GOD'S CREATION (Genesis 1-2)
The Lord has taught us that the creation we see around us was brought into being by His personal intervention. It was not brought into being from anything that previously existed (Romans 4:17, Hebrews 11:3). Neither the universe nor matter itself are eternal. They came into being by being willed and spoken into being by God (Genesis 1:3, 6,9...). God further reveals that, just as creation owes its origin solely to God's will and word, so also it continues to exist solely because of His will and word (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17). Things are not permanent because they are made of atoms, but simply because God is consistent and stable. Should He decide to put an end to creation, He would simply quit willing it to be. Then the atomic particles would quit spinning around within their atoms, the atoms' energy would no longer exist, and all non-spiritual things would simply cease to be. You see, the confidence we have about our permanency is rooted in ignorance. Existence is not in itself a deception, as the Buddhists say,1 but its appearance is deceiving (to fallen man).
In this act of creation, we are told, all three Persons were at work (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16). It is therefore not really accurate to say that the Father is the Creator, the Son the Redeemer, and the Spirit the Sanctifier. Furthermore, although it is not revealed just how it happens, it is Christ Who holds all things together (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17).
Why did God create? It is popularly said, "for man." But the Scriptures do not actually teach that. What they do teach is that it was for Christ Jesus that all of this came into being: "...all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 2:10; Romans 11:36 -- Greek). Before any secondary goal He had in mind when creating, the Father was seeking to glorify His Son. Glorifying His pure and holy Son seems to be the greatest joy of our Father. This does not mean that He did not bring creation into being for the sake of man, but rather that He also brought both creation and man into being because of some reason that had to do with His Son. It is His Son, not the human race, that is the "apple of His eye." Therefore, it was not merely so that man could be manifested that God willed to create, but so that His Son might be manifested.
God reveals that He brought into being what we would today call a two-dimension creation, "heaven" and "earth" (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16). We must keep in mind, however, that the "heaven" spoken about in the Scriptures refers not merely to the physical heavens; it is a term pointing to (1) the atmosphere above the ground (Genesis 1:6-8), (2) the deep space with its stars (Psalms 8:3), and (3) the dimension, invisible to men, in which God has established His "throne" or kingdom, and in which His angels are resident (Psalms 11:4; Matthew 5:34, 18:1; see also 2 Corinthians 12:2); perhaps it is for that reason that the Hebrew term for "heaven" is actually a plural term: "the heavens."
The two primary designations for creation in the Scriptures are "the heavens" (all three of the above) and "the earth" (our planet). Modern Christians, on the other hand, tend to think in terms of "heaven" (the Biblical "third" heaven -- 2 Corinthians 12:2) and the "universe" (i.e., the planet Earth plus the first two heavens). In this chapter, the terms will be used in this latter sense.
Heaven: the dimension of spirit
About the creation and the history of this dimension, the "third heaven," very little has been revealed. The angels were created by God (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:16), and in great numbers (Job 25:3; Hebrews 12:22). They were in existence before the creation of our dimension (Job 38:7). They were created in different orders of power and authority, and in some kind of hierarchical relation to each other (Isaiah 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Peter 3:22; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7). The angels are mighty in power (Psalm 103:20), and yet the very purpose for which they were created was to execute God's will on behalf of the creation, especially on behalf of man (Psalms 103:20-21; Matthew 13:36-41; Luke 16:22; Hebrews 1:7). Indeed, they are described as all being "ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). They were to function as hidden servants, ministering Someone Else's will for someone else's good.
The Father, Son and Spirit; the dimension of heaven; the angels in their relationship to God and to each other: Thessalonians together constitute the "kingdom of God" (or, "kingdom of heaven"). It is this dimension -- its glory, its lifestyle and its relationships -- that Jesus was to bring down to man (e.g., Luke 16:16). It was this kingdom that was at the very center of His teaching. It is a dimension "saturated" (as it were) with God's presence and glory; and it is perfect in its harmony because there is no disobedience to His perfect will. And at the beginning all its citizens were content to let God's will order all things.
The universe: the dimension of matter
In contrast with His creation of heaven, when creating the universe of matter God created a truly different dimension from His own. Heaven contained His "visible" presence, and all its citizens shared in the characteristics of spirit. Heaven was ordered spirit, we might say: but now God set about to create ordered matter. Its citizens would therefore have an independence of being that the angels did not know.
We are not to think of the original Earth with the images we now find natural to employ in our thinking. Pre-fallen, pre-flooded nature was different in many respects from the nature around us now. Remember, the creation was not yet cut off from the Creator (e.g., Genesis 2:19, 3:8), and His immediate presence would guarantee its perfect blessedness. What we see around us today is the restructured residue of that former order (Genesis 6:11-13; 2 Peter 3:5-6, 2:5; Romans 8:20f).
The Lord Adam: human nature
Man was created, God said, "in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Genesis 1:26, 1:27, 5:1, 9:6). This means that God, after a manner of speaking, reproduced Himself in another medium (i.e., matter), in a scaled-down version, so that man would be a "self-portrait" (a living self-portrait) of the Divine Artist.
God is personal, and so man was created personal: with reason, memory, will and whatever else is essential to being a person. Whatever resemblances of "form" there might be will be unknown until we see Him "face to face."2
Furthermore, God was Lord over a kingdom; and so man was created to be lord over a kingdom: to have the same place in this dimension that God has in His (within the bounds appropriate for a created being). Adam was given the commission to "...rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1:28). When he came upon a herd of deer, for example, instead of running away they would come to him, and acknowledge in some manner appropriate to deer that "Adam is my lord." After all, had it not been Adam who had given them their identity when the Lord God brought them to him?
And what a creature this man was, too! Since none of the destructive genetic and psychological effects of sin existed, man was magnificent in every way. Physically, he would have had the use of 100% of his brain's power for memory and analysis, instead of the reputed 3-5% we have now. And what other different kinds of mental powers must exist when the brain is working at its full potential? Might man, for example, have been able to explore the nervous system of a creature by just "looking" at it and thinking "nervous system"? Could he "feel" the chemical constituents of a rock? Are the present apparent manifestations of "extra-sensory" perception and telekinesis the sin-scarred and demon-manipulated remnants of a former power natural to man? While his "computer" may not have been preprogrammed with data at his creation (with the exception of language: Genesis 1:28, 2:20, 2:23), he was nevertheless in possession of a flawless and awesome learning center. But then, his brain just may have been already programmed at creation with many marvelous instincts and "bits" of knowledge.3
Three Biblical terms are needed to describe man's constitution: body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 4:12). The exact relationship between the three is not revealed by God, and they do not admit of easy intellectual cleavages; as the passage from Hebrews implies, the distinction between spirit and soul can be made only by means of supernatural revelation. The following is one model that seems to me to fit the data supplied from the Scriptures: it starts with the basic premise that man as created by God is most essentially a spirit (the "breath" breathed into Adam in Genesis 2:7?), a spirit who relates to this dimension and experiences this dimension by means of his body and soul. Man as a spirit can exist apart from his body-soul (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Acts 7:59), but it is an unnatural existence for him (unlike the angels). Death consists precisely of the tearing away of the spirit from the body-soul. The body-soul is a "this-dimensional" reality which was created by God to be a perfect counterpart for the spirit, enabling man to experience an existence independent from God's own dimension. The spirit possesses life, consciousness, power and form; the human body-soul similarly possesses life, consciousness, power and form (all of which we also see in varying lesser degrees in animals, which are not spiritual in essence). Thus, the body-soul can provide man with an "organ" of experience that is appropriate to the human spirit. Consequently, man in his natural condition experiences himself as a this-dimensional being, because his "organs of experience" are limited to this dimension (God, of course, may choose to free a person from that limitation -- e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Revelation 1:10f). The soul would be the source of mental and emotional activity within the body. The body-soul might be roughly pictured as a computer, super-sophisticated to the point of self-consciousness, housed within (and united to) a highly sophisticated "robot." Through this body-soul the human spirit experiences, thinks, feels and moves in this dimension. The angels, who are "pure" spirits, experience their existence in the same dimension in which God's overwhelming presence is manifested. Man, on the other hand, can experience his existence in a dimension that is distinct from God, and thus know in a way that no angel can, what it is like to be a lord. I suspect that it is this idea that lay behind Jesus' calling us "gods" (John 10:34).
The above description is one model that you can use, or throw into the trash, as you like. The problem about how to think of the relationships between body, soul and spirit arises because man was not originally designed to dissolve into his constituent parts, so that one part of him would experience existence without the other parts of him. And so, after all the speculation is finished, we are still left in mystery: faint outlines are discernible, but no clear and distinct revealed picture can be seen.
Male and female: two persons in one nature
"He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man" (Genesis 5:2). From man's own marvelous genetic structure, God fashioned a form of man that was to have the same destiny as Adam, but was to relate to him as a "helper," or companion and general assistant (Genesis 2:18, 21f). Male and female, united together in right relationship, constitute a full natural expression of man; they actually become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This expression of one "man" in two persons may well be a very significant aspect and symbol of being created in the image of God. The full expression of God, as we have seen, is three Persons united both by nature and by perfect relationship. Therefore, is it not logical that the full expression of man would consist of persons united both by nature and by similar relationship: how marvelous! In the natural order, a man without a woman (or vice versa) is incomplete.4 We see that both by creation and by curse (Genesis 3:16) there are some differences between man and woman pertaining to roles and instincts; for man and woman to attempt to relate to each other in a manner other than what God has decreed for the man-woman relationship must of course prevent them from fully becoming one flesh.
The marvelous condition of the creation
Piecing together some clues, we can arrive at a picture of this marvelous earth over which Adam, with Eve, was the lord.5 In your imagination, start with the world you see around you now, but make some changes...
It was a universe in which there was a perfect harmony among its parts. Nothing functioned at the expense of anything else's existence. Cosmic radiation, for example, was prevented from harming our bodies as it now does; nor did bacteria thrive at the expense of their host. The universe's harmony expressed the harmony of God's own kingdom: it was "very good," even by God's supremely high standards (Genesis 1:31). There would have been no second law of thermodynamics in operation yet (which law describes the universe's systems as if they were clocks winding down), because God's presence and decree kept all things in their original high condition and power (meditate on the significance of Genesis 3:86.
Living things were immortal (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:12): their form and independent existence would never be lost. Consistent with this, it was a nonviolent world. All the creatures ate vegetation instead of each other (Genesis 1:29-30), and there was no fear of each other among creatures (compare Genesis 9:2-3).
Consistent with the command to be fruitful (Genesis 1:22, 28), we may infer a perfect fruitfulness genetically: no scrawny, dull or deformed creatures, but beautifully developed and alert ones. Man did not need the bad to appreciate the good while he was without sin.
Communication between man and the creatures was undoubtedly of a much higher order than we experience now. You will observe that Eve did not register any surprise when the serpent communicated with her (Genesis 3:1f). Perhaps man could interpret the meaning of animal sounds and motions, or perhaps there was a telepathy of sorts.
The atmospheric systems were different then than now.7 God had initially caused a large proportion of the earth's water to rise up above the atmosphere (Genesis 1:6-7), obviously as water vapor (which is lighter than air). This thick canopy of transparent water vapor would directly and indirectly cause the equatorial heat to be distributed rather evenly toward the poles and cause the whole planet to enjoy semi-tropical climate day and night. Such a "greenhouse effect" fits in perfectly with the fossil record, for the record of fossils in frigid climactic zones all over the earth shows that plants and animals that cannot survive in the Colossians used to thrive there. This water vapor canopy would have also effectively shielded the surface of the planet from damaging cosmic radiation (it functions that way today, to a lesser degree). Helping also in this respect would be a magnetic field of much greater strength than what we know today (the magnetic field has been decreasing in strength, apparently throughout the entire earth history).
Initially there was no rain used in watering the earth;8 instead, a movement (literally, "a flow") of water from within the earth used to rise to the surface (2:5-6).9 This abundance of subterranean water and the absence of rain fits well the account of the river that flowed out of the garden in such abundance that it divided to become four rivers (2:10-14). Our present river systems, created and fed overwhelmingly by precipitation, are quite the opposite of such early rivers.
The ocean/land ratios would have been quite different than the 3:1 ratio which exists now, perhaps even the reverse of the present one. To make the waters of the flood recede from the earth (Genesis 8:3), the large ocean basins of the present would have been created by violent tectonic activity, perhaps causing the earth's crust to collapse upon the vast subterranean collections of water. And the continental shelves of the earth show clear indications that all around the planet there were shore lines hundreds of feet below the present sea level. Instead of the current vast, interconnecting oceans we might envision smaller seas surrounded by land.10
There would have been no strong winds prior to the flood; the winds mentioned at the time of the flood (Genesis 8:1) were probably the first strong winds ever experienced by man, just as the rains of the flood were the first rains ever encountered. Wind is caused primarily by unequal heating of the earth's surface. And rain requires a moving of humid air into cooler climates by wind, where the moisture can condense into rain. The water vapor canopy and its resultant even temperatures, the absence of rain, and the absence of strong wind all fit perfectly together, don't they? People may doubt the first chapters of Genesis because it is "too good to be true," but not because it is unbelievable; its picture of the early earth possesses a remarkable internal consistency. Can you visualize such a magnificent creation? What a blessed vision of the past! What a blessed hope for the future (Revelation 21:1)!
The original destiny of the creation
To all living creatures God gave the mandate to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:22, 28). The first stage in God's original design for the earth was that it should become filled with His creatures, man included.
But then what? A God who is as careful a planner as you or I at our best would of course realize ahead of time that mandate would be fulfilled at some point in time. Are there any clues to suggest some further plan on God's part? The answer seems rather obvious: the hope that we Christians have for our future is only a continuation of the original destiny of the creation. Considering this hope of a glorified creation that will enjoy the presence of God (Romans 8:18-23, Revelation 21-22), it seems rather clear that once the earth was filled with its chosen number of saints, God would then unite His supernatural glory to our sinless but natural order. Heaven and earth would be wedded, the glorification of man would begin, and the full revelation of the Trinitarian God would be given. Such is what would have been; such is what will be!
How long ago was all of this?
According to the description in the Scriptures, a description which may be "hard to swallow" but is relatively easy to understand, even while allowing for gaps in the genealogies (if there were any), we cannot go much beyond 10,000 B.C.11 This alone would rule out the possibility of any form of evolution in bringing species into being.12 According to all current forms of evolutionary thinking even a million years is far too insignificant a span of time for any significant evolution to occur, let alone 12,000 years.
Conclusion: the importance of all this
There are several important reasons for having a clear picture of the newly created world in one's mind. For one thing, there is in Christianity a very common embarrassment about the early chapters of Genesis, as if we need to gloss over them lest we be mocked. But what has been whispered in the ear should become proclaimed from the housetops: we Christians have the outline of the true story of the earth's early condition and subsequent earth history. We can be better scientists than the worldlings, for they erroneously speculate on the basis of conjecture instead of establishing models derived from and consistent with the Creator's own "eye-witness" accounts. Biblically-based chronologies are indeed incompatible with the opinions of the great majority of the scientific community; but they not at all compatible with the facts of science.
Having a clear picture of the early earth is also important because it tells us about God's love of beauty, order and harmony. And, "like Father, like son," it affirms that we also ought to have a love of beauty, and seek in creative ways to bring the same kind of beauty and harmony into our own environments of people and possessions.
The knowledge of and meditation upon the original conditions of creation also tend to increase our sensitivity to the terrible fallenness of the present creation, and to increase our desire for the new order promised by God. Our expectations of the future are very much influenced by our knowledge of the past. To know that the early condition of this planet was exceedingly lovely, peaceful and harmonious makes more real to us the promises that God has given concerning a restoration of this same planet after Christ returns (e.g., Isaiah 11:6-9, Revelation 22:3). Once a person has a clear and vivid picture of the splendid life in a palace, he will become less content with life in a cottage: understanding the original flawless beauty and harmony of our universe, and knowing that something even grander than that is the destiny of God's elect, will serve to reinforce us in the conviction that our citizenship is indeed in heaven.
4 As we shall see, celibacy was instituted and encouraged by God at a later time, because of the introduction of a new supernatural condition for man. In the old covenant period, however, before the coming of this supernatural existence, celibacy was never encouraged. <back>
5 The following description is one possible imaginative projection, a "model" that fulfills the data that is given. Changes to the model might be required if certain conditions are wrongly inferred. But there would not be many differences in the picture of the pre-flood earth, despite the possible differences of interpretation of several clues. The clues are provided by actual descriptions in Genesis 1-2, by estimating the effects of a universal flood, by fossil record knowledge, and by application of known natural relationships (like that between uneven heat distribution, wind and rain). For more detailed similar descriptions of the early earth see the following: Alfred Rehwinkel, The Flood (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1951), p. 1-23; Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), p. 214-257, 458-468; Kofahl and Segraves, The Creation Explanation (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1975), p. 221-231; John H. Fermor, "Paleoclimatology and Infrared Radiation Traps: Earth's Antediluvian Climate," Donald Patton, ed., Symposium on Creation, VI (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 15-28. <back>
9 This "flow" up to the surface of the earth is often assumed to be referring to dew, but I suspect that it is saying that before the planet's surface and crust were restructured by the flood waters, there had been an intricate watering network similar to the blood circulation system in our bodies, bringing just the right amount of water to the surface; such vast supplies of underground water are implied in Genesis 7:11. Dew could hardly be expected to supply adequate water to a redwood! <back>
10 Could this be why, in John's vision of the new heaven and earth, there is "no longer any sea" (Revelation 21:1): the existence of the ocean system is a reminder and a remainder of the destructive judgment of God? <back>
Whitcomb & Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. 474-489.
Henry M. Morris, Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 22-24, 56-71).
Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1976), p. 42-48.
Regarding arguments for a young earth based upon scientific and anthropological considerations see:
Walter Lang, ed., A Challenge to Education, B (Caldwell: Bible-Science Assn., 1974), p. 13-23.
Henry M. Morris, Biblical Cosmology, p. 72-83.
Melvin A. Cook, Prehistory and Earth Models (London: Max Parrish & Co., 1966).
Robert Kofahl & Kelly Segraves, The Creation Explanation (San Diego: Creation- Science Research Center, 1975), p. 181-214.
Walter E. Lammerts, ed., Why Not Creation? (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 80-113.
Whitcomb & Morris, op. cit., p. 331-437.
Weston W. Fields, Unformed and Unfulfilled (Nutlefy: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1976), p. 197-220. <back>