A life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark – the biblical vessel on which God saved people and animals when the earth was flooded as punishment for mankind’s sins – is coming to the U.S. and is expected to draw more than a million Americans every year.

The story of “Noah” is coming to the big screen, too. Hollywood used models, sets, stages and other tricks of the movie trade to create those stunning images.

But what’s being planned by Answers in Genesis ministry chief Ken Ham will not be a model, a set or a stage, and it will not be a trick produced by a camera.

It will be a life-size version of Noah’s Ark – 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and three stories high – and it will be used as an evangelism tool in his outreach to unbelievers.

He announced Thursday that funding for the first phase has been put in place, and groundbreaking on the project is expected sometime in May.

The Ark Encounter will be built on 800 acres adjacent to Interstate 75 at Williamstown, Ky., bringing hundreds of jobs to the community.

The first phase will cost an estimated $73 million. The initial costs, including building permits and licenses, property preparation, architectural plans and exhibit designs, already have been paid through the sale of memberships to the exhibit as well as donations prior to a bond offering that put in place the rest of the funding.

Ham emphasized that no government funding has been used for the project.

“Even in a difficult economy, tens of thousands of supporters have made donations, purchased bonds or bought Ark boarding passes in the past three years,” he said.

Ham said that with the funding in place to build the Ark, his organization wants to raise an additional $15 million in donations to provide additional attractions such as “the special high-tech and interactive exhibits that guests have come to appreciate at our museum.”

The first phase includes parking lots with a tram that will carry visitors through a valley to the entrance. There, a pathway will take visitors on a trip back in time, showing what the Ark would have looked like, how the animals would have been protected, how Noah and his family would have lived and more.

It will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, attractions built by a Christian ministry to proclaim its message: that man was separated from God and His holiness, and Jesus came to earth as both God and man to open a door for humankind to return to Him.

Want the truth about the Ark, the flood and the archaeology behind it all? Get “Noah: The Real Story” exclusively from the WND Superstore!

Ham’s Creation Museum, only a short drive from the site for the Ark Encounter, has had about 2 million visitors in its first six years of existence. Professional studies estimate that the Ark Encounter will draw from 1.2 million people to 2 million visitors per year.

It’s not meant as only a tourist attraction or job generator, although it undoubtedly will play those roles, he said.

“Answers in Genesis is a ministry. We make no apology about the fact we proclaim the authority of the Word of God,” he said.

Outside of the cross of Calvary, he said, “I believe the Ark of Noah is the greatest reminder of the message of salvation of God.”

“Noah and his family had to go through a doorway to be saved. We [now] need to go through a doorway to be saved. Jesus said, ‘I am the doorway.’

“We praise our Creator God for His blessings and for the incredible support we just witnessed from our generous supporters around the country,” Ham said of the project.

“Yes, there have been days of nervous anticipation. Many challenges and road blocks came up as we worked through the stages of the bond offering leading up to the final bond delivery. From atheists registering for the bond offering and attempting to disrupt it, to secular bloggers and some reporters writing misleading and inaccurate articles about the bonds – the obstacles were numerous and disruptive.

“It was a challenging time, one that on a human level required a miracle to overcome,” Ham added. “And God in His providence supplied our needs.”

The Ark was mentioned in Ham’s recent debate, watched by millions, with Bill Nye “The Science Guy” that focused on creationism and evolution.

Discover more of Ken Ham’s writings – like “How Do We Know the Bible Is True?” and “Already Compromised” – in the WND SuperStore!

Then came Hollywood’s “Noah,” with its special effects and the acting of Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe leads an all-star cast in the upcoming, big-budget film, "Noah."

An early, draft copy of the film’s screenplay distributed in 2012 has a scene in which Noah explains to his family how all of creation came to pass.

But instead of aligning with Nye’s theory of random evolution or Ham’s six-day divine creation, director Darren Aronofsky’s early “Noah” script pushes for a compromise position that tries to reconcile the biblical account with Charles Darwin’s theory of origins.

In one scene aboard the famous Ark, Noah gives a day-by-day account of creation, almost right out of the Bible’s book of Genesis. But the screenwriter’s directions for what appears on screen doesn’t reflect six, single “days” of creation, but rather millennia passing in between each “day” and an evolutionary process enfolding long before the arrival of Adam and Eve.

The issue is controversial among evangelicals, who movie makers are hoping to attract. And the movie maker said changes were made to the script.

The ‘real story’

To give Americans the real story about the Ark, author Larry Stone set to work and came up with “Noah: The Real Story.”

“The old adage that says the book is usually better than the movie is frequently true,” writes Stone in a chapter titled “Noah Goes to Hollywood.”

Stone told WND the differences between Hollywood’s “Noah” and the Bible’s Noah are no surprise. Last fall, Paramount, which has more than $100 million riding on Noah, decided to hold test screenings to see if the movie would appeal to Christian viewers. The blog Beginning and End stated: “It’s clear that Noah is not a Christian film.”

Stone, who has also has authored “The Story of the Bible” and “Women of the Bible,” noted that in many of the Hollywood depictions of Noah and the Ark, the biblical story is a framework on which the writer and director build a story based on their own viewpoint. One of the first talkies, “Noah’s Ark,” in 1928, mixed up the Noah story with Moses, Samson and even the Sermon on the Mount.

In “Noah: The Real Story,” Stone points out some of the material from Aronofsky’s movie adaptation of “Noah” that is most contradictory to the scriptural account and most likely to offend Christian viewers.

See the trailer for Stone’s “Noah: The Real Story” below:

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