What’s a type?
When Biblical scholars talk about a type, they mean that a person or thing in the Old Testament symbolises or points to something that would happen at a later stage, often, notably, in the New Testament. We need to be careful how we use the word “symbolises”. I am not suggesting that the person or thing is not real. In my first entry on this blog, I suggested that Adam’s story represents your story and my story. In that sense he is a symbol, but that does not mean he was not a real person. Similarly, suggesting that the Ark is a symbol to us does not discredit it as historical fact. Rather it simply recognises that there is another important level of meaning to be found in this story. I’m fascinated that, written centuries, even millennia, apart, there is consistency and balance in the themes and books of scripture and across the Old and New Testaments. That adds to the wonder and excitement of reading them.
The Ark as a type.
It’s interesting to look at The Ark as a type of Christ and His work.
1: the Ark was the only means of escape from God’s judgement in the flood. Jesus, similarly, is the only one in whom we escape God’s judgement. Acts 4 v10 tells us “there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved”
2: there was only one door on the Ark (Genesis 6 v16). There was, therefore, only one way to be rescued from judgement. Note what Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14 v1) and “I am the door, if anyone enters by me he will be saved…” (John 10 v9)
3: the Ark was a safe refuge. It was covered in pitch both inside and out, protecting it from the storm. It was sturdy enough to withstand the judgement and to bring its occupants to safety. Jesus echoes this in John 10 v27 when, talking about His followers he says “they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand”. And, of course, there is that wonderful statement in Romans 8 v38 that assures us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ.
4: those who entered the Ark did so, not because they were good and not because of anything they had done. They entered because God chose to deliver them from judgement. That was His favour, His grace. Similarly, Christians are spared God’s final judgement not because they are good or because of anything they have done. This too is God’s gracious gift. We are reminded that “it is by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians
The end of all history.
The gospels record two occasions (Matthew 24 and Luke 17) when Jesus spoke about the end of all history and likened it to the days of Noah. In both passages He recalls that people were getting on with their lives and the judgement took them by surprise. Addressing a Jewish audience, He knew that they would be familiar with the story. He tells us that while Noah was busy obeying God’s commands and preparing the Ark, the rest of the world was partying. I sometimes wonder how crazy Noah looked to the world around him. How they must have mocked him! Yet, when the judgement came it was only the Noah family, transformed by grace, obeying God’s commands, that survived.
In today’s context, God’s people, transformed by grace, trying to live out His commands, can be dismissed as crazy, antiquated, spoilsports. If Noah’s example and Jesus’ words are anything to go by, then surviving the judgement is worth the mocking and dismissal.