Sunday, December 1, 2013

Salvation And The Deluge

Today's Gospel is grounded in the story of The Deluge, the Great Flood. The story of which, by the way, is going to be a movie with Russell Crowe as Noah. Here's the preview for those who haven't seen it yet:

Anyways, let's take a look at what Jesus says in today's reading:

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left."

Matthew 24:37-41

This is one of several Biblical allusions to the Ark and its connection with salvation typology. It's spelled out a bit more by St. Peter:

Long before, they had refused belief, hoping that God would be patient with them, in the days of Noe. That ark which Noe was then building, in which a few souls, eight in all, found refuge as they passed through the waves, was a type of the baptism which saves us now.

1 Peter 3:20-21

Let's unwind this a bit more, especially in light of the whole "Will Many Be Saved?" question and the general reluctance of people to consider the possibility of damnation.

First, I want to point out for any "Rapture" types that like to reflect on this verse that the ones getting "carried away" are the wicked, not the righteous. The righteous, Noah in this case, are the ones left behind. This is what Jesus says, which carries a bit more weight than Tim LaHaye.

Now that that is out of the way, let's look at the story itself. We know that God sent the Deluge because mankind was so wicked. We also know that He spared Noah and his clan because of Noah's faithfulness. Whether or not his family was equally faithful, we don't know specifically, but there is evidence on both sides.

We know that God is willing to spare the multitude of the wicked for the sake of the righteous. Sodom and Gomorrah would have been fine if Abraham could have found ten virtuous folks. Moses successfully pled the case of the Israelites to God in order to prevent their destruction. God is good and merciful like that. In the case of the Deluge, there obviously weren't enough of the faithful to warrant a withholding of God's justice. The result is a Sodom/Gomorrah-style purging.

Now, if we believe that a people can be so wicked that God would be willing to destroy whole cities or nations, is it not reasonable to think that such people were wicked enough to be in hell? After all, God didn't use fire and brimstone even on the Nazis.

Even ignoring the parallels between the Ark and the Church, we clearly see those saved in the Ark as a type of God's elect who are preserved from destruction. The rest are condemned. Which is the greater number?

I'm not posting this as direct speculation on the number of the elect or reprobate. I do think that it is an indication that people should take salvation more seriously.

I find many who believe in the Deluge as a literally global phenomenon and have no trouble with the idea of God destroying thousands or millions of people as a consequence of their wickedness. What they don't do is take it to the next level. What was the final destination of that multitude? Since they are classed as universally wicked, hell is at least on the table for them, right?

"Yes," some might say, "but God only destroyed their bodies. He didn't give them the eternal punishment of hell by sending the Flood."

Well, yeah, He actually did. Again, if we can agree that the wicked go to Hell, and we know all these people were wicked, what does that mean? It means that God's justice in allowing evil people to perish in their wickedness, even if that would be 99.9999% of the world, is perfectly just and keeping with God's goodness (if we believe the Bible, at least).

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