Darren Aronofsky made a valiant effort to tell the story of Noah in a fashion worthy of Hollywood. His 2014 film, starring Russell Crowe as Noah, certainly has its flaws. No one would dispute that the filmmakers took considerable liberties with the biblical account. Nevertheless, this telling of the story captures something that people often overlook: Noah, like all the rest of us, walked hesitantly through life trying to understand what he had been created and commissioned to do. With the hindsight of four millennia we assume that our Creator held a conversation with Noah at the start of the project in which He explained everything that Noah needed to know about the task of saving humanity in a giant boat. And yet Russell Crowe’s portrayal is something entirely different. He shows us a very human Noah who, like us, hears from the Lord only imperfectly, and must move forward one step at a time as he receives additional information through various means, including the wise counsel of his elders. And there is something else: we learn that Noah and the people with him were active participants in the story, and that the outcome very much depended on their decisions and actions. The Lord God indeed had a plan, and an ideal way for that plan to be implemented, but then, as now, it is imperfect human beings who shape and carry out that plan.
At a critical point in the story Noah visits his grandfather Methuselah, superbly played by Anthony Hopkins. When Noah relates the dream he has received about the destruction of the earth, Methuselah assumes he is talking about the destruction in fire which his father Enoch foresaw. That was one of many references in the film to the apocryphal Book of Enoch. The Apostle Peter may also have referred to Enoch’s book when he addressed the ultimate destruction and remaking of the world:
Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (II Peter 3:1-13 NKJV, emphasis added)
According to the Apostle’s testimony, the judgment of God we await in this generation is the destruction of the earth by fire. Whether this judgment is imminent or yet far in the future is a matter of debate. What is certain is that Noah’s story, and the record of all Scripture, is given to us to learn from what has gone before and prepare for what is yet to come. Thus we can take a lesson from something Russell Crowe’s Noah said, after Grandfather Methuselah’s creative counseling techniques:
“Fire consumes all. Water cleanses, it separates the foul from the pure, the wicked from the innocent. And that which sinks from that which rises. He destroys all, but only to start again . . . The storm cannot be stopped, but it can be survived.”
The storm can be survived. That was Noah’s purpose. Noah and the Ark were God’s provision for the entire earth. The wickedness of mankind compelled the Creator to destroy the earth; to do anything less would have compromised His justice and diminished His righteousness. Yet His mercy provided a way for all who would repent of their wickedness. Had anyone come to Noah and entered into the Ark before the Flood, they could have been saved and joined with Noah’s family in repopulating the earth. Sadly, none chose to do so, and all perished.
Yet even righteous Noah could not ensure a perfect outcome. Just two generations later the rebellion against the Creator manifested once again:
Cush [Noah’s grandson] begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city). (Genesis 10:8-12 NKJV)
Nimrod is the ancient Babylonian hero Gilgamesh. He established Babylon as the world system to govern human society in rebellion against the Most High God. Babylon has been with us ever since, and will remain with us until God Himself brings it down. God has blocked Babylon’s advances on numerous occasions, starting with the frustration of Nimrod’s efforts at building the Tower of Babel. Yet He has often used Babylon to further His own plans, such as when He brought judgment on the kingdom of Judah through Nebuchadnezzar, ancient Babylon’s greatest king (Jeremiah 25:1-14). Babylon represents both the best and the worst of humanity. It is the ultimate fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – humanity’s best effort at ruling this earth according to our own standards rather than the standards of God.
Ultimately this Babylonian world system must come down. As did the world of Noah’s day, this world shakes its fist at the Lord God, seeking in every way to put itself on His throne. For that reason, God has already condemned it, and judgment must come. The storm of fire is approaching. The storm cannot be stopped, but it can be survived, for God has again provided a way of salvation. He has given us a New Ark for salvation of all who choose to get aboard. That ark is already visible; it is called Israel.
Contrary to popular belief, the division of the peoples of the earth is not between Jew and Gentile, but between Israelite and Gentile. Jews are very much Israelites, but for the moment are largely blinded to the identity of Messiah. God will remove that blindness in time. For now Jews continue to be the keepers of the oracles of God – the Torah. Yet the world’s Jews are only one part of the nation of Israel. The other part consists of millions of people from the nations of the earth who have a testimony of faith in Yeshua of Nazareth. Whatever their ancestry, these people, commonly known as Christians, are grafted into the nation of Israel by virtue of the work of Messiah and their faith in Him (Romans 11:11-32; Ephesians 2:8-22). In time God will reunite and restore the entire nation of Israel to the land He promised to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but for now it is essential that Christians come to understand their identity not as Gentiles, but as Israelites and fellow-citizens with Jews. This Israelite identity is what helps us understand the true nature of the conflict in this world. If Babylon is the system of rebellion against God and His ways, then Israel is the system of obedience to God.
But how do we know Israel is the new Ark of God? The prophets tell us. Consider the word of the Lord through Isaiah, addressing Israel as a grieving, abandoned widow:
For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10 NKJV, emphasis added)
Make no mistake: the wrath of God is coming. He judged the earth once by water, and soon shall judge by fire. Perhaps that understanding brings into focus the words of a man who came in the spirit of the prophet Elijah:
But when [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:7-12 NKJV, emphasis added)
How interesting that the Yeshua of Nazareth, the One Who brings salvation to the world, is also the One Who brings the baptism of fire that completes the cycle of judgment begun in the days of Noah. The choice before us is simple: embrace Him and become part of His Kingdom of Israel, or suffer the consequences of those who rejected God’s first Ark in the baptism of water.