posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 04:05 PM
The story of the Flood spreads over three chapters in Genesis, but I won’t be using all of it.
This is going to be about the way the Flood is used in the New Testament, which means I’ll need only a few basic themes.
From that angle, the essentials of the story are these;
The world had become evil;
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and the earth was filled with violence”.
God’s response to this came in two different ways.
On the one hand, he was “sorry that he had made man on the earth” and resolved to “blot them out”.
He was going to do this by bringing “a flood of waters on the earth” .
On the other hand, though, he gave instructions to Noah to build an ark and save himself and his family. (Genesis ch6 vv11-18)
Noah acted in obedience; he “did all that the Lord commanded him” (ch7 v5).
As a result, he and his family were saved from the flood-waters.
There were eight of them , if we take the trouble to count; Noah himself and Mrs Noah, together with their three sons and their respective wives.
The Flood in the gospels
When Jesus refers to the story of the Flood (Matthew ch24 vv37-39= Luke ch17 vv26-27), his main concern is the destruction of the old world.
He says the coming of the Son of Man will be “as it was in the days of Noah”.
In other words, as he explains in the next verses, people will be behaving in exactly the same way.
In Noah’s time, they were living their lives as normal- eating, drinking, even celebrating- until the very moment when the floods came.
They were completely oblivious to any possibility of danger.
When the Flood swept them away, it would have been a violent shock.
His point is that the coming of the Son of Man will be an unexpected shock to the unbelievers in exactly the same way.
Incidentally, “in the days of Noah” is just an expression meaning “in the time when Noah was living”. It is not an invitation to count the
number of days in the chronology of the Flood and use them to calculate a date for the coming of Christ, as I’ve seen people do. If it was possible
to calculate a date, nobody would be taken by surprise.
The Flood in Hebrews
While in Hebrews (ch11 v7) the writer’s chief concern is the salvation of Noah.
The key point is that Noah was moved into action by his faith.
Noah had been warned by God about events “as yet unseen”, so he took heed and constructed the ark which saved his household.
Thus he “condemned” the world by presenting his own righteousness as a contrast and as an example.
By expecting a time of judgement and making his own preparations, he was warning the world that a judgement would be coming.
Being moved by his faith in what God had told him, he “inherited” the righteousness which comes by faith (KATA PISTIN).
If James had used this example, as he used other examples quoted in the same chapter (the sacrifice of Isaac and the story of the harlot Rahab), I’m
sure he would have chosen to emphasize the fact that Noah saved himself by acting in obedience.
But I think the two explanations are only different aspects of the same thing.
The common factor in the stories of Abraham with Isaac, and Rahab, and Noah, is that they were all acting in faith.
Hebrews, like Paul, would want to focus on the faith in which they were acting.
James wants to focus on the action which expressed their faith.
But it should be obvious enough that “acting in faith” needs both elements.
The Flood in 1 Peter
1 Peter ch3 vv18-22 is a paragraph about Christ, which begins by saying that he died for our sins, and ends by telling us that he was resurrected and
has gone into heaven to be at the right hand of God.
Between those two statements, there is a digression which brings in thoughts of the Flood.
The first thought is about the judgement of the old world existing before the Flood. We are told that Christ, being alive in the Spirit, went and
preached to the “spirits in prison” of the men who had been disobedient in Noah’s time.
The second thought is about the salvation of those who were in the ark.
They were saved “through water”, by passing through it into safety.
We’re told that the act of baptism “corresponds” to this event.
Presumably this is because the believer is passing through water on his way to salvation.
The baptised believer will base his appeal to God on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The implication is that the resurrection of Christ resembles the ark, because it “carries” the believer through the danger into safety.
The writer observes in passing that only a few people were saved in the ark, since there were just eight of them.
I believe this reference, combined with the similar reference in 2 Peter, is the reason why traditional baptismal fonts were made with eight sides.
The Flood in 2 Peter
In 2 Peter, the Flood is given as one of a number of examples of judgement (ch2 v5)
God “did not spare the ancient world…when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly”.
At the same time, though, the preservation of Noah is given as an example of the way that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial”
Noah is described as “a herald of righteousness”.
There’s no direct statement about this in Genesis.
At the very least, though, as I’ve already noted, the example of his own preparations was a warning of the approach of judgement.
Finally, the writer calls him “the eighth”.
One possible translation is “eighth herald of righteousness”, but then who were the other seven?
It’s more usual to understand him as meaning that Noah was one of eight people on the boat, as in 1 Peter.
In addition to that, some of the early Fathers liked to observe that Christ was raised from the dead on what was effectively "the eighth day of the
week", because it was the day following the seventh. The event could be described as "the eighth day of Creation", on the grounds that the
Resurrection of Christ completed and perfected the work of the original seven.
"Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into
heaven"- "Epistle of Barnabas"- 15 v9
So that word, “the eighth”, had a symbolic meaning for the early church with reference to Christ.
The same symbolism is found in Revelation, when the Beast is called “an eighth” (Revelation ch17 v11).
Yes, this is partly because he follows the seven kings.
But if “the eighth” has a meaning which refers to Christ, then using the same word for the Beast is another way of showing that the Beast is a
substitute for Christ.
In brief, then, the phrase “Noah the eighth” can carry the meaning “Noah the symbol of Christ”.
So the New Testament finds these things in the story of the Flood;
There is the warning of judgement, in that the old corrupt world was destroyed and will be destroyed.
There is the promise of salvation in the time of judgement, in that people’s lives were saved on the ark, and will be saved.
There is the observation that few people take the chance of salvation, because it requires them to put their trust in God and act accordingly.
Finally, the New Testament finds the message that the promise of salvation is attached to the person of Christ, as represented by “Noah the