The experiences of several Old Testament characters are frequently used and confused as evidence for an early rapture of the Church, as they once were by me. Today I will consider Noah, and next time Lot, Enoch and Daniel..
NOAH AND THE FLOOD
In his “Olivet Discourse” Jesus, after describing the destruction of the temple and the times of distress before his return, gives the example of Noah’s escape from the Flood as a way of telling his people that they need to be ready for his coming (Matthew 24:36-39). This reference is seen by some believers, as it once was by me, as a sure evidence of pre-tribulation rapture: Noah escaped the Flood, so we’ll escape the tribulation. Others, including at least one prominent modern-day denomination, teach that Noah’s experience in the ark represents Jews being preserved through the tribulation on earth, whereas Lot’s escape from Sodom is a type of the rapture of the Church before tribulation.
If Noah’s escape from the Flood in the ark speaks of Jews living through the tribulation, we might ask why the Church is not in this allegory, since the only other characters in the account-even before the Flood began-are those who drown outside the ark. Only eight souls survived the Flood, and they were all in the ark. And while it’s a fact that Noah and his family were safe inside the ark, Jesus made it clear that those living in and around last-days Jerusalem, not to mention the world, will undergo terrible trials. That’s why the tribulation is known as the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Jesus said that upon the revealing of Antichrist in Jerusalem people there are to flee the city, because “…there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21). Zechariah said that in that time Jerusalem will be invaded and half the city will be taken into captivity (Zechariah 14:2).
The other popular theory, that the escape of Noah is a type of pre-tribulation rapture, is equally dubious. Righteous Noah and his family escaped the Flood while everyone else, who had no idea what was going to happen, drowned. Therefore, the Noahic-rapture theory says, Jesus was obviously alluding to the rapture, modeled by the ark, in which all of Christ’s people-the Church-will be whisked away to safety before the seven-year tribulation begins. This is another indicator, they say, of the doctrine of “imminence”.
However, Noah did know the flood was coming. Of course-he was building an ark, he must have known. But it wasn’t just a vague idea that a deluge was coming, he knew exactly when it was coming seven days before it came, because God told him:
”Go into the ark, you and your whole family… Seven days from now I will send rain over the earth for forty days and forty nights…” (Genesis 7:1 and 4).
The seven days of warning God gave Noah could be seen by some as symbolic of the “seven years” of tribulation, but the Flood began at the end of those seven days, not at the beginning, and most pre-tribulation believers don’t see the distress and judgments of the tribulation as arriving at the end of the “seven years” of tribulation. Neither will these judgments last for forty years as the rains lasted for forty days in the case of the Flood. Then, after the Flood Noah and his family came back to earth with a bump on the mountains of Ararat, lived out their lives as mortals and died, which doesn’t speak well of a change to immortality for the Church in the Flood/rapture scenario.
Since Noah was clearly warned seven days before the beginning of the Flood, Jesus did not intend to use the example of Noah’s escape from the Flood to be an example of a surprise rapture. It was the unbelieving world which was not ready for the Flood. That was the point Jesus was making in the Olivet Discourse:
“…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” (verse 39).
The flood did not begin until the seventh day after God’s specific timed warning to Noah. While Noah was told by God seven days before the flood to go into the ark, those seven days were spent loading it up with animals-which was probably the intention of God’s command. Noah and his family did not actually enter the ark to stay until the seventh day-the very day the floodwaters began to arrive:
“…and the floodgates of the heavens were opened… “On that very day Noah and his sons…together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark” (Genesis 7:11-13).
So using the seven days of God’s initial command to enter the ark, during which the animal “kinds” of the world were boarding, doesn’t work as a model or a type for a surprise pre-tribulation rapture. The wrath of God in the form of the world-wide flood began at the end of the period of seven days, not at its beginning, so using the seven-day period as a type would only serve to further confirm the wrath of God falling at the end of the seven-year period and not all the way through it.
The entrance of Noah into the ark was at the end of the seven day period, not at its beginning. No-one “left behind” and outside the ark for that seven day period or after it resembles a “saint” of the tribulation period: everyone outside the ark perished. Noah was not taken into heaven to escape the Flood, he remained on the earth and died at his allotted time.
The point of Jesus’s example of Noah and the Flood was to let his people know that they must be ready spiritually, because the unbelieving, wicked world will not be. In the days before the Flood, said Jesus, people were eating, drinking, marrying…in other words, living out their lives normally, with no expectation of or interest in what was to come:
“…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 24:36-39).
The people who “knew nothing” were the unsaved-not the people of God. Jesus’ emphasis was readiness for the coming of the Son of Man, not readiness for a sudden surprise escape, because Noah knew exactly when his escape would be. It was to be a spiritual readiness of obedience in contrast to living in blind wickedness like the rest of the world. What was coming for hearers of the Olivet Discourse to be ready for was judgment, not rapture. Significantly, the coming of the Son of Man which Jesus had just described in Matthew’s gospel, to which he was relating the story of Noah, was his entrance into the sky from heaven in power and glory, not a secret coming (verse 30-31).
Those who tell us that Noah represents the remnant of Jews living through the tribulation also miss the fact that Noah knew the Flood was coming, seven days before it came. They tell us that the majority of the Olivet Discourse is intended for the Jews who they say will live through all those events. If this is the case, why did Jesus tell the very same people, living in that time, “You do not know the day or the hour”? Noah knew exactly when the Flood was coming:
”Go into the ark, you and your whole family…Seven days from now I will send rain over the earth for forty days and forty nights…” (Genesis 7:1 and 4).
Noah was actually the father of all of us-Jew and Gentile. He didn’t live under the Law, he wasn’t circumcised, and he didn’t dwell in Israel after the Flood. There’s no scripture telling us plainly that Noah represents Jews living through the tribulation or escaping the tri-bulation: these are impositions to prove a theory. When Jesus did speak of Noah in relation to tribulation events, it was clearly to stress the importance of spiritual readiness rather than being lost in judgment with the unsaved: not to illustrate the plight of Jews at that future time.