This vignette deals with the prevalence of ungodly marriage practices leading to disastrous results. The gist of this section is that, after a few generations of multiplying, men as a whole began to leave God out of their lives. They chose wives—probably several of them, like Lamech—based solely on their physical beauty, not on their depth of character. Their children, though they became mighty, famous leaders, grew into wicked adults whose every impulse, thought, and plan was corrupt. Violence became a way of life. Once conditions reached this point, God decided to destroy them before they became so totally depraved that they could never repent, even in the resurrection.
The Bible pictures a society of unrestrained sin of every kind. The New Testament frequently mentions it in the same context as Sodom and Gomorrah and Israel's sins caused by Balaam and Korah. The underlying factor in all these situations is rebellion against and rejection of God. Cain, Lamech, and mankind in general never took God into account when they committed their iniquities. As Psalm 10:4 says, "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts."
Has our present society reached this nadir of behavior?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'As It Was In the Days of Noah'
The earth was not filled with violence because people agreed with one another! Obviously, they were disagreeing with one another, and the result was separation. They were divided from life itself because of the tragic quality and quantity of their disagreements with God and with each other. These scriptures are extremely interesting in that they fall right at the beginning of the Book. The narrative that God provides in the Bible immediately shows the effect of what Adam and Eve did—and the effect of their separation from God. People began to divide into camps, and animosities increased.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility
At this forbidding juncture, God reveals a spiritual doctrine that is supremely vital to our daily lives and ultimately to our salvation. If we do not grasp this doctrine and set its seriousness firmly in mind, it will throw off our understanding of who God's elect are, and we will greatly undervalue the degree of accountability and appreciation we owe to God for His mercy.
It is appropriate to dig into this doctrine at any time, but it is especially appropriate now because of the nature of the period we are living through. The Bible itself, combined with the daily news reports, indicates the time of Jesus' return is drawing near. Many believe that we are in the beginning stages of what has been called “the crisis at the close.” Consider how similar those pre-Flood times are to our own. As God tells the story in His Word, we are only into the sixth chapter of the first book, and the end of mankind, except for the few who would be spared, was near at hand!
This similarity brings up a critical question for all of us to consider soberly: Who was saved from the devastation of the Flood? Every person did not die in the Flood. We need to think this through because the Flood most definitely came, just as the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, as prophesied by the same unchanging God for our time, will also surely come.
The answer to the critical question is that only those God specifically spared were saved. He specifically names them. God's “grace” is the overall general reason, but the specific aspect of His grace that preserved their lives is that they were sanctified—set apart—for salvation from the Flood.
In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the root words underlying “salvation” mean the same thing. Both terms mean “given deliverance,” implying prosperity despite impending disaster. In this specific instance, the impending disaster is the prophesied Flood. God's first step in delivering some was to sanctify those He chose, Noah and his family.
Sanctification is of major importance to those of us called into God's church, as I Thessalonians 4:3-5 points out: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like Gentiles who do not know God.” Sanctification (Greek hagiasmos) is the noun form of the verb sanctify, which means “to set apart for God's use, to make distinct from what is common.” Thus, those called into the church are set apart by God, as were Noah and his family, for His glory, for salvation from prophesied disasters, and for becoming like Him.
II Peter 2:5 carries the Flood record further: “[For God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Noah and his family faithfully responded, doing what God sanctified them to do. Noah not only built the ark, which became the physical means of their salvation, but its construction gave them the time and opportunity to explain to the world why it needed to be built. Noah preached to mankind of God, of their sins, and of the prophesied certainty of the Flood if the people chose not to repent.
From this example, we must grasp God's intention in His sanctification of us. Noah and his family did not save themselves. Like Noah and his family, we are required to respond faithfully to what God has ordained us to do. We must understand that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and the responsibilities He assigns are part of His creation of us in His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)
We can easily reach a conclusion about humanity by comparing the Bible's overview of mankind's pre-Flood activities with our more detailed daily news reports. Together, they suggest that we are experiencing times increasingly similar to those just before the Flood. This leads us to an unavoidable conclusion: What God did through the Flood proves that the cataclysm did not solve the problems that reside in the hearts of human beings. What is in man's heart created the necessity for humanity to witness that major disaster as part of its history. The internal stain was still there after the Flood waters drained away; the massive execution of earth's population did not erase the evil motivations of man's self-centered nature. That must be accomplished by another means.
By putting them to death, the Flood did clear the population of a vast number of troublemakers. However, only God's merciful and generous grace, as Noah and his family received, changes a person's heart and thus his or her conduct. Our hearts are changed by God initiating our calling, revealing Himself, granting repentance, giving His Spirit, and then personally working with us in a close, personal relationship. By this means, we are created in the image of God. This is the only permanent solution.
This fact should have the effect of causing us to resolve to follow through by willingly cooperating with God within the relationship created by His merciful calling. What practical, spiritual counsel will enable us to negotiate these times, which are so similar to what Noah went through?
In short, our salvation is to yield to God's guidance, as seen in Noah's story. His attitude and conduct become our practical, human example and spiritual guide. Just as he persevered in building the ark and trusting God to preserve his family through the Flood, we should put the same effort into preparing for God's Kingdom.
Genesis 7:1 provides us with a simple but meaningful instruction: “Then the LORD said to Noah, 'Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.'” Noah did not hesitate when God commanded him to do this, as his labors in building the ark were ending. This command states the qualification to meet our time's spiritual challenges. Noah faithfully lived righteously within the difficulties of the times.
The biblical record shows that God oversaw and provided safety for Noah and his family during those challenges beyond their control. He will do for us as He did for them. The Flood of our times is not one of water but an overwhelming “flood” of deception combined with threats of violence against us. It is already upon us to some small degree. As far as can be determined, nothing of this world will turn it aside. In fact, it is already named in the Bible—our Flood is called the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)