The world has just passed through a sign of the times. Did you notice?
The western world does so on an annual basis.
Our Holiday Season is a sign of the times.
That this is true is evident when one reads Matthew 24:37-39 “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
These words which Christ spoke come at the conclusion of a list of the signs in the world’s history that would precede His second coming. And one of these indicators of Christ’s return is the manner in which the world would and now does ignore the signs of coming judgment and impending doom. The world, said Christ, would busy itself in “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” The striking thing is that while man ignores the signs, he does not do so ignorantly. He does so on purpose. He, in his pride, is determined to refuse the church the satisfaction of seeing his fear of the return of Christ, that most righteous, awful Judge.
That this is so is evident from the phrase of the text that states that the wicked will take the same attitude in the end that they took in the days of Noah. And the fact is, the wicked in that day did not perish in ignorance. Noah was a preacher, his pulpit was the ark, and his audience was the whole wicked world as it passed by to gawk at this monstrous boat he was building on dry land in those days before rain. Noah called it an ark, but the world must have named it “Noah’s Folly.” For 120 years the theme of Noah’s sermon was “The Coming of Destruction upon the Earth,” and his three points were these: I. How This Destruction Shall Fall; II. Who Shall Be Destroyed; and III. Why This Judgment Must Come. No doubt his sermon could be placed in the Guinness Book of World Records under the various headings—Same Sermon Most Frequently Preached; Sermon Heard By the Greatest Percentage of the World’s People; and Sermon Most Universally Despised and Ignored. And I might add, while God did not use this sermon to make so much as one new convert, it was, without a doubt, the most effective sermon ever preached. It served to make the world ripe for judgment by water, and so to bring salvation to the church. The effectiveness of preaching can not be measured always in the number of converts, you know. Billy Graham’s fans might not recognize this, but the church of these last days had better.
But the point that must be made is this: the world which ate and drank and married in Noah’s day was not ignorant of the gospel which testified of their impending destruction. It is simply that they so despised this gospel that they refused to let it interfere with their way of life. The more they heard Noah preach, the more they sought their pleasure through the lusts of the flesh. In direct proportion to their hardening of their hearts against the preaching of coming judgment they gave vent to their digestive and sexual appetites. Their knowledge of God’s word through Noah intensified the carnal manner in which they lived. Their self-confidence over against the words of coming destruction must have increased as the 120 years went by and there was nary so much as one drop of rain. The very length of time it took from Noah’s first declaration of the impending destruction by a flood until it actually fell bolstered the world in its vain hope that creation would escape all consequences of man’s frivolity and their defiance of God. By the time 120 years passed by, mankind was quite secure in its conviction that all things would continue as they had from the beginning. They banqueted and were jolly and reveled in festivities until the day Noah entered into the ark. Seeing all the wild animals gather themselves and enter the ark two by two must have given them pause. This was out of the ordinary. But when nothing happened after six days their self assurance must have returned. One can imagine them shouting out asking Noah how he liked being cooped up with his zoo. And they went back to their merry making—until the seventh day. Then the windows of heaven opened, dropping a tidal wave of water, and the fountains of the deep burst asunder. The wicked never knew what hit them until they opened their eyes in hell. Then they knew the word of God’s judgment was not to be mocked with impunity, and they knew they had laughed for the last time.
Now, look about you. Consider the season, with its festivities, through which we have just passed. The manner in which the world gears itself up for the holidays is itself a sign of the times. Christmas is a time of eating well; New Year’s is considered a day for drinking. Gluttony and winebibbing become the way of life. And the way of life during the holidays is simply a reflection of what man craves for the whole of this life—the satisfying of fleshly lusts until one wants no more. Indulging the body, that is the goal of man. We have passed through the climax of man’s year, a small preview of the utopia man hopes to establish. And all this is done with no thought of the end. Man has every expectation that life will continue as it has always done.
Man looks to the future with concern, to be sure, but still optimistically. He is determined to live as though there will always be a world for his children’s children. That is the point of the phrase “marrying and giving in marriage.” Not only does man marry with the idea of satisfying his sexual appetite, but also with a view to having children to perpetuate his name (though not so many to interfere with his indulging in eating and drinking). And man gives his children in marriage so that his children will give him grandchildren, and thus his name will continue after he dies. No, man does not want to think of the end. That is the whole idea of his New Year’s hope for peace. A nuclear holocaust would make the continued existence of his generations impossible. So man looks with unfounded hope to the future, and in the midst of his frivolity refuses to consider that the Lord of glory is going to return to reward him as his works have been. He puts away the thought of his temporal sins bearing eternal consequences.
When Christ returns to the earth in the flesh the second time, this time as the Lord of glory with great power, man shall not be prepared, no more than he was in the day of Noah. And the lack of preparation will not be due to ignorance, but rather to willful negligence. Neither will it be due to lack of warning, In the end the whole world will know that the Lord of glory is coming the second time, this time upon the clouds, not bringing rain but lightnings and fire. Regardless, they will ignore the rumblings; they will turn to their tables; and they will fatten themselves for the slaughter. They will assure one another that all things must continue as they have from the beginning. (They do not even remember the flood, despising the first judgment as well as the second.)
That the world is not ignorant of Christ’s return is manifest by the way in which men celebrate the year-end holiday. The highlight of the year for both church and world is Christmas. The name of Christ is on everyone’s lips. The same silly voice that croons “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and that belts out “Deck the Halls,” also sings “Silent Night, Holy Night,” and “0 Come All Ye Faithful,” and even the Hallelujah Chorus. Tell me the world is ignorant of Christ the king. Tell me the world is ignorant of who the Savior is. Tell me they have no knowledge of His promise to come again. The fact that they sing of His first coming testifies that they are aware of His promise to come again. All nominal Christendom knows that the historical Christian church speaks not only of His birth and subsequent death, but also of the Savior’s coming again to make a full lend of all iniquity, to establish an everlasting kingdom of peace, and to create new heavens and a new earth. The fearless, profane manner in which godless men make the songs of the birth of Jesus their own shows that there is no part of the Savior’s history hid from them. It is just that looking for Jesus the Judge Who is coming again to destroy wicked men is hardly something men want to sing about. Interesting, is it not, how boisterous the world is when remembering the birth of Jesus as a helpless little baby, and how silent that world is about the glorious ascension of that same Jesus as the Universal King to the throne of heaven? That Jesus is too much a threat to their merry making.
The manner in which the world celebrates the Christmas season is not a passing fancy. Over the years it has developed, becoming more and more commercial, and involving more and more madness. So deeply has it become entrenched in men’s lives that they cannot imagine the year without it. In fact those who do not participate are called “Scrooges” and “Grinches.” It is becoming a universally accepted way to end the year.
In part, all of this is a side effect of the gospel as it goes forth and reaches the ears of all people. Through it the remnant is saved, but also by means of it all become acquainted with who Christ is and with the saints hope for His return. And while the promises do not appeal to most men, the curious mixture of pagan and pseudo-Christian practices of Christmas introduced right along with the gospel appeals to everyone. The “Christian” holiday gives man the occasion to do precisely what he desires most, namely, to indulge in satisfying the flesh. We can expect the growth of men’s carnal appetites to continue to snowball as the gospel goes out to the ends of the earth.
So in this sign too there is development as mankind, in the spirit of self-seeking brotherhood, joins hands and waltzes its merry way to hell.
Pilgrim church, reflect back on how you commemorated the birth of your Lord. Was it done in such a way that you were in the world but not of it? Or were you swept along with festivities of foolish men as they fattened themselves for the day of slaughter? Watch and prepare yourselves for Jesus’ second coming.