Better things are coming (Series Title)
- Genesis 6:1-8
- 1 Peter 3:17-22
There are days in the life of a minister that he needs to hide his pride in his pocket and admit that the Bible sometimes is not altogether easy to preach. Today is one of those.
The readings for today come from two passages many theologians interpret in many different ways. I pray that God will give me the grace to be a help rather than a hindrance. We need to pray that the victory of Christ will be seen, and that all the glory will be his – even through our meditation on these two paragraphs.
The victory of Christ
I titled this sermon “Christ’s victory: all enemy defeated”, because the context of 1 Peter 3, especially verses 17-22, is about the victory of Christ through his cross and resurrection. Let’s just recapture:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)
There is victory in this verse. He died but was brought back to life. It takes us back to chapter 1:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18–19, NIV)
Of another verse in chapter 2: 1 Peter 2:4 refers to the truth that we have come to Him, and then Peter says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6, NIV)
We have come to Christ, and Christ, according to our verse in 1 Peter 3:18, through his death and resurrection He takes us to the Father. His vicarious, or substitutional work not only takes us to God, but is the anchor for us in difficult times.
The cross and the open grave
Peter is addressing people who knew better things were coming in eternity, but the here and now of their struggle against those who reject them because they rejected Christ, cause them a lot of suffering. And Peter now wanted them to not only follow the example of Christ by being submissive, but to see the victorious Christ who, according to the last verse in this chapter, has all powers and authorities in submission to Him.
Peter mentions something in this section which is not easy to understand. Let’s read verses 19-20 again:
After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, (1 Peter 3:19–20, NIV)
This fact of the ministry of Christ in not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. It seems at first sight if this may be mentioned in chapter 4:6:
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6, NIV)
The end of this verse however refers to people who were dead but now live in regard to the spirit. I have however no final resolution on this verse, because there are more than one way to interpret this verse. We will get there next time we continue with 1 Peter.
So the question is, when did Christ go and preach to whose spirits are kept in prison, who were they, and what did He proclaim to them?
Sin, rebellion and destruction
Our verse refers to those who lived in the days of Noah, those who were disobedient, despite the patience of God to see them repent and be saved.
Let’s go to Genesis 6. The first problem we walk into is the reference to “the sons of God who married the daughters of men.” Who were the “sons of God” and who were the “daughters of men”?
Let’s just go back a chapter or two in Genesis. After the death of Abel and the tragic life of Cain who became a refugee, Adam and Eve had more children. Seth was born to them. There is an interesting statement in chapter 4:26:
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:26, NIV)
Then in chapter 5:3 we read:
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3, NIV)
If we read these two verses together within the context, it seems not impossible to deduce that and Enosh worshipped the Lord, and that they could be known as “sons of God”, or children of God. As time went by and people increased on the face of the earth, some departed from the Lord in sinfulness. It is not impossible to think that some actually started to intermarry with the offspring of Cain. The expression “they married whom they chose” in 6:3 may indicating that man’s own choice, rather than the choice of God of who he could marry was his own standard.
It does not take long before a godly family can go astray and become worse than the worst. Old Eli was a god-fearing man to begin with, but his two sons were evil to the bone. David walk with the Lord, Solomon deviated somewhat, and his son rejected the fear of the Lord.
Point is, who was known as “the sons of God” got entrapped in marriages with daughters of this world. The difference lies in their origins: “of God” and “of men”. It never works, and always leads to disaster. The result of these unions was outright rebellion against God. Like the people of Babel who rebelled against God and looked at themselves as important and great, so the people in the time of Noah drifted away from the worship of God to the worship of themselves and their own achievements; in their own eyes they were giants! And this pattern is repeated even into our day. The wise, the great and the important thumb their noses at the King of the universe and his Son, and they refuse to bow the knee before Him who already have them at his feet. Listen to Psalm 2:
The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” (Psalm 2:2–3, NIV)
How does this Psalm warn them? Listen:
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NIV)
Over and over again we read: in Genesis 6:
The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. (Genesis 6:6, NIV)
Righteousness calls for punishment
In his righteousness He sent the flood to punish sin. He gave them 120 years to repent, but nothing happened. And all along Noah drove one nail after the other in to ark, which would become the salvation for him and his family. God promised that this will never happen again – no flood. But it meant that God had to set in motion his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Those who walked in darkness, those who were first not a people, are by grace -through the cross and resurrection of Christ brought to God. Instead of rightfully punishing the world for their sin, He sent his Son to be punished in our place. THat’s why we read about the victory of Christ through the cross and his resurrection.
Those who cause pain in the heart of God, who caused God’s judgment upon what He had made so that about everything was destroyed and God had to start from again, their spirits are kept in prison till the final judgement of the white throne before God.
We don’t know exactly when, or at what point in time it happened, but the victorious Christ went to preach – or proclaim – something to the these spirits who are bound in the pool of fire till the last day of judgement. From the context we need to understand that Christ proclaimed to them his victory. They caused the world to be destroyed through their disobedience and hardened hearts, but Christ was the One who restored it and reversed the wrath of God upon this sinful world. He did not preach to them grace; their fate is sealed. They are with their leader, Satan, the father of lies, and the deceiver from the beginning, sealed up in the abyss till they will stand before the throne of Him who overcame: Jesus Christ; and He will avenge the blood of those who fell by the hands of sinners by sealing them up in this lake of fire:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NIV)
Don’t be found with them. No! come to Christ who will take you to God through his death and resurrection. United to Him (of which baptism and communion is a sign) you will stand and survive. As a matter of fact, the tribulations of this world and it’s sufferings is for a moment compared to what is waiting. Peter rights a bit further into this letter:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13, NIV)
See, we are united to Christ by faith; baptism is the sign and seal of our union with him. Peter writes:
and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21, NIV)
Noah believed. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. (Hebrews 11:7, NIV)
My dear friend, physical persecution has not come our way yet. But it is true that if we live as true aliens, or passers-through, in this world, we are on its wrong side. The life of a Christian is not always easy; on the contrary, it can be very hard and disheartening at times. But it serves to test us.
Let us never forget this truth when we face difficulty for loving Christ and his Word: Christ is victorious; in essence the enemy is defeated. By union with Him your place is secured in heaven where your inheritance cannot be spoiled of fade. Look up, better things are coming. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 18 October 2015