THE NOAHIC COVENANT AND THE POSTMILLENNIAL HOPE

PMT 2013-012 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Noahic covenantIn my last article I provided a brief study of the significance of covenant to postmillennialism. In this one I will continue that by looking at the Noahic Covenant. As we might expect, Noah was a postmillennialist. And probably Mrs. Noah (since they seem to have gotten along well).

In the Noahic Covenant appear various features which undergird the postmillennial hope of victory in history. We find this particularly in Genesis 6:17–22 and 8:20–9:17. Here God reaffirms the Cultural Mandate, which is fundamental to the outworking of his eschatological purpose through his highest creature, man.  Thus, we are witnessing God’s continuing gracious redemptive relation to man as the ongoing basis of the Cultural Mandate. We see this also in the references to the birds, cattle, etc. (cp. Gen 6:20; 8:17 with Gen 1:24, 25), the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 9:1, 7 with Gen 1:28), and the dominion concept (cf. Gen 9:2 with Gen 1:28). This is necessary to the redemptive-historical character of eschatology.

God establishes this covenant with his people: the family of Noah, which alone escapes the deluge by God’s grace (Heb 11:7; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5). Thus, this is not solely a common-grace covenant, for God establishes it with his elect people (Noah’s family) and on the basis of sovereign grace and redemptive sacrifice (Ge 6:8; 8:20–22). Furthermore, Scripture unites the Noahic covenant with God’s other redemptive covenants (cf. Hos 2:18 with Gen 6:20; 8:17; 9:9ff). The Cultural Mandate, then, especially relates to the function of God’s people in the world: God expressly reaffirms the Mandate with God’s people, the “you” of Genesis 9:1–12. On the basis of divine covenant God calls his people to the forefront of cultural leadership, with the religious aspects of culture being primary.

In revealing the Noahic covenant we also witness God’s objective relationship with man: God judges the world in history for its sin. God establishes the rainbow as a sign of his covenant mercy with Noah and all that are with him, including their seed (Gen 9:12). This indicates that the world will be protected from God’s curse through the presence of God’s people. God makes the covenant only indirectly with unbelievers, who benefit from God’s protection only as they do not oppose God’s people. Because of God’s love for his people, he preserves the orderly universe (Gen 8:20–22).


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Thus we see God’s objective corporate sanction against sin in the Flood, which also serves as a type of final judgment (2Pe 3:4–6). We also witness God’s judicial sanctions in history in his ordaining capital punishment (Ge 9:6). God’s objective judgment therefore finds civil expression in man’s affairs. The Lord grants legitimate authority to the civil government to enforce capital punishment. God bases this on a fundamentally religious principle, namely, God’s image in man (Gen 9:6), and gives it to the world through the church (i.e., Noah’s family).1

As we trace redemption’s scarlet thread through the fabric of Scriptural revelation and covenant history, the hope of redemptive victory becomes even more clear. A careful study of Scripture demonstrates that history is truly His Story.

Notes

  1. God ordains civil sanctions as a means for preserving the human race for his redemptive purposes (cf. Rom 13:1-4; 1 Pet 2:13-14; cp. 1 Tim 2:1-4; Acts 25:11).

Helpful study

Paedocommunion Debate (2 CDs)
Kenneth Gentry v. Robert Rayburn

This debate focuses on the covenantal implications of the Lord’s Supper. These 2 CDs contain the full formal, two-hour public debate before 600 people at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Spring, 2004. Dr. Gentry defends the historic Reformed position of profession of faith preceding partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Dr. Rayburn defends the view that all those who are baptized, including pre-professing children, have the right to partake of the Lord’s table.

This lively debate includes opening statements, cross examination, audience Q & A, and closing statements.

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5 thoughts on “THE NOAHIC COVENANT AND THE POSTMILLENNIAL HOPE

  1. Harold November 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Ken, the LORD does not repeat the dominion mandate with Noah as He had done with Adam. Could it be that after the Flood the dominion mandate rests with the Second Adam?

  2. Kenneth Gentry November 21, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Actually I believe the dominion mandate is reiterated with Noah, as I argue in my article. As further evidence that the dominion mandate continues, we should note David’s rehearsal of it in Psalm 8:4-8:

    “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.”

    Of course, Jesus is the ultimate fulfiller of the dominion mandate. And as his (postmillennial) kingdom unfolds, we will see the glorious result of the mandate. 1 Cor 15:25-27 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.”

  3. Harold November 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    I will re-read your article, but I’ve been over this a few times and I just don’t see from Genesis 9 that the dominion mandate was restated by God to Noah; now your reference from Psalms has more weight.

    I slummed for a while in the Word of Faith movement and the Charismatic Movement and I’m still recovering from their distortions of Scripture. It was Scripture that corrected my understanding of theology, and the teachers I listened to..i.e. those who did the least amount of violence to Scripture. I’m telling you this so you understand I’m not just being argumentative.

  4. Kenneth Gentry November 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Harold:

    In no way do I see you as “being argumentative.” I established this blog not only to promote postmillennialism, but to engage in friendly debate and counter-analysis. I appreciate your interaction.

    I believe that the Noachic covenant here re-establishes the dominion mandate, but with two large differences caused by the intrusion of sin in the world: (1) Man may now eat animals (Gen 9:3-4) instead of the harmony that existed in Eden which prohibited eating flesh (Gen 1:29-30). (2) Capital punishment was instituted (Gen 9:6) because of the threat of murder due to sin.

    What we find in Noah is a parallel with that which we find in Adam, so that Noah becomes a Second Adam in the Genesis narrative: (1) God dealing with one man (and his family), (2) his blessing them, (3) the appearance of dry land, (4) the need for populating a “new” world, and (5) man’s dominance over the animals.

    Many commentators recognize this re-iteration of the dominion mandate from Gen 1:26-28 in Gen 9:1ff. I will cite a few by way of illustration.

    John Calvin on Gen 9:2: “This also has chiefly respect to the restoration of the world, in order that the sovereignty over the rest of animals might remain with men. And although, after the fall of man, the beasts were endued with new ferocity, yet some remains of that dominion over them, which God had conferred on him in the beginning, were still left. He now also promises that the same dominion shall continue.”

    C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch on Gen 9:1-7: “In the words by which the first blessing was transferred to Noah an his sons (v. 2), the supremacy granted to man over the animal world was expressed still more forcibly than in ch. 1:25 and 28, because, inasmuch as sin with its consequences had loosed then bond of voluntary subjection on the part of the animals to the will of man . . . , henceforth it was only by force that he could rule over it, by that ‘fear and dread’ which God instilled into the animal creation.”

    B. F. Skinner on Gen 9:2: “Man’s ‘dominion’ over the animals is re-established, but now in the form of fear and dread (cf. Dt. 11:24) towards him on their part.”

    Gerhard Von Rad on Gen 9:1, 2: “Under these altered condition did the first command of creation (ch. 1.28), ‘be fruitful,’ still hold? Did the creature which had fallen from God’s first estate still have God’s will on its side but only in its most elementary life function, namely, in its procreation and its taking of the earth, or had it become highhanded in this too? Answer: No. God, in spite of everything, has renewed this command for this generation too.” “The relationship of man to the animals no longer resembles that which was decreed in ch. 1. The animal world lives in fear and terror of man . . . . Just as God renewed for Noachic man the command to procreate, so he also renewed man’s sovereign right over the animals.”

    G. Ch. Alders on Gen 9:2: “In this connection the supremacy of human beings over the animals, is gain emphasized cf 1:25, 2). This supremacy is indicated by the fear animals would develop for human beings. This fear was part of the curse that came upon the earth as a consequence of the Fall.”

    Gordon J. Wenham in his introduction to Gen 9:1-7: “Indeed, 9:1-7 can be seen not simply as reasserting 1:28-29 but as modifying the food law (cf. 1:29) and reasserting the sanctity of human life in the light of chap. 4.” He then parallels the following: Gen 9:2 “The fear of you . . . upon everything” // Gen 1:28: “rule . . . every living creature.”

  5. Harold November 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Ok, Ken, I’m beginning to see what you mean by dominion, it is not what the Word of Faith false profits teach (no, I misspelled that on purpose). I can see JHWH giving to Noah dominion over the animals. But what I see, and I may be wrong is GOD gave to Adam a more complete dominion, of which we see in the rise of the kings and tyrants, a complete dominion which now resides completely and fully in the Son of man and Son of God, the Second Adam, and as subordinate prophets, priests, and kings the Church and the redeemed.

    Man, and I include within this the Word of Faith false profits, who would have dominion in themselves as gods. What we see in the current apostasy. The complete dominion that now resides only in Christ.

    I think I bought and read your, “Before Jerusalem Fell” back the 90’s when it was first released. The partial preterist view is the only one that makes sense, while doing no violence to Scripture. It is also the one that glorifies God and not Man.

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