As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 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; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24:37-42)
I have read several commentaries supporting that it is the Rapture being
discussed in those passages, to include commentaries from leading
eschatologists. However, I have also read or heard people comment that
those verses are not about the Rapture; but, rather, are about the
Second Coming. They go on to note men were especially evil in the days
of Noah just as it will be before the Second Coming. Another group of
people agree that people were evil in the days of Noah and, therefore,
they conclude those verses are describing the Rapture during or after
I believe that scriptural analysis of those verses support that the Rapture is being discussed and, as a result, it is there that a ministry to lukewarm Christians and those not yet saved can be assisted. Although not the only place, there we can make an easy reference for people that the Rapture is imminent and, thus, emphasize that one should be examining their spiritual condition less they be left behind. We know that being on the watch is supported throughout scripture, but I believe the days of Noah analogy really drives home the point.
What Was Said
Let's examine what God's Word says: for exactly what is says and neither add nor take away from what is said. First, we should note that Jesus does not say "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. People were wicked and their hearts evil..." Nor do the words even remotely resemble, for example, what we find in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 to describe evil people, "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Obviously Jesus could have used many words and/or examples to make a point that it will be like when men were evil if that is the comparison He was conveying to us.
Jesus also did not just leave it up to us to guess the similarities between the days of Noah and what is being said by skipping from "As it was in the days of Noah..." immediately to "...that is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." Had He done so, we would have been left to guess which similarity is being made. In fact, I can see where it may have been more likely attributed to a time when mankind was evil and, therefore, all but Noah and his family were destroyed because that was the resounding theme about the days of Noah. That actually lends more support that Jesus did not want us to make that conclusion because we are then left with the words that He actually chose to use. That is, He specifically mentioned people were eating, drinking, and marrying. Luke chapter 17 also explains Jesus made a further comparison to the days of Lot when people were working, buying and selling, and building. The words Jesus specifically chose to use clearly represent a time when people were going about their everyday life: just as we are today!
Furthermore, let's contrast a time when people are eating, drinking, marrying, working, and building to what we know about how it will be during the Tribulation:
Per Revelation 6:6, it will require a day's wages just to buy food.
Revelation 6:15-17 explains people will wish they could die and will be hiding in caves and rocks:
"Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the
mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the
rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks,
“Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and
from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?"
Revelation 8:7 describes, "...a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up."
Revelation 8:8-9 says, "...A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed."
We read in Revelation 8:10 that, "...A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter."
Per Revelation 8:12, "...A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night."
Again in Revelation 9:2-6 we see a description of people literally seeking death in vain hopes to escape their torment:
When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
Thus, if we compare "people were eating and drinking, marrying and
giving in marriage" to a time when there will be food and water
shortages, catastrophic events that cause mass human destruction, trees
and grass being scorched, water turning to poison, seas turning to
blood, and people literally seeking death, it just doesn't make sense
that it is the same time period being discussed. Why would Jesus have
gone out of His way to describe the days of Noah when people were going
about their everyday lives if He really meant to compare it to a time
when people were evil and the world was in chaos?
The Location of the Passages
I can see where one might erroneously think that, because those passage are found so late in the Olivet Discourse, they must be referring to the Second Coming. However, we see passages discussing the Second Coming before we see the days of Noah passages, for in Matthew 24:30 we read, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
Lest anyone think those verses are describing the Rapture, we should compare them to the verses clearly describing the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 we read:
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
While those passage may initially seem similar, a careful study reveals
notable differences that distinguish the two events from one another:
The verses in Matthew describe believers being gathered after Jesus returns to earth, while the verses in 1 Thessalonians describe believers being gathered in the air.
We read in Matthew that believers will be gathered by angels, which is not that same as 1 Thessalonians where they are being gathered by the Lord Himself.
Matthew does not discuss any resurrection of bodies, yet that is one of
the most notable points being made in 1 Thessalonians.
Backing up just a little, I believe that starting with Luke 21:28, the
discussion exited a sequential discussion, as Luke records Jesus saying
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near.” (emphasis added). That verse
comes right after Luke's description of the Second Coming, already noted
above. That, coupled with the fact we have already seen verses
describing the Second Coming gives us clues that the verses that follow
could be "starting over" and not have to be about the Second Coming.
For Whom It's Being Written
Another defense for it being the Second Coming I have seen is that since Matthew is writing to the Jews, the passages must be about the events that happened in 70 A.D and, thus, could not be about the Rapture. However, as noted before, we have already seen the Second Coming being discussed earlier (and the return of Christ was not anything that happened in 70 A.D.). Moreover, the text itself tells us it is talking about something other than 70 A.D. because it refers to it being as the coming of the Son of Man. In fact, as if to provide emphasis, the "coming of the Son of Man" words are provided twice: once in Matthew 24:37 and then just a few verses later in v.39. Also, although Matthew is writing to the Jews, it does not mean he is not permitted to discuss the Rapture. On the contrary, when the Rapture happens, the Jewish people as much or more than any people, will have to reflect on "what happened". I believe the Rapture, along with Messianic prophecy, will be something the 144,000 witnesses will be explaining to all those left behind, particularly the Jews to whom Matthew is writing.
At any rate, we are told many times throughout scripture that the Rapture will take many people by surprise. No matter what exactly the days of Noah was referring to, there is little doubt that as we go about our daily lives, eating and drinking, marrying, working, and building, we should do what Jesus said to do in Luke 21:36, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."