When did God create the earth and the universe?

When did God create the earth and the universe?

A youngster asked this question recently at Vacation Bible School. The teacher passed it along to us along with the follow-up question: Was the creation seven days or over a long period of time? The short answer to both these questions is simple; we don’t know.

God created everything out of nothing. That is a concept that our brains can’t conceive. In the same way, God is eternal, with no beginning and no end. That’s another idea that is beyond our  ability to truly grasp. So when trying to answer these questions we need to make some human assumptions. First, we must look at the Bible, God’s inspired word sent to man to help humankind understand God and the world he created. Second, we should take a look at what scientists have to say, because if God created man in his image, he gave man the ability to think and reason. He made man to be in communion with God, so asking and answering questions is a Godly pursuit.

So what does the Bible say about creation?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Genesis 1:1-5

In these opening words of the Bible, both questions are answered. When did God create the earth and the universe? The answer is “in the beginning.” At some point in eternity God decided to change what was and create something new. He communicated this idea to men who wrote down, as best they understood, what God was telling them. In the first chapter of Genesis, the creation story was told in poetry so we understand the sequence of the creative process, a process culminating in God’s greatest creation, men and women.

In the opening five verses of Genesis, God answers the second question posed by the student in VBS: Was the creation seven days or over a long period of time? God inspired a writer, generally believed to be Moses, to explain the creative process in terms of days. In this writing, there were six days of creation and a seventh set aside for rest. Obviously, if God is all-powerful, he didn’t need rest as we think of it. So why is creation described as a 6-day process? God answers that in the fourth of what we call the 10 Commandments.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11

Remember, God’s idea of time differs radically from ours. His has no beginning and no end. So he gave man the idea of time to measure his days and years and to help us understand the world around us. Throughout the Bible we see seven as a description of perfection. In using seven days to describe the creation, God is saying that his creation was perfect. That is a qualitative, not a quantitative assertion. The Genesis account of creation is not scientific, but poetic and should be read as such. But, should we dismiss the idea that God created everything in the course of six earthly days? Not if we truly believe that God is all-powerful. However, we could ask why an all-powerful God needed six full days to create everything. Why not one day, or one hour, or one minute?

Now let’s look at what most scientists say about the “beginning.” They point to evidence in the speed in which the universe is expanding to suggest that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. They use other measuring tools to calculate the age of the earth at 4.5 billion years. But they can never explain the source of all the energy and mass that comprise the universe.

Other scientists adhere closely to clues in the Bible to advocate for a much younger earth and to mankind’s existence that spans thousands of years, not tens or hundreds of thousands. Unlike those who contend that every living plant and animal evolved over millions of years, scientists who espouse a theory of intelligent design point out many examples in creation of species that have no link to “forebears.” They also point to the complete lack of “missing links” that undermine evolutionary theory.

This is why our answer to the two questions posed by that student at Vacation Bible School is, we don’t know.

However, what we do know is that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in it. He created men and women, made them in his image and wanted to enjoy fellowship with his most important creation. However, when humans turned their backs on their creator (this turning away is known as sin), rather than rejecting them totally, God set in motion a plan of redemption–an incredible plan to take away the sins of everyone past present and future. That plan included allowing his son, Jesus, to come to earth and to die in our place in order for us to be brought back into fellowship with God.

We don’t know exactly when he created it, but God created a perfect world and one day he will return to restore that perfection. When he does, there will be a reckoning because sin cannot coexist with perfection. Are you prepared to have an encounter with the creator of everything? If not, you may want to read our May 5th blogpost: How does one become a Christian?

Image by Dr StClaire from Pixabay

Did God create everything?

Did God create everything?

A youngster asked this question recently at Vacation Bible School. The teacher passed it along to us. The question is simple, the answer is far more complex. Here, the definition of “everything” is all-important. So let’s start at the beginning. Out of nothing, God created the universe and all the matter that is within it. From that matter, God created every atom, every molecule of everything that exists, from galaxies and solar systems to sub-atomic particles. From microscopic viruses to the Antarctica blue whale that can weigh as much as 33 elephants.

God also created the mechanisms for the creative process to continue. Genetics is the study of just such a creative process whereby life is perpetuated. Wind and water continuously sculpt our planet creating beatuiful vistas and provide waterways that allow our planet to fluorish. But it is in mankind that we see the greatest of God’s creation. The Bible tells us that God made man in His image. Philosophers and theologians have discussed and debated what that means for millennia, but as God has revealed himself in the Bible we get a pretty good understanding of what this means.

God the father lives in perfect communion with Jesus (God’s son) and the Holy Spirit. In that relationship we see boundless love, unbridled creativity, and unity of purpose. That purpose is to create relationships in which all men and women live in harmony with one another and with God himself. Love is the glue that binds those relationships. Creativity is what allows men to build houses and cars and computers. It’s what has allowed men to light up the night, control indoor climates, reduce the burdens of work, improve communications, and develop systems and programs to pass along knowledge and wisdom.

So, did God create everything? Indirectly, yes. But from the time he created men and women, he has equipped them to carry on the creative process. Have they always used that creativity for the betterment of this world? unfortunately, not. As humans we have often squandered our creative inclinations, creating instruments of war, despoiling the very earth over which man was given dominion, and destroying relationships with our cleverness, self-centeredness, deceit, and lack of self-control.

God created a perfect world and one day he will return to restore that perfection. When he does, there will be a reckoning because sin cannot coexist with perfection. Are you prepared to have an encounter with the creator of everything? If not, you may want to read our May 5th blogpost: How does one become a Christian?

Image by beate bachmann from Pixabay

Why are there so many versions or translations of the Bible? If it’s God’s word, why not only one?

Why are there so many versions or translations of the Bible? If it’s God’s word, why not only one?

  The Bible is made up of 66 writings (called books) penned by men over a span of many hundreds of years. Theologians and historians affirm that God inspired the writers and that what we read today is what God wants us to know about Him, his personality, his creation, and his plan for the world. It is also about his love of humans He made in His image, and His plan for redemption for the billions of men and women, who, through the millennia have turned their backs on God. So, is the Bible the Word of God? Yes and No.

When Paul the Apostle of Jesus wrote to his disciple, Timothy, he made clear that:

All Scripture is God-breathed (or inspired) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is not saying that God dictated every word, but rather that He inspired the men who wrote it and copied it that we might be able to access the inspired scriptures 2000 years after the life of Jesus. The books of the Bible contain poetry, historical records, prophecy and letters that teach, admonish and encourage believers.  These books were originally written down in ancient languages, including Hebrew and Greek, and later translated into Latin and many of the world’s languages. These original books were written down over the course of 1,900 years.  The last of the books, God’s Revelation to John near the end of the first century of the Christian Era. 

An early translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) into Greek is know as the Septuagint. It was made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and adopted by the early Christian Churches. As languages changed, newer versions replaced older ones to ensure that the translation accurately conveyed the message of the original language.

Today, scholars are continually researching original manuscripts, many that predate the ones used for previous translations. They also study modern language and then create translations that they believe help the reader understand what had been originally written. Since many words in Hebrew and Greek don’t have exact parallels in English, scholars try to choose the best combination of words for the translation. In addition, since Hebrew and Greek sentence structure is different from English (and many other languages), translators have to take into account how to structure the translation to best capture the meaning of the original. Finally, translators think about the people who will be reading their work and may simplify or add clarity by introducing words not in the original.

Below are two verses from the Gospel of Mark — 5:22 and 23. These give an account of a Jewish official named Jairus who approaches Jesus with a request that Jesus heal Jairus’ daughter. The first paragraph is in the original Greek with the literal translation of each word interspersed. When you read it, you will see that the English is hard to understand.

καὶ  And  ἔρχεται  comes  εἷς  one  τῶν  of the  ἀρχισυναγώγων  synagogue rulers  ὀνόματι  named  Ἰάϊρος  Jairus  καὶ  and  ἰδὼν  having seen  αὐτὸν  Him  πίπτει  falls  πρὸς  at  τοὺς  the  πόδας  feet  αὐτοῦ  of Him  καὶ  and  παρακαλεῖ  he begs   αὐτὸν  Him  πολλὰ  much λέγων  saying  ὅτι  Τὸ  The  θυγάτριόν  little daughter μου  of me  ἐσχάτως  at the end  ἔχει  is holding  ἵνα  that  ἐλθὼν  having come  ἐπιθῇς  You would lay  τὰς  the  χεῖρας  hands  αὐτῇ  on her  ἵνα  so that σωθῇ   she might be cured  καὶ  and  ζήσῃ she shall live

When an English translation was prepared at the request of King James and published in 1611, the translation was in the vernacular of the day, and as you can read, it can be a challenge to a modern reader:

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. (King James Version)

A popular modern version of the Bible, that closely adheres to the rules of translation, helps today’s reader better understand the story. It was translated by an esteemed team of scholars:

Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (New International Version)

Another modern translation, also done from original manuscripts by a team of highly-acclaimed Bible scholars seeks to stay true to the original text, but present it in language easily understandable to readers in the twenty-first century:

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” (English Standard Version)

Departing from the strict rules of translation, The Message takes the ideas in the original Greek and restates them in the vernacular of the day.

One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” (Message)

Compare that to a translation by a single scholar, Robert Young, in 1862 who created a literal word-for-word translation using language that was popular in his day, but is out of favor today:

and lo, there doth come one of the chiefs of the synagogue, by name Jairus, and having seen him, he doth fall at his feet, and he was calling upon him much, saying — `My little daughter is at the last extremity — that having come, thou mayest lay on her [thy] hands, so that she may be saved, and she shall live; (Youngs Literal Translation)

As you can see, all of the translations help us understand the encounter between Jairus and Jesus, but each has its place in communicating to specific audiences at different times and in different places. None claim to be words dictated to the authors or translators by God. All strive, however, to convey the inspired words of God contained in the original manuscripts.  

If God is love, how could he condemn anyone to hell?

If God is love, how could he condemn anyone to hell?

God doesn’t send anyone to hell. People choose to go there when they reject Jesus Christ.

Surprised by that answer? you shouldn’t be. God is both loving and just. He won’t force anyone to love him. In fact, he allows all to to pursue the longings of their lives. People who want nothing to do with God in this life will be granted that desire for eternity. That results in eternal separation from God who is the source of all love, joy and beauty.

But God’s desire is for all of us to enjoy Him. He wants everyone to be saved from the torments of an endless pursuit of that which will never truly satisfy–an eternity devoid of love and beauty. One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, reminds us :

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

2 Peter 3:9

He has provided a way to much better eternal life, one in which there is no more sadness or disappointment or loneliness or war or pestilence or pain or death. It comes through a personal relationship with His son, Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:16-21

God is patient and long-suffering, but eventually all must choose. We all will die and meet God the Creator face-to-face; no reincarnation and no second chances. When we do, we may discover that our choices in life lead to an eternity in hell. Choose wisely.