Did the Flood Really Happen? Genesis 7:1-21, 8:21
(Hebrews 11:1-10)


Begin with scene 14 from the Day after Tomorrow (DVD)


With freak storms battering our cities, the threat of terrorism hanging like the sword of Damocles over the West, mad cows and even madder scientists fiddling with our DNA, there’s never been a better time to panic.

In September, the Guardian newspaper commissioned a survey of British public opinion on what scares people most. Over 2136 people were questioned. The survey discovered that 10% of people fear that an asteroid will hit the earth. 25% of those polled said they had altered their behaviour as a result of fears of terrorism. 47% said they were worried about their children being abducted by sex offenders. 52% of those polled said they were worried about unchecked scientific advancement. But 60% of us say we are worried about global warming and of those 20% are either ‘very’ worried or ‘extremely’ worried.[i] Should we be?

“There’s a long cultural history of paranoia about the weather. In the fifties and sixties, when atom bomb tests filled the upper atmosphere with radiation, my generation believed we would 'all go together when we go'. People ‘would peer at the sky and say 'Do you think it’s the Bomb?' whenever the weather seemed strange.

I vividly remember being caught out in a rain shower in Lewes, Sussex, just a few days after the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor accident on April 25th -26th, 1986. And then hearing the government warnings about contamination as radiation fell from the skies. According to the OECD report published ten years on, every country in the entire Northern hemisphere has been contaminated.

Commentators observed that Chernobyl in Russian means wormwood - and speculated as to whether this was the fulfilment of prophecy. Revelation 8:10-11 warns,  “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water - the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Revelation 8:10-11)


But how do you speak to the blasé generations that forgets such events within months and who can flick on the weather channel any time to see clips of floods in Bangladesh and mansions collapsing in Californian mudslides but imagine these things only ever happen to other people?

Roland Emmerich has turned eco-preacher in The Day After Tomorrow. He has delivered a sermon on global warming, in which hell is the earth freezing over, a tidal wave engulfs Manhattan, temperatures plunge to Siberian levels, and helicopters and passenger airliners freeze instantly and fall from the sky. Because of global warming, this film argues, the new ice age could arrive within twelve hours.

It’s pretty graphic stuff. I like a good apocalypse, though this one does however collapse the currently accepted scenario of climate change – a process we are in now and one which is projected to last for a hundred years – into a space of about a fortnight. And of course, as in all good B-movies, it needs a concerned scientist to explain it to us: in this case, Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall, a renegade climatologist.

The storyline of The Day After Tomorrow doesn’t really matter much, once we know that Jack’s son Sam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is trapped in New York’s public library when the world freezes over, and Dad has promised to come and find him. Which allows us to follow Jack on one hell of a treck in snowshoes across the frozen waste of what was urban America.  For me, the fun of apocalypse and disaster stories is seeing how the survivors improvise a new civilization. On that score, this film is a tad disappointing.

Food? Well, I’m afraid these days your average apocalypse survivor is going to rely on vending machines...chocolate bars, crisps, and coke. There will be product placement in the new dawn. But to stay alive, the first imperative is to keep warm. In a public library, books keep the survivors alive, and boy, does Emmerich hammer the irony of a book burning. What book would you save to take into the new world?

But guess what – spoiler ahead – the new world, down Mexico way, has helicopters after all, and working phones and, ahem, freezers. And a shaken Vice President heralding the dawn of a new, co-operative international order.

Now there’s a fable for you. Despite its sermonising, the Day After Tomorrow works pretty welI, within the disaster movie tradition. It’s a good popcorn movie, but remember to take your woollies.”[ii] But could it happen?

The scientific community is deeply divided on the impact of global warming, or indeed on whether it is happening at all.

We are fortunate to have numerous geographers in our church and I hope one day we can sponsor a session on the question of global warming here at Christ Church.

Go to the website of the Cooler Heads Coalition and Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, and you will discover that o
ver 17,000 scientists have signed a petition saying, in part, "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." They claim Satellite data indicate a slight cooling in the climate in the last 18 years. However, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, the trend in global surface temperature over the last 140 years is rising.

This week also saw the publication of a report entitled “Up in Smoke” sponsored by agencies including Christian Aid, World Vision, TearFund, Oxfam, Green Peace and Friends of the Earth. The report says that global warming threatens to reverse human progress, and make the international targets on halving global poverty by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals, unattainable.


Visit the BBC website dedicated to global warming, and we are told that when James and Kirsty’s baby, due in the next couple of weeks, is 80 years old, the world will be 6 and a half degrees warmer than it is now - more than enough to set in motion a chain reaction that will lead to the meltdown of what is left of the Arctic and Antarctic ice shields.  According to a team of climatologists led by Dr Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading and Meteorological Office - if CO2 emissions continue to rise, a 3 degree rise in annual temperatures would be enough to melt the ice sheet covering Greenland causing sea levels to rise by 23 feet. So could the flood happen again?

Before we answer that one lets ask another. “Did it happen once before?” Did the flood really happen or was that fiction as well?


1. Did the Flood Really Happen?

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—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 for forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:11-12)


“For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.” (Genesis 7:17-20)


“Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:21-23)


I don’t think we can be in any doubt. The biblical text is unambiguous as to the extent and consequences of the flood.


1.1 History Corroborates the Flood


The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, including its lengthy flood story, is the best known of many accounts of the flood to be found in the ancient Near East, in China, India, Kashmir, Australia, Japan, Fiji, Sumatra, Alaska, North America, South America, Africa, Nigeria, Europe, even among the Druids of Ancient Britain.

The parallels between the many stories scattered around the world are amazing. They generally agree that:


  1. there was some provision, an ark, barge, etc.
  2. all living things were destroyed by water
  3. only a few chosen ones were saved through divine intervention
  4. the flood was a judgement for human wickedness
  5. animals were saved with the humans
  6. the vessel came to a rest on a mountain.


“The cumulative weight of this evidence is that the present human race has spread from one centre and even from one family - a family who themselves experienced the great Deluge of which every story speaks.”[iii]  Alfred Rehwinkel insists,

“Nature myths have their origin in a great historical fact. We cannot escape the conclusion that these Flood traditions are an indisputable proof that the world catastrophe as described in Genesis is one of the greatest facts of all history. It has left an indelible impression on the memory of the entire human race.” [iv] So history corroborates the flood narrative in Genesis.


1.2 The Prophets Assume the Flood

"To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.” (Isaiah 54:9)


“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.” (Ezekiel 14:20) 


1.3 Jesus Believed in the Flood

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39 see also Luke 17:26-27).


1.4 The Apostles Rely on the Flood

Jesus is descended from…”the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech…” (Luke 3:36) 


“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)


“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,” (1 Peter 3:18-20).


“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;  if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others … if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (2 Peter 2:4-10)


So we can say conclusively, the Bible affirms, assumes and relies on the historical veracity of the flood records of Genesis to build a case for God’s rescue mission of planet earth through Jesus Christ, and to warn and prepare us for his return and the day of judgement. If nothing else we can say categorically, that Jesus believed in the flood and uses it to assure us that he is returning. The flood stands as a warning.

A sober warning. We must not become complacent but live as if each day were our last. Jesus is coming. He is coming soon.

So did the flood really happen? I believe so. Do you?


2. Will the Flood Happen Again?


The reason I do not believe the film “The Day after Tomorrow” portrays an accurate depiction of a future scenario is not because of what scientists tell us, nor because I favour the optimists over the pessimists. I am led to that conclusion on the basis of God’s word and his promises. Take a look at these.


“I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." (Genesis 9:11).


"To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.” (Isaiah 54:9)


We can therefore be assured on the basis of the promise of God that he will never flood the world again with water. However… I do still believe in global warming. A global warming of a different kind. God has promised that he will never again flood the earth. But he has promised to cleanse this world by fire.


In his second letter Peter goes on to warn us:


3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 


6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.


8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare…That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:3-12)


God is going to cleanse this earth, he will purify it with fire.

Let me read to you from Dick Lucas commentary on this passage…So far we have answered two questions: Did the flood really happen and will it happen again? Lets close with one last question which the apostle Peter himself raises


3. How Then Should we Live?


“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11)


3.1 Do not be afraid

“you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” (2 Peter 3:3)


3.2 Tell others about Jesus

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)


3.3 Live holy lives

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14)


3.4 Look forward to His coming


You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2 Peter 3:12)


The film “The Day after Tomorrow” paints a bleak picture of the future. It will cause many people to be afraid. Where else will they find hope if not in Jesus Christ? Where else will they find a safe refuge if not here? What should we do to be ready as the signs increase revealing that the day of his coming is near?

What kind of Church family do we need to become in order to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie in the future? Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.


[i] ‘The Fear Factor’ Spark. The Guardian, October 2004.

[ii] Julie Rigg, Review of ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ Radio National, Australia Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/movietime/stories/s1118323.htm

[iii]  Frederick Filby in Josh McDowell, The Creation, p.148.

[iv] Alfred Rehwinkel, cited in McDowell, p.148.