"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. "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.
Matthew 24:36-39 NKJV
I'm sure this passage is familiar to most of you, for it is almost always referred to when the subject of the return of Christ is discussed at any length. This week as I was studying and researching as is my habit, I ran across another commentary where this passage was discussed. As is most often the case, the discussion centered around the state of the world at the time that Jesus returns for His church. Yet as I read and thought about what was being said, the Spirit made a point to me that I had not previously considered.
If I were to try and describe my thoughts on this passage I would have to say that these verses tell us that at the time of Jesus' return the prevailing mood of the world will be “business as usual”. Although the people of Noah's day could see him building the ark, they dismissed what they could see with their own eyes and continued on with their daily lives with no change in either attitude or practice. Now I understand that this is how most of us see this passage, and this is how it is most often taught. Yet as I considered the subject the Spirit asked me this question; “do you think this attitude refers just to the “world” and not “believers” as well?
The more I thought about this, the more I began to realize that there really is no reason to think that the prevailing mood described here should not apply to believers too. Those who consider themselves to be “watchers” are well aware of the events happening all over the world right now that seem to scream that the rapture could happen at any time. Even unbelievers acknowledge that the world is standing on the brink of what many have described as an “apocalyptic” event. Yet life goes on as usual in most of the world as people get up every day and go about their business.
So I think the point the Spirit was making to me was that I should look in the mirror and ask myself if I was changing the what and how of my daily life as I see these things, or am I living “business as usual”? I believe this is a question we should all ask ourselves especially if we consider another passage that concerns the church at the time Jesus returns. I'm sure this passage is familiar to you as well, but I think we should all look at it in a different light with the question we have just asked ourselves in mind.
"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:14-16 NKJV
Now most of us might look at these verses and recoil at the thought that we might be described as a “Laodicean”, but let me ask you this; could we not say that “business as usual” is the same as being “lukewarm”? I don't know about you but to me, that is indeed a scary thought. As I have prepared to share these thoughts with you today I have begun to make a mental list of things I can do or change in order to show God that my life is “not” business as usual. I want Him to look at me and see changes and new ways of trying to share, and a visual acknowledgement that I do indeed recognize that His return is near.
Interestingly enough, as I came to these conclusions this week, yet another sign appeared which I believe has ominous ramifications for the nation of Israel. Some of you know that while in college as a History major, I became interested in prophecy and the Middle East. This eventually led me to study the geopolitical nature of the unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel. A few years ago I put a few of my thoughts about the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus, which is found in Isaiah 17, in book form and voiced my opinions on the how and why it may occur.
This week a very big piece of that puzzle may have been applied by the statement of intent by the President of Syria when he stated that he would have no hesitation to attack and destroy Tel Aviv given the proper excuse. You can read his statement here;
( http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4131259,00.html ). What follows is a short part of the chapter from my book where I discuss the possibility that an attack on Tel Aviv is one of the reasons Israel destroys Damascus.
In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough And an uppermost branch, Which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation.
Isaiah 17:9 NKJV
...Most people are more familiar with Jerusalem than any other city in Israel; however it can be argued that it is not necessarily the most important one. Tel Aviv, located in the northwest part of the state is arguably the most important city in Israel today. Although smaller in population than Jerusalem, if you include all of the outlying metropolitan areas or "suburbs", it is by far much larger.
It is as well considered to be the "economic capitol" of Israel. It is home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Tel Aviv University, most of Israel’s national sports teams, and is considered by Newsweek magazine to be one of the world's top ten most "technologically influential" cities. The outlying metropolitan area of Tel Aviv is home to what could be considered the equivalent of our "silicon valley". Tel Aviv has best been described as the Israeli equivalent to New York City in regards to its importance to the nation.
So what does this have to do with verse 9? Notice that verse 9 states that Israel's "strong cities" will resemble a "forsaken bough". So what can this picture possibly mean you ask? I think I can help with that from my own personal experience. I will freely admit to not possessing a green thumb, but that doesn't mean I don't try my hand at growing things. I have an apple tree in my back yard that produces some of the best tasting apples I have ever eaten, and I like nothing better than watching it fill up with fruit every year, providing I do what I have to do to insure that happens.
Unfortunately learning how to take care of a fruit tree by proper pruning has been personally challenging. I can still remember when we first bought our house and found that it came with an apple tree, how excited I was to watch it grow. Not knowing anything but that the Bible teaches that a tree needs to be pruned, I just went out when I saw neighbors pruning their trees and had at it. When I was done pruning, and stood back to admire my work, it can best be described as an apple tree with a "buzz cut"; round on the sides and flat on the top! So when time came for apples to grow, I had plenty of apples on the highest reaches of the tree, and virtually none on the sides. My ladder wasn't long enough to reach the top of the tree so most of the very best apples that year were left for the birds to enjoy, while I could only watch.
Now when I read this verse in Isaiah, I can't help but remember that experience and wonder if this is exactly what Isaiah is trying to tell us? Is it possible that Tel Aviv, made up of many individual metropolitan areas, yet the largest and most important cities in Israel, will be attacked in such a way as having to be abandoned and left as indefensible because it is so far away from Jerusalem? It might not be as unbelievable as you think if we look at the rhetoric coming from Hezbollah and their leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Most remember the Lebanon War of 2006, and that the main weapons of choice by Hezbollah were rockets, but most don't know that a war that lasted only about thirty days, more than 4000 rockets were launched at Israel. On October 31, 2007, a United Nations report stated that Israel was reporting that Hezbollah was rearming with "hundreds" of Zilzal and Fajr rockets with a range of 155 miles, which will put Tel Aviv well within their range. In the past, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has said that under "certain circumstances", they would have no hesitation to attack Tel Aviv with rockets, and it now appears they have the capability to do so. Is this what Isaiah is predicting here when he says that Israel must forsake its strong cities that are like an "uppermost branch"?
Although the actual "pushing of the button" might come from several different sources, the reaction by Israel to retaliate by destroying Damascus certainly tells us that they believe the decision and command to attack came from there.
With all that we see which causes us to believe the rapture of the church is imminent, should we live our lives as "business as usual"? I think you will agree we need to step out of our comfort zones and look for ways to make a difference by sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world in ways we may not have previously considered. Join me in praying that God will present us all with opportunities to serve Him differently than in the past.