In the last installment of this series, we noticed how small the church looked as she existed in this world among giants. Even though the church that existed between the time of creation and the flood was in many respects very similar to the church that exists today, in this article we will take note of the fact that the church existed in a very different world. We speak now of “world” in the sense of the planet with all its life, as well as the geography and climate in which that life lives. God reveals this truth with the words, “the world that then was” (II Peter 3), implying that the world then was so different, that it was like it was a different planet. It no longer exists, but if we could be dropped into that world, we might conclude that we were on a different planet, even though many things would be familiar. We have already looked in previous articles at the plant life and weather. This time we will look at the geology of the world.
The context of the above quote from II Peter has to do with the tendency of natural man to ignore and dismiss any history that doesn’t fit into current experience. It is like man lives in his own little bubble of experience where history beyond must be simply an extension of what he now experiences. It is a very proud and man-centered attitude. As God describes the flood, he explains the tremendous upheavals in creation and torrents of water with language that is difficult for us to fathom. We have lived to see some examples in our own world of the power of flood waters, but God inspired Peter to use language that helps give us the proper perspective. On the one hand, ungodly man has worked hard to dismiss the stories as something that belongs in the realm we call “mythology.” But God says “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” By nature we gravitate toward ignorance as well. But on the other hand, man needs to understand by faith that a world existed then which is no more. “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7).
One striking fact that God reveals through Peter is that the earth then was a watery world; whereas the world now is characterized by fire. Fire is the engine that drives geological change in our present earth. The best scientific tools of the day have enabled us to understand that the surface of the earth is but a crust that floats upon a sea of melted rock. This crust is broken into various plates that currently are moving, driven it seems by the slow currents of molten rock flowing below. The plates grind together causing earthquakes. They are forced together in places to form mountains that even now are growing taller at a rate of centimeters per year. In other areas the edge of a plate is forced beneath another into the molten rock beneath. The crust is melted down and “recycled” as is were. At places, plumes of this melted crust rise and the magma pushes through the crust. In the volcanoes we see first hand the great heat and power of the fires below. We live in a world where the various types of rock are defined in terms of the effect of great heat and pressure.
The ungodly scientist assumes that these slow, fire-driven geological movements we currently observe have been continuing at a relatively constant pace over the past millions of years saying “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). (By “creation” the prevailing notion among ungodly scientists would be “cooling matter after the big bang etc.) But through the spectacles of Scripture we see that the movements we observe now are but the dying waves of tremendous geological upheaval. Things do not continue as they were from the beginning of the world. God created a world, then that world was shattered and destroyed by the geological upheavals and unleashing of the watery matrix that defined that world. As the earth was broken, mountains pushed upward and ocean floors began to sink. Now the waters are held in deep oceans, ice, and the atmosphere. They no longer permeate the earth as they did. Fire now permeates the earth and drives its geology.
The world then did not have the volcanoes and earthquakes that today are due to the fiery nature of the earth. It may very well be that more of the earth’s surface was water, and the land was limited to one continent. Continents and mountains that exist now, were at one time part of the ocean floor as the fossil evidence reveals. Clouds didn’t gather to bring rain, but rather “there went up a mist from the earth and, watered the whole face of the earth” (Gen. 2:6). After the flood, God sovereignly ordained that the seasons as we know them along with the cold and heat will continue in this world until the end of time (Gen. 8:22). In the world that then was, God only spoke of night and day. So if the seasons are something unique to this world, then that world did not have seasons which are the result of the world being tilted on its axis. It was a world that was designed for the thriving of life in all its forms. The long life-spans would make it a world in which aging and death would be a rare and unusual occurrence apart from the growing violence and murder. Families were very large and the flow of knowledge and history could be absorbed over long periods of time.
Why was God pleased to have two worlds? I think we can find at least two reasons given in Scripture. First, God in II Peter compares the first judgment and destruction of the first world to the second when he comes to destroy this world with fire and make a new heavens and a new earth. In this we see the power of God who in the past has made a new world, and who has revealed that he will again make a new heavens and a new earth in the way of a fiery destruction. Another reason is suggested by the truth that Jesus is coming quickly. God often reveals that the fulfilling of God’s plan and purpose of saving the church in Christ is being accomplished as quickly as possible. The old world of long life-spans favored a quick development of sin and the power of antichrist. In this world we have a quickened pace of generations—it is as though history is in fast forward hastening to the second coming of Christ. It is a world in which nations multiply and the various tribes and peoples which God ordained to populate the church quickly form and develop. It is a world in which we better see the glory and power of God to save his church.
Let us rejoice as we see the great power and sovereignty of God to create new worlds and quickly gather his church.