of those next week.