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Days of Creation: Literal Days or Long Ages?

 Genesis Account of Creation: History, Symbol, Myth, or Legend?

Days of Creation: Literal days or long ages?Is the Genesis account of creation literal history and fact, or is it symbol, myth, and legend? Are the days of creation literal days or long ages ("Progressive Creation")? 

What effect do such questions have regarding the evidence for our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible? Can the Bible teaching about creation be harmonized with the claims of evolution and many "scientists" that the earth and life developed gradually over billions of years? Does it really matter?

This is a non-technical study of this issue. To read either a briefer summary or a more detailed, technical study, click on the links below.

A Brief Summary of Evidence about the Days of Creation

A Detailed Analysis of the Length of the Days of Creation

This material is included in our published book about creation vs. evolution. Click here for more information.


Consider the following approach to teaching children about creation: irst, the teacher tells a story that sounds like six consecutive days but actually had gaps between the days. Then:

"Now look at what we do when we study the creation story. Remember, when learning about God, He tells us to use two records: His word and the natural world. We believe them both. So we study to see how they fit together... "But first let's make sure we know what Genesis 1 doesn [sic] NOT say ... What does the Bible say about: ... How long each creation day was? (If child assumes they must be 24 hours see: Gen. 2:4; Dt. 10:10; Psalms 90:1-4; and 2 Pet 3:8) ... If the creation days were one right after another? ... "The Bible doesn't tell us the answer to any of these things that we may wonder about creation. Now we see there are many things about creation that the Bible is silent about. If the Bible doesn't say something, we need to be careful not to say it does." - "A Talk with Your Child about Dinosaurs," C. and H. Roberts, 1993.

This instruction is given by members of churches of Christ, who travel to churches teaching special studies about creation vs. evolution. They taught children the above without the knowledge or consent of parents.

The Bible clearly states that God created all things in the universe in six days.

Exodus 20:11; 31:17 - "In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them..."

The following verses use the terms "day" or "days" to describe various aspects of the time element of creation: Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31; 2:2,3; 5:1,2; Ex. 20:11; 31:17; Heb. 4:4. These verses would naturally lead us to believe that creation occurred in six literal, consecutive days of essentially 24 hours each.

Controversy exists, however, regarding the length of these days.

Modern "scientific" theory argues that the earth has existed for 4 or 5 billion years. Although this claim is unproved, some attempt to harmonize the Bible with it by denying that creation occurred in six literal, consecutive days.

Some say the "days" were not literal days but long ages. Others say the "days" were not consecutive, but long ages occurred between the "days." Such views are sometimes called "Progressive Creation." Note that, to include the 4 to 5 billion years of "scientific" theory, each creation "day" (or the periods between) must average 700 million years in length!

Our purpose is to examine carefully the Bible evidence regarding the days of creation.

I. The Importance of the Issue

Some say that the length of the days are unimportant. But the days of creation are an integral part of the doctrine of creation, which is a fundamental proof of God and the Bible. To weaken the doctrine about the days of creation is to weaken the doctrine of creation itself. And to weaken the doctrine of creation is to weaken faith in God and the Bible as God's word, including the New Testament.

Remember that we must not change or teach differently from God's word: Matthew 15:9,13; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 John 9-11; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13 - We should hold fast the pattern of sound words and teach no other doctrine.

[Colossians 3:17; Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; 3:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19]

A. Creation Is Doctrine for Today

Some imply that the doctrine of creation is just about Genesis 1 or Old Testament doctrine. But consider what the New Testament teaches:

Jesus rebuked people who do not believe Moses' writings.

John 5:46,47 - Moses' teaching leads us to believe Jesus and His word. If we don't believe Moses' writings, we will not believe Jesus' words!

Luke 24:25-27 - Failure to believe Moses' writings leads to failure to accept the truth of Jesus and His teachings.

God has changed His commandments from the Old Testament to the New, but facts of history do not change. Old Testament prophecy and history - especially miracles such as creation - confirm the New Testament. Rejecting the accuracy of Moses' writings will lead us to reject New Testament truth!

The doctrine of creation is part of the gospel, the doctrine of Christ.

John 1:1-3,10 - Jesus Himself was the one through whom all things were made. [Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16,17; Heb. 1:2]

Matthew 19:4 - Jesus taught that God made male and female at the beginning. So the creation was part of Jesus' doctrine! [1 Cor. 11:9,12; 15:45,45; 1 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 3:4]

Acts 4:24 - Early disciples worshipped saying God made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. [1 Tim. 6:13; Heb. 1:10; 3:4; Rev. 4:11; 10:6; 14:7]

Acts 14:15; 17:24-29 - Preaching the gospel to idol worshipers included creation as fundamental doctrine. So creation is gospel and one of the first doctrines unbelievers need to learn!

Romans 1:20,25 - Creation proves God's power and Deity, so men should worship Him.

Creation is a fundamental pare of New Testament doctrine - the doctrine of Christ. So, all the passages forbidding us to change gospel teaching apply to the doctrine of creation!

[James 3:9; Hebrews 11:3; 1 Peter 4:19; Hebrews 4:4]

B. Creation Confirms Other Major Doctrines

Creation is also fundamental to other major doctrines that Christians must believe.

Creation demonstrates that man was created in God's image, below angels but above animals

(Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:3-8)

Creation proves the power of God's word because creation was accomplished by God's spoken word,

So any view that undermines the doctrine of creation likewise undermines faith in the power of God's word, including the Scriptures.

(Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26; Psalm 33:6-9; Psalm 148:3-5; Hebrews 11:3; Matthew 8:5-13; 2 Peter 3:5-7. See Psalm 105:31,34; 106:9; John 11:39-44; 5:28,29

Creation proves God is the living God and the Source of all life.

This proves that God is the source of spiritual and eternal life - John 1:1-4; 14:6; Romans 6:4; John 5:26-29; Romans 6:23; John 6:63,68; Matthew 25:46.

So every view that undermines the Bible doctrine of creation thereby undermines our faith in God as the Giver of life, including spiritual and eternal life.

(Genesis 1:26,27; Acts 14:15; 17:24-29; Revelation 10:6; Genesis 1:11,12,20,21,24-27; 2:7,21-23; Job 33:4; Isaiah 42:5; 1 Timothy 6:13)

Creation proves God's eternal existence, since God must have existed in eternity before the creation.

Any view that undermines faith in creation likewise undermines faith that God is eternal.

(John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16,17; Isaiah 40:28; Psalms 90:2; Revelation 10:6)

Creation proves God's unlimited wisdom.

So, any view that undermines the doctrine of creation, thereby undermines our faith in the wisdom of God, including God's wisdom as revealed in the Bible.

(Psalm 136:5-9; Jeremiah 51:15; Proverbs 3:19; 8:22-31)

Creation proves God's unlimited power.

Any view that undermines the doctrine of creation likewise undermines our faith in the power of God, including God's power to save us and give us eternal life!

(Psalms 65:6; 86:8-10; 89:11-13; Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 27:5; 32:17; Romans 1:20)

Creation proves God's right to control the universe, because He created it.

Any view that undermines the doctrine of creation, thereby undermines our understanding of God's right to rule our lives.

(Psalm 24:1,2; 89:11,12; 95:5 Deuteronomy 32:5,6; Isaiah 29:16; Acts 17:24; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Peter 4:19; Romans 1:25)

Creation proves God's right to be worshiped, since only the Creator should be worshiped.

So any view that undermines the Bible doctrine of creation, also undermines our very reasons for worshipping God.

(Deuteronomy 32:15-18; Psalm 86:8-10; 139:13,14; 149:1,2; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; 95:1-7; 148:1-6; Romans 1:25; 11:36; Revelation 4:11; 14:6,7)

In short, creation proves that God Is God!

These conclusions follow from all we have already learned and are specifically taught in many passages. Any view that undermines the Bible doctrine of creation, thereby undermines our ability to even recognize who God is!

(2 Kings 19:15; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 86:8-10; 95:1-7; 100:3; Isaiah 45:18; Jeremiah 10:11,12; 1 Chron. 16:25-35 and Psalm 96:2-10; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:24-29; Romans 1:20)

II. The Meaning of the Word "Day" in Creation Accounts

Consider the evidence that the "days" of creation are literal. They are not long ages consisting of hundreds of millions of years, nor could such long ages have occurred between the days.

Note: We will give many evidences of different kinds. Some people find one kind of evidence more helpful, others find another kind more helpful. Be patient and we will give many kinds.

A. Supernatural Characteristics of Miracles Should Be Viewed as Literal.

Creation gives the evidence we described because it is miraculous. Note what this means.

Miracles serve to confirm God and His word.

Miracles are historical events that are impossible by natural law or human ability, so they could only happen by Divine power. Their occurrence serves as evidence that God exists, that Jesus is God's Son, and that the Bible is God's word.

We have seen that creation is a miracle that gives powerful evidence for God. It follows that we must avoid any doctrine that weakens or undermines the force of that miracle.

(See previous section and Exodus 7:3-5; 8:10; 14:4,30,31; Deuteronomy 4:32-45; Mark 16:20; John 5:36; 20:30,31; Acts 2:22; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:11,12; Hebrews 2:3,4; 1 Kings 18:36-39; Exodus 4:1-9)

True believers must accept Bible records of miracles as literal, historic fact.

Miracles prove nothing unless they are impossible by natural law, but nevertheless occurred as historic fact. So to claim that some supernatural aspects of miracles are legendary or symbolic, is to deny the accuracy of the Bible and to belittle the force of the miracle.

Consider the virgin birth (Luke 1:34,35) and the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:4). As with creation, the Bible uses these to validate God's existence, Jesus' authority, and God's word. But all are impossible according to the laws of science, so some folks try to "reconcile" the Bible to science by saying that the Bible accounts are not literal, historic fact. But that eliminates the power of the miracles as evidence to substantiate Divine claims! Such views constitute modernism or liberalism.

Satan undermines the power of miracles by weakening or denying the supernatural elements of miracles.

To avoid the power of the miracles of the Bible, Satan does two things:

Satan offers "false miracles" that lack the characteristics of true miracles.

By convincing people that these events are "miracles," Satan dilutes or weakens the power of real miracles as evidence.

(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Acts 8:5-13; Exodus 7:10-13; 1 Kings 18:20-40; Acts 19:11-17)

Satan then belittles the supernatural characteristics of God's miracles.

An event is a miracle because it involves certain specific characteristics that only Divine power could accomplish. So, Satan attacks those supernatural aspects by trying to convince people that they could occur by natural means other than by God's power. That is why believers must never accept natural explanations for the supernatural elements of Biblical miracles.

(Matthew 28:11-15; 12:24; Ex. 7:10-13; John 9:18-21).

In particular, one supernatural element of miracles is the time element.

Many Bible accounts of miracles specify that they happened suddenly. Given a much longer time, one might suspect that they could have occurred by nature. But the shortness of the time demonstrates that God must have done it.

For example, one reason we know miraculous healings were supernatural is that they occurred immediately or instantaneously. By contrast, fake modern so-called miraculous healings may take days, weeks, or months. The time element proves they are not really miraculous but could occur by natural processes.

So when God states a specific time element in a miracle, we must accept the time as literal history. To treat it as figurative or symbolic is to defeat the power of the miracle as evidence.

(Acts 3:7; Luke 13:11-13; Mark 2:10-12; 5:25-29; 5:35-42; Acts 13:11; 14:8-11; John 9:1,6,7; Mark 1:42; Luke 7:14,15)

The Bible repeatedly views the creation account as literal history of a miracle.

The book of Genesis is clearly presented as history.

It describes the lives of real people in historical settings naming individuals, places, rulers, genealogies, etc.: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc. Genesis and the rest of the Bible repeatedly treat these as real people and their lives as real history.

Interestingly, the NKJV in Genesis 2:4 describes the creation account as "history." (Other accounts use "genealogy," but nothing is more historical than a genealogy.)

The rest of the Bible treats creation as a literal historical miracle.

We have confirmed this already by many Scriptures. Creation is never viewed as allegory, legend, myth, figure of speech, or parable. To view the account as figurative or allegorical is to deny or belittle the integrity of Genesis and of all Scripture!

Since creation is presented as a historical miracle, it follows that we must accept the supernatural characteristics of that miracle to be real history.

Specifically, the time element of creation must be accepted as literal history.

The Bible repeatedly states that creation occurred in six days.

The time element is referenced nine times in the Genesis account itself -- Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31; 2:2 (two references); 2:3.

It is directly referenced elsewhere eight times - Gen. 5:1,2; Ex. 20:11 (twice); 31:17 (twice); and Heb. 4:4 (twice). That makes 17 direct references to the time element in creation.

So, for all the reasons we have studied, true believers must accept the time element as literal, historic fact: six literal, consecutive days, followed by a literal day of rest. To claim long ages in creation is to compromise a basic supernatural element of a major miracle. But when we recognize the time element to be literal, then no one can possibly believe in evolution or in "creation" by natural processes.

Since the Bible presents creation as a major historical miracle, true believers must defend every supernatural characteristic of the account as literal, historical fact, including the days. To compromise is to undermine faith in the Bible and faith in God.

B. "Days" Plural Are Always Literal in Moses, History, and Doctrine.

Some point out that "day" may refer to periods longer than a day. In fact, nearly 2000 verses use the Hebrew word for "day" (YOM). Context shows that about 95% of cases refer either to a literal 24-hour day or to the period of daylight (in contrast to night). So "day" is clearly the fundamental meaning, and the "days" of creation are highly unlikely to be long periods. And I know of no instance where a Bible "day" includes many thousands of years, let alone 700 million years.

Two passages say that God created all things in six "days": Exodus 20:11; 31:17.

To make sure we get the point, God gives much more information about the word "day." He uses it in ways that leave no doubt about the meaning in creation. As He gives more information, the meaning becomes more precisely defined.

The best way to understand a Bible word is to study how it is used in the context of Bible passages. Let us do this for the word "days" (plural).

Consider every verse where the NKJV translation uses "days" (plural).

The chart below categorizes all such verses (Old and New Testaments) according to the nature of the books (law, history or prophecy, etc.) and the meaning (literal days or long periods).

Type of context Total verses Literal days Long ages?? Millions of years
Moses' writings 191 all none none
Other history, doctrine, poetry 406 all none none
Prophecy 177 166 11 (??) none
Total 774 763 11 (??) none

This may seem technical (though "scientific" types will find it helpful). The lesson is:

In the writings of Moses and in history and doctrine, "days" (plural) always refers to literal days, never to longer periods. "Days" that are longer periods are found only in prophecy, but no one believes that Genesis 1 is prophecy.

And remember that, no Bible passage - not even prophecy - uses "days" to refer to ages lasting many hundreds of millions of years each.

C. "Day" with a Number Is Always Literal in Moses, History, and Doctrine

Several passages use "day" with a number in describing creation.

Three passages refer to days of creation using a cardinal number: Exodus 20:11; 31:17; Genesis 1:5. A "cardinal" number simply indicates how many items are being described ("one," "two," "three," etc.).

Ten passages refer to creation using "day" with an ordinal number: Genesis 1:8,13,19,23,31; 2:2,3; Exodus 20:11; 31:17; Hebrews 4:4. An "ordinal" number indicates the order of the items ("first," "second," "third," etc.). [Some versions translate Genesis 1:5 as an ordinal number ("first day"), but the original text has a cardinal number ("one day").]

Counting a specific number of days implies a more precise or exact meaning than simply saying "day" or "days." Placing them in order becomes even more specific.

Consider every Bible passage using a number with the word for "day."

The chart below categorizes the verses according to the nature of the books (law, history or prophecy, etc.). Then it shows whether the days are literal or could be longer periods or could refer to hundreds of millions of years.

Type of context Total verses Literal days Long ages?? Millions of years
Moses' writings 227 all none none
Other history, doctrine, poetry 202 all none none
Prophecy 54 34 20 (??) none
Total 483 463 20 (??) none

Again, the lesson is simple:

In the writings of Moses and in history and doctrine, "day" with a number always refers to a literal day, never to longer periods. Uses that mean longer periods are found only in prophecy, but no one believes that Genesis 1 is prophecy

And further, whenever "day" is used with a number to describe an event (such as creation in "six days"), the days are always consecutive, sequential days. So, the creation references to "day" with a number prove that the days are literal and that no long ages occurred between the days.

And remember that, no Bible passage - not even prophecy - uses "days" to refer to ages lasting many hundreds of millions of years each.

D. Sequences of Days with Ordinal Numbers Are Always Literal Consecutive Days

13 times "day" is used with an ordinal number for two or more days in sequence.

They describe a "first day," "second day," etc., as in Genesis 1: Genesis 1:8-2:3; Exodus 14:9,10; Numbers 6:9,10; 7:12-78; 28:16,17; 29:17-35; Joshua 6:14,15; Judges 19:5-8; 20:22-30; Esther 9:17,18,21 (3 instances); Ezekiel 45:21-25.

Every one of these cases describes consecutive literal 24-hour days!

These are the closest possible parallels to Gen. 1, and all refer to consecutive, sequential literal days. Surely Genesis 1&2 must carry this same meaning.

The language of Scripture confirms that the inspired writer intended to state that creation occurred in six consecutive, literal days.

E. "In X Days" Always Refers to Literal Consecutive Days

Two passages state that God made everything "in six days": Exodus 20:11; 31:17. ["In" is added by the translators, because the context clearly implies it.] Just as adding a specific number gives more information than just "day," so adding the word "in" tells that the entire event under consideration was completed within the time described: "in six days."

The Bible uses an expression such as "in X days" ten times.

Exodus 20:11; 31:17 - six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth ...

2 Chronicles 29:17 -- ... on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. Then they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.

Nehemiah 6:15 -- So the wall was finished ... in fifty-two days.

Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Mark 15:29; John 2:19,20 - Jesus would be raised in three days after His death.

Acts 20:6 -- But we sailed away from Philippi ... and in five days joined them at Troas

[Consider also different but related expressions in Lev. 12:2; Num. 14:34; Luke 4:2.]

Observations about the examples:

In every case, without exception, this expression means, not just literal days, but literal consecutive, sequential days. The entire point is to state the limits of a literal time span within which an event or task was completed. This proves, not just that creation days were literal days, but also that no long ages occurred between the days.

So, "in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them" affirms that all of creation was completely formed in six literal, consecutive days. To deny it is to flatly deny Scripture!

For comparison, note the verses that state Jesus arose "in three days" after His death. This means Jesus' resurrection was completed within a time span of three literal, consecutive days after His death. [The language may include partial days, but still they are days, not years, centuries, or millennia!] To deny this would be to deny the truthfulness of Scripture regarding a foundational miracle on which our faith is based. How would we react if someone claimed Jesus was raised after three long periods of millions of years?

The attempt to include long ages in creation flatly denies the truthfulness of Scripture about a miracle that is foundational to our faith!

F. Creation Days Are Defined to Be "Evening and Morning"

Each day in Genesis 1 is defined to consist of "evening and morning."

The evening and the morning were the first day (v5), the second day (v8), third day (v13), the fourth day (v19), the fifth day (v23), the sixth day (v31)

God not only numbered each day, but to be even more specific He repeatedly emphasized that each day consisted of evening and morning.

Consider Bible passages using Hebrew words "evening" and "morning" together.

The chart below categorizes the verses according to the nature of the books (law, history or prophecy, etc.). Then it shows whether the days are literal or could be longer periods or could refer to hundreds of millions of years.

Type of context Total verses Literal days Long ages?? Millions of years
Moses' writings 20 all none none
Other history, doctrine, poetry 13 all none none
Prophecy 2 ?? 2 (??) none
Total 35 33+ 2 (??) none

For examples note Exodus 18:13; Ezra 3:3,4 [See also Ex. 27:21; Lev. 24:3; Num. 9:21; I Chron. 16:40; 2 Chron. 2:4; 13:11; 31:3; Job 4:20; Psa. 55:17; 65:8; Dan. 8:26]

Observations about the results:

This expression is used primarily by Moses. In the writings of Moses and all history, the expression always refers to literal days, never to longer periods! It could refer to longer periods only in prophecy, but no one believes Genesis 1 is prophecy.

And, no Bible passage - not even prophecy - uses the expression to refer to ages lasting hundreds of millions of years. There simply is no Bible authority whatever for such a conclusion.

Genesis 1:5,14-19 - Darkness was called "night" and was separated from light, which is called "day." So the first day and the fourth day are defined to consist of "evening and morning," which is defined to men darkness and light. Since all the days consisted of evening and morning, it follows that each creation day was a literal 24-hour day, as contrasted to the "years."

The clear intent of Scripture is violated by all attempts to find long ages in creation.

G. The Seventh-Day Sabbath Defines the Days of Creation to Be Literal.

Note the parallel in the "seventh-day" passages

Genesis 2:2,3 - On the seventh day God ended His work and rested on the seventh day from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work. Note the references to "it."

Exodus 20:11 - In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, etc., and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:9,10 - For this reason the people were to work six days then rest on the Sabbath, which was the seventh day.

Note the conclusions that follow:

* What God blessed and sanctified was the seventh day on which He rested - Gen. 2:3.

* But what God blessed and hallowed was the Sabbath day (7th day) - Exodus 20:11.

* The people were to work six days, then rest on the seventh day - the Sabbath - like God did at Creation.

* So the Sabbath day was the seventh day, the day on which God rested. But the Sabbath day was a literal 24-hour day of rest following six literal days of work. So, the seventh day on which God rested at creation was a literal day following the literal six days on which He worked!

Summary and Conclusion about the Definition of "Day"

God identifies the days of creation in the following ways, all of which consistently mean literal days in historic/doctrinal contexts:

(1) "Days" (plural)

(2) "Day" with a cardinal number ("six days") and ordinal numbers ("second day," "third")

(3) A sequence of consecutive ordinal numbers: "second" then "third," etc.

(4) Duration of time: "in six days"

(5) Evening and morning, day and night, darkness and light

(6) The seventh-day Sabbath

The clear intent of these expressions is to define the days of creation to be a sequence of six literal, consecutive days followed by a seventh day of rest.

Question: If God meant to inform us that He created everything in six literal, consecutive days, what more could He have said that He did not say?

Miracles prove God's Deity and confirm His word. Creation is one of the most fundamental of all miracles. To deny the literal days of creation is to undermine the force of creation as evidence for God's existence and power, making evolution easier to believe. Furthermore, it undermines the integrity of the Bible as history and thereby undermines faith in all Bible miracles. One who advocates such views has taken the first step that, if followed logically, will lead him or those who hear him into liberalism and modernism.

III. Other Biblical Evidence Regarding the Length of the Days

A. Bible Language Is Adequate to Describe Long Time Periods.

If creation lasted billions of years, why did God not say so? Some claim that He spoke allegorically or accommodatively, because ancient people would not understand long ages.

This very idea is based on evolution! It implies that early people were not intelligent and developed enough to understand the concept of long ages. The Bible denies this whole concept.

But remember, Genesis and Exodus were written by Moses, 2500 years after Creation. Let us consider whether or not the language was available for God to express long ages.

Old Testament words could adequately describe long ages and large numbers.

"Generation" is used as a thousand generations (Deut. 7:9; 1 Chron. 16:15; Psalms 105:8) or many generations (Deut. 32:7; Isaiah 58:12; 60:15; 61:4). [Cf. "age" -Job 8:8.]

"Year" may be used in the plural ("years") to express long time periods as a thousand years (Ecc. 6:6) or many years (Ezra 5:11; Neh. 9:30).

Large number are expressed as "thousands of thousands" (Psalms 68:17) and "ten thousand times ten thousand" (Dan. 7:10). In Genesis 24:60 Moses himself speaks of "thousands of ten thousands."

Why couldn't God have simply said that each period of creation required many thousands of thousands of years?

New Testament words for large numbers

Revelation 9:16 - An army contained two hundred million horsemen.

Revelation 5:11 refers to ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.

Yet the New Testament still says God rested from creation on "the seventh day" (Heb. 4:4).

The Bible could easily have said that creation took long ages or thousands of thousands of years, and the people could have understood. It does not say it simply because such ages never occurred! God spoke instead of "six days" of creation, because that is how long it took!

B. Life Cannot Survive "Evenings" Millions of Years Long

Evening = night = darkness

As discussed earlier, each day of creation consisted of "evening and morning." Genesis 1:3-5,14-16 show "evening" means "night" and "darkness," and "morning" means "light" or "day."

But if the days of creation were many millions of years long, then the darkness must have lasted millions of years and the daylight must have lasted millions of years.

How could living things survive such periods of darkness?

Plants and animals both need sunlight for growth and health. "Evenings" of millions of years of darkness would destroy both plants and animals.

C. Plants Cannot Survive Millions of Years Without Animals

Plants were made the third day, but fish, birds, and animals on the fifth and sixth days. This means the plants must have survived all the fourth day without any animals.

If each day was hundreds of millions of years long, how could plants survive that long without animals? Many plants cannot reproduce without bees, insects, or birds to pollinate them.

Long ages during or between the "days" would destroy plants before animals were created.

D. Creation Was "So" and Was "Good" During the Creation Days

Some claim that creation days were literal days, but on each day God simply decreed what would be made. Then following each creation day was a long period of millions of years in which the creation decree was carried out. Then another day of creation would occur, etc. So, the "days" would be literal but not consecutive, and the whole process took billions of years.

But we have proved that the days were consecutive and that long ages were not possible.

Note further:

God's creation decrees were "so" during the creation days.

Note the "it was so" expressions on the following days: Second day - v7, third day - vv 9,11, fourth day - v15, sixth day - vv 24,30.

"It was so" clearly means that God's decree was fulfilled or came to pass.

But each "it was so" statement occurs before the completion of the creation day. The pattern is: "... and it was so ... and the evening and the morning were the second day," etc. So God's creative decrees were actually fulfilled on the day named, not millions of years later.

What God created was declared to be "good" during the creation days.

Note the following days: Third day - vv 10,12,13, fourth day - vv 18,19, fifth day - v21, sixth day - vv 25,31.

Note that God first "saw" what He had made, then He declared it to be "good." But "it was good" statements occurred during the days of creation! Note the following:

"And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day" - vv 12,13. (See vv18,19 for the fourth day.)

"Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day" - v31.

So before each creation day ended, God saw what He had made and declared it to be good. By the end of the sixth day He saw everything He had made and declared it all to be very good.

Arguments for long ages in creation, no matter how ingeniously and artificially contrived, invariably end up flatly contradicting the Bible text. The fact remains that God created everything "in six days," just as the Bible says.

E. By Man Came Death

Evolution claims that animals experienced death for thousands of generations before man existed as an inherently part of man's evolution. Proponents of long ages in creation generally agree that death existed long before man's existence (as proved by the fossils in the "Geologic column.") They say the consequence of sin was spiritual death only, not physical death.

Consider the teaching of the Bible:

The consequence of sin did include physical death.

Genesis 2:16,17; 3:17-19 - The punishment for sin included that man would return to the dust (cf. Psa. 104:29; Ecc. 12:7). He was cut off from the tree of life so he could not live forever (3:22-24).

Genesis 3:21 - After the sin, God clothed people with animal skins. This is the first indication of animal death.

1 Corinthians 15:21,22 - All men die because of what Adam did, but Jesus will overcome this death by raising all men from the dead (vv 25,26). Clearly this is physical death.

Revelation 21:4; 22:3 - In heaven will be no death or other problems caused by sin.

So physical death is one consequence of sin. To deny this is to flatly deny Scripture. So how could death have been part of the natural order for millions of years before Adam and Eve?

[Hebrews 2:14,15]

Everything about creation was very good - 1:31.

The Bible views death as an enemy, a curse, and the power of the devil (Gen. 2:16,17: 3:17-19; 1 Cor. 15:26,54-57; Heb. 2:14,15; Rev. 21:4; 22:3). Death involves pain, suffering, shedding of blood, disease, accidents, and violence. How can this be part of God's "very good" creation?

But long-age proponents claim that God created death as part of the "very good" creation. The effect is to blame God for that which the Bible says is the enemy of man, the power of Satan, and the curse of sin! God says: "by man came death" (1 Cor. 15:21) and "in Adam all die" (v22). So how could death exist before Adam lived and committed sin?

Once again long-age proponents have accepted another major tenet of evolution and contradicted another major truth of creation.

F. Miracles Do Not Fit Natural Aging Processes ("Apparent Age")

Progressive creationists cite "scientific" evidence implying the earth is billions of years old. They say God would be deceitful if He made everything in six days and then left these apparent indications that creation is older.

But the whole point of miracles is that they don't fit scientific patterns, including normal patterns of aging.

As we have discussed, one supernatural characteristic of miracles is that they often very quickly produce results that nature requires long periods to produce. If someone tried to explain the effect of the miracle by natural processes, he would be misled about how long it took. This is called "apparent age." But the mistake is in assuming the effect occurred by nature rather than by miracle.

Consider some examples:

John 2:1-11 - Jesus turned water to wine miraculously and instantaneously. But if one assumed the wine developed by natural processes, he would mistakenly assume that it required months to develop (apparent age).

Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39 - From a few loaves and fishes, Jesus instantaneously produced food to feed thousands. Seeing the food, one might mistakenly have assumed it resulted from months of natural growth of grain and fish (apparent age).

The same point can be made regarding many other miracles, such as miraculous healings. Observing the result after the fact, one might assume these events occurred naturally over a long time. His error would be in ignoring the fact that miracles can produce the same effect quickly.

This again is why we emphasize the miraculous time element. If one assumes long periods of time, he removes a major supernatural aspect of the miracle and is led to accept natural explanations. But if he recognizes an event to be a miracle, he learns not to expect natural explanations regarding apparent age.

This points out the whole problem of trying to use science to explain miracles. Miracles do not follow the laws of science! So why be surprised when "scientific" studies appear to contradict the results of a miracle?

Similarly, God miraculously created a mature, functioning universe.

God created all things mature and fully functioning on the very day they were created.

Plants were mature enough to reproduce (1:11,12), so their fruit could be eaten (1:29; 3:2).

Heavenly bodies were created capable of immediately giving light on earth (1:14-18). Though they are "light years" away, God created them so their light that could be seen on earth from the day they were made.

Birds were created mature enough to fly; birds and fish were able to reproduce (1:20-22).

People were capable of marrying and reproducing from the beginning (1:28; 2:24).

So all aspects of creation were formed mature and functioning. This is not deception; it is creation of a mature universe capable of accomplishing God's purpose. But as with other miracles, the result would have apparent age. Had someone observed each thing immediately after it was made, he might mistakenly assume it was many years old, but his error would come from assuming that it resulted from natural processes rather than miracle!

This is exactly the error of those who use "scientific" evidence to argue for an old earth. Such evidence invariably assumes that the effects came from natural processes, ignoring the fact God miraculously created all things mature and functioning.

God cannot be accused of deceit when He plainly told us how long creation took.

Seventeen times God's word states the time element of creation. If God plainly and directly states the length of time, but people refuse to believe what He plainly said, what right have they to complain about deceit?

So, the real problem is that people believe human wisdom, ignore Divine revelation, and then criticize those who prefer to believe God! And once again progressive creationists have accepted an evolutionary argument and rejected Bible teaching.

G. Historical Fact Is Established by the Testimony of Witnesses

Science has only a limited role in studying events of history.

Romans 1:20 - Observing the universe tells us, not the events of creation, but the effect of those events in nature (Psalms 19:1). So by observation, science can tell us how the universe works now. Such observations can also tell us that no current law or power of nature is sufficient to cause the universe. This compels us to accept the only logical alternative, which is the existence of a supreme, living, intelligent Creator.

But science cannot tell us specifically what happened at creation. Can "science" design some experiment to tell us details about the life of George Washington? No, that is a matter of history. Natural science proves little about the details of past events, because past events cannot be studied by repeatable experiments.

Likewise, science cannot tell us details of creation, such as how long it took. If God did it, then it was a supernatural act beyond the power of natural law, and it is a fact of history. It follows that we cannot use natural law to determine how it happened or how long it took.

How then can we determine what did happen at creation?

Matters of history are established by the testimony of witnesses.

Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15 - Plural witnesses were required to convict one of a capital crime under the law. [Hebrews 10:28]

Matthew 18:16 - The gospel requires the same procedure to convict a Christian of sin. [2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19]

John 8:17 - Jesus endorsed this principle as evidence for His claims: the testimony of two men is true.

This is the same basis used in our courts today to establish the truth regarding past events.

This is how the Bible establishes the validity of miracles.

All miracles are matters of history, not "science." No experiment can repeat them, because they do not follow the principles of natural law. Yet we have conclusive evidence they happened.

John 20:29-31; 21:24 - We believe in miracles because of the testimony of witnesses. [2 Peter 1:13-18; 1 John 1:1-4]

Specifically, the miracle of Jesus' resurrection is established by witnesses - Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:20; 5:30-32; 10:40-42; 1 Cor. 15:1-8.

We believe in miracles, not because they can be proved scientifically, but because we have valid historical evidence that they occurred: the testimony of witnesses.

What witnesses were present at creation?

Job 38:4 - "Were you there?" Who was present to witness the historical facts of creation? Only God was present, so only Deity can testify to the facts about what happened.

Genesis 1:1,2,26,27; John 1:1-3,14 - The Bible records the testimony of the only witnesses present at creation: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The witnesses say it happened "in six days," meaning six literal, consecutive days. The testimony of these witnesses is found in the Bible, and we know it is their message because of the miracles it records, including fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection.

When people today contradict the Bible record about creation, they fly in the face of historic fact. They appeal to "science," which can prove nothing about miracles or history, then they deny or contradict the only real historical records we have. In so doing, they impugn the testimony of God, and they throw doubt on the Bible record of all miracles.

All attempts to place long ages into creation simply contradict the Bible record.


Some claim that God reveals Himself in two books: nature and the Bible. Then they proceed to accept human reasoning about nature in direct contradiction to what the Bible says. In so doing they make the serious error of placing man's wisdom above Divine revelation.

The information learned from nature is limited.

The Bible says only that nature can show us God's existence, power, and glory (Rom. 1:20; Psalms 19:1). But it cannot reveal God's will for our lives, nor can it prove events of creation.

Modern science is not nature.

The Bible says we can learn some lessons from the things of Divine origin (the heavens, etc.). But science is human wisdom. It is conclusions man has reached from his observations about nature.

Natural science deals with current natural processes, not with history and surely not with miracles.

The scientific method involves repeatable experiments about current processes. But as already discussed, the events of creation are history. They cannot be repeated.

Specifically, science can never directly investigate any miracle, because by definition a miracle does not follow natural law! History can testify that miracles occurred, but to use science to examine miraculous events is to miss the whole point!

(Note further that physical evidence about the distant past would be greatly altered by the flood. Forty days of rains - accompanied by underground flooding and probably volcanic action followed by standing water worldwide for a year - would cause incredible changes. This would also make it impossible for modern science to know for sure what happened before the flood.)

Science is fallible and changing; Scripture is infallible and unchanging.

The Bible claims to be the very word of God Himself -- 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:3-5; John 16:13; Matthew 10:19,20; Galatians 1:8-12; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Luke 10:16.

As such, the Bible cannot be wrong, because God is never wrong. The Bible never changes, because it never needs correction - Psalm 119:128; Titus 1:2; John 17:17; Psalm 33:4; 19:8; 147:4,5; Rom. 3:4; Job 37:16; Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18; Deut. 18:20-22.

Scientists freely admit that science has often been wrong. Its views are continually revised.

So why should science be viewed as authoritative as the teaching of Scripture?

The Bible warns about the dangers of human wisdom and false science.

Remember, science is human learning, human wisdom.

1 Timothy 6:20 - Paul warned to avoid "science falsely so called" (KJV).

Romans 3:4 - Let God be true but every man a liar.

1 Corinthians 1:18-29 - Human wisdom often leads people to reject the gospel.

True Bible believers must reject human wisdom whenever it disagrees with Scripture -- Matthew 15:9,13; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 John 9-11; Colossians 3:17; Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; 3:5,6; Revelation 22:18,19; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13.

Of course, we must take care to properly understand Scripture. And when true science has reached real facts, they will never contradict the Bible. Nevertheless, the primary issue must always be what Scripture says. If Scripture clearly teaches a viewpoint, then we must defend it regardless of "science."

Every compromise weakens our defense of truth and evidence for God, etc.

Those who argue for long ages in creation have rejected the teaching of Scripture in order to accommodate human wisdom. A simple study of Scripture alone would never lead anyone to conclude that creation lasted long ages, let alone millions of years. But people have made human wisdom a higher authority than Scripture. This again demonstrates why we find this issue so troubling.

Some long-age proponents already claim Noah's flood may have been local instead of worldwide. What's next and how far do we go? Will they accept theistic evolution? Will they compromise the virgin birth or the resurrection? Where does it stop?

Biblical creation is at war with naturalistic evolution. As in every such war, compromise of principle weakens the side of truth. As with most such compromises, neither side is satisfied. People of real conviction on both sides recognize long ages for what they are: a compromise of the obvious intent of the Genesis account.

(C) Copyright 2013, David E. Pratte;
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