As Ken Ham’s project nears completion, I was reflecting on a biblical theology of Noah, the Ark, and the Flood (Gen. 6-9). While for many the Ark will represent something akin to an amusement park, for me, it will remind me of the redemptive-historical and prophetic significance that it holds in biblical theology. That is why going to the Ark is not so much about being amused as it is about being reminded. Reminded of the holiness of God. Reminded of the consequences of sin. Reminded of the terrible judgment that took place in Noah’s time and reminded of the abiding Christological implications that the Ark carries. Here are a few theological points to keep in mind as we think about this part of the primitive history Scripture.
God’s Covenant Refuge
Genesis 6:5–7 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Sadly, God’s mighty vessel was not built for amusement purposes but for cataclysmic judgment. It was a manifestation of God’s wrath on a global scale, such as the world has not seen since and will only see when Christ returns (cf. Mt. 24.37; 2 Pet. 3.6-7). The passage in Peter and Matthew also means that the flood was typological of God’s end-time wrath in fire that Jesus Christ will bring at the end of the age. But this is something that is scarcely mentioned today in discussing the Ark. Nevertheless, this eschatological typology is the enduring purpose of the Ark today. God’s reason for building the Ark is the same reason God’s wrath is being stored up today; sinful corruption that reaches an intolerable boiling point in God’s sight resulting in the salvation of His people and the destruction of His enemies.
God’s Covenant Servant
Genesis 6:8–12 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
What God’s covenant servant Noah teaches us is that in the midst of the waters of judgment, God is saving a righteous people. Noah was righteous and he found favor with God. Of course, that is not to imply that Noah was spared spiritually because he earned it and the rest of humanity blew it (cf. Gen. 9.21); rather, God chose to impart His righteousness to Noah by His sovereign grace through faith (cf. Rom. 4.16). The same holds true today. Those who believe and trust in God’s provision of deliverance will be spared His terrible end-time judgment, and those who do not love the truth will perish in that judgment (cf. 2 Thess. 2.10). As Noah walked with God, lived righteously and was “blameless in his time” thereby setting forth a pattern of what it means to live in the context of a hell-deserving culture and remain obedient and faithful to the truth; something which is of critical importance today. Just as Noah had a context so do we. Noah’s context has a common connection to our context. Just as Noah’s righteous standard of living was in the minority, the Church today is also feeling increasingly isolated and indeed ostracized for that righteousness. Though Noah lived at the dawn of life’s most primitive stages, yet it was not so primitive that Noah’s neighbors did not understand the biblical worldview; they did and like today they rejected it. Like today, Noah was surrounded by mockers who rejected and ignore the reality of God’s power to judge (Mt. 24.27-28). When Noah built the Ark, he was condemning the world (Heb. 11.7)! In the same way, as we prepare for the present world to perish through judgment, as we take refuge in the Christ the ultimate Ark, we are consigning the world to judgment for not believing and heading our call. In fact, the more they persecute, they more of an indication of their own destruction is represents:
Philippians 1:27–28 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
When we think about the severity of God’s judgment, millions snuffed out, drowned in a deluge of wrath which ultimately only ushered them in to await final eschatological judgment in Hell; we should also stop to consider that during Noah’s life his cultured was already in a deluge— for the world was drowning in its own God-ignoring, God-minimizing, and God-hating cesspool of sin. Jesus reminds us that the end of the age will look much the same way:
Matthew 24:37–38 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the Ark,
God’s Covenant Purpose
Genesis 6:17–22 17 “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. 18 “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the Ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 “And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the Ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 “Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 “As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.” 22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.
God’s covenant purpose in the flood is also instructive for us in many ways. In warning Noah of the impending judgment and calling Him into the Ark, God was making the preparations for a new world. The animals were brought into the Ark not because God wants to spare innocent animals but because He was setting forth in typological fashion, the foundations for a new creation. Noah needed to be ready to leave the old world and find His true dwelling in the world to come (cf. Heb. 11.13-14). Before we complete the application however, we need to complete the typology. The reemergence of the dry land is not only typological of a new creation, but Noah is also typological of a new Adam- a new progenitor of the human race as a covenant head. Christ fulfills both of these prefigures. He is not only the true and last, i.e. the eschatological Adam, He is also the covenant servant of God through whom the new world will be ushered in (2 Cor. 5.17; Rev. 21.1-4). Now, like Noah, we must be ready to part with this old world and, by faith, look for a new country whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11.10). The Ark should remind us that we have no lasting city here (Heb. 13.14):
Hebrews 11:13–16 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Failure to seek refuge in the safety that Jesus provides results not in death by water but death by fire in the lake of fire, which is Hell everlasting (Rev. 20.11-15). What the Ark should remind us all about is that God works through salvation and judgment. Peter says explicitly, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2.9). His judgments are terrible and His salvation great (Rev. 15.1-4).
Finally then, while seeing the massive edifice that is the Ark will be impressive, indeed, the size of the Ark pales in comparison to its typological and prophetic significance in the plan of God. Any one who steps foot into the replica should be reminded not of the miracle of building the big boat, but of the awesome power of God and of His awful righteousness that called down His terrible wrath that resulted in the geological catastrophe of Noah’s flood. But furthermore, we know that all of God’s judgments point to the final cosmic catastrophe of the world that is now being reserved for fire (2 Pet. 3.7). This July, I hope to be more than amused, I hope to be excited and sober-minded, broken for the fact that impenitent sinner will perish by fire, as I approach the vessel that carries such intense historical and typological meaning.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.