Jesus tells us that “no one knows the day or the hour of his return, not the angels, nor the Son, only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). Therefore, we are to pray, prepare, and watch for his return. It is the purpose of The Unknown Hour—Biblical Signs, Warnings, Hope and Peace to assist its readers in preparing for the end times and Christ’s return by providing a Bible study which looks at the signs of the times through the light of biblical history and prophecy. In doing so, its lessons cover a wide range of related topics (signs) including the need for the flood, Israel’s unfaithfulness, the Great Commission, false prophets, totalitarian governments, and the beasts of Revelation 13. All of the lessons are based solely on the Word. They recognize God’s assurance of his continued grace, of his promise to sustain us now and in the future, and the affirmation of his promise of an eternal reward with him for being faithful servants. In addition to background Bible passages, each lesson in The Unknown Hour—Biblical Signs, Warnings, Hope and Peace contains many questions based on supporting Bible references, as well as provocative discussion suggestions to guide you in your study. The Unknown Hour is a revision of Rev. Henry Vander Kam’s Bible study The Signs of the Times, now out of print but previously published by Reformed Fellowship, Inc.
Scripture: Genesis 6:1–11; Luke 17:26–27
What will the days prior to the return of Christ be like? How will mankind conduct itself at that time? Jesus answers these questions by referring to two periods of time recorded in the Old Testament, to the days of Noah and to those of Lot. In this lesson we will focus on the days of Noah.
After the creation story, the Bible tells us how sin entered the world of Paradise under the deceitful direction of Satan and caused the world to be in turmoil. This sinful period is illustrated by several examples. The first was that of Cain, who was jealous of his brother, Abel, whom he later murdered (Gen. 4:8). Then there was Lamech, who boasted about the murder he committed (Gen. 4:23). Later, the Bible’s focus shifts to the time just before the great flood occurred, where we read about the sons of God marrying the daughters of men (Gen. 6:2).Then, most importantly, there is the testimony of God himself. Notice how God expressed his total displeasure with man and his wickedness, along with the evil God found in man’s heart. This condition caused God to became grieved that he had created man, which resulted in God’s to promise to destroy the world and everything on it (Gen. 6:5–7).
When Jesus was on earth he characterized the life of the people of Noah’s day using a much softer approach to the problem of Genesis 6. He mentions only seemingly innocent things that were present. For example: “They ate and drank, they married and were given in marriage, they feasted, they looked toward the future and laid plans for it” (Matt. 24:36–39). Peter uses the same approach in 2 Peter 2:5 where he says even though the “preacher of righteousness,” Noah, warned the people that judgment was about to fall upon them because of their sins, yet they continued to live the same way they had always lived. They paid no attention to Noah and his sons during the one-hundred-plus years as they faithfully built the ark which God had commanded. Notice, they didn’t listen!
These two approaches to the reason for the flood seem unrelated, but aren’t they both saying the same thing? They are like two sides of the same coin. Both have the same message and focus. Look at what the Bible is saying. Notice what is missing. It’s the very reason for which man was created. It’s to honor and glorify God. The glorification of man and self-service take the place of honor and glorification of God. Man is focusing on himself, his desires, his accomplishments, his pleasures. The purpose for which God created man is totally ignored by man. Do we fall into a similar trap? Have we bought into the traps of materialism, lawlessness, or self-centeredness? Or, do we place God first?
The days before the second coming of Christ will be the same as in Noah’s day. People will continue to live the way they always did in spite of all Divine warnings and predictions (Luke 17:26–27). They will think only of the present and make plans for the future to insure their personal goals, pleasure, physical comfort, and more. No thoughts will be given to the possibility that there will be an ending for the present world. As the people of Noah’s day either ignored or ridiculed his warnings, so the world, now and in the future, will either ignore or ridicule the warnings given by Christ through his Word and church. Notice, too, that in the passage from Luke our Lord does not speak of specific grievous sins which will be committed in the last days. Rather, Christ pictures a totally heedless and careless society and world. Yes, the Bible’s signs are clear and the members of society have been warned through the Word. Yet, society remains self-centered. Its members stop their ears, close their eyes, and go their way in blind folly. Society will not allow itself to listen or to be warned.
How far in the future do the end days lie? To ask the question is to answer it. We are living in those days now. Modern man says, “Don’t upset me with dire predictions.” For example, when our leaders warn us of the awesome destruction which could come in a nuclear confrontation, modern man trembles for a moment, shrugs it off with a “what can I do about it” comment, and then goes on as before. Consider how we respond when we learn of a natural or manmade catastrophe. Do we lament the situation for a few moments and then forget it because it doesn’t directly affect us? Or do we respond with “Yes, there’s a problem, but we can fix it” in our own time and with our own superior way mentality? The believer’s response should be to take heed, take action, be prepared, and go forward in faith and prayer while resting on the Lord’s guidance.
So it was at the time of the flood. The Lord’s warnings given through Noah were not heeded. When the Lord finally shut the door of the ark behind Noah and his family, the rains came, the fountains of the earth erupted, and the flood followed. The world and its inhabitants were destroyed. God’s judgment and justice prevailed. So will it be on the last day. Christ will return unexpectedly, coming on the clouds of heaven while being announced by trumpeting angels, after which, the judgment will follow. As Noah was safe in the ark, so will all true believers “be safe in the arms of the Savior.”
2 Peter 2:5
1. In what ways did Noah, called “a preacher of righteousness,” fulfill his calling?
2. In what way does this speak to us in these last days? (Be careful to not let modern methods of evangelism shape your answer.) See 1 Peter 3:15 if you need help.
Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27; Hebrews 11:7
1. How is our day alike or different from the day of Noah (Matt. 24:39)?
2. What point is Christ making about how we should be living right now?
3. What emphasis might unbelief have on your thinking?
1. Do you think it was possible that some people might have repented before the flood came? Why or why not?
2. Why don’t people today give heed to clear warnings in Scripture?
3. In what ways can we faithfully sound the warning notes regarding the end times?
4. What other traps can you think of that take away our focus on God according to the summary of the law Jesus gave us?
1. Some theologians believe that the sons of God are angels and the daughters of men are human. However, the reference here is to God’s people intermarrying with unbelievers. Calvin wrote the following on this passage: “Marriage is a thing too sacred to allow that men should be induced to it by the lust of the eyes . . . [O]ur appetite becomes brutal, when we are so ravished with the charms of beauty. . . . We are taught . . . that temperance is to be used in holy wedlock, and that profanation is a . . . crime before God . . . [I]t is impossible but that, in succession of time, the sons of God should degenerate, when they bound themselves in the same yoke with unbelievers. . . . Thus . . . the sons of the patriarchs, of whom Moses now treats, the forgetfulness of that grace which had been divinely imparted to the was, in itself, a grievous evil, inasmuch as they formed illicit marriages after their own lust; a still worse addition was made, when, by mingling themselves with the wicked, they profaned the worship of God, and fell away from the faith; a corruption which is almost always wont [apt] to follow the former.” Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 6:2.…………………………
This article is a selected lesson from the upcoming book The Unknown Hour, that is to be published by Reformed Fellowship this summer, 2020.
Mr. Gaylord Haan, a retired Christian school teacher and counselor and a member of Bethel United Reformed Church of Jenison, MI.
Rev. Jerome Julien, a retired minister in the URCNA who serves on the board of Reformed Fellowship. He and his wife, Reita, live in Hudsonville, MI, and are members of Walker URC in Grand Rapids, MI.