If “Christ’s day” (Phil. 1: 10) is actually a thousand years long (see Rev. 20: 4), why must the seven days of creation be literal days (see Gen. 1: 3–2: 3?
The word “day” in Scripture can refer to a period of undefined length––as in Eccl. 7: 14: “In the day of prosperity enjoy good, and in the day of adversity consider”. It can also refer to a defined period other than a literal, standard day––as in the millennial reign of Christ already mentioned. We also read that “one day with [the] Lord [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3: 8). However, none of this alters the fact that by far the most common usage is for a literal, standard day. So do the seven days of creation fall into this latter category?
The Hebrew word for day (yom) is defined by God Himself on the very first occasion on which it is used in the Bible: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Gen. 1: 5). In this context the succession of day and night over a twenty–four hour period is what God means by Day and Night. When He speaks of “the first day” later on in the same verse, we have no grounds for supposing that there has been any variation from the definition of “day” He has just given us––and so with the other six days of creation. Some may point out that in chapter two “day” appears to refer simply to a period of time rather than a strict literal day: “These are the histories of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day that Jehovah Elohim made earth and heavens” (v4). However, that a literal day is in view throughout Genesis 1 is demonstrated by the recurring words there “And there was evening, and there was morning” (vs 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). This makes no sense unless a standard day is envisaged by the writer. Indeed, it almost seems as if this phraseology has been taken up deliberately to guard against any possible misconception as to what a “day” in this context might mean.
In verse 13, the third day of creation closes with the words “and there was evening, and there was morning––a third day”.We then read “And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens, to divide between the day and the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens, to give light on the earth. And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the great light to rule the day, and the small light to rule the night,––and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light on the earth, and to rule during the day and during the night, and to divide between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning––a fourth day” (vs 14–19). Is it not obvious that literal days are in view all through this passage––the lights that divide between night and day, the sun ruling the day and the moon ruling the night, and the connection of “days” with “seasons” and “years”? That being so, is it really credible to imagine that in verse 13 “day” does not actually mean a literal day, that in verses 14, 16, and 18, a literal day is in view, and then in verse 19 we return to a non–literal day? Such a system of interpretation hardly inspires confidence!
One more Scripture. In Exodus 20: 8–11 a direct parallel is made between a normal week of seven days and the week of creation: “Remember the sabbath day to hallow it. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of Jehovah thy God: thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy bondman, nor thy handmaid, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it”. Are we really being asked to believe that “six days shalt thou labour” (v9) refers to a different time–span to “in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth” (v11)? It would be making a mockery of the plain sense of Scripture.
The truth of the matter is that no one would have questioned the literality of the word ‘day’ in Genesis if it had not been for the pronouncement of geologists and evolutionists. Science demands long periods of time––Christendom, ever eager to accommodate “the wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1: 20) does her best to fall in line. If Christians adhered solely to what is revealed in Scripture, instead of interpreting it through scientific spectacles, there would be no difficulty in accepting the plain, obvious sense of the word “day”. ‘Sola Scriptura’ said the Reformers––‘Scripture only’. The knowledge of the scientific world is, at best, only partial. The Bible by contrast is absolute truth. Let us see that we believe it!