One of the questions that often arises out of the opening section of the Bible is the amount of time that transpires in the course of the creation process. A better question should focus on the duration of the creation process until the occurrence of The Fall. As we look at the nature of time, we will discover that any attempt to measure the pre-Fall age in terms of time becomes meaningless. I maintain that God, Who is the agency of creation, operates outside of time and that attempting to assign a specific duration of time to His activities is generally fruitless.
Old-Earth and Young-Earth Adherents
Secular scientists estimate that the period of The Creation is something of the order of 18 billion (18,000,000,000) years. We can refer to this view as the “old-earth” view. Strict Bible creationists, on the other hand, believe that events of The Creation account took seven twenty-four-hour days (168 hours) and hence The Creation is only several thousand years old. This may be called the “young-earth” view. In either case, both groups are speculating about the quantity of time that transpired during these events.
Time is an elusive quantity. We measure it in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, etc. Actually, these units of measure are an attempt to measure duration between events. Thus the “duration” of our lives is:
“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years.” (Psalm 90:10)
God’s view of time, however, is different from ours:
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
Entropy: Time as Disorder
Science argues that the true measure of duration is entropy. Entropy is the measure of order/disorder. The Creation is moving from a state of order to a state of disorder; from a state in which energy transfer is possible to a state of uniform temperature in which no energy transfer is possible. Therefore, a true measure of time is the duration between these two points: order and disorder.
The Creation story is told twice in this Biblical section. Firstly, we have the general account of The Creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3) and, secondly, the more detailed account of man’s creation (Genesis 2:4-2:25). Scientists that embrace the “old-earth” view, argue that the duration between the events of The Creation is a very long time, perhaps billions of years. This position facilitates the position of natural evolution. On the other hand, those who support a strict creationist or “young-earth” position, argue that the entire process required only seven days (168 hours). By attempting to measure the events of The Creation in terms of time, both “old-earth” scientists and “young-earth” creationists are imposing a post-Fall view of time on their frame of thinking. It seems to me that the more important question behind these two positions is “Who is responsible for The Creation?” instead of “What was its duration?”
But returning to the question at hand, “What was the duration of the creation event?” I believe our best insight comes from the account of the Seventh Day.
“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
The activity of creating is something that only God can do. It means “bringing something into existence where nothing existed before”. The fundamental laws of Physics declare that the quantity of matter and energy in The Universe is constant, i.e., nothing is being created at this point of history. This means that God has been resting from creating since the initial events of the creation process. The implication of this is that the “seventh day” is an ongoing period of events. More specifically, the “seventh day” is longer than 24 hours. If the seventh day is longer than 24 hours then the other Creation Days may also have been longer than 24 hours. Therefore, we conclude that the duration between the events of The Creation and thus the duration of The Creation has not been revealed.
There is one other clue that indicates that we do not possess sufficient information to determine the duration of time from the initial creation event until the present. Man was originally created and placed in “the Garden of Eden” in what we might call a state of “innocence”. The duration of the period between his creation and “The Fall” is not revealed. As we read the story we may imagine that the duration could be seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, etc. In other words, there was an undetermined period of events between the creation of man and his fall. We simply do not know. This fact makes it impossible to determine the duration of the events recorded in this section of the Bible.
Again, I would like to emphasize that duration of the Events of Creation is much less important than the question of “Who is the Creator?” For this we credit the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This is His memorial name to all generations. He is the Creator, the Sustainer and, once The Fall occurred, the Redeemer.
What Happened as a Result of The Fall?
A second creation account is recorded in Genesis 2. This account focuses on the creation of man and the unique position in which he stands. Man was created in God’s own image. This probably means that man shares some important characteristics with God. We suspect that this includes the capacity to have manifestation and communication in both the spiritual and physical realms. In this account we learn about the “Garden of Eden” and the fruit-bearing trees placed in it to supply food for man and the animal kingdom. We find two additional trees in the “Garden” which are spiritual in nature. These are the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. These trees are symbolic of communion and communication in the spiritual realm (heaven). Man was commanded to eat of all the trees (including the “Tree of Life”) and was warned not to eat of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. The consequences of eating of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” would be death.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Death in a Biblical context always means “separation” and never means “cessation of being”. So, when man ate of this tree, he was driven out of The Garden and “separated” from the “Tree of Life”.
“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)
Since man, with the capacity of eating of the “Tree of Life”, would have been sustained indefinitely, the duration man spent in The Garden before The Fall can not be measured in terms of time. Again, we face the fact that there is an undetermined period spanning the events involved in the Biblical account of The Creation.
Eating of the spiritual trees of The Garden represents communion and/or communication in the spiritual realm. Before he rebelled against God’s command concerning the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”, man enjoyed open communion and communication with God. He was sustained by the presence of God. He understood every event as good or evil in reference to God and not to himself. The spiritual character that we know as the “Satan” was prevented from communicating with man, thus man did not know condemnation. Though the block in communication between the Satan and man is not explicitly stated in the Scriptures, it seems evident that it was there. Man only began to experience condemnation from “the accuser of the brothers” after he chose to disobey God. It seems that when man ate the fruit that a channel of communication with the Satan was opened. Man must have rationalized that he could eat of both trees even though God had declared that he could not. He ate of the forbidden tree. The consequences of eating of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” were:
- He was separated from God and, hence, was no longer sustained by God’s presence. This would have started the biological clock in man, leading ultimately to his physical death.
- He was prevented from establishing communion or communication with God by his own initiative.
- He was subjected to communion and communication with Satan. This led to evaluating every event relative to himself rather than God. Man became “self-consumed” as a result and has subsequently existed under the tyranny of the illusion of self-determination under a continual flow of Satanic condemnation. This is the condition of “fallen man”.
Creation Redeemed as We Take Up Our Cross
The Bible reveals God’s very broad vision for redemption. The ultimate prophetic picture of the final form of The Creation shows a restoration of many of the conditions that existed before The Fall. Hence, we define “Redemption” as the restoration of God’s Creation to a state in which every event is judged relative to God alone and in which man lives once again in full communion with God and is indefinitely sustained by Him (eternal life). Our challenge as believers is to learn our role in this redemption process.
Messiah Jesus exhorted us as believers to “take up our cross and follow Him”. What is meant by this expression is our decision to evaluate every situation good or evil relative to God rather than to ourselves. Jesus said that His meat was to do the will of the Father. As believers we must deny ourselves, seek to know God’s will concerning every matter and carry out God’s revealed will. By doing so we essentially reverse the action of Adam in The Garden.