Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. This is study #25 of Genesis, chapter 8 and we are going to read Genesis 8:20-22:
And Noah builded an altar unto JEHOVAH; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And JEHOVAH smelled a sweet savour; and JEHOVAH said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
I will stop reading there. We have progressed in chapter 8 to the point where the flood destroyed the earth and everything with the breath of life when it rose 15 cubits above the highest mountain of that time and then it decreased continually until the earth was finally dry. Then Noah and his family and all the animals disembarked from the ark and they entered into a new world. The ground was completely dry. The ark had rested on Mount Ararat and they would have come out of the ark at that point and descend to begin their new lives in this new world.
It was a world that had no other inhabitants – people or animals. There were other living creatures, but they would have been in the sea, but as far as animals with the breath of life they were there in the area of the ark.
There was nowhere else in all the world where there were animals or people. There were only the eight souls that exited the ark. Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives were the only people that existed in all the world, so it was very much a new beginning. Adam and Eve were the first people. God created Adam from the dust of the ground and He created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and there were no other people in the world. So when we find that these eight people that came out of the ark are the only people in the world, it is a picture of a whole new world and a whole new beginning of things. That is why it is such an excellent illustration of the new earth. We can see all the elements that will be in view at the end of the world. At the end of the world, God will judge the world and destroy all the wicked people exactly as He did in Noah’s day. At the end of the world God will destroy the creation itself. It was necessary for the creation to continue on after the flood because this was only an historical parable to illustrate the end, so the Lord could not destroy the creation. However, He did destroy all the creatures with the breath of life to illustrate the destruction of the creation at the end of this world.
The Bible tells us that after God has destroyed this world, He will have delivered a remnant of people out of the whole of mankind, exactly as we saw with Noah and his family. They were a tiny number of people out of a possible handful of millions of people. Only eight out of several million were delivered and that is a very tiny remnant, so now at the end of the world we find that the earth’s population has exploded to seven billion at the time God brought the world into judgment on May 21, 2011. By that time, He had saved a remnant out of the whole and while He saved scores of millions, it was still just a remnant; if we speculate that God saved 170 million people during the Great Tribulation, it would leave six billion and 830 million people that were not saved. That is an enormous number of people, so we see that with the historical flood the overwhelming number of people perished and only a few were saved. That is how it is, according to the Bible, at the end of the world, so we see that similarity.
We also know that God will take His remnant, the elect, out of the world and He will deliver them from the wrath that will destroy everyone and everything else and God will bring the remnant into a new heaven and new earth. He calls this the Promised Land, so we see that after the judgment of the flood and after the earth dried Noah and his family, the remnant, entered into a “new world,” as it were. It serves as an excellent illustration of what God’s plan is for the end of the world and that is why we are encouraged in regard to the prolonged nature of the judgment of Noah’s day. It began on “the seventeenth day of the second month” and we know that May 21, 2011 had the underlying calendar date of “the seventeenth day of the second month,” the very day the flood began. We have learned from the Bible that on May 21, 2011 God brought Judgment Day and it is a prolonged judgment, just as it was in the historical picture of the flood. So as we continue along, we are encouraged and we have the expectation that the prolonged judgment will come to its conclusion and God’s people will leave the refuge that Christ’s salvation provided (as represented by the ark) and we will “come out” of the ark in that way and leave that safe chamber because the indignation has passed and we will enter into the new creation. God has saved us and delivered us and, therefore, we exit this world and enter into that new world: “Lazarus, come forth.” Noah and his family went forth. The animals went forth. We will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye and we will be new creatures in both body and soul, dwelling upon the new creation that God has created. We will be living out the actual spiritual fulfillment of what we are reading as Noah, his family and the animals come out of the ark.
So we wonder about Noah’s action in building the altar and taking of every clean beast and clean fowl to offer burnt offerings. This is the first recorded action that we read of Noah and his family once they come out of the ark and enter into the world. God tells us that the very first thing they did was that Noah went to work and “builded an altar unto JEHOVAH.” Then he took of the clean animals and clean fowls and he sacrificed them and he would have had to slay them and then burn them on the altar. Why is that the first thing that is recorded? Why did God not tell us that they went out and inspected the landscape or that they searched the land for food? There are an endless number of things God could have moved them to do and then recorded it for us, rather than building an altar and offering sacrifice. Why is this the very first thing that we are told concerning this new world?
We are very interested in this because the historical event that is going on pictures the events at the end of the world and events that the people of God will experience at the end of the world at the time of transition from this world to the next. Is there going to be some sort of sacrifice or some sort of atonement performed at the end of this world or at the start of the new world? The answer is, “Yes.” But the sacrifice has already been performed. The altar has already been built. It is that sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ from the foundation of the world. We know that the Bible tells us in Revelation, chapter 13 that Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The Bible also tells in in Hebrews 4:3:
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
The work of Christ was finished at the foundation of the world. The theologians get around that statement by saying that God is speaking theoretically as He talks about what would happen as Christ entered into history and went to the cross in 33AD. And they say that since God willed it to happen, it is as good as if it has already happened. But how do you call something a “finished” work when it is only theoretical? No, you cannot have a finished or completed work in theory. The only way you can have a finished work is if the work itself has actually been done, so we see that Hebrews 4, verse 3 harmonizes with Revelation 13, verse 8, in asserting that Christ was, indeed, the Lamb slain in actuality (not theoretically) from the foundation of the world. In his death at the foundation of the world, He finished the atoning work that the Law demanded on behalf of the elect that He died for and whose names were recorded, in a figure, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This is the foundation of the world.
Which world? You know, for a long time I was a little confused about this and I do not think I was alone in that confusion. I remember that sometimes when I would refer to Revelation 13, verse 8, I would say that Christ was the Lamb slain from “before” the foundation of the world. People would say, “No, it does not say ‘before,’ but it says ‘from’,” and then I would be careful to say ‘from’ instead of “‘before’.” But a lot of us had the wrong idea that Christ was slain and then God created the world. We have it in our minds as sort of a time sequence: Christ was killed and then God speaks in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Then we think of one event, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ occurs and immediately thereafter the world is created. I think I was thinking that because I would say, “Christ was slain before the foundation of the world,” but the Biblical language is, “from the foundation of the world.” It is entirely accurate to say that the atoning work was done before the world began, but it is better to say “from” because it focuses us more on the completed action of Christ bearing our sins, dying for our sins and then being resurrected after successfully paying for those sins. And the works of Christ that were finished from the foundation of the world were performed at some point in eternity past.
I do not know and who can know about eternity past? How can we creatures of time understand “eternity past”? All we know is that God has always been and He is from everlasting to everlasting. We sort of see this world as in the middle of these two points of “eternity past” and “eternity future” and we are creatures that live under the sun, moon and stars that govern time like a clock. We are living “in time” and God is the creator of time because He created the celestial bodies and He created the world and even though God created time He is an eternal being. The Book of Isaiah tells us that God “inhabits” eternity. He is beyond time. At some point in eternity past the Lord Jesus Christ did perform the work of atonement and He completed the work – the works were finished. The works necessary to save His people were completely done and all our sins were paid for and then it was simply a matter of applying that work to each individual elect person. As God dwells in eternity, how did God determine to do this at a particular point in eternity past. It is hard for us to comprehend “points of eternity” because we think in terms of time. We understand “day one” or “year one” or “year 100” or “year 1,000” and we see a progression. That is how our minds are designed. We operate in a world governed by time and we are creatures of time. We all have a time limit upon us as far as our lifespans are concerned as we live in this world. We will one day die when we reach our individual allotted time that God determined to give each one of us.
But God is not within time and, therefore, God can perform actions in eternity past and the sequence of those actions are muddled to our minds. All we know is that at some point in eternity past, the things we read about in the Bible concerning the Lamb of God being slain took place. Here is a verse that sort of illustrates what it means that Christ was slain from the foundation of the world. It says in Psalm 103:17:
But the mercy of JEHOVAH is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
We understand why God’s mercy is “to” everlasting because God saves us and grants us eternal life and we will live forever, so as we go on and on and on living forever and ever, it is all a result of God’s mercy that is “to everlasting.” We understand that, but why does Psalm 103:17 tells us that the mercy of JEHOVAH is “from everlasting”? That does not make sense if Christ paid for our sins in 33AD. It does not explain why it can be said that God has had mercy upon us from everlasting. If it were true that Jesus entered into the world “in time,” bore our sins “in time” and died for our sins “in time” and then rose from the dead, it all occurred “in time.” And that would have to have been the point at which God’s mercy began for His elect, but that is not what the Bible says. The Bible says that God’s mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting,” and, once again, we find harmony in the Bible once we understand that Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The death that He died and the work that He finished from the foundation of the world was performed in “eternity past.” That is mysterious to us and we cannot pinpoint a “specific time,” as our minds think in terms of “time” in eternity past, but there is no time in eternity past. That is why I used the term “point.” The finished works of Christ were performed at some point in eternity past and, therefore, God’s mercy upon His elect is “from everlasting to everlasting,” and now we have agreement and harmony in the Bible.
I wonder how theologians and other people that rebelliously insist that Christ paid for sins at the cross can explain how it can be said that God’s mercy on His elect is from everlasting. Of course, they would minimize that statement and they would empty it of its wonderful glory and they would speak of a “theoretical statement.” They are just trying to make the Bible fit the doctrines they have and the truth is much more straightforward as we put the verses together and harmonize Revelation 13, verse 8 and Hebrews 4, verse 3 and Psalm 103, verse 17. They all fit together perfectly and they confirm that we understand this point of doctrine exactly as the Bible teaches it: Christ died for the sins of His people from the foundation of the world.
Lord willing, in our next study we will see how that death of Christ from the foundation of the world formed the basis or foundation not only for this world, but for the world to come.