Perilous Times in a Wicked Generation

by Steve Butler

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came, and took them all away; so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matt. 24:37-39;NKJV).

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28- 30;NKJV).

With these words, Jesus Christ answered His disciples' questions about the signs of the end of the age.

Christians today call this time the "second coming of Christ" and, like the first disciples, are very interested in the characteristics of earth's final generation. What will those times be like? How will they compare to the days of Noah and the days of Lot? Could our present generation be the one that Jesus was speaking about?

Jesus stated in verse 36 of the "Olivet Discourse," as this section of Matthew's Gospel is called, that ". . . of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." The Lord was cautioning His followers not to speculate about the exact date and time of His return and the judgment of the world, but He did urge believers in every generation to ". . . be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matt. 24:44;NIV).

In the Olivet passage, Jesus is describing some of the basic activities of human life - eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. Luke's inclusion of the activities of Lot's day also include buying, selling, planting, and building. What Jesus seems to be saying is that people will be going about their everyday business when He suddenly returns for His church and ultimately judges lost mankind.

Those Were the Days

What about the days of Noah and the great flood? Why did Jesus refer to Lot and the destruction of Sodom? Why were these two events linked together in Luke's record of Christ's discussion of the Second Coming? Because God's judgment came swiftly upon two civilizations that were perverse and wicked beyond turning back.

By examining the biblical record of the Genesis account of Noah's times and the days of Lot, some sobering light may be shed upon parallels between those days and the 1990s.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years (Gen. 6:1-3).

The sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis describes the expansion of the human race both numerically and geographically upon the earth. As mankind populated the earth, it seems that the sons of the descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, desired the daughters of the descendants of Cain and intermarried with them. Apparently, the desire for Cainite wives, as well as for the daughters of the Sethite line, was based on sensual appetite rather than on love, common heritage, and especially, godly virtue.

This practice greatly displeased the Lord God because, by this time, the righteous Sethite line had departed from its former dependence on God and followed its debased yearnings that resembled the natures of ungodly and defiantly independent Cainites.

In Genesis 6:3, God said, ". . . My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh. . . ." The Holy Spirit of God would not abide as a moral, ruling force in the lives of straying rebellious people. There would be a limit to the patience of a righteous and generous God who was the only source of restraint upon a race that was willingly dominated by the "flesh."'

The term "flesh," in biblical terminology, refers to man's carnal nature, not to his creaturely kinship to the animal world through a material body. Mankind resisted the influence of the Holy Spirit and had become flesh .2 As a result of sensuality and willfulness, the human race's days upon the earth were limited to 120 years.

God reveals His pending judgment even as He allows time for repentance through His grace.

Men of Violence

Along with marriages based on the unequal yoking of godly and ungodly partners, men of violence and lawlessness seemed to roam the earth, contributing to the general atmosphere of vanity and ungodliness that dominated the age before the flood.

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, same became the mighty men which were of old, men of renown (Gen. 6:4).

The term "giants" is better translated as those "who fall on others" or falling ones." Nephilim is a more accurate name from the Hebrew, Naphal, "to fall."'

The Nephilim were probably roving men of violence who preyed on the population as robbers and tyrants (according to Luther, Keil and other commentators) .4 They may have been warriors of large physical stature like the Rephaim (mighty ones) of Deuteronmy 2:11 and the Anakim (long-necked ones) of Numbers 13:22 and Joshua 15:13-14 in the Old Testament.

Whoever the Nephilim were, they were present before, during, and after the birth of the offspring of the Sethite men and the Cainite daughters. Many of these children grew up to be "mighty men," (Hebrew, Gibborim - the strong, impetuous heroes), and "men of renown," literally, "men of the name," known by many. They may have been, according to Calvin, "honorable robbers who boasted of their wickedness."

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:5-8).

Through His patient oversight, God saw the wickedness of man was widespread on the earth and that every fashioned purpose of the thoughts of his heart (the seat of the emotions of the mind) was only set on evil literally every days. Mankind had become depraved to the extent that evil was the race's sole identifying characteristic.

Such a state was the result of man's willful rejection of his Creator and moral guide and his enjoyment of brute force and self gratifying indulgence as he oppressed those who were weaker. Obviously, the law of the jungle and the rule of the strongest prevailed over the moral restraint encouraged by God.

Verse 6 states that the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart. God was sorry that He had put men on His earth, and He grieved because He still cared for man. Man's depravity merited his destruction as the judgment of God would blot out man's reign of corruption. Even the lower animals would be recipients of the consequences of man's removal.

Fortunately for the race, during the 120 years of grace, Noah found approval before God, and he and his family would be saved when judgment would come through the great worldwide flood. This family would be God's remnant through which mankind would populate the earth after the Flood.

Divine Messengers

As the rains came for 40 days and nights upon the civilization of Noah's day, so fire and brimstone rained from heaven upon the wicked society of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:29-30).

In each of these biblical accounts, judgment came swiftly from God as the iniquity of people became full. Destruction was the final answer to continued sin and lack of repentance.

Jesus reveals to us that these same conditions will prevail upon the earth when He returns for His church and judges earth's last generation. How were the days of Lot like those of Noah?

The eighteenth chapter of Genesis describes a startling visitation of God and two of His angelic messengers to Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrew people and uncle of Lot. This "theophany," or visible appearance of God in human form, was to announce the promised birth of a son to the aging Abraham and wife Sarah, and to conduct God's judicial investigation of Sodom and Gomorrah's sins.

Verses 20-21 record the Lord's statement that "... the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to me; and if not, I will know."

Of course, God already knew the sins of the "cities of the plain," but He apparently wished to demonstrate the justice of His judgment to His servant Abraham, who represented God's chosen, righteous people. Abraham and his family would be God's instruments for explaining His judgments to an unbelieving world.'

Being a man who had great compassion for others, Abraham seemingly did not understand the magnitude of God's grace and tolerance. The patriarch sought a reprieve for Sodom and Gomorrah by asking if the cities would be spared if 50 righteous men could be found in Sodom. God was patient with His servant, but after the number was reduced to 10, Abraham, too, realized that righteousness was not to be found within the city.

As soon as He was finished speaking to Abraham, the Lord disappeared. Grace was shown to Abraham's nephew, though, as the two angels continued on to Sodom where they encountered Lot.

Genesis 19 continues the narrative of the angels' interaction with Lot and the perverse men of Sodom. Lot was sitting in the gateway area of the city when he noticed the strangers. Hospitable like his uncle Abraham, Lot offered his own home as lodging for the angels to spend the night. There is no indication that he assumed they were anything but mortal men.

The divine messengers declined Lot's invitation at first but later gave in to his persistence. One can deduce that Lot's earnestness may have been a combination of the eastern custom of hospitality and his concern over the travelers' safety among the Sodomites at night.

God's Final Response

After eating supper at Lot's home before bedtime, the angelic guests and their host heard the presence of the men of Sodom who "... both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, 'where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally"' (Gen. 19:4-5).

Lot responded to the Sodomites' homosexual lust (hence, the term "sodomy" for such acts) by going out the door and imploring the men of Sodom not to violate the law of hospitality to strangers. Desperate to protect his guests, Lot offered his virgin daughters to the perverse mob (Gen. 19:8). By doing so, Lot revealed the effect that living in such a perverse city had on his own moral character.

The unruly multitude, which represented men of all ages from every part of the city, was so far gone in degradation of body and mind that it would not be satisfied with abusing the young women. Instead, it mocked Lot and threatened to do worse to him than to his guests.

As the men sought to break down Lot's door, he withstood them until the angels pulled him into the house and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door (Gen. 19:11).

The angelic messengers struck the Sodomites with blindness, yet they still groped for Lot's door, until they all tired. This is another indication of the depths of sexual perversion and inordinate lust to which the people of that wicked city had fallen. Even blindness could not deter them from seeking to molest Lot and his guests. Only physical tiredness and the inability to enter the house caused them to depart.

Afterward the angels warned Lot to speak to his family and sons in-law and prepare them to leave Sodom, "For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it" (Gen. 19:13). Lot's future sons-in-law thought he was joking with them and didn't heed his advice.

Sodom's attraction to Lot and his family seemed to continue as the angels sought to lead them out of the city the next morning. The messengers had to take Lot, his wife, and two daughters by the hand and lead them out of the city before punishment befell the area.

While being instructed to flee to the nearby mountains for safety, Lot begged to be allowed to go to the little town of Zoar (originally named "Bela") and that it might be spared as the other cities of the plain were destroyed. Lot gave the impression of being an obsessive urbanite.

After the angel allowed Lot to journey toward Zoar, the Lord rained down fire and brimstone out of heaven upon Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain, causing a geological upheaval that obliterated the once-fertile area. At the same time, Lot's wife disobeyed the angel's directive not to look back or stay anywhere in the plain, and she perished, becoming a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:15-26).

Fully Grown Sin

The wayward spirit of Sodom did not cease to influence Lot's family after the destruction of the cities of the plain and the death of his wife. Lot and his two daughters later left Zoar and took up residence in a mountain cave, "For he was afraid to dwell in Zoar" (Gen. 19:30).

Fearing that none of the local men would take them as wives, the older daughter persuaded the younger one to plot with her to get their father drunk and then to have sexual relations with him while he was in a stupor. The plan worked during two consecutive nights and eventually two offspring were born from their incestuous acts, and their father's lineage was preserved.

Lot's perverse daughters evidenced no shame for their abnormal sex acts because they named their respective sons in descriptive terms. The older daughter's son was called Moab, "from the father," and the younger daughter's child was called Ben-Ammi, "son of my people .118 Each of these sons would be the forefather of nations that would be perpetual enemies of Israel after the conquest of the Promised Land. They were known as the Moabites and the Ammonites.

As the biblical record reveals, sin, if not repented of and cleansed, will produce pride, lust, violence, and destruction. Though God is loving and patient, He is also just and righteous. That is, by His very nature, He will not tolerate the revolting activities of man's selfish desires forever.

The apostle James wrote that "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death" (James 1: 14-15).

The selfish desires of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah produced their own destructions. The twisted procreative desires of Lot's daughters resulted in the deaths of multitudes of Moabites, Ammonites, and Israelites in territorial wars that were waged among them over the centuries.

Sin, which is rebellion against the holy purposes of God and His authority to guide human lives, always leads to alienation and judgment. So it was in the days of Noah and so it was in the days of Lot.

New Days, Old Ways

What about our day, the 1990s? Is judgment coming upon our society in the United States and upon the world? Are there parallels in the lifestyles of our generation to those of these previously judged generations? Is man coming to that place in history when God says, "Enough!" and sends His Son Jesus Christ to retrieve His church and execute judgment on a wicked and defiant world system?

Jesus said, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matt. 25:13).

Our generation has suffered through 30 years of a gradual abandonment of what has been called "traditional values." These are the ethical mores and standards of right and wrong that guided the United States for more than 200 years. Actually, these values and standards of thinking, acting, and viewing life have been referred to as the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Since our nation and much of our western world has abandoned these traditional values, mankind has paid a heavy price for the illusionary and nonexistent happiness and "freedom" that moral relativism has promised but not delivered.

Writing in the August 8, 1994, issue of U.S. News & World Report, editor-in- chief, Mortimer Zuckerman asks "Where Have Our Values Gone?" He notes that three out of every four Americans think we are in moral and spiritual decline. Two out of three think the country is seriously off track. Social dysfunction haunts the land:

crime and drug abuse, the breakup of the family, the slump in academic performance, the disfigurement of public places by "druggies, thugs, and exhibitionists."

Zuckerman goes on to say:

We certainly seem to have lost the balance between societal rights and individual freedoms. . . . Crime is sanctioned by the fact, real or imagined, that the criminal had an unhappy childhood. Gone are the habits America once admired: industriousness, thrift, self-discipline, commitment.... Instant gratification is the new order of the day. Personal impulses, especially sexual, are constantly stimulated by popular music and television, with other mass media not far behind. TV and music often seem to honor everything that the true American ethic abhors violence, infidelity, drugs, drinking - and to despise everything that it embraces - religion, marriage, respect for authority. No wonder it is difficult to sustain parental values and parental continuity. Zuckerman also laments that "altruism is not encouraged in a culture of acquisitive individualism."

Self-centeredness is definitely at the heart of man's problems, whether in America or the rest of the world. Generosity and selfsacrifice are necessary ingredients for marriages, families, and nations to prosper. The alternative is division, strife, and the splintering of a society.

According to Steven Roberts, in another article from U.S. News & World Report, the family structure is continuing to change in America. The Census Bureau reports that the birth rate for unwed mothers has jumped 82 percent in the past 10 years, and the number of divorced Americans has increased almost four times since 1970. Roberts observes that more kids are being raised with less supervision and fewer resources, putting them at greater risk of delinquency.

An article by Phillip Elmer-Dewitt in Time magazine notes that single parents in America number more than 9 million. 10 Population watchers have pointed out that children raised by single parents are more likely to get in trouble."

The most criminally active males are between 15 and 29 years old, and the number of teenagers is expected to increase in the general population by 23 percent over the next decade. From 1965 to 1990, juvenile murder arrests alone rose 332 percent. Citing these figures in Newsweek Michel Marriott deduces that the trend is likely to continue in the years ahead due to deepening child poverty, destabilization of families, and more guns, drugs, and nihilism among young people. 12

The Final Generation

If the grim state of American society is not enough to sober any thinking person, consider the international situation. Wars and rumors of wars blot the globe. Hundreds have been killed in Bosnia, as have possibly half a million or more Tutsis in Rwanda. Haiti is still tumultuous, and Russia's democracy could easily fall. In the Middle East, peace is more prevalent but fragile. Instability seems to be the only consistent trend. The world needs a deliverer, but only One from heaven can do the job - Jesus Christ.

The days of Noah and Lot were much like our own: violent, proud, indulgent, and perverse. Noah's generation was noted for its defiance of God's rule and its tendency toward violence and sexual lusts. Lot's generation in Sodom was known for its obsession with sex to the point of homosexual rape and incest. This behavior was contrary to the laws of God and man. Our own society now condones sexual appetites of every persuasion, just as Sodom did. Should we be spared?

Judgment may very well be upon us in reaping the bitter harvest of moral relativism that our modem world has so eagerly sampled. The fruit of this harvest is very bitter, and the solutions to our problems are beyond the resources of politics, economics, and academics.

The solutions are found only in the good news of a Saviour who has offered to enter the hearts and minds of every person who will accept His deity, sacrificial payment for their sins, and the forgiveness of a holy and gracious God. Obedience to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will change the hearts of people. When a person's heart is changed, his life can change; and when people change for the better, societies and governments change for the better.

Jesus Christ told His followers nearly 20 centuries ago that ". . . This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).

The good news is being preached on every continent on the globe today. Many people have heard the gospel, but others have not. When they hear, earth's final generation will see Jesus.

It may be very soon. Are you ready?