God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
The straightforward reading of this verse is that Day One of the Creation Week was an ordinary-length day.1 Each day of creation consisted of an evening and a morning—a period of darkness and a period of light. This is no different from what we experience today, except the source of light for the first three days was not the sun, which was made on Day Four.
This understanding of the days in Genesis 1 is perfectly consistent with every other passage in Scripture that addresses the timing of creation. Exodus 20:9–11 reveals that God instructed the Israelites to work for six days and then rest for one because that is precisely what He did in Creation Week. This truth is repeated in Exodus 31:17.
In Mark 10:6, Jesus stated that male and female humans had been around “
from the beginning of creation.” Paul wrote that man has seen and understood God’s invisible attributes “
since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20). These verses would be false if billions of years had passed before the creation of man. If that were the case, then Jesus and Paul misled their respective audiences.
Christians who believe God created everything over the course of billions of years often attempt to impose an unnatural interpretation on the days of creation in Genesis 1. This approach ultimately forces contradictions and theological dilemmas into the text. It introduces millions of years of death, disease, violence, and extinction in the animal world, plus other natural evils like hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and earthquakes, before God called everything “
very good” (Genesis 1:31) and before man’s sin brought these things into the world.
The word translated as “day” in Genesis 1 is the Hebrew word yom. In this chapter, yom is modified by a number and used in connection with the word night and the phrase “evening and morning.” Each time yom is used outside of Genesis 1 in just one of these ways, it means a normal-length day. There should be absolutely no question that day means a literal, 24-hour day in Genesis 1 because that chapter uses yom with the combination of all three—a number, the word night, and with “evening and morning.”
Some Christians object by quoting a particular verse out of context. We often hear statements like, “Yes, but 2 Peter 3:8 says that ‘a day is as a thousand years,’ so the days of creation could have been long ages.” But why doesn’t anyone ever question what the word day means when Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho for seven days or when Jonah was in the great fish for three days? No Christian believes that the Israelites marched around Jericho for thousands of years or that Jonah was in the great fish for 3,000 years. Why? Because Scripture is clear. Yet, why do some Christians continue to question the clear meaning of Genesis 1? The answer is that they have been influenced by modern scientists who believe in millions of years. Thus, they have allowed man’s ever-changing opinions to have authority over the unchanging Word of God.
So this is really an issue of authority. Do we hold God’s Word as the authority, or do we look to the ever-changing views of fallible men who weren’t there and don’t know everything? Since God knows everything, cannot lie, and has inspired the writing of His Word, we must stick with His description of the past rather than following the views of fallible men. Praise the Lord that we can have absolute confidence in His Word!
After two days . . . in the third day,” meaning “in a short time,” makes sense only if “day” is understood in its normal sense.