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Did the apostle Peter believe in a global Flood?

In 2 Peter 3:3-6, Peter says:


“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.”


Importantly, Peter is not asking his opponents to don boots, hat, and pick, travel to the nearest quarry and study the strata in search of evidence for Noah’s Flood. Nor is Peter rebuking these people because they believe in our modern definition of uniformitarianism, although as we’ll see, something like this is in Peter’s mind.


In context, Peter’s opponents reject a coming universal judgment of God. This is because their then present experience of the natural world was one of relative peace and tranquility. They simply wouldn’t believe that the world could come to a terrifying end. This is why they say, “ever since the fathers fell asleep all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”


But this is an entirely false assertion. Peter goes on to remind them that such a terrifying judgement already occurred in the past when God destroyed the earth with a global Flood. Now here is the important application for us. Peter’s naysayers did accept very local and devastating disasters—the ancient world was regularly plagued with large, destructive earthquakes and storms. Their objection was to a universal disaster. Essentially, they were saying, “God loves everyone and he’s not going to enter into history for the purpose of wholesale judgement on mankind.” Yet Peter refutes this assertion by bringing the Flood of Noah to the attention of his critics. This means that Peter is using a past universal disaster for the purpose of assuring us of a future universal disaster. Without this one-for-one correlation, Peter’s argument wouldn’t make any sense; remember, large-scale disasters were just as common then as they are now.


Modern Christians who deny the universality of Noah’s Flood are making the same mistake as Peter’s naysayers. They are appealing to their experience in the present for the purpose of interpreting the past. Even worse, they are not taking the account in Genesis as it was intended. This is exactly what Peter’s opponents were doing. When Peter says, “for they deliberately overlook this fact,” what does he mean? Since this is “deliberate,” it means that these “Christians” were very familiar with the universal nature of Noah’s Flood as it is recorded in Scripture; they just didn’t believe it. Peter is effectively saying “don’t do that.” Instead, says Peter, trust the Scriptures, don’t reinterpret them.




Ken Coulson

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