Images of the Savior (5 -- Noah's Ark)
The Kingdom of God, composed as we have seen of all those who had placed their faith in God's promise of a coming Seed who should deliver them from sin and the Serpent, began to grow greatly from its small beginnings, when it was represented only by Adam and Eve and the first martyr, Abel. For soon after Abel had given his life for his testimony of faith, God added another seed to Eve, namely Seth, to strengthen her faith, and through whom he should continue the line from which she still hoped the Messiah should come. From Seth, God was in fact pleased to cause his Kingdom to continue, and whenever she began to be in any desperate straits, or on the brink of extermination, he blessed her with whatever grace she needed to survive and persevere. For first of all, we find the first report of a great revival among God's people in the days of Enosh, the son of Seth (Genesis 4:26). We must suppose that at this time the Church had grown very cold and hardhearted, as she has done many times throughout her history; but rather than let her love grow entirely extinct, God sent his Spirit to stir up the hearts of his people to call upon the name of the Lord. This is the first of what would soon become very many times of corporate revival, such as those in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29-31) and Josiah (2 Chronicles 34-35), or much later, those now known as the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century after Christ.
Then again, we see another remarkable advance in the work of redemption in the life of Enoch, who was given a very close and personal relationship with God, and by the Spirit of prophecy directed the hearts of the Church to a comfortable expectation of the coming of the Messiah in much clearer terms than she had ever had before (see Jude 14-15); and who prefigured in his life the ultimate end of all those who should be hoping in this Messiah when he came (and indeed all who had hoped in him before, although for a time their bodies should fill the graves), when he was sovereignly snatched up from this cursed earth and brought bodily into heaven to the presence of the Lord (Genesis 5:24). And also, we see a little later, that even in the nearly universal corruption of Noah's day, at least his father still hoped that the Messiah should come and deliver them from the effects of sin, judging by the name he gave to his son, viz., Noah, which means â€œrestâ€ (Genesis 5:28-29). And in fact, this Noah would provide rest for the tiny remnant of the Church, in a manner typical of the great deliverance that the coming Messiah would later accomplish; about whom we will speak in due time.
But first, we must observe as well that, contemporaneously with the growth and preservation of the Church, there was also a growth of wickedness and corruption in the earth, so as completely to fill the world with wicked men, and every conceivable sin and lust and disdain of God that could possibly be imagined (Genesis 6:1-6). Now, this state of affairs was evidently instructive of the state of affairs in which the world should be much later, when God's judgment will finally come upon the world in eternal fury, of which the judgment of the flood was but a picture: for at that time, as well, the Church should ever be remarkably preserved, and growing until she reaches the end of the earth, and has incorporated representatives of every people under heaven into her ranks (see Matthew 24:14; Revelation 5:9-10); but notwithstanding, wickedness will also be growing, so that the whole world will be filled with scoffers going after their own lusts and saying that the world should continue forever even as it is now (1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2:3-4); but God's judgment will come suddenly, as it did in the flood, and take them all away (Matthew 24:36-44; 2 Peter 2:5-10).
Now, let us consider how the life of Noah, and in particular his gracious preservation through the flood of God's wrath in an ark, is typical of the deliverance that Jesus wrought so many years later, when he delivered all his people from the wrath of God.
First, we must understand that water, and particularly a flood of waters, is in the scriptures a very common symbol of God's displeasure or wrath. It is said of the presumptuously complacent, ungodly rich man, in Job 27:20-23, that terrors will â€œovertake him like a floodâ€. Then, in Psalm 69:1-2,14-15; 88:7; 144:7, and many other places beside, being overwhelmed by a flood of waters is compared to being in distressing circumstances, or else being under the very wrath of God. As we have already seen, then, when the flood of waters came upon the entire world in Noah's day, it was a very instructive symbol of the wrath of God's consuming all mankind, and a fitting type of the final day of judgment, when the entire world of the ungodly would be utterly dissolved away.
Then, God's command to Noah to bring on board the ark representatives of every kind of animal, bird or beast, carnivorous or vegetarian, and to keep them there together safely in the bosom of the ark, from which, being preserved from the flood, they might go out again and repopulate the earth, was a very appropriate shadow of the gospel, by which people of every diverse tongue and nation, even those naturally disposed to tear and rend each other, would be brought together as one in Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-22), and be fruitful in bringing many diverse men and women into the Kingdom of God, where they might live in harmony forevermore (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9).
We may learn something as well from the features of the ark, and the circumstances in which Noah and his family entered into it and were shut up. For it had only one door, which God himself shut up, thus sealing Noah and his family inside. This speaks to the fact that there is but one way of salvation, Jesus Christ alone, and also to the sovereignty of God in preserving his saints and causing them to persevere. This type corresponds well to Jesus' own teaching, in which he likened himself to the one Door through which his sheep might enter and find pasture; and also, in that parable he spoke of the Father as the doorkeeper who would only open to the true Shepherd, who should bring in only his own sheep (John 10:1-5), from which may be derived quite the same lesson as that which we learn from the fact of God's shutting up the door to lock Noah up in the safety of the ark.
Moreover, it is a most instructive type that, although God was bringing judgment upon the entire world, the one whom he had graciously called and chosen, together with his family, would be preserved through this judgment, and not from it, by being brought into the bosom of the ark, where he would be safe. This deliverance, then, was not by being taken entirely out of God's judgment, but by being preserved through it, because of that which he was in: God did not save Noah and his family by simply overlooking them, or forbearing to pour out his wrath upon them alone in all the world; but rather, when he poured out all his wrath upon them, as he did upon the rest of the world, because they were in the ark, the ark itself bore the brunt of the wrath, under which they would immediately have perished, if they were left unprotected, even as the rest of the world perished. And so they were delivered, not by being preserved from wrath, but by being protected in its midst through their position in that which passed through it without being destroyed; just as we today are delivered from God's wrath, not by being plucked up from it entirely, but by being taken through it and yet preserved, because we are in Christ, who bore the entire brunt of God's wrath, but for his infinite and illimitable person was yet unconsumed. Thus God was not unjust in forgiving us, but remained both just and the justifier of him who by faith is in Christ (see Romans 3:23-26). And thus, we who have been forgiven entirely, are not therefore immediately freed from any hardship, but are enabled by grace to feel all the difficulties and hardships which Christ himself suffered, yet without being overwhelmed by them; just as Noah and his family felt all the tossings and unrest of the ark, but were not destroyed thereby, until they finally inherited the new earth (see Philippians 3:10-11).
We must also notice that this picture of being preserved through God's wrath by our inclusion in Christ is most notably shown forth as well in the sacrament of baptism. Thus it is that, in baptism, both believers and their children are brought safely through God's wrath by passing through the waters of judgment without harm, being incorporated into Christ and his successful passage in a symbol. For Christ first passed under the baptism of John, and then went through the baptism of God's wrath upon the cross, and yet was triumphant at the last; and so we today are united with Christ in baptism, and thus pass with him through that same judgment, and likewise come out with him in victory. And so it is that the apostle Peter says that the symbol of baptism corresponds with the deliverance of Noah in the ark (1 Peter 3:18-22).
We may also see, in this history, how the original purposes and promises of God are fulfilled in them who have so passed safely through God's judgment, by their inclusion in the ark (that is, in Christ), in the fact of God's reiterating his original creation mandate to those who stepped safely off the ark, that they should multiply and fill the earth, and rule over it in the image of God; and that, throughout the rest of world history, no calamity should overthrow God's intended design, but that springtime, summer, harvest, etc., should continue until the end of time (Genesis 8:21-22). Thus, God's promise of a coming Messiah is protected, and the certainty of his fulfilling his original designs is strengthened.
We may see as well that those who are brought safely through God's wrath (which will destroy the rest of the world) by their inclusion in Christ, will inherit the new heavens and the new earth (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Revelation 21:7-8); even as Noah and his family inherited a new earth, after passing through the ordeal which destroyed the rest of the world.
Again, we see how God would preserve the world of men, and fulfill his promises to them, not by foregoing the curse and judgment which they had merited, but by taking them upon himself; which he demonstrated by drawing back against himself the bow of judgment, that is, the rainbow, as a sign that he would not ever again destroy all of mankind, at the pain of putting his own self to the death which they deserved â€“ which of course he did, when he sentenced his Son to the miserable death which men had merited, so that they might go free and find life indeed. And we see this truth emphasized again in Noah's offering up sacrifices of the animals which had undergone God's wrath; as well as the principle that those who have passed safely through God's judgment by virtue of their union with Christ, must thenceforth be offered up as a holy and acceptable sacrifice to God (see Romans 12:1-2).
And finally, the fact that, after men had passed safely through the waters of God's judgment by their inclusion in the ark, which is Christ, the joyous message of their victory and inheritance was brought by a dove (Genesis 8:6-12), spoke very tellingly of how, after Christ had safely passed through God's wrath, and had so delivered the men who were in him, he would give this good news of deliverance through the Holy Spirit, who came upon his disciples to empower them to spread the good news (see Acts 2); which was most appropriately foreshadowed by the Spirit's coming upon Christ himself, in the form of a dove, after he had been baptized as a sinner, in order to accomplish his redemptive mission (Matthew 3:13-17); and thereafter he pursued all his mission as empowered by the Spirit (e.g. Luke 4:1, 14, 16-21). Thus the type of the ark of Noah, which went through all the waters of God's judgment unscathed, and received the favorable report of deliverance by a dove, was perfectly fulfilled in Christ Jesus alone, who absorbed all God's wrath in his own body on the cross, but arose victorious the third day; and thereafter sent his Spirit to proclaim the good news of salvation and deliverance to all who should be found in him.