Creation: Genesis as Foundation—Part 1
The first chapters of Genesis are foundational for the rest of Scripture. The major teachings or doctrines of the Bible have their source in these chapters. Here we find the nature of the Godhead working in harmony as the Father, Son (John 1:1–3; Heb. 1:1, 2), and the Spirit (Gen. 1:2) to create the world and all that is in it, culminating in humanity (Gen. 1:26–28). Genesis also introduces us to the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1–3), the origin of evil (Genesis 3), the Messiah and the plan of redemption (Gen. 3:15), the worldwide, universal flood (Genesis 6–9), the covenant (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 2:2, 3, 15–17; Gen. 9:9–17; Genesis 15), the dispersal of languages and people (Genesis 10, Genesis 11), and the genealogies that provide the framework for biblical chronology from Creation to Abraham (Genesis 5, Genesis 11). Finally, the power of God’s spoken Word (Gen. 1:3, 2 Tim. 3:16, John 17:17), the nature of humanity (Gen. 1:26–28), God’s character (Matt. 10:29, 30), marriage between a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27, 28; Gen. 2:18, 21–25), stewardship of the earth and its resources (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 2:15, 19), and the promised hope of a new creation (Isa. 65:17, Isa. 66:22, Rev. 21:1) are all based on these first chapters, which will be our study this week and next.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 23.
The Bible opens with the most sublime and profound words, words that are simple but that simultaneously contain a measureless depth when carefully studied. In fact, the greatest questions of philosophy regarding who we are, why we are here, and how we got here are answered by the first sentence of the Bible.
We exist because God created us at a definite time in the past. We did not evolve out of nothing; nor did we come into existence by chance, for no ultimate purpose, and with no planned direction, as much of the contemporary scientific model of origins now teaches. Darwinian evolution is contradictory to Scripture in every way, and attempts by some to harmonize it with the Bible make Christians look silly.
We also were created by God at an absolute point in time: “in the beginning.” This must mean that God existed prior to this beginning. That is, God existed before time was created and expressed in the daily cycle of “evening and morning” and in the months and in the years, all marked by the relationship of the world to the sun and moon. This absolute beginning is echoed and supported by other passages of Scripture, which continually reaffirm the nature and means of God’s creative work (John 1:1–3).
The Bible teaches that Jesus was the agent of creation. The Bible says that “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3, NKJV). Through Jesus “He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1, 2, NKJV). Because all things have their origin in Jesus in the beginning, we can have hope that in the end He will complete what He has begun, because He is the “ ‘Alpha and the Omega,’ ” “ ‘the First and the Last’ ” (Rev. 1:8, Rev. 22:13, NKJV).
In recent years there has been a trend to view the Creation week as nonliteral, as a metaphor, a parable, or even a myth. This has arisen in the wake of the theory of evolution, which assumes long ages of time to account for the development of life on planet Earth.
What does the Bible teach on this subject? Why are the “days” of Creation in Genesis 1 to be understood as literal, and not figurative, days?
The Hebrew word yôm, or “day,” is used consistently throughout the Creation narrative for a literal day. Nothing in the Genesis Creation narrative indicates that anything other than a literal day was meant, as we understand a single day today. In fact, some scholars who don’t believe the days were literal will, nevertheless, admit that the author’s intention was to depict literal days.
It is interesting that God Himself designates this name for the first unit of time (Gen. 1:5). Yôm, or day, is defined with the phrase “and there was evening and there was morning” (Gen. 1:5, 8, etc., NASB). The term is used in the singular, not the plural, meaning a single day. Thus, the seven days of Creation are to be understood as a complete unit of time, introduced by the cardinal number ’echad (“one”) followed by ordinal numbers (second, third, fourth, etc.). This pattern indicates a consecutive sequence of days, culminating in the seventh day. There is no indication in the use of terms or in the narrative form itself that there should be any gaps between these days. The seven days of Creation are, indeed, seven days as we delineate days today.
Also, the literal nature of the day is taken for granted when God wrote with His own finger the fourth commandment, indicating that the basis for the seventh-day Sabbath rests on the sequence of a literal seven-day, Creation week.
Today the seventh-day Sabbath is heavily under attack in secular society and in religious communities. This fact can be seen in the work schedules of global corporations; in the attempted change of the calendar in many European countries designating Monday as the first day of the week and Sunday as the seventh day; and by the recent papal encyclical on climate change that calls the seventh-day Sabbath “the Jewish Sabbath” and encourages the world to observe a day of rest to alleviate global warming (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ [Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2015], pp. 172, 173).
The Bible says, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done” (Gen. 2:2, NKJV). “After resting upon the seventh day, God sanctified it, or set it apart, as a day of rest for man.” —Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 47. This is why Jesus can say, “ ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’ ” (Mark 2:27, NKJV). Jesus could make this authoritative statement because He made or created the Sabbath as the eternal sign and seal of God’s covenant with His people. The Sabbath was not for the Hebrew people only, but for all humanity.
Genesis indicates three things that Jesus did after He created the Sabbath day. First, He “rested” (Gen. 2:2), giving us a divine example of His desire to rest with us. Second, He “blessed” the seventh day (Gen. 2:3). In the Creation narrative, animals are blessed (Gen. 1:22), and Adam and Eve are blessed (Gen. 1:28), but the only day specifically blessed is the seventh day. Third, God “sanctified it” (Gen. 2:3) or “made it holy.”
No other day in the Bible receives these three designations. These three actions are repeated in the fourth commandment, though, when God writes with His own finger and points back to Creation as the foundation for the Sabbath (Exod. 20:11).
The last decade has witnessed enormous changes in the way society and governments define marriage. Many nations of the world have approved same-sex marriages, overturning previous laws that have protected the family structure that comprises at its center one man and one woman. This is an unprecedented development in many respects, and it raises new questions about the institution of marriage, the relationship of church and state, and the sanctity of marriage and the family as defined in Scripture.
On the sixth day, God comes to the climax of the Creation, the Creation of humanity. It is fascinating that the plural is used for God in Genesis 1:26: “ ‘Let us make man in our image.’ ” All persons of the triune Godhead in loving relationship with each other now create the divinely instituted human relationship of marriage here on the earth.
“In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27, NKJV). Adam declares, “ ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh’ ” (Gen. 2:23, NKJV), and Adam names her “Woman.” Marriage requires that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, NKJV).
Scripture is unequivocal that this relationship is to take place between a man and a woman, who themselves originate from their father and mother, also a man and woman. This concept is further clarified in the instruction given to the earth’s first parents: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’ ” (Gen. 1:28, NKJV). In the fifth commandment, children (offspring) are to honor their father and their mother (Exod. 20:12). This interrelationship cannot be fulfilled within anything but a heterosexual partnership.
The Bible provides an unbroken link between the perfect Creation, the Fall, the promised Messiah, and final redemption. These major events become the basis of the theme of salvation history for the human race.
God declared His creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). “The creation was now complete. . . . Eden bloomed on earth. Adam and Eve had free access to the tree of life. No taint of sin or shadow of death marred the fair creation.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 47. God had warned Adam and Eve that if they ate of the forbidden tree, they would surely die (Gen. 2:15–17). The serpent began his discourse with a question and then completely contradicted what God had said: “ ‘You will not surely die’ ” (Gen. 3:4, NKJV). Satan promised Eve great knowledge and that she would be like God. Obviously, she believed him.
In Scripture, we can see where later biblical writers confirmed earlier biblical statements and provided additional insights. In Romans 5–8, Paul writes about sin and the beauty of salvation: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people” (Rom. 5:12, NIV). But an evolutionary perspective would have death present for millions of years prior to humanity. This idea has serious implications for the biblical teaching of the origin of sin, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, and the plan of salvation. If death is not related to sin, then the wages of sin is not death (Rom. 6:23), and Christ would have had no reason to die for our sins. Thus, Creation, the Fall, and the Cross are inextricably linked. The first Adam is tied to the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). A belief in Darwinian evolution, even if some concept of God is inserted into the process, would destroy the very basis of Christianity.
“The cumulative evidence, based on comparative, literary, linguistic and other considerations, converges on every level, leading to the singular conclusion that the designation yôm, ‘day,’ in Genesis 1 means consistently a literal 24-hour day.
“The author of Genesis 1 could not have produced more comprehensive and all-inclusive ways to express the idea of a literal ‘day’ than the ones that were chosen.”—Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1: Literal ‘Days’ or Figurative ‘Periods/Epochs’ of Time?” Origins 21/1 (1994), pp. 30, 31.
“The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God, become bewildered in their attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation. The Creator and His works are beyond their comprehension; and because these cannot be explained by natural laws, Bible history is pronounced unreliable.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 258.