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2008-12-12 | |
Who would nowadays believe the story in the beginning of the book of Genesis, in the Bible? Who would now believe that, not only the Earth, but the whole universe would be no older than some six thousand years? This is the prevalent opinion nowadays. And this is the argument atheists use to show that the Bible is mostly worthless for the modern man, containing lots of myths and things that are contrary to proven scientific facts. But, how many of those who endorse this opinion have actually searched the Bible earnestly? Most likely very few. The fair thing to do is first to see what this book actually says, whether it really tells us things that go against proven scientific facts.
The Bible begins with the statement "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". And this does not provide any clue about time: it does not state how long ago that "creation" took place, nor how long it took to create all that. So far nothing that can be proved to be false. And the Bible gives no details on how this creation took place, for it is not a book of science and its goal is not to satisfy our natural curiosity, but its subject is the man’s relation with the creator and almighty God.
"Created the heaven and earth" implicitly conveys that the "heaven" comprises the stars. So, these few words, that tell nothing about time, admit that the universe may be billions of years old, as the cosmological theories assert, and this way we may see stars that are millions of light-years away (which would be impossible if the universe would be no more than some six thousand years old). You may say: "You have said ‘implicitly’! Yet what you assert is not that obvious! And how does this fit with what the first chapter of Genesis says further on, where the sun and the moon are mentioned to have been made «the fourth day»!" Still, there is one more text that tells us explicitly that the stars had already been created when the earth was created, and that is Job chapter 38: "Where wast thou when I founded the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who set the measures thereof - if thou knowest? or who stretched a line upon it? Whereupon were the foundations thereof sunken? or who laid its corner-stone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38.4-7). And we will see further on the meaning of the much ridiculed history of the "six days of creation".
Therefore, we may by no means understand that the Bible holds that the earth was chronologically first in the creation, nor is it presented as being the centre of the universe. In fact, the idea that the earth would be the centre of the universe was upheld by Aristotle many centuries after the book of Genesis was written, and it was adopted by the "scientific community" in Europe that was dominated by the Catholic Church, so that the famous Galileo trial was definitely not started on the grounds of what the Scripture says, but on the grounds of false interpretation of things observed, interpretations that led to false convictions within the scientific community of that time. Yet, if by the phrase "the heaven and earth ", earth appears somehow to be set forth as having a privileged position in the "heaven", this may well be explained through the fact that we, humans, live on earth, and, until now, some four millennia the book of Genesis was written, after we have made a couple of steps on the moon and have sent spacecraft to explore planets in our solar system, it doesn’t look like we may live a normal life elsewhere, so that, this book being written for humans, it would seem quite normal that the earth, which is their natural environment, be presented as being particularly important.
Then, after having seen this, the next verse should quite amaze us: "And the earth was waste and empty..." If it was waste and empty, which gives an overwhelming feeling of desolation, how would then "all the sons of God" have shouted for joy? (In the context of the book of Job one may clearly see that those "sons of God" were angels – so here are some other beings that had their existence before the earth was created, and about the creation of which the Scripture tells us nothing). Then, if we have to do with a God that is good, wise and loving God, "not a God of disorder, but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14.33), the waste and empty earth is not something that agrees with His character. And one more thing: only the earth is said to be waste and empty, not the heaven. It appears like on earth something came in that was not according to the will of God. And there is another text in the Scripture where we find the phrase "waste and empty ": that is in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 4, verse 23. In the context in Jeremiah we see plainly that we do not have a description of the state of the earth in verse 2 in Genesis 1, but the state the promised land was plunged in after the people Israel had rebelled against God: " For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have no intelligence; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and lo, it was waste and empty; and the heavens, and they had no light" (Jeremiah 4.22-23). If in Jeremiah the state of "waste and empty" is clearly the sequel of the judgment that God had executed for the sins of the people, we may think that the earth got to be in the state described in verse 2 of Genesis 1 after some judgment was executed. The book of Genesis does not tell us what happened, but, searching the Scripture, in chapter 14 of Isaiah we find something that suggests a probable cause: "How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning! Thou art cut down to the ground, that didst prostrate the nations And thou that didst say in thy heart, I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit upon the mount of assembly, in the recesses of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14.12-14). This seems to tell us that the earth had to suffer because Satan’s rebellion, the angel that, when the earth was created was together with the other "sons of God" shouting for joy, but later rebelled and was thrown on the earth. So that the earth got to be waste and empty not because God had created it thus, but because of Satan. And we can make this assertion also having in view the way Satan is shown to have a special relation with the earth: in the book of Job he was “going to and fro” on the earth, then, in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Satan promised Jesus to give him all the kingdoms of the world id He would worship him, and, finally, in the gospel of John, the Lord Jesus names him "the prince of this world". And in Isaiah, chapter 45, there is one more text that tells us that the state the of the earth in verse 2 is not what God desired: "for thus says the LORD that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it – not as waste did he create it, he formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45.18).
So, according to what the Scripture says, God had not created the heaven or the earth in a state of chaos and put things in order at a later time, but chaos comes in only as a sequel of the rebellion against the God who made all the things (see John 1.1-3) and by whom all the things subsist (see Colossians 1.17). One more thing that tells us that the degradation of the environment is the result of the revolt against the Creator we may find in chapter 3 of Genesis, when, after Adam disobeyed, God pronounced the sentence: "cursed be the ground on thy account" (Genesis 3.17). And the apostle Paul writes about this curse in the Epistle to the Romans: "for the creature has been made subject to vanity" and it "groans together and travails in pain" (see Romans 8.20-22).
Between the initial creation, briefly mentioned in verse 1, and verse 2 of the same chapter there is an interval of time about which the Scripture remains silent. And only after verse 2 come the much debated "six days of creation", that do not actually represent the initial creation, but the arrangements made on earth in order that man could have proper living conditions.
Now, once we got to the six days, we may well ask why six days? Why not six million years? Or why not six seconds, or even one millisecond? Being an almighty God, couldn’t He have set things up in no more than one nanosecond? He certainly could have, but the reason for the six days is that these days have a prophetic and spiritual meaning. These days are types, on one hand, of the dealings of God with man, and, on the other hand, the outline for the history of mankind.
First of all, what are in fact the "six days"? Are those what we normally understand in common speech? Some hold that six days would be six "eras" – long periods of time. But, for each of the six it is written "and there was evening, and there was morning". If, in this context, "day" would mean an epoch – possibly many millions of years, some interval of time the length of which even those who support this theory cannot specify -, what then could we understand by "evening" and "morning"? And if these most common words get very special interpretations, how far could we then go with the interpretations? Do we then have to do with a God that speaks in a very vague manner, allowing many interpretations? Sticking to the principle expressed by someone back in the nineteenth century, that, if the most direct interpretation of a text in the scripture does not lead to something logically absurd, then that interpretation is the right one and one should not look for a more sophisticated interpretation, we may conclude that those “six days” are normal earth days, having the same duration as our days, considering that the earth in cause and not some other planet.
We have seen that the earth got to be de "waste and empty ", most likely as a consequence of judgment. But God was not to leave the earth in that state. "The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters". This image typifies the state the sinful man is in: fallen and in darkness. But God would not abandon man, and His spirit is at work in man.
In the first day we have light, this being an image of the moment when the sinner gets to be enlightened by God as to the state he is in, for most people do not feel how solemn is to be far from God. Light reveals the emptiness: man realizes that he is a lost sinner and understands what is right and what is wrong. Separation is made between light and darkness. And this separation or discrimination is something good in the eyes of God. Separation is a principle of God, unlike what characterizes our times, when there is the general trend to be lax and say that things are to be accepted anyway, that one should not be that strict in morals to condemn certain acts and ways of life.
Then, the second day brings in another separation - "between the waters that are under the expense and the waters that are above the expense". What are the waters under and what are the waters above? We may understand that the waters above are the clouds, and those underneath are the ocean. So we have a circuit of water. We may remark, at the end of the second day, that God does not say that it was good, unlike at the end of all the other days. Yet this circuit of the water is necessary and it represents a type of the state of the man who believed the Word of God and desires to do that which is good according to the Word, but fights against the inclinations of his sinful nature. This struggle is depicted in chapter 7 of the Epistle to the Romans: "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am fleshly, sold under sin. For that which I do, I do not own: for not what I will, this I do; but what I hate, this I practise. But if what I do not will, this I practise, I consent to the law that it is right. Now then it is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell: for to will is there with me, but to do right I find not. For I do not practise the good that I will; but the evil I do not will, that I do. But if what I do not will, this I practise, it is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells in me. I find then the law upon me who will to practise what is right, that with me evil is there. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring in opposition to the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which exists in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?" (Romans7.14-24). It is clear that this situation cannot be said to be good. But, thanks God, things do not stop here.
The next day, at God’s word, the "dry land" appeared, that is the stable ground, in contrast to the waters that are troubled, and this first major event of the third day is appreciated by God. This corresponds to the end of the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans: "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself with the mind serve God's law; but with the flesh sin's law" (7.25). God takes the man out of that state of agitation and brings him on solid ground.
Yet things continued in the same day, and God also said: "Let the earth cause grass to spring up, herb producing seed, fruit-trees yielding fruit after their kind, the seed of which is in them, on the earth". This is a type of the fruit offered for God, of the good deeds inspired by God, deeds which the sinner does after he is saved through the faith in the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and delivered from the conflict in Romans 7.
Prophetically, the third day corresponds to the election of Israel, which was chosen to be a special people, separated from the other nations, which are often times in Scripture represented by the sea. That people was set apart in order to bear fruit, but, woe, up to now, the fruit were far from being in accord with the excellent call and the tender mercies of God!
Then, on the fourth day comes something that presents a difficulty: here are the sun and the moon first mentioned by name. Yet, if the sun had not existed before, how could there have been "an evening and a morning" on earth before that fourth day? Therefore, the sun must have existed before, like we have already seen that the stars existed before the earth was created. The fact that on this fourth day, the word came: "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens, to divide between the day and the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years" shows the purpose assigned to the sun, moon and stars in relation to the earth, that purpose being to indicate the seasons and years. Spiritually, the sun represents Jesus, the Son of God, who, when He was on earth, said "as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9.5). And the moon, that is not a source of light by itself, but only, during the night, when the sun is not up in the sky, reflects the light of the sun, represents the church of Christ, which is on earth while He, the Lord Jesus, is no more on earth, presenting to the world some pale reflections of His light that was shining perfectly when He was in the world.
On the fifth day the living beings in the sea were created. The sea being a type of the multitude of nations, these living beings represent those that are saved out of the multitude of nations passing through the "great tribulation" (see Revelation 7.9-17).
After that, on the sixth day, we have the living creatures on earth, and, finally, the man. Created on the sixth day "in our image, after our likeness", man that was to rule over all the creatures on earth and in the sea, represents Jesus coming the second time in order to establish His kingdom, to whom all the earth will be submitted. This sixth day is a type of the millennial kingdom. Yet the book of Revelation tells us that even the period of this excellent kingdom will end in the rebellion of the nations led by Satan against the Lord Jesus, the king anointed by God.
About the seventh day we are simply told that God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because that on it he rested from all his work which God had created in making it” (Genesis 2.1-2). Everything was complete and there was nothing else to be done. This seventh day typifies the eternal state, when there will be not a thing that will not be in perfect accord with the character of God, when God will be all in all (see 1 Corinthians 15.28). It is then the fulfillment of the promise of the "Sabbath rest" for the people of God (see Hebrews 4.9).
I do not claim that these few lines I wrote are original or that they reveal new things, but I have written this animated by the desire of bringing to attention things others have discovered long ago, to do the kind of work Isaac did when he dug again the wells that his father, Abraham, had dug before him, which the Philistines had stopped by filling them with earth, and gave them the same names they had before. May those that have the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God trust that it does not make assertions that true science can prove to be false – for the God who wishes the salvation of souls would definitely not wish to deceive man in respect of His creation -, and that only the interpretations people make can be false, and, especially, that they may go beyond the unclear aspects regarding the creation and seek first and foremost to understand the Creator and Savior.
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