According to the second letter of Peter, one of the features of the last days of this age will be a denial of the teaching of the Bible about creation and the flood. Peter writes: ‘Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they wilfully forget that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished being flooded with water.’ 2 Peter 3.3-6.
This passage tells us that in the last days people will scoff at the idea of the second coming of Jesus and also will believe a view of the origin of life which is known as uniformitarianism. The dictionary defines this as ‘the assumption that the natural processes operating in the past are the same as those which can be observed in the present.’ This idea is the basis of evolution which teaches that life as we know it is the result of a continuous ongoing process over a vast length of time. The opposing view to this is known as ‘catastrophism’ which is the theory that the Earth has been affected by sudden short-lived violent events that were sometimes worldwide in scope. In this case the period of time could be relatively short.
The Bible teaches a ‘catastrophic’ view of the history of the earth – that the original ‘very good’ creation of Genesis 1 has been drastically changed by events which took place over a short period of time, the first of which is the Fall of man described in Genesis 3 and the second of which is the Flood described in Genesis 6-9. I believe that the word of God is true and that the evidence which we can discern supports the young earth view that the changes brought upon the earth were the result of the Fall and the Flood. I do not have space to go into my reasons for this in this article but if you would like information on this subject, I recommend ‘The Answers Book’ produced by ‘Answers in Genesis’ available from us at £12 including postage.
Peter links a denial of the evidence for the Flood with a denial of the hope of the return of the Lord Jesus. Those who doubt what the Bible says about the beginning of our world have difficulties believing what it says about the end. This is particularly relevant because Jesus said the conditions at the time of the Flood would be similar to the conditions at the time of His second coming: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. … Even so it will be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.’ Luke 17.26-30.
Jesus believed in Noah and the events of the flood as real facts of human history as did the Prophets of Israel (Isaiah 54.9, Ezekiel 14.14). It is interesting that there are hundreds of flood stories in which the world was destroyed and a just man and his family were saved by going into a boat. These can be found in the folk stories of peoples from cultures across the earth – North and South America, the South Sea Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan, China, the Middle East, Europe, Africa. The stories vary as one would expect from accounts handed down by word of mouth but they contain common elements with the biblical narrative.
According to the Bible only those who went into the ark with Noah survived the flood so all human beings are descended from Noah and his family, so they should all have a common memory of this great event.
A literal interpretation of Genesis shows that in the days before the flood the conditions on the earth were very different from the conditions that exist today. In Genesis 1.7 we read that ‘God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.’ This speaks of a much greater expanse of water in the atmosphere than exists today and a vast reservoir of water under the earth. It was the breaking up of these waters that caused the deluge: ‘All the foundations of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.’ Genesis 7.11. In the pre flood world the earth was watered by a mist not by rain (Genesis 2.5-6).
This would have made the earth much more fertile and pleasant to live in than it is now, which would have been one reason for the great ages of the pre flood patriarchs. The earth was much more luxuriant with healthy foods, corn, fruit and vegetables in abundant supply. The water canopy which caused the deluge screened out the harmful rays of sun and thus held back the aging process. It also created a global greenhouse effect which gave a uniform warm temperature all over the planet. Genetic defects accumulated in modern people were much less known so disease was much less prevalent.
The time of Noah is the climax of human history in the pre-flood age. The previous two chapters describe the two paths taken by humanity after the fall of man. The descendants of Cain, described in Genesis 4, were inventive making developments in agriculture, technology and music (Genesis 4.20-22). At the same time they became increasingly forgetful of God and preoccupied with material things and pleasure. Genesis 4.25-5.32 lists the line of Seth who ‘began to call on the name of the Lord’, in other words those who remembered the Lord.
The most interesting of the pre flood patriarchs is Enoch, who was a prophet of God. He gave his son the name Methuselah which means ‘his death shall bring’ or ‘when he has died it shall be sent.’ We can work out from the dates given in Genesis that Methuselah died in the year of the flood. So in naming his son, Enoch was prophesying the date of the flood. Enoch also prophesied the second coming of Messiah Jesus (Jude 14-15) and is himself a type of those who are taken in the rapture of the church: ‘Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him.’ Genesis 5.24.
In other words he did not die in the normal way but was taken straight to be with the Lord as Paul says will happen to the last generation alive before Jesus returns: ‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17.
It is fascinating that all the pre flood patriarchs have names which mean something. Together they spell out the Gospel message.
Put these names together and you get the Gospel message: ‘Man is appointed to mortal sorrow but the God who is to be praised shall come down teaching that his death shall bring the weary rest.’
The conditions described on the earth at the time of Noah will be similar to the conditions at the time of the second coming of Jesus. Humans were multiplying on the earth. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, but here we see humans multiplying in wickedness and filling the earth with violence. In particular there was something happening in the thought life of human beings causing them to act in wicked ways: ‘Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.’ Genesis 6.5.
All of this is very similar to modern times. The development of technology is creating a culture in which people live for material things and pleasure and forget God. People‟s thought life is being corrupted by images seen on TV and in movies and computer games. Add to this the influence of drink, drugs, the occult and rock music and you have a potent cocktail leading to violence and uncleanness in human behaviour.
Because of all this God determined to bring universal judgement on the earth: ‘And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold I will destroy them all with the earth.”’ Genesis 6.13. In the same way there will be a universal judgement at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Noah was a preacher of righteousness, warning people to repent and to be saved from the judgement that was coming by going into the ark he was making. As he was building this huge construction people must have asked him what he was doing. When he told them of the coming judgement they laughed and rejected his message. Even the godly line of Seth had become merged with the ungodly so that only his own immediate family heeded his warning and were saved.
Going into Noah’s ark was the only way to be saved from the coming flood. Some people might have thought, ‘Noah is a bit crazy but just in case he is right I will build my own boat.’ If they had done so their boat would have sunk. It has been worked out that if you wanted to build a boat which did not have to go anywhere but needed to stay afloat in turbulent conditions the dimensions of the ark were exactly right. On the assumption that a cubit is about 17.5 inches (0.44 metres) the ark would have been about 438 feet (133.5 metres) long, 73 feet (22.25 metres) wide, 44 feet (13.5 metres) high.
Some have said there would not have been room for all the animals. Its total volume in space would have been about 1,400,000 cubic feet (426,720 cubic metres) which would have given it space for over 125,000 sheep. A sheep is the average size of animal. He would only have had to take in different kinds of animals not sub species and he could have taken in young elephants (for example) not fully grown ones. There would have been plenty of room for all the animals.
The ark was made of gopher wood – the exact nature of this is unknown but it would be hard and resistant to decay. This resistance was added to by being covered in pitch inside and outside. The word used for pitch is ‘kopher’ equivalent to Hebrew word ‘kaphar’, the same word used for the covering of sin provided by atonement from which we have the expression Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This covering / atonement kept out the waters of judgement, just as the blood of sacrificed animal protected from judgement under the Law of Moses and provided atonement for soul.
There was a window to let in light and possibly a means of water supply. There was just one door to go through and once inside that door Noah and his family were safe from the judgement coming on earth. In the same way today there is only one way to be saved from the judgement that is soon coming on the earth. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me he will be saved.” John 10.9. He also said He is the only way to the Father: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” John 14.6.
Some people have tried to explain away the Genesis account by saying that it was just a local flood. There are a number of reasons why this could not be so. There are more than 30 expressions showing that the flood was universal in Genesis 6-9. The word used in the Hebrew text is not the normal word for flood, but ‘mabbul’, a word only used elsewhere in the Bible in Psalm 29.10 which is a reference to Noah’s flood. In the Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint, and in the New Testament the word used is ‘kataklysmos’ from which we have the English word ‘cataclysm.’
If it was a local flood the whole exercise of building the ark was a complete waste of time and effort. Animals would be preserved elsewhere on the earth and God could have warned Noah and his family to move to higher ground. The text tells us that the waters covered the high hills and mountains (7.19) and that every living thing – human and animal – left on the earth died (7.21-3). The waters prevailed for 150 days (7.24) and it took an entire year (7.11, 8.13) for enough land to be exposed for the inhabitants of the ark to leave. God promised never to send a flood like this again (8.21). If it was a local flood He did not keep His word.
The flood gives a much better explanation than evolution for the abundance of fossils which are found in sedimentary rocks and for the deposits of coal, oil and natural gas found all over the world. This would have happened as a result of huge quantities of water suddenly compressing trees, vegetation and animals.
The Genesis account shows how God took action to bring an end to the flood. He caused a wind to pass over the earth, stopped the fountains of the deep and closed the windows of heaven. Psalm 104.6-9 gives an explanation as to what happened to the waters: ‘The waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled, at the voice of your thunder they hastened away. They went up over the mountains; they went down into the valleys to the place which you founded for them.’ God raised up the high mountains and drained off the waters into the great deeps which we now know exist in the oceans. It is probable that before the flood the high mountains which now exist were not there and that there were only small hills, so the flood would not have had to cover Everest!
When Noah and his family came out of the ark they would have found a very different world from the one they had left. God promised there would never again be a worldwide flood and gave the rainbow sign for this. The rainbow could only come as a result of rain so this was a new phenomenon for them. The world they entered was much degraded from what it had been. These were the main changes:
- The oceans were more extensive, now containing the waters from above and below, and the land areas less extensive.
- The thermal vapour blanket had now gone so there would be big temperature differences, with „cold and heat, winter and summer‟ (Genesis 8.22). Winds and storms, rains and snow were now possible.
- The environment was less favourable due to harmful radiation from space, so the life span would decrease.
- The crust of the earth was unstable as a result of the cataclysmic changes brought about by the flood. Volcanoes and earthquakes would happen.
The account of Noah’s ark is a historical event which gives an amazing insight into God’s plan of salvation for his people at the end of this age. At a time of great wickedness of the face of the whole earth, God will again provide a place of safety for those who trust in the salvation He has given us through the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be the only way to be saved and it will be God‟s plan not of any human origin. Those who are saved will be cut off from the old world which will perish. The flood waters destroyed the old world, and at the same time lifted up the ark above the earth to save all who were inside it. In the same way Jesus the Messiah lifts us up from this world which is perishing by dying for our sins. The waters of the flood cleansed the earth from the wickedness which caused this catastrophe to come. In his first letter Peter sees this as a parallel to water baptism which symbolises our cleansing from our old life in the world to newness of life in Messiah.
When Jesus returns to take the believing church to be with Himself at the rapture, He will save us from the judgement coming on the earth in the great tribulation period. When we return with Him at His second coming to the earth (Revelation 19) we will find a world totally changed as Noah and his family did. Initially it will be devastated by the events of the tribulation period but then the Lord Jesus will set up His rule from Jerusalem and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11.9. An entirely new world system will be put into place. There will be no more wars and military training. Animals will no longer eat one another, but the lion will lay down with the lamb in a harmonious natural world in which all human needs will be met. The Earth will be cleansed from the degradation and pollution of our time. People will not dwell in large cities but in agricultural self-sufficient communities. Satan will not be able to tempt and destroy. There will be no drugs, sexual immorality or violence. People will dwell safely in their own homes. See Isaiah 2.1-4, 11-12, 65.17-25, Micah 4.1-4, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20 for a description of this period. See you there?
‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.’