What Does the Flood Teach Us About the Resurrection?
The other day I watched a television show in which two students were discussing their final days of High School. One of the students said, “It’s all going to end soon,” to which the other student replied, “or begin.”
The dialogue had to do with perspective. For one student, it was all about to be over, but for the other student it was all about to start.
The Flood narrative in Genesis is considered by some a story about the end, but what if it is a story about a new beginning?
In order to understand this perspective, you have to understand what it means when the Bible describes Jesus as the “last” Adam (1 Cor 15:45).
This description is in juxtaposition to the “first” Adam, which is the first man created by God in Genesis 1-2. The first Adam brought death to humanity because of his sin against God in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12). The result was that every person after Adam was like Adam, both in susceptibility to sin and inevitability of death. You could say Cain was a “third” Adam, Abel was a “fourth” Adam, and so on and so forth; every “Adam” that has ever lived fails to live up to God’s holy standards, and then dies trying.
Noah, however, found favor in God's eyes (Gen 6:8). This positioned him as an "Adam" who could provide hope for humanity. Therefore, the Flood narrative, in which he serves as the protagonist, becomes a second Creation narrative. The story was supposed to be a “do-over” of sorts for a broken world.
It’s astonishing, really, how much the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-9 parallels the Creation narrative in Genesis 1. Even the order is similar:
The darkness in Genesis 1:2 parallels the dark rain clouds in Genesis 7:17.
The dry land appearing in Genesis 1:10 parallels the tops of the mountains becoming visible in Genesis 8:5.
The vegetation sprouting in Genesis 1:11 parallels the freshly picked olive leaf in the dove’s beak in Genesis 8:11.
God’s first command to Noah after leaving the ark parallels his first command to Adam, which is to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).
In this light, the Flood narrative is not a story about the end, but about the hope for a new beginning; the author of Genesis is presenting the Flood as a story of hope to defeat the repercussions brought about by the first Adam's failure in the Garden.
But, sadly, the hope for a new beginning is short lived.
The Flood narrative ultimately reveals the tragedy that Adam’s sin in Eden impacted mankind so deeply that even Noah, the only man on earth who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord,” was still incapable of overcoming its power. In other words, humanity was still doomed through Noah, even when God “started over” with the best “Adam.” This is because, in the end, Noah could not shake his “Adamness.” Like the first Adam, Noah ate fruit in a forbidden way and then became ashamed through nakedness:
Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent (Gen 9:20-21).
The message of the Flood is that, given the same opportunity, all the Adams will fail.
This is where we begin to find the answer to our question as to what the Flood has to do with the resurrection.
Peter writes that the “present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire” (2 Pt 3:7a). The context of Peter's statement is Noah’s Flood, showing that in the same way that God destroyed ungodliness in Noah’s day, so will God destroy ungodliness on the Lord’s Day.
… kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Pt 3:7b)
The difference about this future judgment, however, is that there will be some Adams who have had their "Adamness" shed by the resurrected Christ. This is to say there will be some on that future day of judgment—that future “Flood”—who aren’t living according to the tradition of Adam’s failure in the Garden but Jesus’ victory out of the grave. As Paul writes,
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:5).
This means that after the future day of judgment God will walk His proverbial Noahs out of the true Ark, who is Christ, onto the New Earth. These will be glorified believers who will not have to worry about messing up in the way as the first Adam did, for we will be incapable of it because we have been raised to newness of life (Rom 6:4).
The Flood narrative teaches us that, apart from Jesus's resurrection, however good we are, we are doomed to sin and death apart from resurrection. Without the “final” Adam we can’t help but follow in the footsteps of the “first” Adam. We would always be just another Adam in a long line of other Adams. But because Jesus defeated death and became the “last” Adam, we can not only make it through the impending Flood, but have eternal life.
This is what the Flood teaches us about the resurrection, and it's a glorious hope for a new beginning.