Chapter 14: Matthew 24:37-44
by K. Allen Orr on October 28, 2020
As we continue our journey of Matthew 24 we are going to build upon the principles the Lord established from the beginning of the paragraph that began with verse 32. The next several verses are often misinterpreted. Sincere, well intended, godly men attempt to shave this important piece of the prophetic puzzle to fit into a place that supports a theological bias rather than its natural place in the picture of end-time events.
Vs. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.
Vs. 38 “For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
Vs. 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
Verse 37 starts out with the word “For”. The word “For” helps us see that Christ intends to link the subject in verses 37-41 to the subject of verse 36. Jesus is expounding on this issue of timing or, when. And He says “For the coming of the Son of Man…” If we look at the Greek text what word are we going to find for the English word “coming”? The answer is of course, PAROUSIA. Jesus says the days in close proximity to His PAROUSIA will be like the days of Noah…before, and right after the flood. In verse 38 He gives a brief description of life before the flood, which basically is a description of business as usual. People were doing then what they have been doing all through history and that is, acting as though tomorrow will be like yesterday. I suspect later on Peter recalled these words of Jesus when he wrote of the mockers coming in the last days saying, “All continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” We get so caught up living our own lives that we neglect to take the concerns of God seriously. That’s the way it was during the days of Noah, and that’s the way it will be for the unbelieving before the PAROUSIA of Christ.
Another similarity is that of a warning given prior to judgment. During the days of Noah the antediluvian civilization received warnings of impending judgment and a call to righteousness. In 2 Peter, Noah is referred to as a preacher of righteousness or, a proclaimer or, a messenger or, a herald of…righteousness. In the days prior to the PAROUSIA God will use different means to warn those living at that time. However, the results will be about the same–relatively few will heed and hearken to the warnings of God’s messengers before time runs out.
In verse 39 Jesus said the antediluvian race “did not understand”…until the deluge came. The Greek word translated as “understand” is a rare form of a common word. Based upon the definition of the root word from which this word is derived I suggest Jesus intended to reveal that those living during Noah’s day did not know or understand because of a lack of experience, that they did not have the frame of reference to comprehend the magnitude of the judgment that would befall them. Regardless, during the 120 years it took to build the ark, Noah preached concerning the requirements of the holiness of God–and the consequences of not facing up to the responsibility of giving God all that is due Him. I perceive Noah as a human agent, working with the Holy Spirit’s ministry of convicting the world of “sin, righteousness and judgment”. Those existing before the flood continued to scoff at Noah’s proclamation. They had never experienced any judgment of the proportions Noah prophesied was going to occur. They were unprepared when the flood came and took them all away. They didn’t know from experience; they didn’t have a frame of reference to understand Noah’s message. But guess what? Noah didn’t have the frame of reference to know and understand based on experience either! Yet Noah was prepared when the flood came. Why was that? He believed God through the eyes of faith. With the exception of Noah and his family there was no one living in that generation that possessed the faith God was looking for. When you think about that for a minute it’s very sobering. During the coming period of Satan’s wrath, as the days lead up to the PAROUSIA, Revelation 13:2 tells us the whole earth marvels and follows after the “beast” (Antichrist). And Luke 18:8 records Jesus asking the poignant question, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The Great Persecution/Tribulation will be a time of acute testing to determine the genuine believer from the imitation. Similar to the days of Noah, the majority will be caught totally unprepared…because they rejected the Truth. Jesus taught,“I am the way, the truth and the life.” Dear reader, have you accepted and embraced the Truth? Please take a moment to reflect on this as there is nothing more important.
There is another significant word in verse 39 we need to take a look at. Again, it is an uncommon form of a very common root word translated in English as, “took”. “The flood came and took them all away.” There are numerous Greek words translated as some form of the English words “took” or “take”. The root word AIRO (pronounced: I-row) means to “take up” or “take away”. It carries the connotation of “removal” or “separation” such as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Another good illustration is, “every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.” Tell me, who are the “them” in “the flood came and took them all away.” The answer is of course the wicked and ungodly. What does the flood or deluge represent as it separated and removed the wicked and ungodly? The answer is, it represents the execution of God’s judgment and subsequent destruction of wickedness and ungodliness. Do you remember when we looked at verses 13 and 14 and I told you there was a common theme and pattern that is repeated often in the Bible? It has three parts to it: a period of testing and evaluation, followed by the rescuing of the righteous, concluded by the subsequent judgment and destruction of the wicked. We can observe this pattern in Matthew 24. We have the testing/evaluation phase revealed in verses 21 and 22. We see the rescuing of the righteous in verse 31, followed by the foretelling of judgment and destruction as depicted in the illustration of the days of Noah in verse 39.
Now, when God sent the deluge as an act of judgment and destruction of the wicked and ungodly, suddenly, those who rejected Noah’s message and preaching and exhortation because they had no frame of reference, suddenly, they now have a frame of reference. But it’s too late! There is a very important concept underlying verse 39 I want to develop for you to grasp fully. There are three systems of perception that everyone uses every day. Empiricism is a commonly used system of perception. It obtains information primarily through the five senses. Rationalism utilizes the powers of the mind to interpret, determine, induce and deduce the realm of reality. The third system of perception is faith, which obtains assurance and conviction regarding unknown matters based upon evidence provided by the known, without the assistance of proof of the unknown. Again, everyone uses all three systems of perception every day, even the wicked and ungodly, as all people are confronted with the normal, common and customary issues of life. However, when it comes to confronting spiritual issues, the faith system of perception will at times take precedence. And regarding unbelievers in particular, the “flesh”, the “body of corruption”, the “old man”, the sinful trend of Adam…however you choose to identify an individual’s center of rebellion against God, rejects the faith system of perception in attempting to dictate to the soul/mind to accept as truth only that which can be perceived through the five senses (empiricism) and the powers of the mind (rationalism). In the war against the Spirit, the “lusts of the flesh” self impose a manipulated criterion for establishing truth, placing an undue amount of emphasis on experience while disdaining faith, most specifically, in matters pertaining to God and His word, for example.
But 1 Corinthians 2:14 reveals the things of the Spirit of God can only be understood through spiritual appraisal, by utilizing the faith system of perception. The predicament for the unbeliever (as well as the believer out of fellowship) is that God holds all of us accountable. And after a period of grace in which God allows for a space of time in which to change one’s mental attitude and make a free will decision to see things God’s way, eventually God will stoop to the low level of rebellious mankind and administer judgment at the empirical level–where they won’t have any problem making the perceptive link! That’s what happened during the days of Noah, and in verse 39 Jesus instructs, “so shall the PAROUSIA of the Son of Man be.” There’s our key word PAROUSIA again. Notice it is not the word HARPAGESOMETHA. It’s not the “catching up” or the “snatching at once” or the “rapture”, it’s the PAROUSIA! In my younger days I had been taught there were some literal words actually found in the scriptures that were to be understood as referring to the “rapture”, and which were alleged to contribute to the definition and understanding of what is meant by this term (that is, the created, manipulated and convoluted definition of the “rapture”). It was taught these actual, biblical words could be replaced by the term “rapture” and still contribute to an accurate interpretation of the text. And, surprise! the word PAROUSIA was one of the words on that list. But at this point in our journey we have already disproved any such notion, and such is the case here.
Vs. 40 “Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.
Vs. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
Now we come to verses 40 and 41. How in the world are we supposed to take these two verses? What is our Lord trying to communicate here? We have at least two clues. One is from the Greek and another from the context. The context should be very clear because we just covered it. The context is the illustration that Christ is using concerning the days of Noah. We looked at the reoccurring theme we see over and over in the scriptures. The pattern includes the rescuing of the righteous–represented by Noah entering the ark, followed by the judgment and destruction of the ungodly–represented by the flood AIRO’ing the wicked away. Therefore, we should also include the second half of verse 31 as pertaining to the context of this passage as it deals with the “gather(ing) together” of the elect.
So we ask, in verses 40 and 41, who are taken and who are left? If we stick with the reoccurring theme and usual pattern we would expect that it is the righteous saints, the elect, who are taken, and the ungodly unbelievers who are left to experience God’s judgment against them, and our clue from the Greek text helps verify that very conclusion. In verse 39 a rare form of the Greek word AIRO is used to describe the judgment and destruction of the wicked as the great deluge “came and took them all away.” The unbelievers of Noah’s day were removed, they were separated. But in verses 40 and 41 an entirely different Greek word is used to describe the ones being “taken”. The word used is a form of the verb PARALAMBANO. Follow with me while I try to explain a few things. If you look in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words you will find at least thirty Greek words presented under the English word “take”. You will also find nearly twenty Greek words under the English word “receive”. Several of the Greek words appear under both “take ” and “receive”. PARALAMBANO is one of those words. But rather than creating confusion, I think it’s fascinating. Look at this. The definitions of PARALAMBANO are: 1) To take to (or with) oneself. Intimacy or camaraderie is often implied–but not always. It also means, 2) to receive from another. Isn’t that fascinating? Now lets take this information and plug it into what we’ve already learned and once again we’ll see the wonderful tapestry woven together as God’s word. We know from Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1, that at the PAROUSIA the genuine believers are gathered together by angels. We also know that when the elect are gathered they meet with Christ in the air as He ERCHOMIA’s (comes) on the clouds, at the PAROUSIA. So, the neat thing is you could paraphrase verses 40 and 41 of Matthew 24 and give perhaps an expanded translation using both definitions of PARALAMBANO and still be accurate! In effect you could say, “an angel will take one to himself, and one will be left behind.” Or, you might say, “the Son of Man will receive one to Himself from an angel, and one will be left behind. Either way (or actually, both ways) helps to substantiate what we have already discovered in the scriptures.
Let’s look at another classic example of the way Jesus utilized the word PARALAMBANO.
John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
Vs. 3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
It seems to me the translators of the NASV have taken parts of the two definitions of PARALAMBANO to fabricate a third! The NIV reads in part, “I will come back and take you to be with me…” Still, this is a good verse to show the intricacy of this important word.
The final issue to address in verses 40 and 41 is, what happens to the ones who are left behind? Do they live happily ever after in their own little world while God quietly takes the people He wants and just kind of leaves the rest behind to live out their lives however they please, and to work things out by themselves–at last? No, not quite.
Peter listened first hand as Jesus presented the Olivet Discourse. Around thirty years later Peter wrote his second epistle which was obviously heavily influenced by his Lord’s teaching on the End Times. There is a major portion of 2 Peter that fits perfectly with where we are in our study of Matthew 24. As you read the passage I will make only a couple brief comments.
2 Peter 2: 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
Vs. 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Vs. 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter;
Vs. 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
Vs. 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds),
Notice the pattern? There is a period of testing/evaluation, followed by the rescuing of the righteous, followed by the judgment and destruction of the wicked and ungodly.
Vs. 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,
There is that reoccurring theme again. A period of testing/evaluation (here translated “temptation”), followed by the rescuing of the godly, “from” (the translation of the Greek preposition EK, meaning, “out from the midst of”) temptation or testing, followed by the unrighteous receiving “punishment” on the “day of judgment“.
Vs. 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,
Vs. 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.
Vs. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed,
Do you see the connection between our passage in Matthew and the principles Peter brings out in this portion of chapter 2? Let’s engage in a brief review to regroup and make sure our thoughts are in order leading up to the end of Matthew 24:41.
What important era or epoch or period of time are we studying? The answer is Daniel’s 70th 7 of years. What events have transpired up to the end of verse 41? I would suggest we start with the signing of a seven year treaty or covenant or an accord of some sort between the nation of Israel and the incognito Antichrist which starts the seven year period. To that we would add the 3 1/2 years of Beginning Birth Pangs including the wars, famines and earthquakes. Then comes the Abomination of Desolation and Great Persecution/Tribulation, which is interrupted by the signs in the sun, moon, stars and heavens announcing the PAROUSIA. We would then add the resurrection of the saints of all the ages and the gathering of the elect yet living, with the Day of the Lord ready to commence in judgment against the wicked and ungodly and the kingdom of Satan. I trust everyone reading this far into the book would agree we have not shaved any edges of any puzzle pieces to make them fit somewhere we wanted them to fit, but rather allowed them to drop naturally into place where they rightfully belong, as the end-time prophecy picture becomes clearer and more complete with the proper unfolding of the scriptures.
We now come to the last three verses in this paragraph that started in verse 32. Verses 42-44 are going to provide us with a principle to keep in mind regarding all the information provided in the body of teaching thus far. We realize that our Lord originally spoke these words but Matthew is providing us with a written account. In normal, customary usage the contents of a paragraph are related somehow, and basically the Lord is going to give the disciples an important point as to what He was driving at–not just in this paragraph but one applicable based upon the larger body of teaching and instruction which began in verse 4.
What has Jesus been driving at in this paragraph? In verse 32 He says, “learn” and “know“. In verse 33 He says, watch for the signs or indications and “recognize“. In verses 34-36 He explains what is not knowable. In verses 37-39 he illustrates what He has been teaching with a well known analogy. In verses 40 and 41 He reveals two distinct divisions of consequences. If I were to summarize verses 37-41, I would say the PAROUSIA will be like the days of Noah in that there is going to be a separation, a distinction, a division. Based upon that be alert, be vigilant, for you do not know which day it will occur. Verses 42-44 provide somewhat of a concluding point or principle of all this information. Let’s read these verses and see if we can pick up on the principle.
Vs. 42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
Vs. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
Vs. 44 “For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
Can you tell me what is the concluding point or principle of the paragraph–and perhaps even thus far into the discourse, in just two words? My answer would be: “be alert” or, “be ready” or, “be prepared”. This admonition is basically given three times in these three verses. If we were to look at a parallel passage in Mark 13:33-37 we would see this point given four times in five verses! There is no doubt Christ is exhorting His followers to pay attention and be alert, be vigilant, watch!
Verse 42 begins with the word “Therefore” and just as in verse 15 it means, “Based upon what I just explained to you” or, “Taking what I just informed you of into consideration” or, “Bearing in mind what you have just learned”. Then the Lord provides an illustration for His followers in verse 43 in which He highlights the important principle to be learned. Allow me to offer an expanded, paraphrased version of verses 43 and 44 in an attempt to express the important principle I believe Christ is teaching with His illustration.
“Be sure of this, make the connection and the link to all I just revealed to you. Common sense tells you that if you are the head of your household, and if you knew for certain a thief was coming sometime in the night, you would be watchful, vigilant, awake and alert. You would not let him break into your house nor would he be able to do so because you would prepare to prevent him; you would garrison and protect your house against him. For this same reason, I’m telling you to prepare, be ready and also watchful and vigilant, because you know for certain that the Son of Man is coming (ERCHOMI). And even though you do not know the day or hour, you do know that at His PAROUSIA He will separate, distinguish and divide. Then follows the day of the Lord at which time it will be too late to avoid the judgment coming against the wicked and ungodly.”
Another observation I would suggest: the illustration in verses 38-41 is mostly intended to reveal the impact the PAROUSIA/day of the Lord will have upon the unbeliever. The unbelievers of Noah’s day were unprepared when the deluge came and swept them all away. They weren’t watching; they weren’t vigilant. For the wicked and ungodly it’s the day of the Lord that comes as the thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). In verse 43-44 our Lord is admonishing His followers to be in stark contrast to those unbelievers by being alert, watchful and prepared. And now for the piercing question: how can Christians fulfill and obey this admonition…if we do not possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s instruction and the teaching of scripture regarding these important issues? If people accept the teaching the rapture will come and whisk them away before the Tribulation starts and they won’t experience any such persecution and trials or suffering, will they truly be prepared if their theological position is incorrect?
Dear reader, are you prepared? When the time comes for you to experience a separation, which consequence will befall you? Are you protected by the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God? Have you admitted you are a sinner who needs the Savior’s grace? We can never do enough “good” to “earn” a position in God’s heaven and avoid the consequences of eternal damnation. We must come humbly before Him in faith, believing He will rescue us from sin and death.
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (St. John 3:36, KJV)