Characteristics of Noah's Age
We have shown in an earlier lesson that Jesus in the Olivet Discourse draws a comparison between the days before His return and the days before the Flood. According to Jesus, there were three characteristics of Noah's age that will be replicated in the Last Days: 1) eating and drinking; 2) marriage and giving in marriage; and 3) ignorance of impending judgment.
Does the present age have these characteristics? In our study of modern apostasy, we have already proved that the present age is oblivious to the judgment that will soon fall upon the world. In this respect the time in which we live resembles the days of Noah. We will now show that the other two characteristics of the time before the Flood also fit our time.
Sign: Eating and Drinking
Although the undeveloped regions of the world live continually on the verge of famine, most people in the developed regions—in North America, Europe, Japan, and Eastern Asia—enjoy unprecedented wealth, created by modern industry and technology. They have plenty of food and drink, as well as plenty of the other necessities. Impoverishment to the point of starvation is rare. Moreover, they are exploiting the abundance of food and drink by eating and drinking more and more. There are three kinds of data supporting this conclusion.
- Per capita calorie consumption. Between 1957 and 2000, per capita calorie consumption as estimated by the total food supply in America rose from 3000 to 3800 calories (1). So, in 2000, consumption of food and beverages was about 27% greater than it was only forty-three years earlier, in 1957.
- Portion size in American meals. Portion sizes in restaurants and homes began to grow in the 70s, rose sharply in the 80s, and continued the upward trend through the 90s until today. Today, the portions in a restaurant meal average two to four times the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommended size (2). Between 1977 and 1996, the average serving of a salty snack increased from 1.0 to 1.6 oz., giving 93 more calories. The average serving of a soft drink increased from 13.1 to 19.9 oz., giving 49 more calories. Hamburgers enlarged from 5.7 to 7.0 oz., with 97 more calories, and french fries from 3.1 to 3.6 oz., with 68 more calories (3).
One thorough study came to these conclusions:
Our data indicate that the sizes of current marketplace foods almost universally exceed the sizes of those offered in the past. When foods such as beer and chocolate bars were introduced, they generally appeared in just one size, which was smaller than or equal to the smallest size currently available. This observation also holds for french fries, hamburgers, and soda, for which current sizes are 2 to 5 times larger than the originals.
Our research also reveals indirect indicators of the increasing availability of larger food portions. . . . Restaurants are using larger dinner plates, bakers are selling larger muffin tins, pizzerias are using larger pans, and fast-food companies are using larger drink and french fry containers. Identical recipes for cookies and desserts in old and new editions of classic cookbooks such as Joy of Cooking specify fewer servings, meaning that portions are expected to be larger. Another indicator of the trend toward larger portions is that automobile manufacturers have installed larger cup holders in newer models to accommodate the larger sizes of drink cups.
A major cause of overconsumption today is the marketing of super-sized portions. A 2.1-oz Butterfingers candy bar contains 270 kcal, whereas the 5.0-oz "Beast" supplies 680 kcal. The 7-Eleven Double Gulp, a 64-oz soda, contains nearly 800 kcal—an amount 10 times the size of a Coca-Cola when it was introduced and calorically equivalent to more than one third of the energy requirement of large segments of the population. . . . In the mid-1950s, McDonald's offered only 1 size of french fries; that size is now considered "Small" and is one third the weight of the largest size available in 2001. Today's "Large" weighs the same as the 1998 "Supersize," and the 2001 "Supersize" weighs nearly an ounce more. Since 1999, a McDonald's "Supersize" soda is nearly one third larger than the "Large" (4).
- Incidence of obesity in America. Public health officials have declared that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. In 1999-2000, 64% of adults were overweight, and 31% of these were obese. In 1976-1980, the comparable figures were 47% and 15%. In just twenty years there was a 36% increase in the percent overweight and nearly a doubling in the percent obese (5). Even more alarming is the sharp rise of obesity among children and adolescents. The percent overweight and obese in 1999-2000 was 30% and 15%. The percent obese was quadruple what it had been 25 years earlier, in 1971-1974 (6).
Recognizing that people in the time before His coming would love their bellies more than God, Jesus, in words directed especially to those who live in the Last Days, warned against surfeiting and drunkenness (Luke 21:34-36).
Sign: Marrying and Giving in Marriage
Jesus suggests that in the Last Days, there will be a particular kind of sexual sin—not promiscuity, not prostitution as in the ancient world—but repeated divorce and remarriage. The force of Jesus' statement is that marriage in a person's life will be a regular occurrence like eating and drinking. The "giving in marriage" emphasizes that all this will be socially acceptable. People will gather and honor newlyweds for the fourth time as if they were an innocent boy and girl entering true marriage.
In fact, most people in our day are not exactly promiscuous. But they do go from one relationship to another. Divorce and remarriage are common (7).
Between 1890 and 1981, the divorce rate jumped more than tenfold. Since then, it has declined, reflecting a corresponding fall in the marriage rate.
Today the chance a marriage will end in divorce is close to 50%. It goes down in bad times and up in good times because divorce costs money. But the actual divorce rate is much higher if we count people splitting up after cohabitation or common law marriage. Although the people involved in live-in relationships are not legally married, they are married in God's eyes, and their type of marriage is highly unstable and impermanent. The divorce rate is astronomically higher if we also count people who drift apart after casual sex. This type of union is also marriage in God's eyes (1 Cor. 6:16). Since promiscuity and immorality of every kind are becoming rampant, we conclude that Jesus' prophecy of incessant marriage and giving in marriage is being distinctly fulfilled in our day.
Besides the three characteristics of the antediluvian world that Jesus highlights in the Olivet Discourse, we glean two more from direct study of the book of Genesis.
Sign: Growing Power of Evil Forces
In Genesis, we find the following record of events before the Flood:
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
In verse 2, it says that the sons of God began to intermarry with the daughters of men. This development was evidently displeasing to God, for in the next verse it says that God responded by giving man only 120 years. According to some, the meaning is that God would give man another 120 years to repent before He destroyed all mankind in a Flood. According to others, the meaning is that whereas men until now had lifetimes of over 900 years, they would in the future be limited to a maximum longevity of 120 years. Both interpretations may be correct. It is certainly true that, if viewed as a rounded number, 120 is the upper limit of a man's age. There is no documented case of a human being living beyond 124.
So, whatever verse 2 is talking about, we see in verse 3 that it was displeasing to God. Who were the sons of God? There are two common answers.
1. Some say that the sons of God were male descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. The first two were Cain and Abel. Abel was a godly man, but he was killed in jealousy by his brother Cain, who was then banished from the family of his parents. As an outcast, he became the ancestor of a race of ungodly men. Seth, the third son, followed in Abel's footsteps and became the ancestor of a race that preserved their allegiance to God. According to those who identify the sons of God with the male descendants of Seth, the puzzling statement in Genesis 6:2 means that men from Seth's line began to intermarry with daughters from Cain's line. Yet this interpretation of the verse encounters many difficulties.
- If Sethite men took Cainite wives, then Cainite men probably also took Sethite wives. Yet Scripture says nothing about the second kind of intermarriage, although it would have wrought no less evil. Either way of mixing the two races would have corrupted a godly heritage.
- It would be strange to call men "sons of God" who acted in flagrant disobedience of God's will by taking ungodly wives.
- In Genesis 6:1, it says that the daughters taken by the sons of God were born when men began to multiply. It speaks of men in general, not just one line of men. It seems to be speaking of daughters from both the Sethites and the Cainites.
2. The second answer to the question seeking to identify the sons of God is that they were angels. Therefore, Genesis 6:2 is saying that angels left their heavenly estate, assumed human form, and took human wives. When Christians today hear this interpretation, most find it incredible, but it was the accepted interpretation among Jews in the ancient world and among Christians throughout most of church history. It rests squarely on many Scriptural passages showing that angels are capable of taking human form. For example, Genesis 18 records that Abraham was visited by three men who ate with him.
1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
One of the three men was the Lord (v. 3; see also v. 22, quoted below). Two were angels, as we discover later in the narrative:
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
To what extent can an angel become human? If the second interpretation is correct, some angels in the time before the Flood were able to materialize in a body so completely human that they were capable of sexual relations with human women. The Genesis account gives the results of such interbreeding.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
The first result was an unusual race of offspring. It says these were giants, also "mighty men of renown." The word for giant is Nephilim. Some deny that "giant" is a necessary translation, but the ten spies used the same word when they described the most terrible inhabitants of Canaan.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
There can be little doubt that the men they saw were giants, for in comparison the spies felt like grasshoppers. The Genesis account of events before the Flood adds that there were also Nephilim "after that" (Gen. 6:4). It means that there were Nephilim after the Flood. Some appeared in Palestine, the last representatives being the family of Goliath.
The second result of interbreeding between the sons of God and the daughters of men was a plague of wickedness so great that God was left with no option but to judge the world by a great Flood.
Both results make sense if the sons of God were extraordinary beings in rebellion against God. Neither makes sense if they were just men.
We gain further light on who the sons of God were by considering how the term "son of God" is used elsewhere in Scripture.
- It is used of Adam (Luke 3:38).
- It is used of born-again believers (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 4:6).
- It is used of angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).
- When capitalized and in the singular, it refers to Jesus.
In no instance does it refer to someone with a godly heritage. All who are called sons of God have one thing in common. They have all been directly created by God. God made Adam. God made the angels. Jesus was begotten by the power of God. And believers are born again and made sons of God by the Spirit of God.
To employ the term "son of God" for men merely derived from a godly man would be out of line with other uses in Scripture. The Sethite men came from human parentage rather than divine creation, and they were not even sons of God in a spiritual sense, if they disobeyed God and married pagan women. Thus, considering all the evidence, we conclude that the traditional interpretation is correct. The sons of God were angels.
Just as in Noah's day there was an overwhelming presence of evil forces on the earth, so in our day there has been an explosion of demonic activity in America and other formerly Christian nations. Before 1965, occult activity kept mainly underground. The media seldom noticed it and put it in a negative light. Since 1965, there has been a ground swell of interest in the occult.
- Witches and other practitioners of magic have come out of the closet, openly revealing their allegiance and aggressively recruiting others. Wicca is among the fastest growing religions in this country, appealing mainly to educated young people. Its adherents currently number well over 400,000 (8). In 1985, the District Court of Virginia declared that Wicca is a religion entitled to protection under the Constitution and to all the other benefits granted by law to a religion. This ruling was upheld by a Federal Appeals Court (9). The attraction of Wicca is twofold. It gives immoral sex a pretext in ritual and religion. Also, it brings reality to the kind of fantasy that the young enjoy in their literature and movies. Exposure to the occult in their reading and viewing gives them a hankering to sample the real thing.
- The media has turned a spotlight on the occult, often giving it favorable treatment. The turning point was the seemingly innocuous program Bewitched back in the 60s. Now the occult is a regular theme of rock music, videos, and books. The top-selling books for children feature a young warlock by the name of Harry Potter.
- A new form of the occult has emerged, packaged in middle-class, quasi-intellectual respectability: the New Age Movement. Bookstores now give it a special place on their shelves—a development unthinkable one generation ago. Leading entertainers promote it. Yet it is nothing but occultism. People seek paranormal experience and self-evolution to godhood with the aid of spirit guides—that is, demons. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of adherents to New Ageism grew more than threefold, from 20,000 to 68,000 (10). Spiritualism, closely allied with New Ageism, claimed even more adherents in 2000, a total of 116,000 (11).
The first violence to pollute the earth was Cain's murder of his brother Abel (Gen. 3:1-15). Later, Lamech boasted that he had killed a young man (Gen. 3:19-24. In the days of Noah, violence had become rife, so much so that the Lord said the earth was filled with it.
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
It appears that the social fabric had so unraveled that every man sought to gain as much as he could through fighting and feuding.
In our day also, violence of all kinds is escalating, giving us a universal plague of misery and bloodshed. We are living amidst an epidemic of abortion, abusive conduct in the home, road rage, gang warfare, violence in the workplace and in the school, massacres of whole families, domestic and international terrorism, torture and murder by established governments as well as serial murder by lone killers.
Here are some staggering facts. It has been estimated that in all of human history until 1900, about 40 million people died in war. Yet in the years from 1900 to 1987, the number of war casualties was about 38 1/2 million. By the end of 1999, wars in the twentieth century were more deadly than all the wars in all previous centuries combined (12).
In all periods of history, the number who have died because of genocide, politicide, or mass murder far exceeds the number of war dead. The killing of people by repressive governments is called democide. From 1900 until 1987, the victims of democide numbered 170 million. About 62 million were killed by Russian Communists, 35 million by Chinese Communists, 21 million by German Nazis, 10 million by Chinese nationalists, 6 million by the Japanese in and before WWII, etc. (13).