Hollywood has never been shy about creating end-of-the-world flicks. From Beware! The Blob to 2012, Contagion and World War Z, moviegoers who like imaginative accounts of end-time events have plenty to choose from.
Last month however, Hollywood came up with a different kind of apocalyptic thriller: Noah, starring Russell Crowe. Based very loosely on the biblical story of the Flood, as found in the book of Genesis, this movie tells about the impending doom of the ancient world and one man’s attempt to save his family from it.
Whatever the merits or demerits (and there are plenty) of the film, it does raise valid questions about the fate of humanity today. What challenges do we face in the twenty-first century as the world population increases, as natural resources get scarcer, as the spectre of war continues and as the questions of pollution and climate change remain?
Are we doomed, as were the people in the time of Noah’s flood, or do we have hope? And if we do have hope, what is it?
The biblical account of Noah’s flood may be far removed from the consciousness of most people today, but it should still hold some important lessons for us. Though it’s often viewed only in terms of destruction and punishment, the deeper message is of the hope of redemption in a world getting closer and closer to destroying itself.
With an endless progression of wars, terrorism, pollution, climate change and natural disasters, one doesn’t have to be a doomsday fanatic to be concerned about the world’s future.
In fact, Jesus specifically mentioned the story of Noah and the Flood, comparing that time to what it would be like when He returns at this world’s end: “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).
Jesus’ point is that as we near the end of time, the masses will be going about their business as if nothing were wrong, nothing were amiss. Apparently, before Noah’s flood came, people were doing the same, though they had plenty of warning about what was to happen.
We, too, need to be careful that we don’t ignore the warnings. All around we can see signs of impending disaster, about which Jesus Himself warned: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6, 7).
When humankind entered the twentieth century, people were full of optimism and hope for the future. Many were convinced that we were entering a golden age when science and technology would bring in a utopia, a world of peace and prosperity for all. World War I quickly dashed those false hopes.
And when the great-grandchildren of those who welcomed in the twentieth century ushered in the twenty-first, they didn’t have any great illusions about a new golden age. On the contrary, it was September 11, 2001 that became the symbol of our future. And things seem to have been going downhill since then.
However, even in the days of Noah, the people had hope: the ark. It was built precisely to save them from what was coming, although they didn’t recognise it. They, nevertheless, had to heed the warnings and get on board.
Today, amidst our trials and worries, we too can have hope. We have something better than a boat, too: we have Jesus and the promise of eternal life in Him.
Jesus Christ came, died and rose from the dead all in order to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: save us from the inevitable death that is ours. Whether we die a calm, peaceful death at an old age in the presence of loved ones, or in a car crash, a hijacked plane, a mudslide or earthquake, Jesus offers us the hope of eternal life beyond that—the hope of a redemption, the hope of something that all the violence, suffering and pain of this world cannot take away.
And talking about those who have found that refuge in Him, who have given their lives to Him, Jesus said: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). That is, regardless of what happens here on earth and the inevitable death we all face, Jesus offers us an eternal refuge, a hope that springs forth “to eternal life” (Jude 21).
Noah (the movie) owes very little to the biblical narrative, but that still doesn’t change one fact it presents: we live in scary world. We, though, can find hope, not in a boat, but in Jesus and what He promises us.