At church last week, the pastor was talking about the second coming of Christ. He focused on Matthew 24:36-39, which states (in the KJV):
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 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.”
The pastor was relaying to us the different interpretative options of “marriage and giving in marriage.” He said that the passage is essentially saying that life was going on normally before the Flood came. But then he referred to the intermarriage between the sons of God (whom he interpreted to be angels) and the daughters of men in Genesis 6.
A key point that the pastor was making, though, was that only a few were saved during the Flood, and that only a few will be saved when Jesus comes back. He exhorted us not to get ready for Christ’s return, but to be ready. If we learned that Jesus would return tomorrow, what would we do? Would we be on the phone apologizing to that person we cussed out? The pastor’s implication seemed to be that we should have taken care of that by now!
The pastor said that people before the Flood were doing their own thing, without much thought towards God. The pastor also said that we may hear his message, then its effect would subside during the week and we would go back to doing our own thing.
The message was not particularly comforting. But, like the pastor said, over the week, the effect of the sermon subsides, and I go back to doing my own thing. And what is wrong with me doing my own thing? God destroyed the earth with the Flood because of the violence of its inhabitants (Genesis 6:11). They were not just doing their own thing, but they were hurting others.
Suppose that Jesus were coming back tomorrow. Would I make a special effort to appease those who don’t like me? Maybe, if there was a suspicion on my part that I would go to hell otherwise. Do I feel like trying to appease people now? Nope!
The idea of only a few people being saved bothers me. I would like to think that God loves everyone and knows where they are. Still, Jesus did talk about the narrow way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). I am somewhat on an interfaith kick right now, reading the Bhagavad Gita. I asked myself if the Bhagavad Gita is so exclusive. Well, in a sense, it is. In the Bhagavad Gita, people enter the Kingdom of God when they cease being attached to the material world, and most people are attached to the material world! Of course, Hinduism has a concept of reincarnation until people get things right, and that, in my opinion, is better than hell. Yet, there are also references to hell in the Bhagavad Gita (or, perhaps, Swami Prabhupada’s commentary on it).
The pastor said, if I recall correctly, that if Jesus came into the church, only a few of us would be saved. That is mindblowing. I doubt Bhagavad-Gita-reading me would be in that number, if that is the case. Or a better question would be: Why me, and not these others? I can’t think of anything that makes me better than them.
Maybe, my problem is with certain concepts that are in the Bible. I would struggle to have a generous, empathetic attitude towards people, if my mind were tied up in either the elitism or the despair that the “narrow way” concept can bring. I struggle with those things anyway, as someone who is rather liberal and inclusivist, but I suspect that it would be more of a struggle if I were to become more of an exclusivist.