In our article on "Enoch" it was pointed out that the name of his child intimated that God had given warning to him of the coming of the Deluge- "And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah" (Gen. 5:21). The signification of Methuselah is, "When he is dead it shall be sent," i.e., the Deluge (Newberry). A divine revelation then was memorialized in this name. The world was to last only as long as this son of Enoch lived. If 1 Peter 3:20 be linked to Genesis 5:21 an interesting and precious thought is brought before us: "Which (the antediluvians now in ‘prison') some time were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah." To what does this "long-suffering" refer which "waited" while the ark was a preparing? How long had God's patience been exercised? Nine hundred and sixty-nine years seems to be the answer the span of Methuselah's life. As long as Enoch's son lived the world was safe; but when he died, then should it (the Deluge) be sent. Is it not a most impressive demonstration of God's "long-suffering" that the man whose life was to measure the breath of a world's probation, was permitted to live longer than any one else ever did live! Nine hundred and sixty-nine years- what an exhibition of God's mercy! How wondrous are the ways of Jehovah! As that child was to live until the time came for mankind to be swept away by the flood; and, as during this interval God's servants were to warn men from the coming wrath, shall not the mercy of God prolong that day? Shall not this man live longer than any other man ever did live? Shall not his age be unique, standing out from the ages of all others?- because that from the hour of his birth the Divine decree had gone forth, "When the breath leaves his body the throes of dissolution shall commence; when he departs the thunder clouds of God's anger shall burst, the windows of heaven shall be opened, the foundations of the great deeps shall give way, and every living thing shall be swept from this earth by the besom of Divine destruction." And so it was. Methuselah out-lived all his contemporaries and remained on earth almost a thousand years.
Having viewed the postponement of the flood through the long-suffering of God, let us next consider the provocation of it. We have already dwelt upon the fact that the New Testament Scriptures call our attention to the "longsuffering of God (which) waited in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3:20). These words intimate that God's longsuffering had already been exercised and that it continued to "wait" even in the days of Noah. This causes us to inquire how and when had God's "long-suffering" been manifested previously to Noah?
The word "long-suffering" implies that God had dealt in mercy, that His mercy had been slighted, and that His patience (humanly speaking) had been sorely tried. And this leads us to ask another question- a deeply interesting and important one: What Divine light did the antediluvians enjoy? What knowledge of God, of His character and of His ways, did they possess? What was the measure of their responsibility? To answer these questions is to discover the enormity of their sin, is to measure the extent of their wickedness, is to determine the degree of their aggravation of God; and, consequently, is to demonstrate the magnitude of His long-suffering in bearing with them for so long.
While the record is exceedingly brief, sufficient is revealed to show that men in general possessed no small amount of light even in days before the flood. Not only had they, in common with all generations the "light of Nature," or as Romans 1:19, 20 expresses it, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead"- which rendered them "without excuse''; not only had they the testimony of conscience (Rom. 2:14, 15), but, in addition, they possessed the light of Divine revelation. In what this latter consisted we shall now endeavor to show.
First, man had the Promise of a Redeemer. Before our first parents were banished from Eden, God declared that the woman's Seed should bruise the serpent's head, and for His appearing believers looked and longed (see Genesis 49:18). Second: There was the institution of expiatory sacrifices as the one means of approach to Jehovah. This was made known by God to Adam and Eve by means of the coats of skins which He provided as a covering for their nakedness. The meaning of His gracious condescension was clearly understood by them, and the significance of it and need of such sacrifice was communicated to their children, as is clear from the acts of Cain and Abel. That such knowledge was handed down from father to son is also seen in the fact that as soon as Noah came out of the ark he "built an altar unto the Lord... and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Gen. 8:20).
Third: There was the "mark" which God set upon Cain (Gen. 4:15), which was a reminder of his disapprobation, a visible memorial of his own sin, and a solemn warning unto those among whom his lot was subsequently cast. Fourth: As we indicated in our comments on Genesis 4, the institution of the Sabbath was even then established, as may be seen from the fact that there was a set time for worship (Gen. 4:3, margin). Fifth: The longevity of the patriarchs must be borne in mind. But two lives spanned the interval from the beginning of human history to the Deluge itself,, namely Adam's and Methuselah's. For nine hundred and thirty years the first man lived to tell of his original creation and condition, of his wicked disobedience against God, and of the fearful consequences which followed his sin. A striking illustration of the communication of this knowledge from one generation to another may be seen in the words of Lamech, who lived to within a few years of the flood itself words recorded in Genesis 5:29, where it will be found he makes reference to "the ground which the Lord God hath cursed." Sixth: There was the preaching of Enoch through whom God warned the world of its approaching doom (Jude 14, 15). Seventh: The mysterious and supernatural translation of Enoch, which must have made a profound impression upon those among whom his lot was cast. Eighth: The preaching of Noah (2 Pet. 2:25), followed by his building of the ark, by which he condemned the world. Ninth: The ministry of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:19), striving with men and, as the record implies, this for some considerable time. From these things then it is abundantly clear that the antediluvians fell not through ignorance but by willfully rejecting a Divine revelation, and from deliberately persisting in their wickedness.
Having considered the Provocation of the Flood, let us now examine the cause of it. Stated in a sentence, this was the awful depravity and wickedness of mankind, or to quote the language of our chapter, "And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:12, 13). God's saints are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), and little as the world realizes or appreciates it, the fact remains that it is the presence of God's people here which prevents the mystery of iniquity coming to a head and preserves mankind from an outpouring of God's wrath. Ten righteous men in Sodom would have stayed the Divine judgment, but only one could be found.
The salt character of God's people is due to the Holy Spirit dwelling within and working through them. Let His gracious manifestations be resisted and despised and they will be withdrawn, then the measure of man's iniquity will be quickly filled up. These two preserving and restraining factors are brought together in 2 Thessalonians 2. Before our Lord shall return to the earth itself, accompanied by the saints (previously translated), there shall come one who is denominated, "the man of sin, the son of perdition." This superman shall oppose God and blasphemously exalt himself above all that has any reference to God, so that he shall sit in God's temple (at Jerusalem) claiming to be God, and demanding Divine homage. His coming will be "after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all receivableness of unrighteousness." But though this "mystery of iniquity" was at work, even in the days of the apostles, two things have prevented it coming to full fruition. The Man of Sin cannot be "revealed" till "his time" because of "what withholdeth" and "he who now letteth (hindereth) until he be taken out of the way" (2 Thess. 2:6-7). Undoubtedly the neuter pronoun here has reference to the Church of God, and the masculine one to the Holy Spirit Himself. While they are upon earth Satan's work is held in check; but let them- the Holy Spirit and the Church be removed, let the salt be taken away and the One who gives it pungency, and the restraining and preserving influences are gone, and then nothing remains to stay corruption or hinder the outworking of Satan's plans.
From the above premises, established by the analogies furnished in Scripture, we have no difficulty in discovering the immediate cause of the Flood. A Divine revelation had been despised and rejected. Repeated warnings had been flouted. Atonement for sin by an expiatory sacrifice had been spurned. Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. The number of God's saints had been diminished to such an extent that there was but one family left who feared the Lord and walked by faith. There was not sufficient "salt" left to preserve the carcass. God had forewarned the race that His Spirit would not always strive with man, and now His long-suffering was ended; therefore, His Spirit would be withdrawn, and naught then remained but summary judgment. Though the faithful remnant should be sheltered, yet, the storm of Divine wrath must now burst upon a world filled with iniquity.
We turn now to consider the occasion of the Flood. "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose" (Gen. 6:1, 2). There has been considerable difference of opinion among commentators and expositors in respect to the identity of these "sons of God." The view which has been most widely promulgated and accepted is, that these marriages between the sons of God and the daughters of men refer to unions between believers and unbelievers. It is supposed that the "sons of God" were the descendants of Seth, while the "daughters of men" are regarded as the offspring of Cain, and that these two lines gradually amalgamated, until the line of distinction between God's people and the world was obliterated. It is further supposed that the Deluge was a visitation of God's judgment, resulting from His peoples' failure to maintain their place of separation. But, it seems to us, there are a number of insuperable objections to this interpretation.
If the above theory were true, then, it would follow that at the time this amalgamation took place God's people were limited to the male sex, for the "sons of God" were the ones who "married" the "daughters of men." Again; if the popular theory were true, if these "sons of God" were believers, then they perished at the Flood, but 2 Peter 2:5 states otherwise- "Bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." Once more; there is no hint in the Divine record (so far as we can discover) that God had yet given any specific command forbidding His people to marry unbelievers. In view of this silence it seems exceedingly strange that this sin should have been visited with such a fearful judgment. In all ages there have been many of God's people who have united with worldlings, who have been "unequally yoked together," yet no calamity in anywise comparable with the Deluge has followed. Finally; one wonders why the union of believers with unbelievers should result in "giants"- "there were giants in the earth in those days" (Gen. 6:4).
If, then, the words "sons of God" do not signify the saints of that age, to whom do they refer? In Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:7, the same expression is found, and in these passages the reference is clearly to angels. It is a significant fact that some versions of the Septuagint contain the word "angels" in Genesis 6:2, 4. That the "sons of God," who are here represented as cohabiting with the daughters of men were angels- fallen angels- seems to be taught in Jude 6: "And the angels which kept not their principality but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day."
These "sons of God," then, appear to be angels who left their own habitation, came down to earth, and cohabited with the daughters of men. Before we consider the outcome of this illicit intercourse, let us first enquire into the cause of it. Why did these angels thus "sin" (2 Pet. 2:4)? The answer to this question leads us into a mysterious subject which we cannot now treat at length: the "why" finds its answer in Satan.
Immediately after that old serpent, the Devil, had brought about the downfall of our first parents, God passed sentence on the "serpent" and declared that the woman's "Seed" should "bruise his head" (Gen. 3:15). Hence, in due course, Satan sought to frustrate this purpose of God. His first effort was an endeavor to prevent his Bruiser entering this world. This effort is plainly to be seen in his attempts to destroy the channel through which the Lord Jesus was to come.
First, God revealed the fact that the Coming One was to be of human kind, the woman's Seed, hence, as we shall seek to show, Satan attempted to destroy the human race. Next, God made known to Abraham that the Coming One was to be a descendant of his (Gen. 12:3; Galatians 3:18; Matthew 1:1); hence, four hundred years later, when the descendants of Abraham became numerous in Egypt Satan sought to destroy the Abrahamic stock, by moving Pharaoh to seek the destruction of all the male children (Ex. 1:15, 16). Later, God made known the fact that the Coming One was to be of the offspring of David (2 Samuel 7:12, 13); hence, the subsequent attack made upon David through Absalom (2 Samuel 15). As, then, the Coming One was to be of the seed of David, He must spring from the tribe of Judah, and hence the significance of the divided Kingdom, and the attacks of the Ten Tribes upon the Tribe of Judah!
The reference in Jude 6 to the angels leaving their own habitation, appears to point to and correspond with these "sons of God" (angels) coming in unto the daughters of men. Apparently, by this means, Satan hoped to destroy the human race (the channel through which the woman's Seed was to come) by producing a race of monstrosities. How nearly he succeeded is evident from the fact, that with the exception of one family, "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (Gen. 6:12). That monstrosities were produced as the result of this unnatural union between the "sons of God" (angels) and the daughters of men, is evident from the words of Genesis 6:4: "There were giants in the earth in those days." The Hebrew word for "giants" here is nephilim, which means fallen ones, from "naphal" to fall. The term "men of renoun" in Genesis 6:4 probably finds its historical equivalent in the "heroes" of Grecian mythology. Satan's special object in seeking to prevent the advent of the woman's "Seed" by destroying the human race was evidently an attempt to avert his threatened doom!
Against the view that "the sons of God" refer to fallen angels Matthew 22:30 is often cited. But when the contents of this verse are closely studied it will be found there is, really, nothing in it which conflicts with what we have said above. Had our Lord said, "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God" and stopped there, the objection would have real force. But the Lord did not stop there. He added a qualifying clause about the angels: He said "as the angels of God in heaven." The last two words make all the difference. The angels in heaven neither marry nor are they given in marriage. But the angels referred to in Genesis 6 as the "sons of God" were no longer in heaven: as Jude 6 expressly informs us "they left their own principality." They fell from their celestial position and came down to earth, entering into unlawful alliance with the daughters of men. This, we are assured, is the reason why Christ modified and qualified His assertion in Matthew 22:30. The angels of God in heaven do not marry, but those who left their own principality did.
Ere we close, there is one other passage of Scripture which ought to be considered in this connection, namely, Matthew 24:37 - "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." History is to repeat itself. Ere the Lord returns to this earth, the condition which prevailed in the world before the Flood are to be reproduced. The characteristic of the days of Noah may be summarized in the following ten items: 1. Multiplication of mankind (Gen. 6:1)- note the great increase of earth's population during the past century. 2. God dealing in long-suffering with a wicked world. 3. God sending His messengers to warn sinners of coming judgment. 4. God's Spirit striving with men, and the threat that He would not always do so- (cf. 2 Thess. 2), which tells of His Spirit being taken away once more. 5. God's overtures toward men despised and rejected- such is the condition of the world today. 6. A small remnant who find grace in the sight of the Lord and walk with Him. 7. Enoch miraculously translated- typifying the removal of the saints from the earth caught up to meet the Lord in the air. 8. Descent to the earth of the fallen angels and their union with the daughters of men: how near we have already approached to a repetition of this may be discovered in the demoniacal activities among Spiritists, Theosophists and Christian Scientists. 9. God's judgments poured forth on the ungodly- of Revelation 6 to 19. 10. Noah and his family miraculously preserved- type of the Jewish remnant preserved through the Tribulation, see Revelation 12.
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