A man who walks after his own lusts, refusing to walk in the holiness of the righteous, and who mocks with the hope of the latter, accounting him the most wretched of all men, must have some semblance of basic reasoning to justify his own conduct before his own conscience. But he deceives himself and, therefore, attempts to deceive others also!
Such is the empty, braggart talk of these mockers, who open their vile mouth against heaven, and say: where is the promise of his coming, of hisParousia?! You say and it has been dinned into our ears from the cathedras of apostles and prophets that when Christ comes and dwells forever with his people that there shall be then a new heaven and a new earth? Look, say they mockingly, there is nothing in the realm of human experience and history to justify this hope of yours, nor is there an earnest of its fulfillment anywhere in history from the time of the “Beginning” till the present moment Tell us ye who hope upon the Lord, “more than watchmen look for morning light,” where is that promise of God? If God has not fulfilled his promise hitherto, nor given an earnest of the same, will he do so in the future? Better to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
Nay, these mockers, in their childishness and obstinate wickedness, even posit the claim over against all the hopes of the righteous, that “from the beginning of history, since the fathers fell asleep all things remain” in the same status quo (verse 4b)! They speak the language of all men who have no eye for the heavenly and eternal things of the Kingdom of God. Theirs is the same aim as that of all humanism: to make this world a better place. They do not look with Abraham and the other patriarchs for the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God (Heb. 11:10). They do not seek a better country, that is, an heavenly, as did these “fathers.” They cannot see the glory of the hope of the resurrection which buys a burying-place in the field of Machpelah (Gen. 23:17-20). They are without hope and without God in the world! They are estranged from the life of God (Eph. 2:12, 4:18). They do not have “this hope upon God” and therefore do not purify themselves as he is pure (I John 3:3). Seeing these see and see not, hearing they hear and understand not; they have shut their eyes and closed their ears; when the things of the kingdom of God happen” in parables and in the judgments of God in history before their eyes, they have no eyes to see, nor have they ears to hear (Matt. 13:14, 15; John 12:40; Acts 28:26, 27; Isaiah 6:9)!
These mockers are not men who had not come into contact with the preaching. The seed of the gospel had been sown in their hearts too under the preaching. But the god of this age hath blinded their eyes. Satan came and plucked the Word preached away. You can see the “glimmerings” of this rejected light of the Gospel in their proud and senseless denial of the promise of Christ’s final return to dwell with his people forever. Men who have never come into contact with the gospel promise through the preaching, as it is accompanied by the command of faith and repentance, cannot speak this language of unbelief as is here uttered. This is not the language of the Gentiles, whom God suffered to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16), but the language of those who have come face to face with Christ, the one man whom God hath appointed to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). They see the judgment-seat and Him that sitteth upon the Throne! And, yet, they mock! They mock against impending judgment and eternal condemnation and doom, and would laugh it out of court!
It is really laughter which is a bit hollow; it is accompanied with a few beads of cold sweat pressed out by an anguished heart and conscience. It is the crackling of thorns under a pot!
Let none be deceived by such mockers!
Peter will not meet them by answering a fool according to his folly. And, yet, he will, lest they be wise in their own conceits. For he meets them at the bar of God’s Word. He employs the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit. He quenches these fiery darts of evil men; he steals all their imaginary thunder. And he does so by citing from two books, the book of creation and the book of the written Word of God (Belgic Confession, Article II). We, the church of God, know God by these two means. We really know and read the book of creation because we have the book of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. And he maintains that these two works, the book of creation as explained and interpreted for us in the revelation in Christ in the Scriptures, is the only rule of knowledge and faith, “sufficient to convince men, and to leave them without excuse!”
And, now he will have it out, once and for all, with these mockers! He wages a devastating polemic against these mockers. Their mouths shall be stopped in all endless ages by this same Word in the preaching in the church in the world—by the militant church which fights the battles of the Lord! It is the glittering sword of God!
In the first place these mockers are not ignorant men in the sense that they intellectually do not know better. They understand very well. It is not a matter of their intellect; it is a matter of their will. Says Peter, “For this they are willingly ignorant of . . .” (vs. 5). This reminds us of the word of Christ to the unbelieving Jews as recorded in John 7:16, 17 “. . . . My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” Yes, mockers are willful unbelievers who dishonestly refuse to see the facts as interpreted by God himself. And that is their folly of willful unbelief and is the deep source of their mocking jibes at the hope of the righteous!
Peter now shows the church something which they had already been told implicitly and explicitly many times. He will show them something about the very constitution of the heavens and the earth themselves which refutes all the contentions of these mockers concerning the promise of Christ’s coming. He singles out and sets in bold relief theconstitution of the entire world, the universe, as this was upheld by the Word of God before the flood in distinction from the universe being upheld by the same Word of God after the flood. Such is the import of the adverbs “then” and “now!” Their unbelieving allegation that nothing has changed in the constitution of the creation contained by the Word of God is unfactual. It will be dashed to pieces on the fact of the great transformation which took place in and through the Flood in the days of Noah, when, too, there were mockers, and the longsuffering of God upon His church waited with judgment (I Peter 3:20).
For what is the case?
By virtue of God’s creation in the six days, recorded in Gen. 1, the wondrous heavens and earth were held up, sustained by the Word of God. The world is not self-contained, by natural law, as teaches the proud and unbelieving Deist, who does not allow for the miracle of God, nor for his judgments. The world is always thus constructed and by faith we-understand this work of God, that the things which .we see are not made of things which do appear (Heb. 11:3). And, therefore, since all is upheld by and suspended from the Word of God, it is God Himself who from moment to moment does with this world what He pleases and gives us in its history and by his severe judgment already an “earnest” in the great Flood of the final judgment and return of Christ. We say he gave an “earnest,” that is, he gives us a little bit of the final change itself in that first and great catastrophe of the Flood! The believers received a little bit of the final return of Christ, and the wicked received a little bit of the final judgment itself!
For we must not conceive of the world after the flood as having returned to its former status quo. In a sense the old things had passed away and God had ushered In a new world which was adapted for a history which must needs lead to and end in the final coming of Christ. It is as a new “order” already a promise of the Lord’s coming in greater judgment and salvation as preached already by Enoch, the eighth from Adam (Jude 1:14, 15). We see this in many things. Men’s lives are shorter lived upon earth after the flood, the promise of Christ’s return to Abraham is more clearly enunciated, and a great deal of history moves with rapid strides to the realization of the great mystery of godliness; through types and shadows, priests and sacrifices, the Christ is portrayed, and as the time of Christ’s birth draws nigh, the power and coming of the Lord is proclaimed with greater intensity and clarity by the prophets; moved by the Spirit of Christ they sought out the time and the manner of the time of the suffering of Christ and of the glory of this coming to follow! And thus we see that the “before” the Flood and the after the Flood—the “now”—are quite different.
However, Peter points out the singular and astounding fact. It is the following:
1. The heavens were of old kept by the Word of God. By the term “heavens” Peter does not refer to the heavens which are God’s throne, but refers to the “firmament” which was called heaven. And these heavens, this firmament, was placed between the waters which were above and which were beneath.” The fundamental composition of this firmament is “water.” And it is thus upheld by the Word of God.
2. The earth too was in the water and out of the water. It is quite probable that even our earth was so related to the water that it was one continent. It was contained in one unit and not in many continents. It was contained by God in the water and out of the water. The very “elements” were water, both of the heavens and of the earth.
Such was the world in which Adam, Abel, Seth, Methuselah, Enoch and all the fathers died or from which they were translated.
And by this very “element” in which all things were contained by the Word of God, upon God’s mighty Word they also perished; it perished by means of its own element when let loose by the Word of God, after Noah had been safely shut up in the Ark.
However, let the mockers not deceive the church. May the believers take heart. God gave them an “earnest” in the flood. He changed things and set the stage for the last great stage of history as it is the fulfillment of the promise of Christ’s coming and the triumph of the Seed of de Woman over the seed of the Serpent!
And, as we shall point out further in future essays, this final coming of Christ and the dissolution of all things we see portentiously set forth before the eyes of the wicked, and as a beckoning beacon for the righteous, in the fact that now by the same Word of God which contained the world before the flood by water, now contains it as a treasure kept in store for fire.
Truly, all things did not remain as they were from the beginning.
Of this the mockers are willingly ignorant!