Looking at the flood last time I did it in one large chunk, but this week I’m looking at a smaller passage and wanting to think about what it is trying to say a bit. That smaller passage is Genesis 8:20-22. It deals with the promise of God to never destroy all living creatures as he has done here.
After Noah has left the ark that he built to endure the flood, he then sacrifices some of the clean animals that God told him to bring seemingly for this sacrifice. This sacrifice smells pleasing to God and causes Him to say that he’ll never again curse the ground because of man, despite our wickedness and that he will never again destroy all living creatures. This seems a pretty straightforward promise, so what am I limiting it to these three verses for?
Well a few weeks ago, I ran into a comment online (I can’t remember where) that talked about the fairly common idea that God says he won’t destroy the world again after the flood, at least until we reach the absolute end when he destroys it all again. For some reason the comment stuck with me, and it made me wonder if that is true or if there is something a bit different going on in the two different occasions.
With the flood there appears to be the idea of reversing creation. A decreation if you will. The water that God separated into sky and sea earlier was coming back together and was going to set the world back into the state we saw it at the beginning of Genesis 1. This would result in the death of all living things, and honestly we aren’t given any hint of what was going to happen if Noah didn’t find favor with God.
When we get to Revelation talking about how the first heavens and earth will pass away (Revelation 21:1), we’ve already found that there is a new heaven and earth. The idea here isn’t one of decreation, where we’re simply destroying what’s present and taking it back to the beginning, it is one of recreation or maybe a better term would be renewal. Yes, there is judgment associated with the path to the new heavens and earth, but largely the new heavens and earth are a sign of hope and fulfillment rather than just resetting creation back to the beginning.
I wonder though if sometimes we don’t focus too much on the whole judgment and destruction part. I mean so often it seems like we’re just itching for something like the flood to come again so the world can get destroyed and Christians can go up to heaven, preferably before the whole destruction thing happens. We can so easily teach and embrace God’s promise to Noah here while simultaneously be hoping for the final destruction to come. However, is the end of the world really about its destruction or about its renewal? A renewal that removes the curses of death (even for those already dead), mourning, and pain. A renewal that sees us living with God in our midst, as children of God.
Maybe I’m wrong and there isn’t much difference between the two. After all, as I said both seem to indicate a judgment of the wicked. However, I see no promise of withheld judgment coming from Genesis 8:20-22, just that the judgment will not be the destruction of the earth and of all life.
They do both involve destruction (assuming that the plagues mentioned in Revelation are literal and/or reflect any kind of destruction of the earth), however I think they have different intentions. The flood was resetting the world back to being formless and void with the waters of the deep covering the surface. In comparison, I see the end of Revelation as a renewing of heaven and earth to an idealized state, not one that is formless, void, and covered in water (in fact Revelation 21 also mentions that there isn’t going to be a sea, which is an interesting contrast as well).
I’m not sure if this little rumination has any kind of practical insight that goes with it. I’ve just been wondering if the flood is the same as the destruction to come at the end of the world. I don’t think it is, but I could very well be wrong, and I’m sure there are those who don’t agree with me. I’m certainly not saying that I know what the end of the world is going to be like or that there aren’t ideas that make me uncomfortable about such topics. I’m simply saying that I think of the flood as an act of decreation, of resetting back to default as portrayed in Genesis 1:1-2 with no human life, and that I think of the end of the world portrayed in Revelation as a recreation, or a renewing of creation into an idealized state that includes human beings, even ones raised from the dead.
Have you ever thought about this contrast? Any thoughts of your own to add?