When Jesus and the New Testament writers wanted to illustrate a point or establish a truth they would often turn to a story found within the pages of the Old Testament. Stories such as: the creation and fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4-3:24), or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22-19:29), or the Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-9), or many more stories. It’s only natural that they should have referenced these stories, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). However, more times than not, those using the stories of old made no comment on the details of the story that was being cited Rather, the speaker assumes that the listener has already mastered the details of the story, thus, making possible an immediate understanding of the application(s) being made.
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That’s where this series of articles finds their place. My goal is to help you master the details of the Old Testament stories that are cited in the New Testament so that you can better understand the eternal truths that are drawn from them. In this, our first lesson, we’ll consider the story of Noah and the Flood and seek to better grasp the truths Jesus, Peter, and the Hebrew writer made from this wonder narrative.
The story of Noah and the Flood from Genesis 6:1-9:17:
An Exceedingly Wicked World Condemned (6:1-8):
Following the very specific list of Adam’s descendants in Genesis 5, a description of man’s excessive wickedness follows, summarized by the description “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). The Lord was sorry that He had made man (v. 6) and determined to blot out all the inhabitants of the earth (both man and beast) through a worldwide flood (v. 7). Noah, however, was the one bright spot, he found grace “in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8).
God Gives Noah Instructions (6:9-22):
Noah’s righteousness is reiterated (v. 9), followed by a naming of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth (v. 10). God then reveals to Noah His plan to destroy the earth (vv. 11-13). God instructs him to, “Make yourself an ark of gofer wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within 18 inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks” (vv. 14-16 HCSB). Why make such a colossal boat? Because, as God stated, He was sending a flood to destroy the earth (v. 17) and the ark would serve as a refuge for Noah and his family, along with the animals (vv. 18-21). This section ends with the repeated commendation, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (v. 22; cf. 7:5, 9, 16a).
The Earth Is Flooded (7:1-24):
After the ark was completed, some writers estimate as much as 125 years, the Lord gave Noah the command, “Go into the ark” (v. 1) along with all of his household (his wife, his three sons and their wives) along with the animals (vv. 2-3, 7-8, 13-16). The Lord repeated His plan to destroy all living things from the ground (v. 4). Again, the reader is reminded of Noah’s obedience, “And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.” (v. 5, 9, 16b; cf. 6:22) and “the Lord shut him in” the ark (v. 16b). “After seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth” (v. 10). “The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters” (vv. 17-18). So great was the magnitude of the flood “all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered… [by] more than 20 feet” (vv. 19, 20 HCSB). Furthermore, because of mankind’s sins, “all flesh died out that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beast, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth and all mankind” (v. 21). God “blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground… Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark” (v. 23). “And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days” (v. 24).
The Flood Subsides (8:1-19):
“God remembered Noah and all… that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (v. 1). In addition to the wind, God closed the “fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven [were] restrained” (v. 2) “At the end of 150 days the waters had abated and… the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (vv. 3-4). As the waters continued to recede, the tops of the mountains were seen (v. 5; cf. 7:19-20). Forty days after the ark came to a rest on the mountains of Ararat, Noah opened the window of the ark and sent out a hardy raven which did not return (v. 7), thus indicating there was some supply of food and land available. Noah waited seven days and then sent out a dainty dove, finding “no place to set her foot, she returned… to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the earth” (v. 8-9). Noah waited another seven days and sent out a second dove (v. 10). This time “the dove came back… [with] a freshly plucked olive leaf” (v. 11). By this Noah knew the waters had finally subsided from the earth and new life had begun to grow. After waiting another seven days, Noah sent out a third dove which never returned (v. 12) indicating the earth was now dry and completely habitable. Finally, Noah’s long journey was over and God said, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your son’s wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing… and be fruitful and multiply the earth” (v. 16-17). And so everyone exited the ark after 375 days (cf. Genesis 7:11; 8:14).
God’s Covenant with Noah (8:20-9:17):
The first act of Noah after he disembarked from the ark was to offer sacrifices to God (v. 20). “When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma” of Noah’s worship (an expression of approval), the Lord declared, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intentions of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (vv. 21-22; cf. 9:8-11). God blessed Noah and his sons (v. 1) and commissioned them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (v. 2, 7; cf. Genesis 1:22, 28; 8:17). From vv. 2-4, man’s relationship to the animals changed, in that man was now free to eat animals for sustenance. Now God permitted the taking of animal life for food, the animal’s blood remained sacred and was not to be consumed, as an acknowledgment that all life is from God (cf. Leviticus 17:12-14). (As a side note, 9:2-4 closely parallels the commands given to Adam in Genesis 1:28-30, with two important changes: First, exercising dominion over animals is replaced with animals fearing man. Second, the emphasis on eating plants is replaced with the eating of animals.) Following the allowance to kill and eat animals, God addressed the issue of homicide, whether by an animal or by another human (vv. 5-6). In summary, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (v. 6). The story of Noah and the flood ends with what is sometimes called the Noahic Covenant. The covenant was made with Noah and all living creatures (vv. 9-10, 17; cf. 6:18) that God would never destroy the world again by water (v. 11). The rainbow served, even today, as the perpetual, symbolic reminder to God and man of God’s promise to never destroy the earth again by means of water (vv. 12-17).
|Chronology of the Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:17)|
|6:7||Because of man’s wickedness, God determines to blot out him and all animals from the face of the land.|
|6:8||However, Noah found favor with God.|
|6:13-21||God reveals His planned destruction to Noah, along with plans for an ark to save himself, his family, and animals of every kind to keep them alive through the flood.|
|6:22||Noah did all that God commanded him to do.|
|7:4, 10||Noah, his family, and the animals entered the ark seven days ahead of flood beginning.|
|7:11, 13||Flood begins.|
|7:12||For forty days the flood waters gathered on the earth.|
|8:4||Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat waters prevail and abate for 150 days total.|
|8:5||As the waters began to abate, mountain tops became visible.|
|8:7||After forty days from the mountain tops becoming visible, a raven is sent out. It does not return.|
|8:8||A short time after that, Noah sent out a dove. Finding no suitable place to land, it returned to the ark.|
|8:10||Seven days later, a second dove is sent out. This time it returns with an olive branch.|
|8:12||After another seven days, a third dove is sent out. This time the dove did not return.|
|8:13||Noah removed the cover of the ark and exited along with his family and all the animals.|
|8:20||Noah worshipped God.|
|8:17, 9:1||The command is given to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.|
|8:21-9:17||God promises never to destroy the earth with water and sets the rainbow in the sky as a reminder.|
The New Testament Application:
Now that we have explored the details of the story of Noah and the Flood, let’s turn our attention to New Testament applications from this story:
God’s Judgment Will Be Sudden and Swift But With Warning (Matthew 24:37-39[i]):
Matthew 24 begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving the temple following His triumphal entry. As they were going away the disciples pointed out the wonderful nature of the buildings (cf. Mark 13:1). In response Jesus issued a dire warning, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Intrigued by this the disciples later asked “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). What follows is our Lord’s answer to the disciple’s question of when the temple would be destroyed. While He gives them some signs to watch for (vv. 3-31), He never revealed to them the day and hour these things would take place (v. 36). Rather, He emphasized preparedness and referenced Noah and the Flood in vv. 37-39:
“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 34:37-39)
Jesus’ emphasis here is not so much the wickedness of Noah’s day, but on the people’s preoccupation with matters of everyday life. This is clearly the point of the parables that follow, don’t be preoccupied with life that you are not prepared for the coming judgment. The wicked in Noah’s day had received warnings in the form of Noah’s preaching (cf. 2 Peter 3:5) and in the construction of the ark itself, which was a testimony of the judgment to come. Nevertheless, the lost did not heed the warnings to repent and thus they were swept away in the flood of God’s wrath. In the same vein, Jesus is saying to His disciples, and all who would listen to their teaching, “You’ve been warned, don’t be swept way when judgment comes upon Jerusalem.” The same is true for us today as Christian, we’ve been warned, judgment is coming with the Lord’s return, do not be caught unprepared.
True Faith Demands Obedience (Hebrews 11:7):
In New Testament times, many Jewish believers, who, having stepped out of Judaism into Christianity, wanted to reverse course in order to escape persecution. Hebrews was written to exhort these believers to “hold fast” to their “confidence” (3:6, 14), “confession” (4:14; 10:23), and “hope” (6:18). As part of his appeal, the Hebrew writer presents a moving account of the faithful Old Testament saints in chapter 11 who attest to the value of living by faith. They provide a powerful testimony to the Hebrews that they should continue in the faith by doing those things God has called them to do. Noah is one of those examples:
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)
The world had not seen anything resembling a flood, yet Noah spent some 125 years fulfilling God’s command to the build the ark. The reward of the faithful is somewhere off in the distance. Noah says, “You may not see it, but if God promised it, then it will come to pass. Therefore remain faithful.” Noah’s faith was expressed in his obedience to God’s command. The Hebrew writer calls this “reverent fear.” What was the result of Noah’s acting upon his faith? He was called “righteous,” but only after his faithful response in building the ark (Genesis 6:22; 7:1, 5, 9, 16).
Noah is a part of the “great cloud of witnesses” who call to believers to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and… run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Noah was warned of judgment that would boggle the mind. Yet, he believed God, followed God’s instructions, and in the end was saved. We too must do the same. Judgment is coming, believe God, follow his instructions and in the end you will be saved.
For an additional perspective on Hebrews 11 see: By Faith… You Can Receive Your Commendation.
Baptism Now Saves Us (1 Peter 3:18-22):
Throughout the epistle of 1 Peter, the apostle wished to encourage his readers in their suffering by reminding them “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Ultimately, Christ was marvelously triumphant and if believers are in Christ, they too will be triumphant over their persecutors. To teach this lesson, Peter turns to Noah and the salvation he enjoyed through the ark.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formally did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared[ii], in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)
Peter is teaching that the fact that Noah and his family were in the ark and went through the whole flood unharmed, is analogous to the Christian’s experience in salvation by being in Christ, the ark of one’s salvation. “Baptism, which corresponds to this” is the means by which a believer enters the ark of Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27) and is saved through the waters of judgment. Lest someone think the mere act of baptism saves, Peter explicitly says, “not as a removal of dirt from the body,” meaning that the passing of water over the body does not cleanse the soul of anyone. Rather baptism that “saves,” is rooted in, and given power by, the death and “resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:1-14; Colossians 2:12). Peter’s teaching on the role and importance of baptism is in line with Jesus instructions (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16) and the practice of the apostles and early believers (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 9:18; 10:46-48; 16:14-15, 33; 18:8, 25; 19:4-5; 22:16). Are you willing to submit to the Lord’s gospel and be baptized today?
For more on baptism see: Understanding Baptism from Acts 22:16
God Will Not Spare the Ungodly (2 Peter 2:5, 6b):
While Peter’s first epistle was written to encourage Christians to persevere through persecution, his second epistle was written to combat the influences of false teachers threatening the churches. Again, Peter will turn to the story of Noah and the flood to encourage his audience to avoid false teachers and their doctrines.
“Since [God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly… making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.” (2 Peter 2:5, 6b)
Lest anyone think God is too loving and merciful to condemn the wicked false teachers and those who believe the damning doctrines, Peter gives the powerful illustration of the flood as proof of the divine judgment that will come upon the wicked. Since God did not spare the wicked world of Noah’s day, will He not even more certainly judge the false teachers and their followers, while at the same time preserving the godly? Just as Noah’s life spoke of righteousness amidst a wicked world, Peter desires believers to herald righteousness as well, helping others to avoid the judgment of God (cf. Matthew 5:14-16). This section concludes with Peter saying, thus “making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (v. 6b). That is the point of this study. The story of Noah and the Flood is not fodder for children’s bible classes, but a real example for us to learn important eternal truths (cf. Romans 15:4; for a study on this verse click here).
Jesus Will Return A Second Time (2 Peter 3:3-7):
In our last point we noted that Peter’s second epistle was written to refute false teachers and deter Christians from believing their damning doctrines. In the 2 Peter 2, Peter uses the story of Noah and the Flood to explain that the false teachers and their followers would not escape judgment. In 2 Peter 3, Peter addresses one of the teachings of the false teachers, namely that Jesus will not return. Again, Peter uses the story of Noah and Flood to establish a divine truth, that indeed Christ will return.
“Know this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)
The false teachers, and teachings, Peter addresses used the argument of uniformitarianism to explain away the promise of Jesus’ second coming (cf. John 14:3, 18, 28-29; Acts 1:11; Hebrews 9:28). Their argument went like this, “Since everything has continued just the same as from the beginning, Jesus will not return in some cataclysmic judgment.” However, Peter points out that they “deliberately overlook this fact” (they knew this fact, they just ignored it) that the creation itself was God intervening in a cataclysmic way (Genesis 1:1-2:1) and so was the Flood. The same word that the created the world, was the same word that destroyed all living creatures in the Flood and it is this same word that preserves the world until the final judgment of fire (cf. v. 7). Peter, once again, artfully used the story of the Flood to prove his point, Jesus is coming again, however, this time it won’t be with water, it will be with fire. Since the Lord will return one day, “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Checkout my Devoted To The Word Bible study guide for 1-2 Peter and Jude.
As you can see, the story of Noah and the Flood was a valuable illustration of several different New Testament truths. It’s my prayer that you will heed the warnings. Judgment is coming as it did in the days of Noah. Be like Noah, walk with God and do all the things God has commanded you to do (cf. Genesis 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16a). If I can help you in your spiritual journey, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ii] Our focus in the lesson is vv. 20b-21, so I deliberately skipped vv. 19-20a. Those are rather difficult verses to interpret and would distract us from the topic at hand. However, if you would like to study those verses I recommend my friend Wesley Walker’s study which you can find here.