Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Days of Noah

I have often said that Jesus would not have told us to watch if He didn't intend to show us something. The Bible is full of stories and examples of how God has, over time, demonstrated His omniscience by foretelling the future. Not only has He told us of what would come, but in many instances He has gone further and told us exactly when they would occur. Just a few of these examples would be telling Israel exactly when they would be released from their captivity in Babylon, exactly when their Messiah would arrive, and of course, when they would again be a nation in their ancient homeland of Israel. Since so many examples of events in Israels' history exist, a logical question would be "does the Bible tell us when these future conflicts with other countries will occur"?

To answer that question, I think I'll refer to something Jesus has told us in the Mark account of the Olivet Discourse we have been talking about. When Jesus is talking to His disciples about the end of the world He says in chapter 13, verse 23 that He has "foretold you all things". So in that case, it would appear all we have to do is search the scripture until we find an answer to our question.

As often as I have read and studied this passage, it wasn't until just a few years ago that I realized I might have been overlooking an important clue as to when these things might occur. Notice in verse 37 that Jesus says "just as in the Days of Noah" right after He says no man knows the day or the hour. It took a few times studying this passage before I asked myself the question, "why the reference to Noah"? So I began to look for something the two events might have in common, in order to try and answer that question. In this passage, Jesus is talking about the rapture, and the worldwide tribulation that follows. Now the Bible tells us many times that the tribulation is a time of judgement on an unbelieving world, and obviously that is exactly what the purpose of the flood was as well. It goes without saying that it took Noah a very long time to build that Ark, and it isn't as if the people that came by to look weren't informed by Noah as to the reason he was building it. Even though they chose not to believe, when they saw the animals being loaded and Noah and his family getting on board, they had to understand Noah was finished building and was prepared to sail.

Do we find ourselves in a similar situation today? As believers, don't we see the signs that the next judgement is near? Considering the fact that even non-believers are asking questions about what is going on in the world, shouldn't those of us who study the Bible understand that the time is near? I think there is no question that God made it perfectly obvious to those in Noah's day that something big was coming, and I believe He is doing the exact same thing today. But I also want to take this a step further, and consider if possibly Jesus is giving us an exact time to watch for the things of which He had been speaking.

If our timeline of events that precede the tribulation are correct, we are looking for an attack by Israel on Damascus, followed by the reaction by the rest of the world described in Ezekiel 38,39 as the "Gog Magog War". If you compare the descriptions of the response to Israels' attack in Isaiah 17 with the attack by the nations in Ezekiel 38 you find they are almost identical. This leads me to believe that these two events are not only related, but occur one right after the other with probably not a lot of time between them. After all, since no country has dared to use a nuclear weapon since the end of World War 2, the next use will most certainly provoke an immediate response. If that is the case, we may have found another clue as to when this all might take place.I have already suggested we compare the accounts in both Isaiah and Ezekiel to notice their similarities. If we do that, and then go to another Old Testament prophet and read his account of a future conflict that also occurs in the time of the end, we find not only a description of what occurs, but an exact day as well.

In the book of Haggai, chapter 2 verses 20-22 we find an account of what is in store for a coalition of nations that presume to attack Israel. In it, God tells us that the armies in essence destroy themselves by attacking each other. Compare that to the account in Ezekiel 38, verse 21 where the exact thing happens. There seems to be little doubt that we are seeing two different accounts of the same conflict, but in Haggai we are given something else; the exact day that it might happen. Twice in the Haggai account God refers to the 24th day of the eighth month. On the Jewish calendar, this is Kislev 24, or as it is better known, Hanukkah. If in fact, God is telling us here that the attack and defeat of the armies of Gog will occur on Hanukkah, and we believe that the events of Isaiah 17 occur shortly before, are there also clues to when that conflict might occur?

Recall if you will, that when Jesus was asked when these things would occur, he referred to that time as like the days of Noah. If we go to the book of Genesis and read the account of the flood given there, we find again not only an account of what happened, but exactly when it happened as well. In Genesis 6, verse 11 we find the flood began "in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month," or on the Jewish calendar, the 17th day of Cheshvan. Now in order to avoid some confusion, at the time of the Exodus God told Moses to change the calendar so the first month of the year would be celebrated then in the spring, rather than where it had been celebrated in the fall. That is why there are two calendars at work in Israel today; the religious calendar and the civil one. The religious calendar begins in the spring as God instructed, but the civil calendar starts in the fall as it did before God changed it. The point here though, is this. Although the second month for the flood, and the eighth month for Hanukkah seem far apart, it's only because the date of the flood is listed on the civil calendar, while the date for Hanukkah is on the religious one. Put them both on the same civil calendar and the 17th of Cheshvan occurs just 37 days, or one month and one week before the 24th of Kislev. That means the anniversary of the flood is just 2 weeks from today, or Sunday, November 15th. Is it possible the events of Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38 occur a little more than a month apart, and in fact occur in the months of November and December?

I'm not sure we can can say with certainty that is the case, but in my mind at least, I feel it is a very strong possibility that God is telling us exactly that. I can't help but remember that in Matthew 24 Jesus has just come from the temple where He condemned the religious leaders of that day for not recognizing the signs of His appearing. Why did Jesus tell His disciples the events He was speaking of would be just like the days of Noah? Was He just referring to their attitude, or was He giving us a clue as to when these things will occur? How about both? Let's keep watching together shall we?