In the Days of Noah
In the Days of Noah
Jesus spoke of Noah and Peter describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). In his first letter, Peter reminds us that Noah was not preaching his opinion to his contemporaries, but rather Jesus was speaking through him (1 Peter 3:19).
Noah’s generation was incredibly wicked (Genesis 6:5) and yet God gave that generation 120 years of grace (Genesis 6:3), a huge visual aid that reminded them on a daily basis of the impending judgment, and they heard through Noah the powerful words of God. Such simply reminds me that every generation has received wonderful opportunities to believe and obey God. We are no different (Romans 1:20 “so that they are without excuse”).
The Spirits Now in Prison: 1 Peter 3:19
Man continues to exist even after his body dies. After death, spirits do not roam around haunting people or trying to find their way, rather after death there is an answering to God (Hebrews 9:27). The righteous find themselves comforted and at rest (Luke 16:23,25), while the wicked find themselves confined and “under punishment” (2 Peter 2:9). A common view among the denominations of Jesus’ preaching in the above passage is that some time after His death, but before His ascension, Jesus preached to those who were in hell or torment. Yet other passages make it clear that when He died, Jesus went to the area in Hades which is labeled “Paradise” (Acts 2:27,31; Luke 23:43). Peter tells us “when” Jesus actually preached to Noah’s generation, it was “when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah” (3:20). As Jesus preached through the prophets (1 Peter 1:11) and the apostles (1 Corinthians 14:37), Jesus also preached through Noah, to Noah’s generation (2 Peter 2:5). Various problems naturally arise over the interpretation that Jesus preached to people who were suffering in torment: Why preach to people after their fate is sealed? (Luke 16:26). Why preach exclusively to this generation and not any other? If such preaching gave them a second chance, why didn’t anyone in torment want out? (3:19; 2 Peter 2:9).
Keep this in mind when you read something written by someone in the past who was not focused on eternal realities. Or when you see an old Television or Internet interview with a famous person who did not see the importance of serving God in this life. Ask yourself, “Where are they now?” The important thing is not what they said, sang or wrote then, but what would they tell you now?
Who once were Disobedient
Obviously the lost are not allowed to simply do their own thing and rebel for the rest of eternity. Noah’s generation was disobedient when Noah preached, but they are now in prison. Hell or torment is not a place of unrestrained behavior and freedom that God simply ignores.
The Patience of God Kept Waiting
People may have argued, “Noah, you keep talking about a coming judgment, why hasn’t it arrived yet?” Therefore, we must never buy into the lie that as time goes by, this means that God’s final judgment is never going to arrive. God has already told us that He is going to be patient and a lot of time might pass by before He intervenes (2 Peter 3:9). Every day that passes by on this earth could be accurately labeled, “the patience of God kept waiting”.
During the Construction of the Ark
Would you or I have kept working on the ark day after day, especially when the task given to Noah seemed so overwhelming? Would we have kept working on the ark even though it brought ridicule and tended to isolate us from our neighbors, co-workers and other members of the community? Would we have continued to push forward even though we might have received absolutely no help, assistance or support from the community or our relatives? Noah, his wife, sons and daughter-in-laws made it into the ark (2 Peter 2:5 “with seven others”). Yet there is no mention of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grand-parents or in-laws, yet those relationships had to exist. Day after day it was just Noah and his immediate family. Are we prepared to be that faithful?
To be precise, eight people. The population on the earth at this time, using very conservative population growth estimates may have numbered around 16 million people. Eight out of 16 million. The rest of the Bible only reinforces the emphasis on the few:
- Only Joshua and Caleb of their generation made it into the Promised Land. Of that generation the Holy Spirit said years later, “Nevertheless with most of them God was not well-pleased” (1 Corinthians 10:5).
- 7000 faithful individuals existed in Israel during the time of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), yet the nation probably numbered in the millions.
- 3000 people were baptized into Christ on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), yet the city probably contained around 2 million people during this feast period.
- Will I be one of the few? Observe that everyone who heard Noah’s preaching had the opportunity to become one of the few.
Corresponding to that…
“The like figure” (KJV); “The water prefigured the water of baptism” (NEB); “And baptism, which this foreshadowed” (TCNT). The Greek word rendered “corresponding” or “like figure”, is the word ANTITUPOS. Literally it means a striking back, echoing, a thing resembling another, its counterpart, corresponding to something that has gone before. The antitype is the die, mold, or pattern that makes an impression. For example, the cookie is the type, the cookie-cutter is the antitype. The type is the copy and the antitype is the original. Besides the Flood, baptism was also prefigured in the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Baptism was equally prefigured in the laver in which the priests washed prior to serving in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-20; Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”).
Baptism Now Saves You
Obviously this passage is teaching that baptism is essential to salvation, but many denominations don’t teach that, hence in order to circumvent the necessity of water baptism, some are arguing that passages such as 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, are referring to Holy Spirit baptism and not water baptism. So why would Peter parallel Holy Spirit baptism to an event which used more water than any other event in human history? Clearly, the reference is to a baptism in water. Why would Peter have to caution his readers that the baptism in this verse isn’t a bath or some type of ceremonial washing, if it was Holy Spirit baptism, “not the removal of dirt from the flesh”? Holy Spirit baptism does not save a person. Cornelius and his family were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44; 11:15-16), and yet Peter didn’t say, “Oh well, they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, that makes water baptism unnecessary in this case”. Rather, Peter still commanded them to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48). I don’t know what all the excuses were in Noah’s time for not getting into the ark. Yet, I do know this. Jesus simply pictures Noah’s generation as being really busy with earthly things (Matthew 24:38-39). The few do not get distracted. The few focus on God. The few take God’s word seriously. The few move when God commands. Am I one of the few? How about you?
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017