Place the timeline dowel on the ground (or on a table) in the centre of the room.
Remember from last time that this represents the earth from start to finish?
Remember too that I asked you to imagine that you were God in eternity.
(Indicate leftmost end) Here is creation – we really don’t know when that was. (Now point to the fourth line, then fifth, sixth etc). Let’s assume here is the flood, then Abraham, here are the Israelites, leaving Egypt. Here is David. Here is the Exile. Next is Jesus. (Now skip 3 lines) And this is us at 2000 ad.
As God you are actually looking at next Thursday evening. (Point to just on from the 2000 ad. mark) Here is a young girl praying to you before she goes to bed.
How much time can you afford to spend with her?
(Tease out some answers – we’re looking for ‘forever’!)
Actually you can stay with her all the days of her life – and at the same time concerning yourself with the impact of the next hurricane to hit Florida. And at the same time . . . You get the idea! You are omnipresent, and all-knowing. And you are not limited by earth time.
In our last study we began to look at God and his power, and we realised we can’t say ‘God can’t . . . .’ God has infinite power and knowledge and can do anything he chooses.
We looked at the subatomic particles that make me, you, the chairs we are sitting on, this house; everything that makes the world we know.
I can understand a finite, physical world, which is running down and would eventually stop; a world with a beginning and an end made of physical atoms. I can also understand that there is a spiritual world in which God exists, with no beginning or end.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:35–49
35 But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’
36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.
40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45 So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
Is God limited in his design for the new heavens and earth? Does he have to use the same system of atomic particles that he used the first time?
So what will the new heavens and earth be like? Spiritual? Or physical? – Or could it be something entirely different? (Allow some discussion – of course again there is no answer.)
(When Jesus had risen from the sealed tomb, and appeared to his Disciples, passing through the locked door (John 20:19) what was his body? Spiritual? Or physical? – Or something entirely different?) (Don’t spend too much time here – it’s actually irrelevant!)
Read 1 John 3:2
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
At the end of time, when Christ appears, ‘we shall be like him’. Then we shall see God as he is – but not with our physical eyes, only when we have been changed and given our new bodies. And what that will be like ‘has not yet been made known.’
Because I am human and not God, I can’t imagine another kind of world, a world not made from atoms and molecules. But I believe it could exist, whatever it may be like, because the Bible tells us: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
So let’s get back to what we know: this physical world of time and space. And for the next few studies we will look at creation (taken from our studies in Genesis) . It’s probably obvious by now that I believe in Biblical creation but that shouldn’t stop anyone from joining in. I’d just encourage everyone to try to keep an open mind!
In my defence, Jesus also referred to God as creator and happily quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as recorded in Matthew 19:3-6.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’
4 ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” 5 and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
The people of his day accepted the scriptures as literal fact. If it should have been read as an allegorical story, surely Jesus would have not have relied on it to confirm the truth of what he was saying, but rather taken the opportunity to correct their error?
Read Genesis 1:1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Is your God big enough for that? For God to be truly all-powerful (Omnipotent) he cannot be limited in his ability or power. If in your mind you say God couldn’t . . . then you are wrong because God could! There may be things that are not in his nature to do, but he has the unrestrained ability to do anything he pleases.
Nothing or nobody can in any way limit God – otherwise they would be more powerful than God and therefore would themselves be God.
It may help here to read Isaiah 40:12-26 (Perhaps several could share the reading)
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counsellor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?
15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.
18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple.
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
25 ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
So if God has unlimited ability and power:
Can he use some of that power to produce all the atoms needed to create and sustain the Universe?
The answer to that has to be yes – otherwise we are denying a statement of fact in the very first phrase in the first verse in the first book in the Bible, and that would not be a very good start to studying God’s Word!
So if we are happy that God created the heavens and the earth, when did he do it?
Anything from 4.54 billion years ago (Wikipedia – scientific age of the earth) to 5½ thousand years ago (some Creationists).
At this point I must point out that we will encounter many different conflicting views when looking at early dates and none can be trusted! I know that is a bold statement, but as soon as someone states definitively that a date is correct, someone else proves them wrong.
The dates from Abraham onwards are probably accurate to +/- 1000 years, and from David onwards we can be quite accurate. But the further back in time we go, the more problems we encounter.
(Some have suggested that this is not helped by the fact that genealogies in the bible are not necessarily complete. It seems that sometimes they are adjusted so that there is symmetry in the names given. Or it may be that only the most important names are included, and the term ‘son of’ can also include just about any male descendant. And ‘father of’ can include grandfather, great-grandfather etc.
Suggestions have also been made that errors could have been made in copying dates or numbers of years. Again, someone has even come up with a theory that early ‘years’ were only about six months long.)
There is also a danger that we have all been taught the scientific age of the earth as fact. Unfortunately there is no conclusive proof that the earth is billions of years old. Evolutionists need a world that old for evolution to have long enough to work, so any scientific dating that arrives at a young age is obviously faulty!
Let’s leave dates for the moment – at least we have proof that the earth was created sometime!
Remember in our last study we asked how long you, as God, would need to make this piece of dowel.
Now let me ask: how long did it take for God to come up with a complete universe? How long would he need? (Actually as God, he could choose to take a long time, or he could choose to take no time at all. And are we talking Earth time, or Eternity time?)
I suppose to be completely accurate we should point out that actually it was Jesus that created the universe and everything in it:
Read John 1:1-3
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Why was that, do you think? (This may provoke discussion, but again there are no answers!)
We have looked at where, when, who, how, but we are left with the question: Why? Knowing everything that was going to happen in the world, why did God go ahead and create us?
Perhaps this world was created knowing it would be a stepping-stone to the new heavens and new earth. Probably the best answer is in the King James translation of Revelation 4:11
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Before we move on we need to look carefully at the first verse of Genesis.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And that’s a problem because it’s followed by verse 2.
Why is that a problem? The problem is that it upsets our scientific understanding of how creation happened. Especially as much later on we have verses 14-19.
We therefore need to look at exactly what verse 1 says: In the beginning God created the heavens. (Whenever in this first chapter the words expanse and sky (NIV) come together, sky is a translation of the word heaven in verse 1)
So the first necessity in creation was to provide a place for created things to occupy. We’ve already seen that this was actually very easy as it was literally nothing! We know it contained nothing because the sun, moon and stars are not created until verses 14-19.
The very next created thing was the earth. Now that is a problem because it denies all scientific theories of the creation of the universe.
Should that worry us?
The work of scientists is to carefully observe things around us and to try to understand what they see – how things work, what they are made of, where they came from. Often scientists will come up with conflicting theories until a proof can be found to confirm that one is right. However, later discoveries may mean that they were all wrong and a new theory is required. So far, we are still at the ‘conflicting theories’ stage when it comes to the origins of everything, so we are quite safe to have a theory of our own!
Because scientists can prove that the universe is expanding, they can calculate backwards to when it all started, followed by a period of rapid expansion: hence the Big Bang theory.
But even the Big Bang theory now has some doubters.
(Wikipedia describes the Big Bang theory very well but remember it’s still only a theory! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang)
The Big Bang suggests a massive explosion – which then suggests rapidly expanding chaos. I like to think instead of creation as rapidly expanding order, structure, discipline, beauty and perfection.
So could God have created the Earth first?
(The answer has to be yes!)
Some interesting words are used to describe the embryonic earth: v2 ‘Formless and empty’ or ‘without form and void’
What do those words suggest to you?
(Perhaps all the constituent atoms, molecules etc. were present but it had not coalesced into its round shape due to gravitational action. Or perhaps there was no gravity yet.)
2 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.
If actually the earth was round and covered in water, some have calculated that it would be covered to a depth of about 2.7km – about 1 ½ miles. But it is totally dark, and God’s Holy Spirit is also present for what is to come.
3 And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.
No says the scientist – you can’t have light without the Sun. Actually what they are saying is that you can’t have light without a source of photons. But throughout the Bible, God, and Jesus, are described as light –
Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
John 1:9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world
Revelation 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
If God chose to shine his light on the embryonic Earth, I can’t say that he couldn’t!