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Most modern prophecy conferences, Christian radio programs, and End-time movies say that this passage in Matthew describes the wicked days of Noah and the Corrupt culture back then. And then they apply this as a description of the future End-time days at the Second Coming of Jesus.

But the rest of the Bible portrays these as Normal activities of every day life! Eating and drinking 1 Kings 19:6, Elijah ate and drank, 1 Chronicles 12:39, David's men ate and drank, 1 Chronicles 29:22, Eating and drinking with great joy in the Presence of the LORD, Acts 10:41, Did eat and drink with Jesus. Eating and drinking were normal activities in the Bible. Even the Son of Man came 'eating and drinking'.

Marrying and Giving in marriage Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable, John 2:1-11 Jesus made wine at a wedding, Matthew 22:2 The King (God) made a marriage for the Son (Jesus), Revelation 19:7,9 Marriage supper of the Lamb! 1 Corinthians 7:38 He who marries does not sin. All these scriptures portray marriage as honorable--not some type of dissipation or evil.

So was Jesus describing evil times or normal times for the Second Coming? Are the modern prophecy teachers wrong in portraying evil end-times? Is the explanation of Jesus in verses 38 and 39 being ignored, and thereby skewing the teaching of Jesus?

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  • 3
    It seems to me that the question has answered itself. 'Eating and drinking' ; marrying and giving in marriage' are the (so-called) 'normal' pursuits of natural instinct. Human behaviour itself considered as a mere natural existence, mere self-preservation (of self and of the human race). But without any spiritual impetus, lacking any real purpose other than self-existence. And the Flood took them all away. Yes. 'normal'.
    – Nigel J
    May 30, 2023 at 21:52
  • @NigelBut what about Jesus's intended application of this in the next 2 verses? Are the end times to be with no "signs" just like the people of Noah's day had no signs?
    – ray grant
    May 30, 2023 at 23:02
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    Noah was the sign. And the ark that he was building. What further signs did they need ? So shall it be in the end of the age.
    – Nigel J
    May 31, 2023 at 3:15
  • @NigelJ, if I got this right, then it means that the normal everyday life got them unnoticed, it wasn't the main reason for why they were wiped, but it was the reason for why they did not perceive, paid attention that something was coming
    – Vinícius
    May 31, 2023 at 16:06
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    I concur with Nigel here. Most of present day humanity, in their normalcy, natural or unnatural, is oblivious as to what could/will be coming at the time of Jesus' return. May 31, 2023 at 19:23

7 Answers 7

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Allow me to quote the passage concerned:

Matt 24 - 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. 39 And they were oblivious, until the flood came and swept them all away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.

This describes normal, lawful human activity - eating meals and getting married. Matt 24:12 discusses wickedness; V9 mentions persecution; V29 mentions tribulation. However, V19 discusses pregnant women and nursing mothers - normal human activity.

Barnes succinctly captures the idea of Matt 24:38 -

For as in the days ... - The things mentioned here denote attention to the affairs of this life rather than to what was coming on them. It does not mean that these things were wrong, but only that such was their actual employment, and that they were regardless of what was coming upon them.

That is, people were consumed, not by spiritual realities but by everyday "affairs of this world" (1 Cor 7:33, 34). Paul discusses this ordinary problem in Eph 2:2 where he calls it, The ways of this world".

Jesus made a sharp distinction between the two when He said, "My kingdom is not of this world." Indeed, Jesus even said in John 8:23 -

Then He told them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

Heb 11 discusses this distinction at length. However, there is nothing wrong with eating meals and getting married, but these everyday affairs should not distract us from the greater spiritual realities.

Lastly, note that "dissipation (κραιπάλη) is not mentioned in Matt 24 - the word only occurs once in all the NT, Luke 21:34.

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  • Good answer, + 1, but I give 'Hold To The Rod' the edge and I too can't for the life of me understand why someone downvoted him. May 31, 2023 at 18:37
  • I upvoted them both. And I really wish people who downvote answers would tell us why. Jun 1, 2023 at 16:42
  • @Dottard Your answer does not take into account the change of topics in Matt. 24 at verses 34-36. The horrible events leading to the Dest. of Jer. end, and the topic of the Second Coming begins. Jesus contrasted them. The first event contained harbinger signs...the second event has no signs, acc. to Jesus. It seems that failure to discern this change leads to misunderstandings about the Second Coming. Jesus was correcting the misconceptions of the disciples who thought the Dest. of Jer. was so bad it must portend the End of the world! Not! Matt. 24:42, 44, 50; 25:13. The End has no signs.
    – ray grant
    Jun 1, 2023 at 19:48
  • @raygrant - that is one way to read Matt 24 - many (including myself) would stridently disagree. Are you suggesting that Matt 24:26-31 is about the Dest. of Jer or the end of the world?
    – Dottard
    Jun 1, 2023 at 22:01
  • @DottardJesus gave two "book-ends" in the Olivet Discourse which enclosed the topic of the Dest. of Jerusalem: "All these things shall come upon this generation!" 23:36, 24:34. The Jewish symbolism used here throws a lot of readers off. Recall that Jesus told the Priests they would see the Son coming in power. And remember that Jesus was emphatic about setting up His Kingdom. Here He declared the end of Judaism, and the beginning of His reign in power (See the symbolism of Daniel 7!) See R.W. Grant, TIMES, THEY ARE A'CHANGING book for verse by verse commentary, or M. Kik, MATTHEW 24.
    – ray grant
    Jun 1, 2023 at 22:43
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I will propose a different interpretation: Jesus is not saying there's anything wrong with eating or getting married; rather, He is pointing out that the ordinary activities of daily life--life as usual--will be ongoing right up until the time of His coming. It will be easy to be lulled into complacency.


Let us consider 3 evidences in favor of this interpretation:

  • Marriage is blessed and ordained by God (see Genesis 2:22-25, Hebrews 13:4). The observance of multiple feasts (which involved eating) were commanded by God through Moses
  • The context of verse 39 is that people didn't see what was coming until it was too late (various translations use words such as "oblivious", "unaware", "did not understand", "did not realize what was happening"). Life was so ordinary - surely nothing dramatic was going on.
  • In the surrounding verses Jesus is providing the signs that those "who have ears to hear" will recognize so they do not lose heart, but He is not giving a date and time. If everyone knew exactly when the flood was coming, or exactly when any promised destruction would be, the natural human tendency would be to procrastinate, waste their lives, fail to live up to their potential, and then try to repent & prepare when it's too late. This human nature is illustrated by the parable given a few verses later:

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This attitude of complacency is further illustrated in 2 Peter 3:

3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

I.e. the world is proceeding normally - nothing dramatic (like these prophecies) is happening.


It is easy to see the world going about its normal business and assume that nothing dramatic could happen among such ordinary circumstances. "The Lord must be delaying His coming because life is so normal." Jesus is warning that there will not be a "last call" or an "all aboard" for repentance. The signs are there for those willing to see them, but as it was in the time of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man: normal life will appear to be continuing quite interrupted until the very moment God sends the fulfilment of His promises.

If Noah had waited until it started raining to build a boat, he would have drowned. If one waits until it is no longer possible to doubt, it will also be no longer possible to repent.

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Verse 37 clearly says this will happen at the coming of the Son of Man, the end time.

Verse 38 clearly speaks of human activities that are normal for both normal and debauched times.

Verse 39 clearly says that preoccupation with those activities cause them to take no note of imminent disaster.

It is their taking no note of the warnings and the build-up of signs of Christ's sudden, spectacular return, that is the point.

Gluttony, drunkenness, celebrations, and big get-togethers are normal for worldly people, who live for such carnal pleasures. That has always been the case, in centuries past and in Noah's time. And even if there is moderation with eating, drinking and celebrations, people spend such a lot of time, money and effort enjoying such things, spiritual realities can still pass them by.

Jesus was drawing a parallel with Noah's time and the time of the end, when he comes to judge the living and the dead. Advance warning was given in Noah's time, to a generation so debauched, "that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every thought of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5 A.V.) Not a soul heeded the testimony of Noah and his family, as they built an ark to preserve life through the coming flood. "They took no note" until that flood swept them all away.

So it will be again, shortly before the end comes for a world of humanity that does not believe Jesus' warnings. Normal activities will go on, which includes wickedness, corruption, selfishness, greed and godlessness. Normal attempts of those who shun such things will go on, seeking to be decent, law-abiding citizens, but they too will take no note of Jesus' warnings. Only those who believe Jesus and see the signs building up will take note, and be prepared for his sudden appearance with myriads of angels.

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  • Also worth an upvote. May 31, 2023 at 18:47
  • 1
    @AnneBut Jesus did NOT mention any of the evil things you listed. And He did NOT refer to any "build up of signs" which to take note of! Isn't Jesus trying to warn that there are NO signs? And isn't this just the opposite of the previous teaching about the Destruction of Jerusalem, which had a plethora of signs? There certainly is evil in every generation, but the point of Jesus was "normal" not "sign-filled" times at the Second Coming, it seems.
    – ray grant
    May 31, 2023 at 19:56
  • 1
    Verse 36 is also worth noting: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." (Matt 24:36 NASB) Even Jesus Himself did not know when the Second Coming would be. The whole point of the passage is that no one except the Father will know in advance, not there will be signs to watch for.
    – reirab
    May 31, 2023 at 20:13
  • @ray grant If you stick to only the 4 verses in the Q, you won't get far. Jesus had already shown that many signs were 'no-signs'; 'but the end is not yet'. Far worse events would mark his near return - a built-up to tribulation far worse than anything ever experienced. The destruction of Jerusalem was an initial fulfillment, with a greater one to come on a global scale at Christ's return. Yes, I said that normal things would be going on then, the point being that such activities cause people to take no note, which is a massive sign, in itself.
    – Anne
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:52
  • 1
    I do not understand why someone downvoted this answer - perfectly good. I have upvoted it to balance it out.
    – Dottard
    Jun 2, 2023 at 5:42
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Jesus is referring to the "days" before the Flood. The Jews listening to him knew what days he alluded to, as they typically memorized the Torah by the age of 12. For us, it helps to review the story of the Flood to see this.

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. (Genesis 7:4, KJV)

When did those seven days begin?

In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; (Genesis 7:13, KJV)

Jesus makes note of that point in time.

38For 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, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:38-39, KJV)

So what Jesus is really saying here is that even after Noah had entered the ark and the door had been shut--the door too large to be opened or shut by human hands, which is why verse 16 tells us that "the LORD shut him in"--even after this, the people still did not know that their fate had been sealed; their probation had closed.

When did they know? Only when the Flood came, seven days after Noah had entered the ark.

Had they known, they would surely not have continued about their normal everyday lives; marrying, giving in marriage, eating and drinking. While they were certainly given to fleshly lusts in place of honoring God, Jesus is not here saying that those activities were especially sinful. He is saying they were ignorant of the gravity of their situation. They did not know what was so soon to befall them. They did not know that their judgment was coming.

And THAT is what Jesus predicts will be repeated shortly before he returns! People will be carrying on as normal, oblivious to the fact that their probation is soon to be, or has already, closed, and their cases sealed for eternity.

The next words establish this as Jesus' primary focus in recounting these historical events:

42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:42-44, KJV)

Jesus does not desire that we should repeat the mistakes of the past--for this reason he warns us!

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  • @BiblasiaPrecisely! It couldn't be more clear. Especially since Jesus repeated the same warning many, many times with several different illustrations. He "hit it from every angle" so to speak. He could come today...without warning!
    – ray grant
    Jun 4, 2023 at 21:23
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Mind Set on the Flesh

In the end times of death and destruction, wars or pandemic, the sinner engages in sinful indulgences whereas the righteous focuses on wisdom and spirituality. Their sin is not to be vigilant and wise. Even if the "normal acts" may not have been sinful in themselves, they are described as worldly & selfish in that not everything is profitable (1Cor 10:23-24). The passage shows the worldly mindset of the flesh.

The context of Matthew 24 is the same as Luke 21. The indulgence of the slumbering believer isn't normal but debauchery, he is not doing the work of God. (ESV) Matthew 24:45-51:

““Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The preoccupation & boasting in the world is the trait of an unbeliever who fails to do the right thing, James 4:13-17. Only the ungodly are said to be preoccupied with eating and drinking, because that is what their heart is upon. That's what life is to them, the lust of their flesh.

(ESV) 1 Corinthians 15:32-33:

“What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.””

The Righteous Hates the World

(ESV) 1 John 2:15-17:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Dissipation means debauched living.

(ESV) Luke 21:34:

““But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

Danker:

ϰραιπάλη, ης, ἡ [loanword in Lat. crapula ‘drunken revel’] ‘engagement in drunken reveling’, dissipation, binging Lk 21:34.

BDAG3 :

κραιπάλη, ης, ἡ (also κρεπάλη, q.v.; both ‘carousing, intoxication’ and its result ‘drunken headache, hangover’ are associated in the use of the term, since it means ‘dizziness, staggering’ when the head refuses to function [Aristoph.; Plut., Mor. 127f; Lucian, Bis Accus. 16; Soranus p. 16, 26; Aretaeus p. 110, 2]) unbridled indulgence in a drinking party, drinking bout (Aristoph., Ach. 277; Vesp. 1255)

They were hungover with partying and merrymaking. Their life was all about worldly activities, lacking spiritual things. Compare Luke 10:41, Martha was busy in her worries and troubled with her normal engagements.

The worldly were revelling in their worldly activities.

To revel means to take great pleasure or delight in something. It can also mean to indulge in boisterous festivities or celebrate. When someone revels in something, they are not just pleased or excited, but they are overwhelmed by joy.

When the times of tribulation come, panic overwhelms them, they would try their best to save themselves, even to the point of harming others. Whereas the righteous will sit peacefully and without worries about life.

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  • 1
    This answer concentrates too much on Luke and the Greek word translated as "dissipation", as opposed to what is actually written in Matthew, which is less to do with dissipation and more to do with everyday normalcy. May 31, 2023 at 19:04
  • @Michael16Ditto to Olde English.
    – ray grant
    May 31, 2023 at 19:58
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Upon reflection and scrutiny of the pertinent verses it seems that there are three divisions to the Olivet Discourse. And recognition of these just might help in an exegesis of verses 36-39:

Destruction of Judea-------Transition statements--------End of the World (2nd Coming)

  1. Destruction in 67-70 A.D. Jesus opened with the announcement that the Temple would be torn down stone by stone. He then gave several events leading up to that judgment. Some of the symbolism is gleaned from the O.T. (especially Daniel), and from contemporary Jewish rabbinical teaching concerning the transition of their Present era to the Messianic Era. Without knowing those idioms many think Jesus is talking about something else!

  2. Transition Jesus then made comments stating that all those events would transpire within that generation of time (30-70 A.D., forty years). (He previously made the same statement, 23:36.) "BUT" (left out in the NIV translation!; Gk. peri-de, "but concerning"). This conjunction is one of contrast. Jesus announced that the End of Judaism was NOT the End of the World, but contrasted to it. (Greek New Testament, George R. Berry). For an understanding of the Olivet Discourse don't miss this change of topics by Jesus.

  3. Second Coming Jesus then described that "Day" (opposite of Jewish Judgment Days--plural) as one in which there would be NO SIGNS (also, opposite of the many Signs about the Jewish Judgment).

    Therein lies our verse in question: As it was in the days of Noah...eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage...and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came...that is how it will be at the Coming of the Son of Man.

    To emphasize the unannounced Second Coming, Jesus gave several more illustrations, and concluded each with Therefore keep watch because you do not know...So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him...The Master will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of...Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

All these stories could not be referring to the Destruction because it lasted for 31/2 years, day in and day out! The advance of the Roman armies was steady and observable, frighteningly so!

In all these Second Coming parables, there is a picture of normal, every day activities. Eating, marrying, grinding, employment conduct, wedding planning. This repetition by Jesus seems to be different than a picture of tribulation, tragedy, apocalyptic drama, etc. that is taught in modern times. Why then is there such teaching? Is it because of lack of recognition of "transition verses"... or a lack of knowing the idiomatic usage of Jewish figures of speech? (The words used in the first section come from Jewish culture, not the King's English.) Either way, the eating, marrying of Noah's day seem to refer to Normal Times...at Christ's Coming Again.

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On the Literal Dimension

Though I do 100% agree with this interpretation from Hold To The Rod, "Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with eating or getting married; rather, He is pointing out that the ordinary activities of daily life--life as usual--will be ongoing right up until the time of His coming. It will be easy to be lulled into complacency." However, since the kingdom of God is spiritual, could it be that Jesus was referring to something much deeper, meaning the carnal perceptions, movements, and activities of our soul?

On the Moral and Metaphorical Dimension

  1. In many Bible verses, from the metaphorical perspective, "eat" is understood as in the sense of partaking of the doctrines of Christ to sustain (bread of life) the soul, and "drink" the Word of God as a cleansing (rivers of living water) agent for the soul.

  2. "Getting married and giving in marriage", again, from the metaphorical perspective, to what seed, philosophies, ideals, knowledge, and beliefs, are our souls being married to?

Could it be that Jesus was declaring a prophetic warning to us, believers, to be alert and vigilant, to watch and sift through what types of theology, ideologies, narratives, doctrines, and beliefs we are allowing our soul to adhere to and digest?

This prophecy has- and is still coming to pass. Unfortunately, most have opted for the apostate Gospel.

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    – agarza
    Jan 20 at 4:46
  • @ Shear Yashuv - Thanks for your input, as well as Hold to the Rod! I would humbly suggest that since the bulk of Jesus' prophecy about the Fall of Judea and Destruction of the Temple was "literal", so also the second half of the Olivet Discourse would deal with a literalness. The "End" will happen when real marriage are happening, real feasting is going on, etc. In this passage it would seem best not to spiritualize (figuratize) too much, if at all. Keep studying the Bible, it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Jan 23 at 22:40

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