Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE ARK THAT NOAH BUILT”

Genesis 6.14-9.18; First Peter 3.20

 

This morning I bring to you a message titled, “The Ark That Noah Built.” As I reviewed my catalog of previous sermons preached since 1978, I was surprised to discover that I have only preached about Noah’s Ark on one previous occasion, a devotional message brought at camp in August, 2003. The reason this surprises me is because God brought me from virtual atheism and a hearty disregard for the Bible to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by setting aside in my mind my skepticism born of false confidence in science so-called. This led to a real appetite for reading certain kinds of things following my conversion, specifically looking for material that would support the truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word in the face of attacks from scientists who step outside their areas of expertise to call into question the reliability of the Bible.

One of the first books I bought after purchasing a Bible small enough to carry back and forth to church was a volume I found while looking through a Christian bookstore. It had an intriguing title: “The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications.” I could not have predicted the impact the book would have on my life. It was written by two men I had never heard of before but who I later learned were towering figures in 20th century Christianity, a theologian by the name of John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and an increasingly prominent Christian and university professor named Henry M. Morris (who spoke at our church ten years ago before he was promoted to glory).[1] At the time they wrote the book they stood virtually alone among Christians who defended the Genesis account of creation and also the historical accuracy of the Bible with respect to the Genesis Flood and the Ark built by Noah. Most Christians had ignored Genesis. Their book tackled the problem of unbelief and so-called science with respect to the subject of the Genesis Flood, the basic arguments for and against belief in a universal flood, and both the building of and the size of Noah’s Ark. Granted, their book of 518 pages devoted only a little more than 4 pages to commenting about Noah’s Ark, concentrating mostly on the Biblical account of the Flood and how geology supports what the Bible asserts, but it was enough for me. A page and a half in the book rehearses the size of the Ark and just over 2 ½ pages deals with the need for the Ark. Reading those four pages, I was thrilled to be convinced. Additionally, I was glad my confidence in the Bible did not fly in the face of a right interpretation of scientific evidence. It was both verification and validation of my confidence in the Word of God.

It was later that I became aware of such things as types in the Bible, historical events and figures placed in the biblical record by God for the express purpose of teaching future generations of readers of scripture important truths about the person and work of Jesus Christ.[2] My friends, the Ark that Noah built is a glorious type of the Lord Jesus Christ that was introduced into human history at a crucial moment for the purpose of accomplishing the obvious reason for its construction, but also to picture for us important truths related to the Lord Jesus Christ thousands of years in the future. Such is not coincidence, cannot be coincidence. It is all part of God’s great plan of the ages.

There are four passages in scripture that deal directly with the Ark that Noah built. In Genesis 6.14-9.18 we are told of God’s command to Noah to build the Ark, the description of it, the design of it, and the deliverance it provided. In Matthew 24.38 and Luke 17.27 are recorded comments made about the Ark by the Savior on two separate occasions near the end of His earthly ministry. Finally, we read this about the Ark in First Peter 3.20:

 

“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

 

This verse is imbedded into a passage dealing with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In it the Apostle Peter shows that the Ark of Noah and believer baptism both typify the salvation that is provided the sinner by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, while the Lord Jesus Christ’s references to the Ark built by Noah were for the purpose of describing the prophetic future in terms of the days in which Noah lived, the Apostle Peter explicitly identifies the Ark of Noah as a type of the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. By means of the Ark of Noah eight souls were saved from perishing in the Flood (a physical deliverance, if you will), while the Lord Jesus Christ provides not only a future physical deliverance but a present spiritual deliverance. The Ark is the type and the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the type, what is called the anti-type.

Therefore, it is established that the Ark of Noah is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. That said, consider what it must have been like in Noah’s day:

 

First, IN NOAH’S DAY THE WICKEDNESS OF MEN WAS UNDENIABLE

 

In Genesis 6.3 we read, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”

 

In Genesis 6.5 we read, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

 

In Genesis 6.6 we read, “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

 

Genesis 6.3 gives us our first glimpse of the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit, wherein we read, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man.” The Hebrew word translated “strive” in this verse does not carry with it the idea of active opposition by God against man’s evil impulses. Rather, “The meaning here would then be something like, ‘I shall not go on suspending judgment.’”[3] This does not rule out the activity of the Spirit of God actively opposing the sinful impulses of sinful men, in men’s own consciences and also by means of the preaching ministries of such men as Enoch, and “particularly by Noah, a preacher of righteousness.”[4]

Genesis 6.5 describes God’s estimation of life among men during Noah’s day:

 

“The wickedness of man was great.”

 

“Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

 

Do you think God’s attitude toward men’s wickedness and evil imaginations was hidden from the general population? Do you not recognize that as men and women lived their nasty lives and focused their attentions on anything and everything other than God they were not told how wrong they were? Think the Word of God was not preached to them? Jude 14 tells us about Enoch’s preaching ministry:

 

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”

 

Jude 15-16 summarizes Enoch’s preaching before Noah’s time:

 

15    To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

16    These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

 

Couple Enoch’s ministry, the preaching of Noah in the final days before the Deluge, and the ministries of others not specifically named in Genesis, and there can be no doubt that together with men’s consciences the Spirit of God provided both internal and external witness of each person’s sinfulness in the sight of God.

Now, consider what we find in Genesis 6.6:

 

“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

 

In both Numbers 23.19 and First Samuel 15.29 we see that the prophets Balaam and Samuel recognize that God is not a man that He should repent as men repent. If that be true, how then is Genesis 6.6 to be explained, where we read “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth”? God has on occasion chosen to describe Himself in somewhat human terms for the sake of our limited capacity to understand Him. Did He actually repent, meaning that He changed His mind as the word is applied to human beings? No. God has here chosen to use the word repent to express His displeasure that the race He created was committing such atrocious sins.[5]

The question is how did those who lived in Noah’s day perceive the situation they found themselves in? The Lord Jesus Christ tells us, in Matthew 24.38:

 

“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.”

 

This pronouncement of our Savior conveys the idea that the men and women who lived in Noah’s day went about their daily lives in an utterly normal and routine fashion. They did today what they did every day. They would do tomorrow precisely what they did today. “So, what is wrong with that?” you ask. Men and women everywhere were drawing conclusions based only upon what they saw and heard, information they gathered with their senses, and the conclusions they then drew. Things had been fine, things were fine, and things were always going to be fine, or so they thought. Were they wicked? Were their imaginations, which is to say their thought lives, continually evil? “Yes, according to what Noah said, and according to what Enoch had said. But so what? I am not doing anything that everyone else is not doing.” It is exactly the same in our day.

 

Next, IN NOAH’S DAY THE WARNINGS TO MEN WERE INESCAPABLE

 

“. . . his days shall be an hundred and twenty years,” we read in Genesis 6.3.

 

Genesis 6.7 declares, “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”

 

We know Enoch was an apocalyptic preacher. We know Noah was an apocalyptic preacher. Enoch told everyone that this cannot go on. However, Noah told the world precisely when things would come to an end, in two completely different ways:

First, Noah told the world that judgment was coming in a visual way. That is, he and his sons built the Ark that God had described to them. Imagine what it must have been like before the Flood, in a tropical greenhouse environment where rain was unheard of.[6] In a world without rain or seas on which to sail, God directed His man to build a huge vessel. Genesis 6.12-14:

 

12    And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

13    And God said unto 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.

14    Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

 

They could laugh and ridicule Noah and his sons all they wanted, but right in front of them was a visual indicator of the nearness of the judgment that was coming. Judgment would not fall before the Ark was complete, before it was stocked with food, and before it was filled with cargo (those animals and people to be kept safe from God’s wrath). One hundred twenty years it took to build that huge barge, with spectators and bystanders enjoying the show the whole time. Imagine building such a large vessel in a world that had no oceans. What a dreamer Noah was. He had certainly lost his mind. Believe in God? Of course, men should be believe in God. But he had gone completely overboard. He was a fanatic. Only as the Ark took shape did onlookers realize the vastness of the enterprise. It was 450 feet long from bow to stern, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high, three full stories high, with a volume of 1.4 million cubic feet, and equal to the capacity of 522 standard railroad box cars.[7] If ever there was an effective way to visually warn the population, the building of the Ark was that way.

Noah also told the world God’s judgment was coming audibly, as a preacher of righteousness. Thus, they not only saw indication of the approach of judgment as the Ark was being built, but they heard the truth declared, as well. God said “yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Do you think Noah withheld that information from those who heckled him, from those who wanted to completely ignore him, or from his own loved ones who turned away when they saw him approaching? No chance. He told them of Adam’s sin. He told them of Eve’s sin. He told them of the serpent’s subtlety. He told them of Lucifer’s fall. He pointed out every man’s eventual death and eternal damnation because of sin. He spoke to them of God’s holiness, of God’s righteousness, of God’s grace and mercy, and of God’s long-suffering. However, time was running out. Sinful men needed to seek God’s forgiveness and rely on God’s provision for their deliverance from sin while there was still time. There is no doubt that Noah rehearsed God’s promise of Genesis 3.15, rehearsed Enoch’s proclamations of the Lord’s coming with ten thousands of His saints, and added to those messages his own insights into God’s provision for the salvation of sinners. All the while, throughout the 120 years, he pleaded with sinners to turn from their sins and be saved. However, they would not listen. It is exactly the same in our day.

 

Finally, IN NOAH’S DAY THE WAY OF ESCAPE FOR MEN WAS OBVIOUS

 

Rising up before their eyes was this behemoth of an Ark. Fashioned from gopher wood and covered with pitch, it was God’s provision for man’s salvation from judgment, and it was the only provision for salvation that God would offer the human race. There was no other way to escape the coming Deluge. Only the safety of the Ark built by Noah according to the design given to him by God would do. Though I am sure most people passed by with barely a glance in the direction of the Ark, for fear Noah would turn from what he was doing and start in on his preaching, one thing was quite obvious to even the most casual onlooker; there was only one entrance. Genesis 6.16 is very clear about that:

 

“the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof”

 

Was there any doubt about the capacity of the Ark? Nope. Was there any doubt about the sea worthiness of the Ark? Nope. Was there any doubt about the strength of its construction or its durability? Nope. Was there any question about the uniqueness of the Ark? When the Deluge came, did anyone imagine there would be another means of deliverance available to them? Nope. Then it should be asked, Why did no one respond to Noah’s pleadings, to his warnings, to his invitations? Before them was this great barge with an open door in the side (this reminds me of my Savior’s side being opened by a spear thrust while hanging on the cross). Did the Ark threaten them? Did the Ark discourage them? Did the Ark disappoint them? No. No. No.

That Noah entered the Ark that he had built was entirely a matter of God’s grace.

 

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” Genesis 6.8.

 

God’s deliverance is always and ever a matter of grace, which has to do with God’s favor and blessing of those who deserve it not at all. Further, we notice throughout the Bible the connection between God’s grace and the sinner’s faith, meaning that Noah finding grace in the eyes of the LORD could only be possible by means of saving faith. And since God is no respecter of persons, the same would be true for everyone Noah preached to. He would present the truth, challenge sinners to respond, set before them the only means of salvation, and urge them to respond in faith believing. However, they would not; not a single person. Imagine, 120 years of gospel preaching without an apparent conversion; at least no converts who survived to the coming of the Flood. Perhaps there were converts along the way, but they died before the Flood. Still, only 8 souls from an entire population of human beings. No wonder God brought the Flood. Wickedness everywhere, at every turn. It is exactly the same in our day.

 

When Methuselah died, and the Ark was completed, Noah laid up stores of food and water. It is likely the Ark’s roof was constructed to catch rain water, so less water would be needed than might at first be imagined. Then the pairs of animals were led up the ramp to their stalls, likely very young animals since space was at a premium even in a vessel so large it could hold 125,000 sheep. Do you have any doubt that the ridicule and scorn that had risen and fallen like the tide came back stronger than ever? They laughed when he laid the keel. They laughed at other stages of construction. They laughed and mocked when construction was completed. Then they found a new reason to laugh when food was being laid up. And now they laughed as the pairs of animals were stowed in their pens. Do you think there were onlookers still standing around as Noah and his wife, and as his three sons and their wives walked up the ramp that last time? What do you suppose they did when Noah’s sons unfastened the ramp and it fell the approximately thirty feet to the ground? Do you think the multitudes guffawed when they saw that, thinking as they turned to each other and said, “Now, how is he supposed to get out of that thing?”

 

Genesis 7.16 reads, “And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.”

 

What do you think about this verse? Do you think anyone saw God shut the door to the Ark, or did the bystanders down below think Noah’s strong young sons closed the door with such authority? Yet neither Noah nor his sons had touched the door. It was not up to them to cut off all hope for mankind’s deliverance. That was God’s and only God’s decision to both make and to implement.

Genesis 7.10 tells us Noah and his were in the Ark for seven days before the Deluge began. For seven days unbelieving men and women stood around the Ark, gawking and speculating, cussing and discussing, ridiculing and making fun, not realizing at all that while judgment had not yet fallen on any of them, the window of opportunity for their salvation had closed. The Flood came, the fountains of the deep were broken up, God’s wrath was visited upon all mankind, and only those who were in the Ark survived. Only those who had taken advantage of God’s provision for their deliverance found safety. What a beautiful picture and type of the Lord Jesus Christ this Ark of Noah is. Did Noah and his family hear the screams of terror and the cries for help as catastrophe struck? They certainly did. Could they do anything about it? No. It was too late.

Man’s wickedness is still rampant. There is no denying it. Men are being warned by faithful gospel preachers, though unbelievers malign and ridicule them and find foolish people willing to listen to liars and schemers, but unwilling to listen to those who speak the truth in love. And there is a way of escape for men, only one, the Lord Jesus Christ. Back and forth through their lives, day in and day out, without any awareness of the sinfulness of sin because, after all, “I’m no worse than everyone else.” Yet judgment is coming and there is only one provision for deliverance, the eternal Son of the living God, Jesus Christ. Anyone who turns from his sins and comes to the risen Christ, who is therefore in Christ, is thereby completely safe from the wrath of God.

As the Ark built by Noah kept his family and every animal on board through the terrible Flood, so the Lord Jesus Christ is salvation for everyone who trusts Him. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8.35-39:

 

35    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36    As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37    Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

I urge you not to rely upon your own observations as indication of your safety, but the warnings found in God’s Word. Come to Christ, my friend. Find safety and deliverance in the Ark which is the Lord Jesus.



[1] Dr. Henry M. Morris spoke at Calvary Road Baptist Church at a preacher’s fellowship meeting on 10/7/2004 in what proved to be his last public speaking engagement before his home going to glory.

[2] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 117 defines typology: “typology. Differing from a symbol or an allegory, a typology is a representation of an actual, historical reference. According to Christian exegesis, biblical typology deals with the parallels between actual, historical (usually OT) figures or events in salvation history and their later, analogous fulfillment. Often NT events and figures are typologically understood and interpreted according to an OT pattern (e.g., creation and the new creation, Adam and Christ, the exodus and NT concepts of salvation). On this basis typology became one of the four prevalent ways (together with the literal, the analogical and the spiritual) of interpreting Scripture in the Middle Ages.”

[3] Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis - The JPS Torah Commentary, (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), page 46.

[4] John Gill, An Exposition Of Genesis - Newport Commentary Series, (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, reprinted 2010), page 109 and 2 Peter 2.5.

[5] Sarna’s explanation on page 46: “6. regretted . . . saddened This is an anthropopathism, or the ascription to God of human emotions, a frequent feature of the biblical narrative. The need for such usage arises from the inherent tension between God’s transcendence and His immanence. On the one hand, He is conceived to be wholly outside of nature, omniscient and omnipotent, sovereign over time and space, and not subject to change. On the other hand, He is also immanent in the world, not withdrawn from it, a personal God who is actively involved in the lives of His creatures, approachable by them, and responsive to their needs. God’s transcendence requires formulation in abstract, philosophical language that poses the danger of depriving Him of personality and relevance. God’s immanence must unavoidably be expressed in concrete, imaginative terms that entail the risk of compromising His invariability. The biblical writers frequently took that risk for the sake of emphasizing God's vital presence and personality; otherwise, the God idea would have lost all meaning for them. Statements like that in Numbers 23:19, ‘God is not man to be capricious, / Or mortal to change His mind,’ and 1 Samuel 15:29, ‘He is not human that He should change His mind,’ serve as a corrective to the misunderstanding that may arise from a passage such as this one. In both instances, the Hebrew uses the same verb, here rendered ‘regretted.’

 saddened God’s decision is made in sorrow not in anger.”

[6] Genesis 2.6 and see also footnotes for Genesis 2.6 from Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, 1995), page 9: “2:6 rain upon the earth. The primeval hydrological was subterranean rather than atmospheric (see on Genesis 1:7). The absence of rain was a consequence of the water vapor above the firmament and the temperature which it maintained over the earth. Rain today is dependent on the global circulation of the atmosphere, transporting water evaporated from the inland to condense and precipitate on the lands. This circulation is driven by worldwide temperature differences in the atmosphere and would be impossible to attain with the global warmth sustained by the canopy.

1 2:6 mist. The ‘mist’ was not a river, as some writers think, as the Hebrew word simply means water vapor (Job 36:27); it refers merely to the local daily cycle of evaporation and condensation occasioned by the day/night temperature cycle.

[7] See footnote for Genesis 6.15-16 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 25.


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