By this time in history, the cup of iniquity for the wicked world was completely full. The church appeared, from man’s perspective, to be all but destroyed, and Satan victorious. God had promised to Adam and Eve that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, but as Noah finished the ark, and the unbelievers mockingly looked around for the great flood Noah preached about, and all things continued as they had from the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3:4), it looked like the reverse had happened: the serpent was crushing the head of the seed of the woman. Noah had done what God commanded. He built the ark. He gathered “all food that was eaten” for every creature, as well as for his family. All that remained to do yet was gather the animals. He did not question how he would ever be able to gather all the animals any more than he questioned the possibility or magnitude of God’s ark-building instructions. God again spoke to Noah and told him to go with his family into the ark with the clean animals, and there to receive two by two the rest of the living creatures that breathed.
If anything would shake the ungodly man’s “faith” of unbelief (faith in man’s wisdom and pride), it would be the strange stirrings in the forests and air as the living creatures converged upon the ark as they were called by God into it. It was now plain for all the ungodly to see that things were not continuing as they had since the day of creation. The spiritual work of salvation was now manifest in a miracle among the creatures of the earth. But even this astounding process did not open their blind eyes to see nor their deaf ears to hear the word preached by Noah. They were spiritually dead, and soon their earthly life would follow.
For seven days, creatures of every sort funneled into the ark, and after the very last pair scampered up the ramp to find its place, Jehovah shut them in (Gen. 7:16). Here in this ark, gathered into one spot on the whole face of the earth, was the beloved church and the creation that God would save. At this moment when all the eyes in the ark looked up to the Creator, we hear the words of comfort that Moses gave to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:26–27 “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.” The church, the beloved of God, would be redeemed in the way of terrible judgment upon the wicked.
The judgment was swift and violent. God did not give to the wicked one more moment than necessary to walk in wickedness, nor did he make the righteous wait another moment for deliverance. God shut the door, and that very day, the skies quickly obeyed the will of God, became black, and began to pour out the flood. The windows of heaven were opened, unleashing the waters reserved there for the flood. God opened up all the fountains of the great deep within the earth and the waters gushed with relentless fury to destroy quickly the wicked world. Day and night the great fountains of the earth and windows of heaven thundered forth, making the devastating tsunamis we’ve witnessed in our day as nothing in comparison. As the great walls of water in foaming torrent ripped up the forests and dashed in pieces the wicked world and their cities, the ark was lifted and went upon the face of the waters. Water gushed forth in judgment without stopping for forty day until the tops of the high hills were covered. The waters did not stop rising until the tops of these high hills, the mountains, were fifteen cubits below the surface.
The haughty voice of the wicked had been silenced. The roar of destruction was complete. The entire earth was now a vast ocean without a single island. Only the ark contained the sounds of creatures that breathed. The earth that Noah, his family, and the creatures of the earth once knew, no longer existed.
As Noah and his family cared for the creatures in the ark during the year of floating, a new earth was being prepared for the great demonstration of God’s love for his church. This would be an earth with a diverse geography for the scattering of diverse peoples and for pictures to be used for the describing of the wonder-work of God’s salvation. Beneath the waters of the flood, continents were being pushed into place. Mountains began to push upwards and the ocean floors pressed down to new depths. Instead of a watery world, the depths of the earth would be molten rock. It would be an earth that would be characterized by fire and reserved for the final judgment by fire.
In the fullness of time, God would send his only begotten Son to be born on this earth, speak to and teach his church about the way of salvation, and suffer and die on the cross to redeem them. And after gathering every last one of the elect into his body, Christ will work final deliverance and judgment to bring them into everlasting covenant fellowship with him in the heavenly life of the new heavens and new earth.
The ark floated over this world of water for 150 days before a sudden jolt brought an end to the motion of the ark floating freely on the waves. It would still be another two and one half months before the tops of any of the surrounding mountains could be seen. Noah waited another forty days before opening a window to send out a raven and a dove to learn to what extent the waters had diminished from the earth. Two more weeks would pass before the dove was able to find sufficient food to survive outside the ark. But the waters continued to evaporate into the atmosphere and flow into the deepening oceans, and three months after the tops of the mountains were seen, the waters had drained even from the valleys, leaving a soggy and muddy desolation. At this point Noah removed the covering from the ark, but stayed in the ark for another two months until God told him to go out with the animals into this new world.
The church had been saved, according to God’s promise, and by a wonder of his grace. This is the God who calls us his own and promises to deliver his church from the spiritual enemies of sin and the power of death.
As Noah watched people depart from the church in apostasy and the old pillars of faith, Methuselah and Lamech, grow older while the youth flocked to the thrills of the ungodly world, God looked upon Noah in Christ with singular delight. Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah because God had chosen him from all eternity, grafted him into Christ, and delivered him from the power and guilt of sin so that he in thankfulness walked with his God in covenant fellowship. Clinging by faith to the promise of God to crush the head of the serpent with the seed of the woman, Noah waited and looked to God. By the 16th century of history, Noah was about 450 years old; and God blessed him with three sons when he was 500. As he faithfully taught his young boys the fear of Jehovah, God himself spoke to Noah. “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” (Genesis 6:13–14a)
God then gave to Noah instructions for building the ark, and Noah did “according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (v. 22) He followed the astounding instructions to every last detail, and openly declared his faith by preaching the contents of his faith (2 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:7). “The promised seed will be born! You who mock and believe that the church will soon die out and free you from the preaching of God’s judgment will soon be destroyed with a flood of water. God is righteous. Your rebellion will not stand before him. God sovereignly works out the salvation he has prepared for his church. I build this ark at the command of the God who has created this earth, and will save his church with a flood.”
With great zeal and care Noah saw to it that the great gopher wood trees of the forest round about were cut down, shaped, and fitted according to the measurements revealed by God. We can be sure that this new flurry of activity and news of a great building project aroused the attention of the ungodly. They were experts at building cities and anything else to satisfy their desires, but what was this? What is this huge, pointless box Noah is building? Noah was not embarrassed to explain the coming judgment of God. The same God who had faithfully and consistently revealed himself in the church to Noah’s fathers had now revealed his will and purpose to Noah. God’s purpose was to destroy the monstrous wickedness of man that had developed, scour the earth with water, and preserve the righteous in Christ along with the life of birds, animals, and other creatures in this ark. According to man’s reason, this preaching was foolishness, and the ark simply a monument to a dying and soon-to-be dead church. God restrained their impulse to put a quick end to the sting of Noah’s preaching, prolonged their entertainment of mockery as they watched and perhaps even helped to build the ark, and in doing so filled the cup of God’s wrath upon them.
Throughout the 120 years of building, the sun came up the same every day. Noah’s three boys grew up in the shadow of this growing ark. The chopping of wood, the moving of ingenious ramp and crane mechanisms to hoist huge timbers into place, and the preaching of their father was all they knew. As the roof went on, and barrels of pitch were gathered and prepared to seal the ark, a new and increasingly frequent line of scorn cackled from the lips of the wicked, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). Once this ark is built, they reasoned, and nothing happens, the ark will serve as a final coffin and monument to a dead church, and we will dance around it in victory.
Noah faithfully built the ark in those final days of the old world, and today we labor as well to build up the church in the final days before the final judgment. Christ comes quickly, and God has given us clear direction in the work he would have us do to prepare for his coming. It is a work of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the world, and also a work of bearing covenant children, rearing them in the fear of the Lord, and having fellowship with one another in the church. This work is clearly explained to us in 1 Thessalonians as a “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (1 Thess 1:3). This is a labor of faith, not family planning. It is a labor of love, not the selfish accumulation of wealth for our own enjoyment. It is a labor rooted in the hope of Christ’s return to gather his church. In doing this, the church of Thessalonica itself gave testimony to the world around to her faith and hope (vv. 7–8) The instruction continues with the words “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (2:12). We are “to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men,” (3:12).
The earthly occupations we have to provide income may not so absorb our time and energy that we don’t have time for this work in the church, but neither do we neglect our daily work in the home, factory, or business. The Thessalonians made the mistake of stopping their work and waiting around for Christ, but Paul exhorts them to “study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Providing for the children God gives to us requires hard work and sacrifice. We work together to build schools where we can hire and support godly teachers. This work requires diligence, patience, and love toward one another.
Noah lived every day in the conscious awareness that God was soon coming in judgment and redemption. He did not become so absorbed in the work that he fell asleep spiritually. The living word of God was actively preached as he worked. Paul reminds the church, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). We must be active in the church, supporting one another as well as the office bearers. We read in 1 Thessalonians 11–13, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
Let us cheerfully take up the work that God has given to us, and work like Noah did, in faith. Compared to the billions of people around us, the church that holds to “the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle, (1 Thess.2:15) is very small. Unlike Noah who worked virtually alone with his family, we have brothers and sisters in the Lord to give encouragement and comfort. We also have faithful preachers for whom we are called to pray, “that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified” (3:1). Let us pray for peace and harmony in the church that this work continue until it is completed and Christ comes to redeem his people with judgment.