Terrified screams, great flashes of lightning cracking the blackened sky, thick clouds roiling in turmoil, the deafening detonation of thunder as electricity blasted the trees, the ground, the buildings…the acrid smell of dust getting wet with the first hard drops of rain pelting the dry earth.
Then came the tsunami, seemingly from nowhere, and without warning, “on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” It was as though God pressed His divine thumb on the reset button, and the second day of creation was reversed in a great crashing deluge of mighty walls of water, and great slicing streams of icy sheets of water. The vaults God made, spoken of in the creation story, to separate the water above and the water below, exploded, and from behind them came foaming spumes of water bursting forth like lava.
The tsunamis of today are tracked with satellite images and seismometers. Warning is sent sometimes hours ahead of the tsunami, giving at least slender hope, some time to flee. But in Noah’s day? The sealing of the ark’s door was the only warning. Perhaps even as the door was closing, a distant rumble spoke of the approaching alluvion. A moment of horrific terror, and then the crash had come and gone, life erased.
It had to have been shocking, and awful, for the eight trembling people, and the panicked animals, as the ark bucked and wove through the pounding sea. Forty days and nights of steady downpour, sunlight blocked by the mighty hurricane, remindful of the beginning of all creation, when “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” The entire surface of the earth was covered, even the mountains. Every air-breathing creature died. The finality of the description at the end of this chapter removes any chance for escape,
Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.
Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out.
People and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.
This is hardly an adorable child’s tale, with smiling animals bobbing gently in the sunshine. This is an horrific account of devastation and destruction.
The difference between Noah and everyone else was merely their response to God’s grace, according to this narrative. Everybody else scoffed, but Noah took God seriously. The difference between those who were saved and those who died in the flood was the difference between being in the ark and being outside it.
Those who were saved and those who died all went through the flood. But those who survived were those in the ark which sheltered them from the effects of God’s wrath and grief over sin. Those outside the ark, as well as those within, knew the ark existed and knew about God’s warning of a judgment to come. Some chose to ignore these facts, while Noah, his wife, and his sons with their wives, acted on them.
So it is today. God has said there is an inexorable end to sin—death.
As the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, it was as though He embodied a black hole with a gravitational force so powerful it sucked all sin out of humankind and held it within that one human frame. Then Jesus drank to the dregs the frightening power of God’s cleansing wrath. Jesus took on that inexorable end, death itself, and He conquered it, matter and antimatter cancelling each other in a brilliant flash of incalculable might. Even as it was accomplished, the very light was sucked from the sky, and the earth opened to spew out its dead.
Those who trust in Jesus are trusting in that mighty power, to be transformed in that same supernatural way. Those who decide to tend their options, to not trust in Jesus, according to this story, and to the Gospel as it’s told, are deciding to take their chances with the cleansing wrath of God. Knowing about the ark is not enough. You need to be in the ark.
One truth the Epic of the Flood seems to be saying is God’s judgment of sin is permanent and universal—the Flood wiped out all that had the breath of life. The ark inhabitants basically started over on a new earth. The apostle Peter tied the Flood event from the ancient past to God’s coming judgment by fire.
According to Peter, this future judgment will be very much the same, the heavens and earth will be completely destroyed and only those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will enter into the new heavens and earth. It is a terrifying prophecy.
Hurrican Wilma – NASA, data imported by FleurDeOdile [Public domain]]