Question: 
You make a big deal about the Genesis flood being comparable to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Chapter 9 (Water and Fire). This point is very important to your local flood views, but I see a problem. The flood is sometimes used in isolation from Sodom in places like Matthew 24:37-39 and 2 Peter 3:6-7. If the flood is comparable to the destruction that came on Sodom (local), then why is Sodom missing in these texts? Does this difference in the way the New Testament handles the flood and Sodom not show that the flood was a global event even though Sodom was confined to local physical events? How can the flood and Sodom be comparable when the New Testament treats them so differently?
 
Answer: 
 

What many fail to grasp about the flood and Sodom is the role they play throughout the Bible. In Chapters 8 (The Flood and Prophecy) and 9 (Water and Fire) we noted how Jesus’ comparison of the flood to the “end” is based on the well-established link the prophets drew centuries earlier. Daniel 9:26 (NIV) says, “The end will come like a flood.” Jesus expounded on the prophets in his Olivet Discourse teaching.

Likewise, when Jesus included Sodom in the comparison to the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 17:22-37, he did so because of the precedent in the Law and prophets. Note what Moses warned the people about the punishment for breaking God’s covenant:

 
The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur – nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. (Deut. 29:23 NIV)

 

The prophets to come later in Israel’s history also drew a link between the wickedness of Israel and Sodom:

 
And among the prophets of Samaria I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people astray. And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah. (Jer. 23:13 NIV)

 

The frequent comparison between God’s unfaithful people and Sodom and Gomorrah (e.g., Is. 3:9 and Ez. 16:49) provides background for the New Testament. When Jesus drew the comparison between the flood, Sodom, and his coming, he spoke in a manner with deep roots in the Law and prophets; he was not teaching anything brand new in his three-way comparison in Luke 17:22-37.

There are some mistaken assumptions in the above question that should be pointed out before going further. First of all, Luke 17:22-37 is clearly a parallel text to Matthew 24:37-39 so the difference is not in substantive things Jesus actually said, but in the details Matthew and Luke chose to record. There is a good reason for the variation between the details listed in Matthew and Luke which we will get to below.

Secondly, the wider context of 2 Peter 3 does include a reference to both the flood and Sodom in 2 Peter 2:5-10.

Thirdly, it helps to realize that Revelation associates Jerusalem as a spiritual “Sodom” in Revelation 11:8. (Again, the precedent goes back to the prophets of the Old Testament who did the same thing in their day.) At least part of the significance of Jerusalem’s identity as “Sodom” in Revelation 11:8 is related to the reason for the difference between Matthew 24:37-39 and Luke 17:22-37.

If you want to understand why the New Testament writers used the flood and judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah in different ways, then you will need to think carefully about the original contexts of those stories in Genesis.

We made the case that the flood took place within a covenant context; the cause of the flood was the apostasy of the covenant line of Seth recorded in Genesis 5-6:2. We pointed out how the flood account in Genesis 6-9 is “enveloped” by the genealogy of Seth beginning in Genesis 5. This would amount to a “Hebraic” context for the entire event since the line of Seth represented God’s covenant people at the time.

What do we find in Genesis 18-19? Who is involved in the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah? Was it Abraham? Abraham offered priestly, mediatory prayers for the righteous in Sodom (Gen. 18:16-32), but Abraham was never in any personal danger from God’s judgment. It was Lot who was saved from Sodom, not Abraham. The text goes on to tell us that Lot became the father of the Ammonites and Moabites (Gen. 19:36-38). These were Gentile nations that later caused Israel a great deal of trouble.

In other words, the flood took place in a covenant context dealing with God’s people and Sodom took place in a context we now recognize as “Gentile.” The parallel contexts of these stories explain the nuance of how they are used in the New Testament. Matthew 24 has no mention of the judgment upon Sodom because Matthew writes to a Jewish audience. Luke includes Sodom in the clear parallel because Luke writes to a Gentile audience. A similar priority is reflected in the genealogies recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, as well as the difference between “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew) and “kingdom of God” (Luke).

This background context also illuminates the significance of the association between Sodom and Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. The Jews who remained in Jerusalem by ad 70 had not only become morally corrupt as a result of their defiant rejection of God in Christ Jesus, they had also become (spiritually speaking) Gentiles. They were no longer God’s people at all since they broke the covenant and rejected the Messiah spoken of in the Law and prophets (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). They were cast away from God’s true presence and covenant blessing, cut out of the olive tree because of unbelief (Rom. 11:20-22).

The reason for the variance in the Olivet Discourse between Matthew and Luke has to do with the Jew/Gentile dynamic of the New Testament. Peter works with the same nuance in 2 Peter 3. These details provide another compelling evidence for the covenant context of the flood account in Genesis, related to the progeny of Seth.  The variation by which the flood and Sodom are used shows how these two events in covenant history are perfectly balanced in the New Testament context. Why? The flood and Sodom are balanced because they are both local judgments applied to specific contexts, what we recognize as "Jew" and "Gentile" by the time of the New Testament. Together, these two events in Genesis show that God holds both Jew and Gentile accountable to him – a message writ large across the pages of the New Testament.

This nuance explains why Sodom is not mentioned directly in 2 Peter 3:5-7. The parallel in the text is 1) creation, 2) flood, and 3) consummation. The creation has to do with God’s people; the flood came upon God’s (unfaithful) people; the fire was coming upon God’s (unfaithful) people to bring about the “end.” Just as the waters of the flood destroyed the apostate line of Seth, save Noah, so the fires of God’s judgment were coming upon Judea, Jerusalem and the temple. Peter naturally leaves out Sodom (representing Gentiles) at this point in 2 Peter 3:5-7. Fire did not engulf the entire Gentile world, whether globally or even upon entire the Roman Empire in the first century. Rome did not fall until many centuries later. The physical events of ad 70 were centered on “the land” which God’s covenant people of old called “home”

A global view of the flood in Genesis destroys this intricate detail that appears very important in the matrix of the New Testament. Global flood doctrine, like a global view of prophecy and a supposed world-wide consummation, is the natural result of neglecting the principle of covenant context so important throughout the entire Bible.

 

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