Creation part 3

Suffering in creation.

Some Christians say God wouldn’t use such a raw and brutal system as creation through the agency of evolution. Such an argument never works because all origins explenations contain a great deal of brutality just as eschatology beliefs and just like the historical accounts. But they might base this on the teaching of Augustine, that all death and suffering on earth is man’s fault. When Adam fell in Eden, it not merely the ground he worked with that became cursed, the work with the ground a hardship with thorns and thistles as we read in Genesis 3:17-19, it was the whole World, his descendants and all created Things. But I think the many millions of years of plant and animal evolution was hardly just a constant bloodbath but contained like life today beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering. Also in all recorded human history cruelty along with beauty has abounded. How does the Bible address this? The following is not easy, in fact I would say like John Piper when he try to explain the dark implications of the Calvinist doctrines of double predestination and God’s Sovereign control; this is difficult. But I believe this is what the Bible says.

In no particular order:

1. God is almighty and in control with the World affairs:

Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Acts 4:27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

2. There are Desires in man that conflicts with the good will of God, yet it does not stop God’s plan:

Genesis 6:12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Revelation 17:17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

3. Ultimately, it was not Adam and Eve that subjected the World to suffering. The Bible says:

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Only God can subject the creation in hope.. God is behind a grand plan we can’t always comprehend but which indeed has a glorious end.

4. In the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Creator became a son subject to suffering. He learned obedience through suffering, as does the saints also, and this on the path to becoming a new creation:

Hebrews 5:7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

So mankind is to learn from the collected experience of sin and suffering. Creation is subjected for the sake of this plan.

5. Our ignorance when our understanding is compared to God’s. It seems, and that is all you can use philosophy to, that trying to understand God’s ways could be likened to trying to explain a teaching to another animal, whether ant or chimpanzee. However considering Paul’s awareness of God’s love, this is what he must have had well in mind when saying the following that is often interpreted so harshly:

Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Spurgeon, at once a preacher of the hard doctrines of Calvinism and a preacher reaching out to many denominations, is famous for saying these Words concerning our limited understanding of the most difficult questions;

God is too good to be unkind and he is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace his hand, we must trust his heart.

Our mind is given rest, we rely on our faith, a gift from God.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Creation part 2

Now let us look at whether evolution theory should be an problem for Christianity. First of all what is biological evolution? In the Scientific terms it can be described as genetic change in a population from one generation to another. The speed and direction of change is variable with different species lines and at different times. Continuous evolution over many generations can result in the development of new varieties and species. Likewise, failure to evolve in response to environmental changes can, and often does, lead to extinction. We can imagine a population of brown and green beetles. Increasingly succesful predators prefer the green ones, and eventually the green ones will become less in numbers. If this continues to their end, the green ones will become extinct. Then later the environment changes. The remaining bettle population will adapt successfully to the new conditions offered or will eventually perish. This way life changes over hundreds of millions of years. Studies of blood protein and DNA show which species are closest related. Some see a problem in letting science add millions and even billions of years to our understanding of history. Such numbers are too big for us. The Bible says God is eternal, and that is not easier to grasp. What did God do before the supposed creation 6,000 years ago according to Young Earth Creationism? What did God do before the big bang, dated 13,77 billion years ago according to mainstream science? I don’t know if it is simple minded or heretical to say so but 125 billion galaxies could perhaps explain what keeps God busy. Certainly big numbers do not introduce a new problem to Christianity. The Mormons have a doctrine of eternal progression of Gods. They believe that God the Father was once a creature that progressed to Godhood. There are millions or billions of Gods in the universe whose offspring must strive for progression too. This way they have an extra-biblical story bringing more light on eternity but not making it any easier to understand. It’s noteworthy that evolution theory actually did exist in a primitive form among the ancient Greeks, a people that excelled in philosophy and science, whereas the Hebrews excelled in at least hygiene and limitation of birth defects. Anaximander was one of the first and much later the Roman Lucretius wrote of similar thoughts:

Anaximander (* c.610-547 B.C.) says that the first animals were produced in moisture, enclosed in thorny barks. When their age increased they came out into the drier part, their bark broke off, and they lived a different mode of life for a short time. Aetius (5.19.4) He also declares that in the beginning humans were born from other kinds of animals, since other animals quickly manage on their own, and humans alone require lengthy nursing. For this reason, in the beginning they would not have been preserved if they had been like this. Pseudo-Plutarch, Miscellanies (179.2) Anaximander… believed that there arose from heated water and earth either fish or animals very like fish. In these humans grew and were kept inside as embryos up to puberty. Then finally they burst and men and women came forth already able to nourish themselves. (R, 12)Censorinus, On the Day of Birth (4.7) And in the ages after monsters died, Perforce there perished many a stock, unable By propagation to forge a progeny. For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest Breathing the breath of life, the same have been Even from their earliest age preserved alive By cunning, or by valour, or at least By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock Remaineth yet, because of use to man . . . Lucretius (* ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC). On The Nature of Things, Book V

Do the Biblical creation accounts allow for evolution theory? We will take a look at the biblical creation accounts, foremost in Genesis 1-2:3 but also John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20. We should read these accounts considering the culture they were written in. There is a conflicts of interest here. If the accounts were written in a language agreeing with modern science, it would be an amazing witness today. It would also be an awesome testimony today if the book of Revelation spoke about airplanes and nuclear weapons. Oh boy, we could get those mocking atheists. But the first receivers and ancient man would be left behind. He would not understand talk about the Universe and even evolution. Imagine the volumes speaking of yet not discovered Things. In the case of Revelation, the 1st Century Christians would have a book written under severe persecution that they could not understand and that didnt concern them. I include some thought provoking quotes from Rabbi Rashi (as well as some of my own thoughts and quoutations), medieval Judaistic scholar and highly respected in Judaism, showing Judaism does not read the creation account like a science record saying the earth is 6,000 years old.

Genesis 1-2:3 Verse 1. Creation of heavens and earth. The whole account is from the phenomological perspective from ancient man watching the world, our planet. The universe is not in view. Rashi on verse 1: In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you,” (Exod. 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Genesis, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us. Verse 2. The earth is chaotic and dark. Waters covering the earth. But God is there, his Spirit is moving upon the waters. Compare to Psalm 74 putting some further Ancient Near East perspective on the record: Psalm 74:12 For God is my King from of old, Working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 You broke open the fountain and the flood; You dried up mighty rivers. 16 The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun. 17 You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter. (See Rashi on Genesis 1:21 quoted concerning the slaugther and feast upon sea serpents). What happened? Is it a chaosbattle with the ancient seaserpents (sea; chaos, mystery, sin, evil) with God as the winner implied? Or is a previous creation implied? Or is this a timeless chaotic state we are to read God created from/out of? We don’t know, but such speculation is certainly biblical valid. Compare also this language with the prophet Jeremiah on the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans: Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken Down At the presence of the Lord, By His fierce anger. So despite verse 14-19, it is possible to imagine the destruction of a former system, that was then covered by a Chaos-sea. We looked at the meaning of heavens and earth in the paper about Revelation 21:1 in ANE culture. I think it is plausible to imagine something was before. Verse 3-5. Creation of day and night. Verse 6-10. Heavens and earth is made by God dividing the earth covering the sea into two, one part placed above the firmanent called heaven, one part below on earth and after this arrange the waters on earth in a manner where dry land appeared. To ancient man, the heavens looked like a great sea above was held back by a firmament or bowl. Rashi on verse 6: “Let there be an expanse: Let the expanse be strengthened, for, although the heavens were created on the first day, they were still moist, and they solidified on the second [day] from the rebuke of the Holy One, blessed be He, when He said, “Let there be an expanse.” This is what Scripture says (Job 26:11): “The pillars of the heavens trembled” the entire first day, and on the second day: “They were astonished by His rebuke,” like a person who stands in astonishment because of the rebuke of the one who frightens him. [Genesis Rabbah 12:10]” Psalm 136:6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever; Verse 11-13. Gras and fruits trees are made on God’s command to the earth. Notice God speaks to the earth implying it understand. One of the great scholars of Judaism, the medieval Rabbi Rashi comments on verse 12: “And the earth gave forth, etc.: Even though לְמִינֵהוּ.“according to its kind,” was not said regarding the herbs when they were commanded [to grow], they heard that the trees were commanded thus, and they applied an a fortiori argument to themselves, [a קַל וָחוֹמֶר -from the minor to the major], as is explained in the Aggadah of Tractate Chullin (60a).” You don’t hear such quotes from Young Earth Creationists, when they appeal to the understanding of Jewish Rabbis. Verse 14-19. Lights are placed on the heavens, they are needed under the firmament, especially the son and the moon to divide night and day. Rashi on verse 14:Let there be luminaries, etc.: They were created on the first day, and on the fourth day, He commanded them to be suspended in the sky, and likewise, all the creations of heaven and earth were created on the first day, and each one was fixed in its proper place on the day that was decreed upon it. That is why it is written:“with the heavens (אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם) to include their products,”and with the earth (וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ),” to include its products. — [Gen. Rabbah 1:14] Rashi, on verse 16: “the two great luminaries: They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” – [from Chullin 60b] Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and“the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.” Verse 20-25. Animals are made. Notice also that God speaks to the animals, implying they understand. So this is the background of the talking serpent, there was nothing unusual about his ability in this symbolism. Rashi on verse 21: “the…sea monsters: The great fish in the sea, and in the words of the Aggadah (B.B. 74b), this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for He created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. הַתַּנִינִם is written. [I.e., the final “yud,” which denotes the plural, is missing, hence the implication that the Leviathan did not remain two, but that its number was reduced to one.]- [from Gen. Rabbah 7:4, Midrash Chaseroth V’Yetheroth, Batei Midrashoth, vol 2, p. 225].” Rashi on verse 22: “And…blessed them: Because [people] decimate them and hunt them and eat them, they required a blessing; and the beasts also required a blessing, but because the serpent was destined to be cursed, He did not bless them, lest he [the serpent] be included. — [from Gen. Rabbah 11:3, Midrash Tadshe 1]” Re the serpent, Rashi on Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was cunning: What is the connection of this matter here? Scripture should have juxtaposed (below verse 21): “And He made for Adam and for his wife shirts of skin, and He dressed them.” But it teaches you as a result of what plan the serpent thrust himself upon them. He saw them naked and engaging in intercourse before everyone’s eyes, and he desired her. — [from Gen. Rabbah 18:6]. cunning, more than all: Commensurate with its cunning and its greatness, was its downfall- [it was] cunning, more than all, [and it was] cursed, more than all. — [from Gen. Rabbah 19:1]” Verse 26-27. Man is made in God’s image. Notice God is asking someone to participate here in verse 26. Judaism as well as modern Christian scholars say the angels. Yet God is attributed fully in verse 27, so if anyone participated creating, it was though God’s power. Chapter 2:1-3. The ending of the first creation account. God resting after his work on the very long creation day (Hebrews 4:1-5) resembles Christ resting after his resurrection in glorified state (Hebrews 1:3). It means that a significant divine job has been finished.

Despite all the to us mysterious ANE culture, the theological message comes across clearly; a God this powerful is one you should fear and revere, and He is the God of Israel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

The Word / The Logos here bear resemblence to the Greek philospher Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) who lived long before John wrote his Gospel:

This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)

The Logos, the Word is the reason behind all things. This term was wellknown in John’s time. Philo the Jewish Hellenist had linked the Logos from Heraclitus and other Greeks to the Word of God in the Hebrew scriptures. One examples from the Old Testatement is:

Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

John is saying; this reason and purpose behind all things you Greeks talk about, is the Son of God. Christ is the Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all. He is the appointed Mediator and Heir by which the Father accomplishes all things, God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). A similar thought is found in Acts 17:23-31, although not about the Logos, but about an unknown idol worshipped by the Athens. Notice the past tense here and in Colossians 1:13-20. The Greeks spoke in past tense about future events they believed were sure to happen. For this reason, these passages could contain both a progressive creationism worldview and an evolutionary worldview. However it would be going too far to say the Bible contains any hint of ancient biological evolution. Now are there any serious conflicts between the Bible and evolution? I think the only perceived hard case is Adam. Often Adam is presented as the death blow to a theistic evolution compatible with the Bible. Simply put Adam and Eve as the first two humans biologically and historically is impossible to reconcile with the evolution of the great apes. As both Christ and Paul confirms the teaching and Paul even builds a case for the need of salvation upon all men descending from Adam, opponents of theistic evolution are very sure this settles the case. You must choose. The Word of God or those “satanic mainstream scientists”. Many theistic evolutionists seem quite defenseless on this issue. Paul’s argument can’t be saved. ADAM is not a historical person but ancient science and myth. It seems to me the belief in the natural immortality of the soul rather than conditional immortality (i.e. that the saved will become immortal) is “the serpent in paradise”. I was disappointed to see a prominent theistic evolutionist argue that the penalty to Adam was physical death in his recent books. He even quotes out of context from 1 Corinthians 15 that says if Christ is not risen, then the saints have perished. Being an immortal soul in God’s hands hardly qualifies as perishing and having no hope. If the punishment to Adam was physical death only, then God’s warning in Genesis 2:17 isn’t true. Mainstream theology must add a lot to the early Genesis chapters. Cain married his sister and God changed his mind about the penalty. No, the death spoken of in Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is spiritual (really quite clear from Genesis 3:17-19 also) and based on the Hebrew totality concept of body and soul – and the spirit returns to God that gave it. So we don’t have to reject Romans 5 as some immortal soulism believing theistic evolutionists claim we must. The death that entered the world with Adam was spiritual death and as far as revealed to us, that kind of death can only happen to a human being in spiritual fellowship with God. Paul can be outdated on the science of his day but not on such a fundamental spiritual argument. But Adam and Eve are difficult to exegete. On one hand, Adam appears in a genealogy of what would become Israel, on the other hand he appears in an account with a sheltered garden, a talking snake and supernatural fruits. I think the proper solution is that Adam was a real person placed in a symbolic setting. I suggest Adam was the father of Israel –to-come the lineage described in Genesis 5. He is the first man as far as the record goes and first man in sense of first in rank. The teaching of federal headship is found in Romans 5, for instance:

Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

This is God’s arrangement. Adam was appointed to that role regardless of his biology. It is totally irrelevant whether we are in his biological lineage or not. It doesn’t in any way explain or make “original sin” more logical. This view of Adam also explains why other people were around that we see in the never soberly and morally solved issue of Cain’s wife. Did I leave out something important? Comments are welcome.

Creation part 1

Science today makes it possible to estimate the age of the universe to be 13,77 billion years old and the age of the earth 4,53-4,58 billion years old. Science can also demonstrate through verifiable methods that all natural life evolved ever since the dawn of organic matter. Reaching this understanding has been a gradual process since the dawn of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries. Science has no holy answer book, but makes hypothesis validated by emperical evidence.

In 1862 Lord Kelvin used the science of his day to calculate the earth’s age to 98 million years and this was accepted by many conservative Christians. With the mysterious beginning of Genesis 1 speaking of an empty and void earth (gap theory) and understanding that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, a very old earth is reconciable with the creation text and does not bring into question commonly accepted core doctrines like evolution theory later did according to the opinion of many. Man could still be created 6,000 years ago and dinosaurs millions of years ago, all directly by God’s hand. Many Christians accepting the old earth, also believed in the local flood theory or a purely figurative flood as science showed that a global flood could not have happened. There is no geological evidence, despite the claims of pseudoscience and flood myths found all over the World (just as dragon myths etc.). But this was not known before sciencitific geology. To the ancient church fathers the global flood had a powerful theological message; all the other gods people worshipped all over the earth were powerless against it. They had no other origins account but the biblical perceived through their “glasses”. But due to geology science, the creation record was reinterpreted and Bible faith found to be reconciable with the new science.

To the point that the flood could be local according to the Bible. It’s an indirect support I see, and I think the flood account in itself is open to both a global flood and a local flood.

When we read about “the earth” in the Bible today, we tend to think of the planet earth. This is because of our modern science. But the ancient Biblical “cosmic geography” was more restricted and sometimes this is seen clearly. Granted when we read that God created the earth, we have no reason to put any limits on it. There are much fewer Words in biblical Hebrew than in modern languages, and we must therefore consider the context. Examples where the earth – or another cosmic term – clearly isn’t the Whole planet / earth in modern sense:

Deuteronomy 2:24 “‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
Habakkuk 1:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

To the point that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, consider some examples:

God’s rest day is very long:
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ”although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”

Israel’s 40 years in the desert “day”:
Hebrews 3:8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,

The day of salvation is very long:
2 Corinthians 6:2 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

Why? Because the Bible uses a lot of figurative language. The anti-symbolism claim of the fundamentalists that the Bible “Means what it says” (in their warped literal definition) is ignorant and since it creates false understanding and slavery, we should not be silent.

One of the first Christian writings accepting the early science revolution came from the influencial reformer John Calvin. In 1554, John Calvin had his huge Genesis Commentaries published. Among his comments to Genesis chapter 1, we find:

Moses describes the special use of this expanse, “to divide the waters from the waters,” from which words arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels ; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the World. He who would learn astronomy,” and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception ; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.’The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses”.

By the rude and the unlearned, he refers to those not knowing the latest science of his day. So Calvin is being very progressive and visionary concerning issues that would later become very talked of and important. But such a knowledge was not and is not required to understand the creation record. Men ignorant of science ever since Moses can understand and apppriciate this record. As Calvin knows, it is not scientifically true that there is a sea above the earth. But ancient man could relate to it. God kept Water up there to let it rain and so God could also flood the earth later. The theological point is that:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

In 1855, the famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon expressed Classic Old Earth Creationism in his sermon “The power of the Holy Ghost”:

“But if you will look in the first chapter of Genesis, you will see there more particularly set forth that peculiar operation of power upon the universe which was put forth by the Holy Spirit; you will then discover what was his special work. In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We do not know how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God”.

In part 2 we will look at the implications of evolution science on creation and the Christian faith.

The heavens, the earth and the sea in Revelation 21:1

The Bible is a spiritual book. It’s also an ancient book written to ancient people as the first receivers. They lived in a specific part of the World and at a specific time. It’s good to remember this in interpretation.

Now I offer my interpretation of the heaven, the earth and the sea in this verse:

Revelation 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

The sea:
Some noteworthy verses:

Isaiah 27:1 In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.
Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?
Revelation 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

“the Waters”:
Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
Revelation 17:15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

What is it that will:
a) disappear at the White throne judgment?
b) contains symbolic beasts and dead people?
c) which necessarily must be connected with “the many waters”, in which another beast, the whore of Babylon sits and which is “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues”?

The conclusion seems pretty obvious; the sin World. There will be no more sin World.

A new heaven and a new earth
Some noteworthy verses:

Isaiah 51:15 But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared – The Lord of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” [same theme as verse 9 quoted above]
Zephaniah 3:8 “Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy. 9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.
Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

What happened in the days of Pentacost:
Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’

A literal heaven and earth can’t be in view. God will when salvation is fully established have “planted the heavens” and laid “the Foundations of the earth” and be the God of Zion. All the earth devoured in fire connected with (possibly universal – so Origen thought) salvation. Heaven and earth flees away from God in the judgment. A case can be established for the heavens being the religious systems and the earth the political powers. They will flee in vain when God conquers them and establishes a new heaven and a new earth.

Finally an example is shown in which the annointing at Pentacost according to Peter fullfilled an Old Testament prophecy that includes some radical apocalyptic language concerning the sun and the moon.

Many other verses could be quoted. Why this – to us today – strange symbolism? It is not spelled out anywhere to my knowledge. But there is a widespread scholary conclusion that the biblical perspective on the natural World and also when the natural World is used symbolically as here is phenomenological (knowledge based on observation). From a view that embraces inspiration of the Bible, there is no mentioning of Mars, neanderthals or dinosaurs in the creation record because Israel did not know these and could not relate to them. If a World system collapses, it would be a fitting use of symbolism to speak of heavens and earth collapsing. Or from the individual viewpoint:

Leviticus 26:19 I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.

Heavens like iron and earth like bronze obviously ruins the harvest (or rather makes it impossible). Or as we say in modern language exaggeration promotes understanding.

Concerning the sea, this is possibly more obvious. There are several biblical references to people quite understandably being afraid of the pontential and unpredictable dangers of the sea:

Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

So in conclusion, what Revelation 21:1 is saying in my opinion, is that a new system has appeared in this vision. It has replaced the old “heavens and earth”. The sin world is no more, the source of the beasts, powers hostile to God’s people and containing a great deal of mankind, has been emptied and is no more.

Additional October 26th 2014:

The end times are compared to Noah’s time.

Luke 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

2 Peter 3:5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

There will be judgment of the old World/Heavens and earth and a new World/Heavens and earth made. Whether this is AD 70 – judgment upon God’s fallen Israel and in symbolic terms a cosmic event or future yet, is not clear and easy, but I favor AD 70.