Judgment is something most people (believers and unbelievers), would rather not hear or think about. I understand that. It’s kind of like hearing about income taxes or estate planning— even though we might understand the inevitability and importance of such matters, they’re never going to be something we are eager about. And while judgment shouldn’t be something disciples major in, we’re doing no one any favors if we never talk about it. It’s obviously part of the biblical witness and involved in bringing people to Jesus (Acts 17:30-31, 24:25).
We need to speak about the judgment to come because the disobedient need to know what awaits them in they chose to live and die in rebellion to their Father. Judgment is an aspect of God’s character and whether we’re talking about the final judgment or judgments in this life, they proceed along the same basis. A look at the judgment upon the people of Noah’s time reveals these principles.
God’s wish. It is God’s desire that no one perish. Shortly after making reference to the flood (2 Peter 3:6), Peter makes this point (v. 9). God tells Ezekiel that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but is pleased when they repent and find life (18:23). People might stubbornly march off to judgment but they do so in spite of God’s wishes. The message of creation is the He created man in order to bless him (Genesis 1:26-28), not curse him.
God’s warning. Peter calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5). If we take Genesis 6:3 to be referring to the length of time before the flood would occur, then there was up to 120 years of warning before the flood came. Since the building of the ark took something less than 100 years (compare 5:32 with 6:9-10 and 7:6), perhaps Noah’s preaching was concurrent with that. Regardless of the exact of time, there was plenty of warning. The Flood shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone!
God’s working. If you put 1 Peter 1:10-11 together with 3:18-20 and 4:6, we are told that it was the Spirit of Christ which was at work in Noah in his preaching to this generation. It wasn’t just Noah speaking—it was Christ speaking through him! That means God was involved and working to steer people away from judgment.
God’s waiting. Instances of judgment coming instantly are not unknown to the Scripture (Nadab & Abihu, Uzzah, Ananias & Sapphira), but these are the exception rather than the rule. God patiently waiting is the norm (Romans 2:3-4). In fact, it’s because of His “slowness” that Peter says what he does in 2:3:9. 1 Peter 3:20 speaks of “when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”
God’s word. Finally, God does what He said He would do. Jeremiah 18:7-10 needs to be taken into account here (and is illustrated historically in the book of Jonah in God withholding judgment on the Ninevites upon their repentance). Short of that, judgment comes and for the wicked “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Hebrews 10:31). Still, it’s not what God wanted to do — it’s what He had to do. The flood is God weeping for forty days (Luke 19:41).And that brings us to the other reason we need to say something about judgment. The righteous need to know that good will triumph! They need to know that one person’s righteousness in the midst of a rebellious world (Genesis 6:5-6), does make a difference and doesn’t go unnoticed by God!
Temporal judgments such as the flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, the plagues, all provide this assurance to believers by reminding us of God’s character (i.e., His goodness, justice, etc.). They also provide us with a microcosm of the final judgment by showing the principles by which God rewards and punishes. When you put it all together believers can see that no matter what our situation might be right now, we know how it will end and that helps us to endure (Hebrews 6:10-12).There’s a lot more to judgment than just condemnation!