The Seven Days of Creation—
How Long Are They?

The amazing drama of creation unfolds in the first chapter of Genesis. Inevitably, the mind focuses on the miraculous works of God during the six progressive days of creation. Then on the seventh day God rests. How long is each day?

The Hebrew word yom here translated "day" has become a point of controversy. In Scripture yom is used to denote both a 24-hour day as well as a longer period of time. For example, Israel's forty years in the wilderness is called "the day [yom] of temptation in the wilderness. . . forty years long was I grieved with this generation" (Psalm 95:8-10). The Apostle Peter said, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).

Evolutionists propose fabulous lengths of time for the evolution of fowl, fish and man. On the other hand, does the Bible necessarily evidence each creation day as a 24-hour solar day?

A Historic Overview

Insisting that the "24-hour day," "the young earth" and the "young universe" concept is the badge of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals actually signals a marked departure from the Fundamentalism of the early 1900s. First published in 1909, the SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE remains a standard work among Fundamentalists and Evangelicals today. Referring to "the heaven and earth" in Genesis 1:1, this edition of Scofield commented, "The first creative act refers to the dateless past, and gives scope for all the geologic ages." (1) Here the reference to "ages" is significant. After noting that the word "day" used in Scripture to denote either a 24-hour period of time or a longer period of time, Scofield observed:

The use of "evening" and "morning" may be held to limit "day" to the solar day; but the frequent parabolic use of natural phenomena may warrant the conclusion that each creative "day" was a period of time marked off by a beginning and ending. (2)

The noted Evangelical scholar, Bernard Ramm, documented this departure in the 1930s and 1940s from the original Fundamentalist position of "epoch days of creation" along with the "old earth and old universe" concepts. He observed that some Fundamentalist periodicals began to feature articles by George McCready Price, a Seventh Day Adventist, on his theories of flood geology. (3) By 1961 a rash of books began to be published attacking evolution. Finally, the Christian community was answering evolutionists with some counter-arguments on a logical, scientific level! However, in a zeal to uphold the Biblical view of creation, Fundamentalists embraced Price's flood geology as a basis for the young-universe, young-earth, 24-hour-cre-ation- day posture.

Without going into a complete critique of flood geology, such a study does not automatically prove a young universe or 24-hour creation days. This consolidated view led to the formation of the Creation Research Society in 1963. Its Board of Directors included Fundamentalist/Creation Advocate luminaries like Henry M. Morris and W. E. Lammert, along with Frank L. Marsh, long time Seventh Day Adventist advocate of the triad belief of a young universe, a young earth and 24-hour creation days. (4)

By 1980 most U.S. Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches forgot their roots of understanding Genesis One as reflected in the SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE (which still stands prominently on their reference shelves). Instead, they embraced the young-universe, young-earth, 24-hour-creation-day combination which had beenchampioned by the Seventh Day Adventists since the 1920s. (This reference to a departure from Fundamentalism to the Seventh Day Adventist concept is in no way to downgradethe credibility of Seventh Day Adventists as Christians. However, Adventists hardly represent "historic fundamentalism.") A grow-ing number of Evangelicals, however, are taking a dimmer view of this Adventist linkage as reflected in a paper presented by Ronald L. Numbers at the Evangelical Engagement with Science, a conference held at Wheaton College, March 30 through April 1, 1995. Numbers, a former Seventh Day Adventist and the William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, observed:

. . . their [Adventists'] marginal views, inspired by the visions of an Adventism prophetess, now defined the very essence of creationism. (5) [Many of the teachings of the Adventist originated in the vision of Mrs. Ellen G. White.]

The current popular 24-hour creation day is in reality a fairly recent vintage. Even Henry M. Morris, its chief exponent, spoke of the epoch days of creation as a "venerable" concept. Indeed, the earliest known Christian writings on the time frame of creation date back to the so-called early church fathers of the second century. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-166) and Irenaeus (A.D. 130- 200) believed the creation days were epoch days. (6)

But before this time and more importantly, Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul taught the creation epoch days (as will be discussed later).

Since the phrase "and the evening and the morning" is used to denote the conclusion of the first six creation days, some say this is a perfect description of literal 24-hour days. Not so. The phrase "evening and morning," like yom, can denote a longer period of time. The "2300 days" vision of Daniel 8 is a case in point. Daniel was given a vision that includes a period of 2300 days. Daniel was told by Gabriel (Daniel 8:26), ". . .and the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true."

Unfortunately some translations render the text "evenings and mornings" of vs. 26 in the plural. This is not accurate. The Hebrew manuscript in Daniel 8:26 reads exactly as the singular case in Genesis One, "the evening and the morning," as noted in standard evangelical works. (7)

The Scriptures elsewhere use the same Hebrew word "evening" in relation to a day (yom) of long duration. Zechariah speaks of "the day of the Lord" and the following verses describe the events of that day (Zechariah 14:1). The following vss. 6,7, state that day (yom) is "not clear or dark," but "at evening time it shall be light." Evidently, this is referring to the Millennial Day (1,000 years) of Christ's Kingdom. By the end of that 1,000-year day, full knowledge of the Lord ("light") would prevail. But some apply "evening" to the "great tribulation." Either way, this day is a period of time, but not a 24-hour day's evening, though the "day" has an "evening." Therefore, the fact that the creation days have an "evening" does not prove that they are necessarily 24-hour days.

Internal evidence in Chapters One and Two of Genesis pro-vides conclusive proof that the seven creation days are not each 24 hours. The Hebrew word yom, used exclusively in Genesis to denote "day," should be understood to signify an epoch of time.

After Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 describes the creation of the heavens and the earth, including the account of the seven creation days (yom), the very next verse (Genesis 2:4), summarizes the entire work of the preceding verses:

"These are the generations [Hebrew, "history"] of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day [yom] that the Lord made the heavens and earth."

The whole period of creation is designated in this verse as "the day"! Therefore, "day" must be defined contextually and cannot at all be assumed to be a period of twenty-four hours.

Proof #2

In Genesis 1:14-19 not until the fourth day is the Sun and Moon "made" (Hebrew, "appointed") to rule the day and the night. The Sun would "rule" the Earth because time on Earth could be calculated by one rotation around the Sun. Before the fourth day, Earth's atmosphere was too dense to permit the penetration of sunlight. So if the 24-hour day did not come into existence until after the third creation day, it is logical to conclude that none of the preceding creation days were twenty-four hours long.

Proof #3

God created the fish, sea life and fowls of the air on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-22). In addition, vs. 21 reveals that on that same fifth day the living creatures of the waters "brought forth abundantly after their kind and every winged fowl after his kind."

God did not create myriads of each Genesis kind of water life in order to fill the sea nor myriads of fowl to fill the earth. Rather, on the fifth day God created an appropriate number of Genesis kind species and then commanded that through the natural process of reproduction the waters would teem with sea life and that the fowls would multiply throughout the earth. Is it possible for fish in one 24-hour day to reproduce successive generations in order to fill the sea?

Of necessity the fifth day was a period of time. The narration further emphasizes how the commission to "be fruitful and multiply" was all part of what was accomplished on the fifth day (vss. 22, 23).

Proof #4

The time required for the sixth creation day is critical to consider. First, God created all the land animals. Then towards the end of the sixth day, the crowning feature of his creative work was Adam and Eve. While the first chapter of Genesis only briefly narrates the creation of Adam and Eve, the second chapter (2:7-9, 15-23) elaborates on the events that occurred between Adam's creation and Eve's.

First, God planted a garden in Eden, then Adam after receiving instructions from God worked in the caring of the garden. There was extensive communication pertaining to things Adam could and could not do. Adam was then instructed to name all of

the birds and all of the living creatures. With this extensive responsibility in caring for all the plants and naming all the animals, Adam had time to experience loneliness in his heart because "there was not found an help meet for him."

All these events took place in the latter part of the sixth creation day. How long could this activity have reasonably taken? Just a few hours or days, weeks or months? Of necessity, the events of the sixth day required more than twenty-four hours.

Proof #5

How long is the seventh day? God finished His creative work at the beginning of the seventh day and rested (Genesis 2:1-3). But the Genesis account is clear that the seventh day did not end. In the first six creation days, the Lord conclusively ended each day with the phrase, "the evening and the morning was the day."

However, the seventh day description in Genesis 2:2-3 does not conclude with the phrase, "the evening and the morning were the seventh day." Nor does this account indicate in any other way that the seventh day ended. On the contrary, Hebrews 3:7- 4:8 contains an elaborate study to demonstrate that the seventh creation day has not yet ended.

The Apostle Paul first quoted Psalms (95:7-11) to prove that Israel failed to enter into God's seventh day of rest during the time of Moses, Joshua and David:

"Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness. . .as I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest" (Hebrews 3:7,8,11, NAS).

Paul's logic followed in Hebrews 4:4,5, "For He [God] spake in a certain place of the seventh day [Genesis 2:2] and God rested on the seventh day from all his works; and again in this place [Psalms 95:11] they shall not enter my rest." Verses 7 and 8 spell out that this failure occurred under Moses, Joshua and David. In other words, Israel failed to enter into God's seventh day of rest. Therefore, the seventh day on which God rested extended to Moses' time and beyond that to Joshua's time and even beyond that to David's time:

Again, he [God] limiteth [Greek, "marks out the limits of"] a certain day [the seventh day] saying in David [Psalms 95:7,8], To day, after so long a time [since Moses' time]; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, then he [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day (Hebrews 4:7,8 NAS).

Here Paul reasoned that by God's own definition, the seventh day on which God rested extended to the "to day" of David's time.

Back to Paul's logic in Hebrews 3:6-13: Since Israel failed, Christians are admonished, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest we fail to enter into God's rest [of the seventh day]." The whole Christian Age is also included in the "To day" time frame of the seventh day of God's rest! And that is precisely why Paul said, "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His [God's] rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:9,10 NAS).

The word "Sabbath" is definitely in the Greek text and refers to the seventh creation day in which God rested. By faith Christians can now enter into this seventh day of Sabbath rest with God. Just as God rested from His works of creation (although God's work of governing the universe continued), Christians cease from their own works and rest in the finished work of Christ.

Therefore, the seventh day is an epoch extending from just after the creation of man and includes the time of the Christian Age. If the seventh day is an epoch extending thousands (not mil-lions) of years, the other creation days must be epochs as well.

Just how long is the epoch-long seventh day?

When our first parents disobeyed and were cast out of their perfect Edenic paradise into the "thorns and thistles" of the unfinished Earth (Genesis 3:17-19), God ceased from His works of creation and rested. But God's works of creation were not completed. He was not finished with man. He was not finished with the Earth.

The Scriptures teach that God did not create the Earth in vain. "God himself that formed the Earth. . .he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18). The Earth was created to be filled with people praising their God (Psalms 98:4-6). They would enjoy perfect health (Isaiah 35:5,6). The whole Earth— their Edenic home —was to "blossom as a rose" (Isaiah 35:1). Man was perfect and rejoicing in his beautiful home in Eden, but everything changed when sin entered. So when would these completed works of creation be accomplished? When would the earth be finished and perfect? When would man be finished, perfect?

As might be anticipated, Christ would accomplish this work at his second advent. All the holy prophets pointed toward this time. It would be a time of restoration to the perfection of man in the Garden of Eden and all the wonderful potential he possessed at that time. Thus, Apostle Peter said, "He shall send Jesus Christ . . .whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution [restoration] of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20,21).

God's rest on the seventh creation day or age was a rest of confidence in the finished work of Christ. God has complete confidence in the ability of Christ to restore to the willing descendants of Adam everything that was lost when Adam disobeyed in Eden.

This is why Jesus identified himself as the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), not the seventh day of our week, but the seventh day of God's week of creation. As Lord of God's seventh creation day, Christ's responsibility is to perform "the works which the Father has given me to finish" (John 5:36).

Was the entrance of sin an unplanned miscalculation on God's part? Not at all. Before God even created Adam, God knew that Adam would sin and plunge his descendants into sin and death. Redemption by the blood of Jesus was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (I Peter 1:19,20). When Adam sinned, God ceased His creative works, resting in full confidence in Christ's ability to first redeem humankind (I Corinthians 15:22) and then to offer to all the restoration of all things lost in Adam (Luke 19:10).

So if Christ died almost 2,000 years ago, why are man and his earthly home still in sin and not restored and perfect? The time between the redemption and the time of restoration is devoted to the call and preparation of a "little flock" of faithful followers of Christ who will share with Christ in his 1,000-year Kingdom restoration project (Acts 15:14-17; Revelation 20:6; 22:17). Now is not the time for the conversion and restoration of the world of mankind (Mark 4:11,12).

One of the most important works which God has given Christ to complete is the raising of the dead:

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth; and they that have done good [the little flock] to a resurrection of life [to live and reign with him 1,000 years]; and they that have done evil [all the remaining of the race] to a resurrection of judgment [krisis, Greek for "trial"] (John 5:26-29).

By the end of the 1,000 years, all will have been given a full and fair opportunity to attain perfect life in a worldwide Edenic paradise. Those who fail under these ideal conditions will be destroyed (Jeremiah 31:29,30; Isaiah 35; Acts 3:19-23). Then the seventh creation day will reach its climactic conclusion:

"There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

From Bible chronology it can be determined that the seventh creation day is 7,000 years in duration and culminates with the 1,000 years of restoration.

Although some might prefer the assumption that each creation day is of varying lengths covering aeons of time, it seems logical to conclude that the creation week consists of 7 days that are uniform in length. There are independent scriptural lines of reason-ing that indicate the creation week would total 49,000 years— ample time for God's miraculous yet complex creation work. Whether or not all agree with this estimate of the total length of the creation week, it is Scripturally certain that each creation "day" was longer than twenty-four hours.

What about the Earth itself? Since the earth was in existence but "without form and void," before the creation week began— the age of the Earth, or for that matter the universe, would not be included in the creation week. Therefore, the Earth is doubtless much older!

Without attempting to compromise with evolutionists' wild speculations of the aeons of time required for the "evolution of man," the Bible presents a reasonable length of time for a pro-gressive creation week climaxed by the creation of man. Not a week of one-hundred sixty-eight hours! The Genesis account is sublimely reasonable.

Observations of the universe's most distant reaches by the Hubble space telescope suggest that the age of the universe is over 13 billion years. Independently, radio telescope measure-ments are consistent with a universe age near 14.6 billion years. A third line of independent observations—efforts to explain the order in the subatomic world and the observed ratio of matter to light in the universe—have led other scientists to conclude that the age of the universe is 14.6 billion years. Whatever one's evaluation of estimates, they are beyond the scope of the Genesis record.

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