Life as usual, many will come to realize, was never life as usual.
When Christ returns, many will discover too late that they lived within a dream. Years came and years went. Spring turned to autumn, autumn to winter. They grew and grew old but never awoke. “Normal life” lied to them. So, Jesus foretells,
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 were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37–39)
The world-ending return of Jesus will be as the world-ending days of Noah. Of what did Noah’s days consist? Busy people unaware — eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, going about life “as usual.” The very morning of the flood, people simply concerned themselves with whatever laid before them. The immediate seemed most urgent, most real. Planning meals, changing diapers, preparing weddings, working, buying, and selling — these seemed to them the greatest verities of life. Until the rain began to fall.
Texture of Days
Like many today, the people of Noah’s day abstracted the meaning of life from the texture of their average days.
“Life as usual, many will come to realize, was never life as usual.”
They touched Wednesday and it felt like every other Wednesday. They began work and finished work. They ate, ate again, and finished their work to eat. They played with kids on the floor. Busied with homework and house projects. They talked and listened, laughed and yawned, rose from sleep and slept — nothing extraordinary. Each day didn’t feel like it held eternal significance. Nothing otherworldly felt at stake. Today didn’t feel like anything but today.
God, demons, souls, eternity didn’t grow before their eyes like grass that needs mowing. They did not stir to consider the unseen. And when they did, the unreality of it seemed as implausible as rain drowning a dry land days away from sea. They intuited what is ultimate about life from the ordinary experiences of life. A fatal mistake. And as the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Man and His Boat
While they considered their daily planners, anxious about what they considered the real contents of Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, Noah worked with his sons on the unlikely, the unthinkable. While the world ate and drank, he labored. While they went on with things as usual, he and his sons prepared a stadium-sized boat to shelter the family. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (Hebrews 11:7).
Imagine the scene. Decade after decade, children were born, diapers were changed, houses were built, adults looked out their window and saw what they had seen since childhood: Noah and his sons laboring on the ship. And Noah spoke a message as strange as the boat he was building: he warned of divine judgment. Perhaps some listened the first week. But eventually, the listeners needed to get back to real life.
Noah’s real life was different. Even though he too ate and drank and arranged marriages for his three sons (Genesis 7:13), he did these with an ear bent to hear God’s voice, a hammer in his hand for God’s work, and eyes returning to the skies waiting for God’s promise. His feasting was not forgetful. His drinking was not distracting. His giving in marriage did not deter his mission. Unlike the citizens of this world, he lived ready, he lived prepared. He believed God that the waters would come.
As decades multiplied, Noah kept working, kept proclaiming, kept resisting the temptation to stop and return to life as usual.
Change in the Weather
As it will be at Jesus’s second coming, an unexpected day arrived.
The day began like any other. Wrinkled faces and weathered eyes gazed out worn windows to still find that odd man — now herding skunk, geese, and deer into his finished ship. They could still hear his spent voice saying, “Turn from your sins, repent and cry to God. He is willing to spare you from this impending judgment. This ship stretches long enough for all who would come.”
Perhaps they felt sorry for the old fool. Windows closed, and the day’s cares consumed their thoughts. But that day, Noah and his family entered the ark not to be seen again. “The Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16), and the windows of heaven opened.
So, what’s the point? The point is that normal days, then and now, may not be what we think. “Normal days,” unconcerned with eternity, unconcerned with God, sin, and with the second coming of Christ, are fatal fictions.
Lie of Normal Days
What most experience as normal Wednesdays, normal dinner times, normal weekends, arrive as waves carrying judgment and eternity ever closer. The important thing about these “last days” is that they precede the return of the King. But experience will, should we let it, cause us to eat, host, drink, tell stories, laugh, watch the game, go on dates, marry and give in marriage unmindful and unprepared.
Such were the days of Noah. They did not realize that the great thing, the true thing, the most relevant thing dwelt above their experience. A world exists elsewhere; a place where Ultimate Reality lives. And even now his hand grips the doorknob. Consider, what is more real to you, this week’s to-do list or the promise of Christ’s return?
When he comes, all plans for next week will die. Books will go unread. Weddings will be canceled. Dinner plans, erased. In a moment, the unbelieving will hear the ark door shut. Life will cast off its common cloak as the wall between worlds collapses.
“When Christ comes, all plans for next week will die. . . . In a moment, most of humanity will hear the ark door shut.”
Jesus calls the world to prepare for him: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
To prepare is not to build a boat in the backyard, but to eat and drink, speak and marry all while looking and waiting for Christ’s promised coming. We live mindful of eternal souls. We live expecting rain. We live in reverent fear of God. What does the world see you building? Is there anything in your life that can only be explained by Christ and his return?
Do not be deceived by the texture of the weeks and years as they pass. In each, eternity is at stake. In each, he approaches. Ultimate Reality will not linger out of sight much longer. Forever happiness and forever horror lay just beyond the clouds. Are you ready for his return?