The Importance of the Great Flood in the New Testament

The great flood in Noah’s day occurred about 2,500 years prior to the New Testament text in the First Century. The most catastrophic event to have ever occurred on planet earth was then, and still is today, as an everlasting current event, for the debris of the great flood is readily seen in the present world in the layers of hardened rock that quickly buried billions of men and creatures. We are now another 2,000 years removed from the First-Century world, and the earth is still settling down from the violence of the earth and seafloor bursting open, shaking the globe, lava from deep under the earth erupting, water from within and without wreaking chaos, covering even the highest elevations on the planet. The earth has certainly settled more so in our day than in the First Century when huge earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were much more common than they are today. And when so-called scientists today cry out “global warming”, they are indeed seeing changes in the earth’s environment, but most of it (such as rising sea temperatures or melting masses of ice) is from the earth calming down more and more from its violent past. Yes, the great flood is a subject of amazement, but it was much more than a worldwide catastrophe.

The great flood was a judgment of God. Genesis 6:5-7 reveals that the flood was not a natural disaster that occurred by chance, but it was a judgment of God due to the exceeding wickedness of mankind, with the exception of the man Noah, who found God’s grace (Genesis 6:8). And by the First Century, it was still the largest judgment of God upon mankind. Therefore, it served as a perfect illustration for the disciples of Christ of what God was going to do to the world yet again, this time, within their own generation.

The fact that the Jewish nation, which was dispersed throughout the whole world, was to be judged by God within the generation of the Apostles was no secret. Jesus spoke clearly about it throughout His ministry, and especially in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17, and 21. After Jesus, the apostles carried out the same message, beginning in Acts 2 (verses 19-21), and continuing throughout the new testament epistles, and finally, the Apostle John recorded the book of Revelation which speaks entirely about this process of judgment upon the house of Israel and the restoration of the kingdom to those worthy of it (Revelation 19:1-2; Matthew 21:43; 2 Thessalonians 1:5). However, let’s not forget that the gentile world would not be forgotten in God’s judgment concerning Israel (Revelation 14:9-13, 19:17-21, 20:11-15, Isaiah 24; 66:15-24; Daniel 7:9-11; Joel 3:1-17; Zechariah 14:12-19). Thus, similar to the great flood, the First Century was the scene of yet another global catastrophe, that could partially be seen with the physical eye (such as with the fall of the temple and the city of Jerusalem), but more readily seen as a spiritual matter of everlasting destruction to those who denied their Savior, just as John said concerning those days and the “things which must shortly take place… Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” (Revelation 1:1, 7). With this global judgment coming soon in that generation of men, Jesus and His apostles made use of the previous global judgment, the flood of Noah’s day, to illustrate the doom that was coming.

When Jesus spoke concerning the coming of the kingdom in the First Century, he said that He must first “suffer many things and be rejected by this generation”, once that occurred, then Jesus said,

“as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27).

The judgment of both the flood and the First Century house of Israel came as a surprise to the people. This is not because they were not warned, in fact, that is another similarity between these two judgments, the Spirit was sent out before both situations and the people were admonished to repent. As we discussed last week, the Spirit was sent before the flood and the word of Christ was delivered to the people (1 Peter 3:18-20), this happened by the mouth of Noah (2 Peter 2:5). Likewise, the Spirit was sent out in the First Century through the preaching of the Apostles and prophets. Both times, the Spirit was sent by the longsuffering of God (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9), but both times, the Spirit would not forever continue to strive with man (Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 3:10). So, in each case, the Spirit of God was sent out into all the world to warn man of the end of God’s longsuffering and the coming desolation. But again, even though they were all warned, they were still surprised by the judgment of God once it arrived; this is the point that Jesus is making in Luke 17:26-27 and Matthew 24:37-39; this was due to the absence of faith within them. Indeed, when the house of Israel fell, it was quite a shock. The Jews, though having been at war with Rome for about 5 years, believed themselves to be safe again after the death of Nero and the turmoil of the empire. So, in A.D. 70 the entire nation traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. Little did they know the vengeance held in General Vespasian’s heart and his secret order to surround the city, locking it down for 5 months, the nation within slowly and painfully died of starvation, disease, and the sword.

Another interesting passage that pairs the flood to the fall of Jerusalem is Jude 1:14-15. Here, Jude records a prophecy given by Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather. Enoch walked with God, and he knew a thing or two about the coming judgment upon the antediluvian people. He even named his son, Noah’s grandpa, Methuselah, an unusual name that means “when he dies, the sending forth”, that is, judgment would come proceeding the death of Methuselah. And if you do the math, that is exactly what happened; the same year that Methuselah died was the year that the flood came. Consider Jude revealing the ancient words of Enoch:

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

What is fascinating about this, is that, while it is certain that Enoch was referring to the judgment of God in the flood, Jude applies Enoch’s words to the judgment upon the First Century generation (as is evident by the context of the letter), inferring that such a great judgment would occur again. Now, of course, those people would not be destroyed by a universal flood, for God promised that He would not do that again (Genesis 8:21), but this time, it would happen in a much more spiritual way.

By spiritual, I don’t mean exclusively spiritual, as I said before, there was great bloodshed in the First Century. But spiritually, it was the removal of an old world and the bringing in of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:13). The prophets of God had long foretold those days of the Son of God (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Haggai 2:6-7; Daniel 2:34-35; Isaiah 2:2). The judgment of God removed the entire old covenant world, and all its priests, services, and sacrifices. It removed the nation that rejected their own God and Savior, piercing Him to a cross. It was the days of refreshing (Acts 3:19-21) and restoration of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, thus bringing in a whole new world, where sin no longer reigns and righteousness dwells because of the Son’s victory. This restoration of the world was seen from a physical aspect in the days that Noah walked out of the ark, but that was only an illustration of the greater spiritual things that God would do in Christ.

Article by Tanner Campbell