When the subject of 'end times' comes up the first thing people think about is Israel. While that is well and good, Jesus and others spoke of the social and spiritual conditions of the end times, elements often overlooked by modern Bible teachers. "As in the days of Noah" says volumes, so consider my thoughts.
As were the days of Noah
Jesus describes the social and spiritual conditions of mankind around His return:
"As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 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, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man."
"Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:37-42
What Adam did
First we must establish the context of 'the days of Noah'. When Adam sinned by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he knew full well what he was doing. I Timothy 2:14 says "Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and in the transgression."
Hosea 6:7 is about Israel's rebellion against God, and the Lord compares it to Adam's sin: "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant; they have dealt treacherously against me."
When Satan is tempting Jesus, Luke 4:5-7 says: "And the devil took him up, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and all their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you then worship me, it will all be yours.'"
Adam's unintended consequences?
And so we understand's Adam's sin: The turning over of the earth to Satan with full knowledge of what he was doing, breaking his covenant with God to allow Satan to become the god of the world. As a result, God was now on the outside looking in, for Adam had removed His right to be in man's life by breaking covenant, stepping out of the agreement so to speak. God could now enter the lives of men only by their invitation.
People in our day ask 'How could God allow ____ to happen?' He allowed it because He must, because a long time ago Adam turned the earth over a to murderous spirit bent on hatred and destruction. God retains His rights as Creator over the planet, which is why we see nature used throughout the OT and in The Revelation, things like a double meteor/comet hit, earthquakes, the light of the sun/moon/stars darkened - to get man's attention, but on a personal basis He must be invited to become involved in a person's life.
That's why we pray for those who use us, despise us, take advantage of us, and for the unsaved - inviting Him to become involved in their lives to the extent He can by our invitation, praying they will one day invite Him into their lives as well.
Momentum going our way
Estimates suggest before organized agriculture arose in Mesopotamia earth's population would not have risen above 15 million. What percentage of those 15 million in Abraham's time invited the God of Abraham into their lives? Just Abraham's household? Would that be something like .000001 percent?
In Jesus' time and first century the population estimate for the planet is 200-300 million. What percentage of those were born again Christians? If we generously say 200,000 that is only .1% or less.
By contrast, today there are over 7 billion people on earth. Christians are 33% of the population, with at least 1 billion understood to be 'born again' practicing Christians. In terms of percentages of world population and numbers of people, God is on the move.
The US Center for World Missions and others state Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world at 8% annually, with nearly all that growth coming in home churches with China and India leading the way. Another way to put it is that in 100 AD there was only 1 believer for every 350 non-believers, while today there is 1 believer for every 9 non-believers. (If we take the 33% it is 1 believer for every 3 non-believers) (Link 1 and link 2)
In our day the Lord is ever increasing His presence in the planet, but in Noah's day the opposite was happening - God's presence was DECREASING in the population.
2 families in the earth
So what was happening 'in the days of Noah' as Jesus stated, that are the same forces involved in the time before the Lord's return?
Genesis 4:16-24 lists the family of Cain, who 'went out from the presence of the Lord, and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.' They lived apart from God's presence and murder is mentioned as being in their midst just as with Cain, for Lamech, Cain's great-great-great grandson lamented his sin in v23-24, closing this list of ungodly descendants of Cain. Cain is mentioned in I John 3:12 of being 'of the evil one' and in Jude v11 of those who walked away from righteousness - this marks his whole family line which is the point of Genesis 4:16-24.
Then the attention switches to the Godly family, those who followed the Lord starting with Seth, Abel's replacement. Verse 26 says in my Bible: "Then men began to call themselves by the name of the Lord."
These sons of God lived separate from the sons of man as Cain had moved far east. But after listing the sons of God - familiar names like Enoch, Methuselah, Noah - the text says: "And it happened when men began to multiply across the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God (Seth's Godly family line) saw the daughters of men (Cain's ungodly family line) that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose." As populations of each family increased, gradually they met each other and got to know one another - and the godly families were compromised by the ungodly.
So the first sign about the end times being 'as the days of Noah', are that the Godly people are being corrupted by the ungodly because the Godly are willing to make such compromises, rationalizing it away because the world 'is fair to look at' so to speak.
In Noah's day this compromising was to such an extent the knowledge of God was being wiped off the face of the earth in these unequally yoked marriages - over the course of 120 years it got down to one family, the family of Noah, who remained righteous and retained the knowledge of God. If God did not act, upon Noah's death He would truly be on the outside looking in without anyone to legally keep open a door in the earth for Him to be involved. That is why He intervened with the flood.
Today there are again just 2 families in the earth: Those who know God and those who don't, just like in Noah's day. In the midst of revival across the earth do we also see signs of Godly people 'marrying' into the world with the same effect of losing the knowledge of God in their lives and soceity? James said "You adulteresses, don't you know friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God." (4:1-4)
The word for 'world' here is 'kosmos', meaning the world's system, the world's way, the world's thoughts. We either think Godly thoughts and live by His ways, or we are as adulteresses, carrying on a love affair with the world system.
This first sign, of many compromising their faith, is further detailed by Paul in I Timothy 4:1-3: "But the Holy Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach...their conscience seared and branded with a hot iron..."
Just as the sons of God were seduced by the ungodly daughters of men in Genesis, so too we see some of the children of God being seduced, not only doctrinal error but like the 2 family lines in the earth in Genesis, blurring the lines of their faith and rationalizing away sin.
As we can see I'm just getting started - the first element of the time of Noah was that believers were being seduced away from sound faith in God, and next week we'll see what the results in society of those compromises, and much more.
Until then, blessings,
Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population http://www.unrv.com/empire/roman-population.php)http://thetravelingteam.org/?q=node/192