Rev. Laning is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
No one seeking to exegete Genesis 1 would ever come to the conclusion that the days spoken of were symbolic references to long periods of time. This teaching does not arise out of exegesis. It arises out of the carnal mind of men who desire to make the teachings of Scripture acceptable to unbelievers.
The matter is not a confusing one. The Scriptures are very clear on the subject. All we need to do is believe those Scriptures, and our view on the subject will be correct.
A Day as a Thousand Years
Unbelieving man does not like this clear teaching of Scripture. He wants to defend a view of these days that will bring the teaching of Genesis into harmony with unbelieving science. So he tries to find a passage of Scripture that can be used to obscure the matter, and to cast doubt upon the clear teaching of Scripture.
Many, with this in mind, have made use of the following verse: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (II Pet. 3:8). Citing this verse, they argue that one creation day equals a thousand human years.
However, II Peter 3:8 teaches something entirely different. The text is not saying that one day for the Lord is as a thousand years for us. Nor is it saying that when the Lord uses the phrase “day” we are to know that this is some kind of code for “a thousand years.” If that were the case, then every time we came across the word “day” in Scripture we would have to substitute “a thousand years,” and every time we came across a time length of “a thousand years” we would have to substitute “one day.” Indeed it should be obvious to all that this is not what the text is saying. Rather, it is saying that for the Lord one day is as a thousand years. We are creatures in time, but God is not. He is above time. So for Him a day is as a thousand years, and vice versa. He is not constrained by time in any way.
Six Literal Days in History
The days spoken of in Genesis 1 are real days, with each one consisting of only one evening and one morning. The first time God uses the word “day” He defines for us what He means by the term: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5). God used the term “day” to refer to what we would call a normal day, consisting of one evening and one morning. And the repetition of the phrase “and the evening and the morning” serves to place emphasis upon this as an important fact (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
That these days are real days is also brought forth in the ten commandments: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11a). We are called to work for six literals days, and this calling is patterned after God’s act of creating in six literal days. If the days of creation were not to be taken literally, then neither would the six-day work-week need to be taken literally.
It is interesting to consider how man first came up with this idea of a week being seven days long. The length of a day, month, and year are determined by the earth’s relation to the sun and moon. But the seven-day week has no basis in astronomy. Rather, this idea goes back to the history we have recorded for us in Genesis 1—a further indication that these days have always been taken to be real, normal days.
This truth is of great significance. A denial of it leads one into the error of maintaining that there was death in the world before the fall. But that subject will have to wait until next time.