The Flood—A Warning From the Past
IN MANKIND’S long history, there have been many natural disasters as great or greater than the eruption of Mount St. Helens. But none have equaled the immense Flood of Noah’s day. So great and so devastating was that Deluge that it left an indelible impression upon humankind on a global scale.
There are 150 separate Flood legends from many diverse parts of the earth, including Babylonia, Rome, India, Australia, and the Americas. Although these legends differ in details, there is general agreement in a moral cause of the Flood, global destruction of mankind, and the survival of a family in an ark or a boat. Only a disaster of global proportions could have left such a widespread and lasting impression.
One Bible scholar wrote: “The harmony between all these accounts is an undeniable guarantee that the tradition is no idle invention; a fiction is individual, not universal; that tradition has, therefore, a historical foundation; it is the result of an event which really happened in the ages of the childhood of mankind.” But why is that disaster in the remote past a warning to the generation now living?
It is especially important for us to note the circumstances that led up to the Flood. Their similarity to world conditions today makes the Flood significant to us. Here is how the historical account in the Bible book of Genesis describes those circumstances: “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth.”—Genesis 6:5, 12.
The world of mankind had suffered a general moral breakdown, with every inclination of its thoughts being bad all the time. As a consequence, “the earth became filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11) Lives were completely devoted to pursuing material and sexual desires. Jesus Christ drew attention to this when he said: “As they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:38, 39) Satisfying fleshly desires was their sole interest.
Advance warning had been given by Noah for many years, but that generation refused to believe it. They surely had never experienced such a flood. So with things continuing as before, the warning fell on deaf ears. They “took no note.” It mattered not to them that the warning came from their Creator through Noah.
But God told Noah: “The end of all flesh has come before me, because the earth is full of violence as a result of them; and here I am bringing them to ruin together with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13) When the Flood came, Noah and his family were preserved because they heeded the warning and followed God’s instructions. But why should all of this be of special interest to us?
As in pre-Flood days, especially since World War I has violence become a way of life. Political violence among countries has resulted in the most destructive and gruesome wars of human history. The violence has spread to cities, to streets, and to homes; it even threatens travelers. Moreover, television, movies, and novels have predominantly violent themes.
Another parallel is in the modern way of life. Satisfying sexual and materialistic desires is the all-consuming interest of the present generation. Earth wide, we see a moral breakdown that has produced sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. Adultery, fornication, and homosexual relations are common. Like the generation before the Flood, the present generation loves fleshly pleasures and material possessions more than it loves God.
Since God felt “hurt” at the extremely bad conduct of the pre-Flood people, is it not reasonable to conclude that he would feel the same today at the bad conduct that is common worldwide? Should not what he did to that world of Noah’s day be a warning to the present generation? Is it not reasonable to think that he will draw the same conclusion that we find at Genesis 6:5-7? When God saw the badness of mankind, “he felt hurt at his heart. So Jehovah said: ‘I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground.’” Through inspired Bible writers, God has declared that he will execute a like judgment on the self-indulgent generation living today. It is approaching the greatest catastrophe in human history.
The Last Days
Looking to our time, the inspired Bible writer of the second letter to Timothy describes the decadent state of affairs that we now see worldwide. In chapter 3, 2Ti 3 verses 1 to 4, he says: “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”
Jesus Christ also prophesied of the last days of this system of things. In his prophecy he spoke of the extreme violence we have seen since World War I, saying: “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7) He also spoke of the lawlessness that is rampant today and the fear that people have of the future. “Because of the increasing of lawlessness,” said Jesus, “the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matthew 24:12) He also said that men would “become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:26.
The expression “last days” means the same for this present generation that it meant for the pre-Flood generation—an end to the predominant part of that human system of things. At 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9, the inspired Bible writer Paul says that, through Jesus Christ, God will bring “vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.”
The Flood survivors found that the pre-Flood generation had been swept from the earth. The people and all that they had lived for were gone. It will be the same when divine vengeance brings an end to the present violent generation. “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be.”—Psalm 37:10.
The parallel between the pre-Flood generation and our generation is not confined to the badness of the people and to their destruction. As there were Flood survivors, so there will be survivors of the end of the present system of things. The Flood survivors were meek persons who did not live as did the people in general. They were lovers of righteousness who were obedient to God and heeded his warnings. We are told at Genesis 6:8, 9: “Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. . . . Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries.” Regarding him and his fellow survivors, the apostle Peter wrote that God “did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.”—2 Peter 2:5.
We are assured by God’s prophets that there will be a great multitude of survivors out of the coming divine destruction of the present system of things. They, too, will be meek people who are lovers of righteousness and are as obedient to God’s instructions as Noah was. After foretelling the destruction of the wicked, the psalmist says: “But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11; Revelation 7:9, 13, 14.
Jesus foretold that the good news of God’s Kingdom would be proclaimed worldwide in the last days. This is the means by which the righteously disposed people of earth are being gathered for survival. Jesus illustrated this in his parable about the separating of the sheep from the goats. And he concluded the parable by saying that the goatlike unrighteous ones would “depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the [sheeplike] righteous ones into everlasting life.”—Matthew 25:31-46.
Although the Flood is remote from our day, it is clearly a warning to us not to be unheeding. The record of it was written, as the Bible says, “for our instruction.” (Romans 15:4) It is a warning against living in the violent, sensual, and materialistic manner of the world without giving heed to our Creator. He does not change. God wiped out the pre-Flood generation because of its badness. For the same reason, he will wipe out this modern generation and its entire system of political government, materialistic commercialism, and false religion.
To survive the end of this system of things, we must heed the warning from the past. We must prove ourselves lovers of righteousness, as did the eight Flood survivors. And for survival we must follow the counsel at Zephaniah 2:3: “Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”
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As Noah and his family survived the Deluge, so you can be among the happy survivors of this system’s end