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In Matthew 24:21,22 Jesus says, " For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."

Then later in the chapter Jesus says in Matthew 24:37-39, "For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."

I take the coming of the Son of Man to be a reference to Jesus coming back to earth to gather his elect mentioned in Matthew 24:30.

I also take this event to come immediately after the tribulation.

The question then is, how can people still be eating, drinking and getting married during the worst time in human history. It seems that times have been worse for people. Is this a good reason to take these verses hyperbolically or have I missed something?

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    The 'tribulation' is the suffering of Christians and what is at risk is 'salvation'. The rest of the world eats and drinks and marries and gives in marriage, just as it did while Noah and his sons built an ark, before the flood came. I do not see any 'hyperbole' here at all.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 6:43

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how can people still be eating, drinking and getting married during the worst time in human history

It's called human nature.

Look into what your family was doing during the Holodomor 1932–1933, when 10 million Ukranians were deliberately starved to death by Stalin.

Or Great Chinese Famine when China's population dropped by 15 million people over two years.

Or in the 1970s when Pol Pot executed a third of the male population and a sixth of the female population of Cambodia.

Or … .

Then consider how you are living your life right now, while disease, starvation, and brutal wars are afflicting millions of people around the world.

How do the miserable conditions in parts of Latin America affect your lifestyle?
The answer is, they don't.

Should you really change your lifestyle just because two tribes in Africa are currently busy raping, pillaging, and hacking each other to death with machetes?

It's not until one is directly and personally inconvenienced that one's lifestyle changes.


This gets more into doctrinal interpretations rather than hermeneutics, but it's possible that the tribulation affects some groups of people far more than others. In particular, Europe (the Beast) and Asia (the Kings of the East) seem to survive fairly well, while Israel, North America, the King of the South, etc. don't.

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  • Something else that’s come to my mind that goes along with your point is Revelation 6:15 which says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” if this verse should be understood as what will happen after the tribulation then there is still an economy (rich people), government (kings and generals) and social status (slave and free). This would suggest that there is still some kind of civilized society during the tribulation.
    – Zakb
    Commented Mar 14, 2021 at 3:02
  • Asia (the Kings of the East) ... in what universe does that make sense. Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 6:50
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Matthew 24:21 is an allusion to Daniel 12:1:

[Dan 12:1 NKJV] (1) "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands [watch] over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, [Even] to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.

The "world" referred to in Matthew (and elsewhere in the NT) seems to refer to the league of nations that comprise union of the Jews:

[Gen 35:11 NLT] (11) Then God said, "I am El-Shaddai--'God Almighty.' Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants!

This is the definition supplied by Gesenius, as well as all of its biblical uses:

It is often translated as “multitude” by the KJV but I think that fails to capture the sense of association implied in the word.

The LXX translates it as “synagogue” which the Jews use for their meetings as well as their meeting places.

In the immediate context of Genesis 35:11, it appears that God is referring to the “12 tribes of Israel”. The NT authors would see this as referring to people of all nations being united in faith in the Messiah and the New Covenant, which is not dependent on being of Jacob’s bloodline, the Torah or the Jerusalem temple. In the NT this is “the kingdom of God” aka “the kingdom of the sky/skies” aka the bride of Christ aka the New Creation aka the Temple Not Made With Hands aka “the Israel of God”, etc.

The point is not that no human suffering would ever compare, only that in history of the age of biblical history, this would be the apex.

Compare with:

[Exo 11:6 CSB] (6) "Then there will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before or ever will be again.

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Have I Missed Something? Yes, unfortunately the questioner has missed "something" very important. The two scriptures involved in this query lie in two different sections of the Olivet Discourse. And what was missed was the TRANSITION statements by our Lord.

END OF THE MOSAIC AGE v.1-34----transition v.35,36---END OF WORLD v.36-25:46

With this understanding, there is no need to take these verses hyperbolically totally. In this first section, Jesus is laying out the times leading up to the final destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and on a greater scale, the End of the Mosaic, sacrificial system: the end of the Old Covenant. (See Hebrews 8:13)

The horrible events that occurred when the Roman besieged the capitol... AFTER 3 and 1/2 years of trampling all over Jude, Samamria, Perea, Galilee, etc....was unimaginable! Cannibalism, betrayal, murder of the priests, starvation, etc. was unbelievably horrific.

Warnings Jesus warned the Jews about this Judgment all throughout his ministry, as well did John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:10, 21:41-44, Luke 23:27-31) He exposed all their hypocrisies in Matthew 23, and decreed their End. Your house is left to you desolate. (23:28)

Noah's Days The second verse at hand lies within the second section of the Olivet Discourse. The tenor is totally different from the first section. Instead of "days", Jesus now talks of "That Day" (singular). That is the Second Coming at the End of the World. That event will happen without signs (such as were given in the first section).

To emphasize His point, Jesus gave not one, not two, but several illustrations! Be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him...Therefore keep watch because you do not know the hour or the day. And Jesus demonstrated the NORMALness of the times by mentioning several ordinary occupation work days, around the clock.

Misunderstanding What throws people off in understanding all this, is the use of Old Testament vocabulary, Jewish vernacular, which is quite different from Western English lingo. All the things mentioned in vss. 29-31 can be interpreted to a hermeneutically, exegetical satisfaction. And we have Jesus word on it that they have been fulfilled: This generation (30-70 A.D.) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (v.34)

The first verses dealt with the WORST OF TIMES...and the second section dealt with NORMAL TIMES.

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