In His prophetic discourse, Jesus stated that when He comes back at His Second Coming, the condition of the earth would be like those in the days of Noah. (In speaking of His coming, Jesus was not talking about the Rapture of the Church, as that was a truth not yet revealed.) He was referring to the time when He would physically return to the earth and thus fulfill God’s covenant commitments to Israel. Now when we think of the “days of Noah” our minds naturally go back to Genesis 6 where the horrible, pervasive evil conditions on the earth are described.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6:5, 11–12)
The book of Revelation certainly verifies the absolute corruption of mankind in the end of times, when Jesus returns. Man, in those days, will repeatedly demonstrate hatred for God’s righteous standards and for God’s righteous people. Evil men, energized by Satan himself, will slaughter believers (Rev. 6:10; 13:7); will kill hundreds of millions of people (Rev. 9:18); will, like Adolph Hitler, try and solve the “Jewish problem” by destroying Israel (Rev. 12:15); will aggressively speak out against the true God and His ways (Rev. 13:5-6); and will rally mankind against King Jesus in a futile attempt to resist His coming (Rev. 19:16-21). This time of tribulation, as Jesus declared, would be the worst of times (Matt. 24:21).And, like with Noah’s day, the evil is so pervasive that mankind will end up drinking from the bowl of the wrath of God (Rev. 15-16).
When Jesus returns at His Second Coming, probably around 80% of the population of the world has just perished in the Tribulation. The book of Revelation helps us envision what this is going to look like. And with the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the restraining of sin being removed out of the world (2 Thess. 2:7), wickedness will simply explode on the planet. Evil will be deep and wide. It will be a repeat of Genesis 6.
However, it is interesting and instructive how Jesus describes the days of Noah as it relates to His return to earth. It does not read like Genesis 6.
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37–39)
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26–27)
Luke then records a further illustration given by Jesus.
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)
Unexpectedly, Jesus does not focus on the rampant sinfulness of mankind, or on the unusual level of unrighteousness of the last days. Rather, He speaks of normal human activities, such as eating, marrying, building, and planting. That certainly does not sound all that terrible! But what Jesus is emphasizing is “ungodliness” and not “unrighteousness.” “Unrighteousness” is when people behave in an unrighteous way. It means that they are disregarding God’s righteous standards, principles, and laws. The people of Noah’s day and people of Lot’s day were obviously living in a very unrighteous way. And that will be true at the time of Jesus’ Second Coming. “Ungodliness” is not the same thing as “unrighteousness” though there is a clear connection between the two words.
Unrighteous living flows naturally out of ungodliness. Being “ungodly” (asebeian) communicates the idea of a person living without any real regard for God in their lives. The great Creator God is dismissed to a place of irrelevance. Ungodliness is not atheism. It is not a denial of God’s existence. But it is such a diminishing of His person that He really has no real authority and has no real place in the life or an individual. It might be synonymous with “secular.” Fundamentally, the awesome Creator God is removed from His rightful place of centrality in life to a place where He is essentially irrelevant.
Ungodliness is the opposite of showing deep reverence for God. There is simply no awe in the minds and hearts of His creature. A person goes about life, eating and drinking, building and planting, with no place for this irrelevant God. He exists but is out somewhere on the distant margins of life. This appears to be what Jesus is emphasizing regarding the spiritual atmosphere at His Second Coming. The world at large will think wrongly about God. And this is the most likely reason why they are totally unprepared for God’s judgment on them when it comes. Judgment catches them by surprise, and we wonder why. Jesus began His prophetic discourse with the warning that “see to it that no one misleads you…and many false prophets will arise and mislead many” (Matt. 24:4, 11). People in the Tribulation period will be misled and will embrace a distorted, deceptive view of the God of heaven. This, of course, is not something new, since from the days in the Garden of Eden this has been Satan’s ploy: to distort the truth of God, and therefore, call into question God’s credibility.
Today, this diminishing of God’s Word has been accelerating. A growing percentage (according to some reliable studies) of those in the church no longer believe in the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word. And this is true even in churches that call themselves “evangelical.” However, the Apostle Paul is quite clear that God and His word are inseparably linked together (Gal. 1:6). In this Galatians passage, Paul is amazed that these Christians have departed from the truth he gave them; but he observes that when they leave God’s truth, they are actually departing from the Lord Himself. To diminish God’s truth is to diminish God Himself. The inevitable result of this is that the Lord God is reduced in the minds and hearts of people. They go on with the routine of life without the Lord God being the center of life. At best, He lives out on the margins of life and this is ungodliness. This is what will be massively true in Jesus’ day as it was it the days of Noah and Lot. We certainly are trending towards the days of Noah in this matter. Several decades ago, A. W. Tozer observed
the Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.”The Knowledge of the Holy,” p. 6
Ungodliness in the church and in the culture has been going on for quite awhile and will get worse right up until the time Jesus returns back to the earth again.
With all this in mind, it is vital for us as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to make sure that our view of the Lord God is true and accurate according to the Scriptures. We do have the tendency to make God look a little more like ourselves; to bring Him down a little. And so, we need to ensure that we are not becoming “ungodly” in our thinking and living. We are helped in avoiding ungodliness in our lives by focusing on the works and the attributes of God as revealed in the Scriptures. So many portions of Scripture help in this regard; such as, Isaiah 40, Psalm 2, Psalm 139, Psalm 145 or God’s illuminating words to Job (Job 39-41). And perhaps reading (or re-reading) books like Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy” will help us focus with clarity on the greatness and majesty of our God. It is true, of course, that we will not be here on earth during those heightened days of ungodliness in the Tribulation period, but we are dealing with this growing phenomenon of “ungodliness” today in the church. We individually must not give ground one bit on the Person of God and the Word of God, or we will experience the reality of creeping ungodliness in our own lives.
Ungodliness (being secular) never goes well for us. We just do not see God correctly, and unrighteousness is entered into with great ease. We miss God’s directions; we make poor choices and we have negatives come into our lives that really do not need to be there. It remains true that the “fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One” is understanding (Prov. 9:10). Seeing the Lord God correctly is foundational to a solid Christian life. I am hopeful that each of us will renew our resolve to avoid ungodliness in our own lives. This truth is vital to our spiritual health, even while the culture, and too much of the church, are trending towards the days of Noah.