In The Beginning
The Purpose for the Earth
Man was designed to live on this planet. The earth was designed to be the home for man. This was the plan God had from the very beginning. He began by creating the heavens and the earth, and He spent time preparing it for His man. When it was finished, he put Adam and Eve in the garden and gave them dominion over the earth.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. [see NASB]
Psalm 8 also says that man was made to have dominion:
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. [see NASB]
Man sinned and lost the rulership he was meant to have. But God had a purpose for man, and still has a plan to return man to his original state. And that original state included rulership of the earth. That plan is the overall subject of the entire Bible, which ends with man (specifically the man, Jesus Christ, along with his church) ruling on earth. This is in contrast to most of mainstream Christianity, which teaches that the ultimate purpose of man is to live with God as a disembodied creature in heaven.
On the other extreme are those who believe that man just evolved by random processes and natural selection, and that there is no real purpose to man’s existence. But are those the only two options? For years I had thought so, and have held to (and even written about here) the idea of Biblical creation, often in stark opposition to what scientific evidence presents. But is it really necessary to choose between faith and science? For a fresh examination of the subject, see the article, This Old Earth.
While there is much debate about how and when the earth came about, the question that science cannot answer (and they admit it is beyond the scope of science) is the question of why. But Scripture tells us the reason God created the world.
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth he has given to the children of men. [see NASB]
The Bible teaches that man’s ultimate destination is the earth, not heaven. This is the whole point of the Gospel Message. (See What Is the Gospel?)
There is a supposed discrepancy in the creation accounts. Critics and skeptics claim that Genesis chapter 2 contradicts the creation record in chapter 1. This is a common misinterpretation which stems from the assumption that chapter 1 and chapter 2 are two different accounts of creation, but in fact they are both describing the same events from different perspectives, and with different focus. Chapter 1 and the first three verses of chapter 2 are a detailed, chronological description of the six days of creation and the seventh day on which God rested. Verse 4 of chapter 2 begins a new section: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” The rest of chapter 2 then describes events on day six in greater detail.
The following is a list of the events in chapter 1 and the first three verses of chapter 2:
Day 1: Heavens and Earth are created; light and darkness, day and night.
Day 2: Waters above firmament divided from water on earth.
Day 3: Water on earth gathered, land appears; earth brings forth vegetation.
Day 4: Sun, moon, and stars.
Day 5: Sea creatures and birds.
Day 6: Beasts of the earth, cattle, creeping things, and finally, man.
Day 7: God rested and blessed the seventh day.
According to chapter 1, plants were created on day 3, and man was not created until day 6. In contrast, chapter 2 appears to say that plants and trees were not created until after man.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
5 And every plant of
the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it
grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there
was not a man to till the ground.*
6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. [see NASB]
First of all, we know this is not just another account of creation, as there is no mention of mornings and evenings or days, and no mention of the heavens and the earth, the firmament, the seas and the land, the sun, moon, and stars, etc. The focus of this passage is on the things directly relating to man.
Second, the vegetation created in chapter 1 refers to all vegetation in general, but the word for “plant” in 2:5 is the word for a shrub, or cultivated plant, one that requires agriculture. God created plants in chapter 1, but he had not made cultivated plants until there was a man to cultivate them.
Third, another perceived contradiction deals with when man was created in relation to trees. As written in the KJV, it appears as if God created man (verses 7-8), and then the trees afterward (verse 9), which would contradict chapter 1. But this is not describing the creation of trees in general, but the bringing forth of the trees in the garden.
Then we don’t read about animals until verse 19.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. [see NASB]
Here it seems to say that the animals and birds were made after man, which would also contradict chapter 1. But in Hebrew, verb tenses are not as exact as in English and are often determined by the context. Several other versions render verse 19 as, “Out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field…” William Tyndale translated it as, “And after that the Lord God had made of the earth all manner beasts of the field, and all manner fowls of the air, he brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.” Thus there is no contradiction. While chapter 1 describes the events of creation in chronological order, chapter 2 steps back and gives more details about day 6. There is nothing in that chapter which demands it be understood chronologically.
Chapter 3 speaks of the Serpent, which Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 identify as “the dragon,” “that old serpent,” and “the Devil, and Satan.” The Bible doesn’t say a lot about the origin of the devil, but one thing that many people assume it says is that Lucifer was his name before he fell and became the devil. However the Bible does not say this. Most people would be surprised to hear that the name “Lucifer” appears in the Bible only once, in Isaiah 14:12. The context says that it is addressed to the King of Babylon, and it goes on to describe the Day of the Lord, and the sun and moon being darkened, which Jesus quoted in connection with his return, right after the Great Tribulation (Mark 13:24).
3 And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
4 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! [see NASB]
It goes on addressing the King of Babylon, and in 14:12 it calls him Lucifer, and he is referred to as the Assyrian in 14:25, another name for the Man of Sin, or the Antichrist. Reading the whole context shows that he is the subject of this passage, not the devil.
When was Satan cast out of heaven? I was once taught that it was a great spiritual war that occurred between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1, and caused God’s creation to become “without form and void.” But if that were the case, then he was already fallen when Adam and Eve were created, so why would God not warn them of him? This is covered in greater detail in the Closer Look article on The Gap Theory. The more likely understanding is that Satan was in charge of guarding the Garden of Eden, but was lifted up with pride and tempted Eve to sin (Ezekiel 28:12-16). For this he was cast out of heaven and became the Evil One.
The devil is called The Serpent in Genesis and Revelation because of his subtlety and craftiness. He was able to deceive Eve into sinning, by several steps.
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. [see NASB]
God had said they could eat of every tree of the garden, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). (By the way, it doesn’t say it was an apple, as tradition usually portrays. It doesn’t say what kind of fruit it was, but it likely wasn’t an apple as apples don’t grow in that part of the world.)
The Serpent’s first step was to get her to question God’s commandment. In verse 1 he asks, “Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” This can be understood in two ways. He could be saying, “Has God said…?” In other words, did God really say that? Or it could also be understood as, “Has God said…?” Remember, God had originally told Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil before He made Eve. Eve could have only known of it because Adam told her. So the Serpent is asking Eve, “Did God say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden, or was that just Adam’s words?” Either way, he begins by questioning God’s Word.
The next step was that Eve responded to the serpent and said, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Notice she makes several subtle changes to God’s commandment. She says they may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but she omits the word “every.” Then she adds the words, “neither shall we touch it.” God never said anything about touching it, only not to eat it. And then she changes “Thou shalt surely die” to “Lest ye die.”
At this point the Serpent completely contradicts God by saying, “Ye shall not surely die.” And that same lie has been promulgated ever since. You don’t really die, you just live on as a disembodied spirit, or you go to heaven, or you get reincarnated. There are a number of variations, but the same lie is at the center: Even though you disobeyed God, you won’t die. But the Bible is clear. Death in man came by Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:21-22). For more on the “Big Lie” see The State of the Dead.
Although God said “in the day that you eat of it…” Adam didn’t die in the day that he sinned. Some commentaries say that it was “spiritual death” which means separation from God, but the Bible doesn’t say that. Others say that the “seeds of death” were planted in Adam, but he actually died hundreds of years later, after living a total of 930 years (Genesis 5:5). But the Bible nowhere refers to “seeds of death” either. The literal translation of the Hebrew for “Thou shalt surely die” is “dying ye shall die.” The process of dying would begin to work in him from the day he sinned, and without access to the Tree of Life he would eventually die (Genesis 3:22-24; see This Old Earth). Thus death passed among all men as a result of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). And while Eve was deceived, Adam was not. He walked right into it with his eyes wide open (I Timothy 2:14). The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Now there are a few questions that may sound silly but which are, in fact, quite reasonable. Many a Bible student has asked, “If Adam and Eve were the first people, who did Cain, Abel, and Seth marry? How did they have children and propagate the species?” Believe it or not, I once asked my fifth grade teacher, a nun, this question and she said, “Maybe men could have babies in those days.”
Another similar question is, “Who are the other people that Cain was afraid would kill him?” (Genesis 4:13-15) The answer to both of these questions is really quite simple. Not everything in Genesis is chronological. Even though no other children are mentioned in chapter 4 after Cain and Abel, chapter 5 begins a new section, which starts with a summary of Adam and Eve’s offspring. Verse 4 says, “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.” Since he had other children, both sons and daughters, who else would Cain and Abel marry? Today marrying a sibling is illegal because of the genetic defects it can cause. But at the time their bloodline was still relatively pure, so it would not be a problem. (This could also explain why people lived so much longer then.) It became more and more corrupt as time went on, until marriage between siblings was against the law. But even as recently as 100 years ago marriage between first cousins was still acceptable.
There is a passage in Genesis which has been disputed over for centuries. It is the record of the “Sons of God” and the “Daughters of Men” and how they brought forth the Nephilim.
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. [see NASB]
Some have said that this is referring to angels cohabiting with humans and producing offspring. Others, including those who taught in the ministry I was in, said that such a thing was impossible because reproduction was only after its kind. However, that is referring to plants and animals, not to angels.
So why do some believe verse 4 refers to angels and humans? For one thing the phrase “Sons of God,” while commonly thought to mean believers, especially in the New Testament, is actually not used that way in the Old Testament. The phrase appears only 11 times in the whole Bible, and only 5 of them are in the Old Testament. Two of those five are in the verses we are looking at in Genesis 6; the other three are in Job.
As you can see the only three places in the Old Testament outside of Genesis where the phrase “Sons of God” is used are referring to angels. Twice in Genesis 6, it speaks of the Sons of God cohabiting with the daughters of men. Many commentaries say that the Sons of God were the descendants of Seth who were obedient to God, but there is nothing in the Bible that says that. Furthermore, something very unusual happened as a result. The word ‘giants’ in verse 4 is the word Nephilim in Hebrew. The word is preserved in some other English versions.
Genesis 6 (NASB):
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. [see KJV]
The Nephilim were the offspring of the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men. If it just meant the descendants of Seth, there is no explanation for them being “mighty men of old.” It has been suggested by some that these Nephilim were not literal giants, but “giants of wickedness.” However they are seen again in Numbers.
Numbers 33 (NASB):
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.
33 And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. [see KJV]
Genesis 6:4 had said they were in the earth in those days, and also afterward. They weren’t just “giants of wickedness,” they were literally large in stature. They were a corrupt cross breed resulting from angels leaving their rightful place and cohabiting with humans. Reproduction after its kind was God's design for animal and plant life. But those angels committed unnatural, sinful acts, and were imprisoned for it. Peter and Jude both refer to this.
I Peter 3:
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
II Peter 2:
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,
10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. [see NASB]
It is significant that Peter and Jude both compare the actions of those angels with the gross immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are talking about a very serious sexual sin against nature on the part of those angels, which is why they were imprisoned. And it first happened during the time when Noah was building the ark, as Peter tells us in his epistles.
Some commentators have suggested that the Nephilim were responsible for the degradation of mankind that led to the Flood. But II Peter 2:4-5 doesn’t say that. It only says, “if God did not spare angels when they sinned… And spared not the old world…” That one caused the other is merely speculation. Genesis 6:5 says that the wickedness of man was great, and made God regret making man on the earth. The Nephilim may well have been involved, but it doesn’t say they were directly responsible.
The Bible makes references to three heavens and earths. Paul was given a vision of “the third heaven” in II Corinthians 12:2. A great many commentators interpret this as referring to a view of the heavens that was held by some Jews in that day. They believed that there were three levels to heaven: The first was the visible portion, with clouds and birds, etc. The second was the portion which contains the sun, moon, and stars, what we would call “outer space.” The third heaven was the "heaven of heavens" beyond the stars, which was thought to be the abode of God and his angels. However, the Bible says no such thing. Deuteronomy 10:14 says, "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is." (See also I Kings 8:27; II Chronicles 2:6; 6:18) God is not limited to a supposed third level of heaven, He is said to be everywhere present (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalm 139:7-10; Isaiah 57:15; 66:1-2).
In contrast to the idea of three heavens, Hebrews 9 refers to two divisions of the Tabernacle (the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies) and states that this was a pattern of heaven. It says that Jesus entered, not the copy made with hands, but into heaven itself. But in no place does it mention three heavens or levels of heaven. Outside of the first veil is not considered the first section of the Tabernacle, it is called the court of the Tabernacle. The Holy Place is called the first section, and the Holy of Holies is the second. The significance of this is stated in verse 8: “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.” The Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle was a pattern of the holiest of all, representing God’s abode in the heavens, but nowhere is that identified as the “third heaven.”
II Peter 3 describes the heavens and earth which existed before and were destroyed.
II Peter 3:
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. [see NASB]
It then refers to the heavens and earth which are now, which will be destroyed by fire in the day of judgment (verses 10-12); and a new heavens and earth which will be in the future (verse 13; see also Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1).
Some may argue that the future new heavens and earth can’t be the third, because Revelation 21:1 says "I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away." But the word for "first" here is protos which in verse 4 is translated "former" ("There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.") Verse one is simply saying the former heaven and earth are passed away, not that they were the first.
Paul's vision of the third heaven is also called paradise in II Corinthians 12:4, which is a place on earth in the future (Revelation 2:7) and is identified with Christ's kingdom (Luke 23:42-43), which ties it together with the new heavens and earth in II Peter 3:13. Thus the three heavens are not vertical levels as is often supposed, but chronological. The first heaven and earth were destroyed by the flood in Noah’s time, the second is what exists now, and the third is what will be in future, which is also called Paradise, of which Paul was given a vision. (I was previously taught that the first heaven and earth were destroyed by the war in heaven with Satan, which was part of The Gap Theory. This is dealt with in a Closer Look article about that theory.)
When wickedness had so multiplied in the world, God destroyed it with the Flood and saved Noah and his family, which Peter refers to in his second epistle, as quoted above. Some claim that God would never kill so many people, and that it was the devil who brought it to pass. There are many cases in which God allowed evil to come to pass, which Scripture says He did, by way of a Hebrew idiom that describes what He allowed as if He had personally done it. But God emphasized that He Himself would send the flood in Genesis 6:17. “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh…” This was the destruction of the first heaven and earth referred to by Peter. But God was not finished with man, and he saved Noah and his family, to repopulate the world.
God's plan from the beginning was for man to inhabit this planet, and to rule over it. Man sinned, however, and the world became corrupt. But that does not mean that God’s plans were changed. He tells us that the current world is corrupted and will pass away, but a new one will replace it.
I Corinthians 7:
31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
I John 2:
17 and the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
17 For behold I created new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
22 "For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me," says the Lord, So shall your descendants and your name remain."
II Peter 3:
13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. [see NASB]
Ever since man fell, God has been unfolding a plan to restore man and the earth to their original condition. His first promise was the eventual defeat of the devil by someone who would be of the woman's seed.
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. [see NASB]
He also planned to restore the earth to the way it was, referred to in Acts 3:21 as "the times of restitution of all things." Romans also speaks of this.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [see NASB]
The word "vanity" in verse 20 means "futility." The world is subject to futility because it is not currently able to measure up to its intended purpose. God subjected it to that futility "in hope," because His plan involves one day delivering it from the bondage of corruption and returning it to its former glory. This is the foundation of the good news about the Kingdom of God.
The end result of this restoration will be God’s glory.
21 God told Moses: but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.
19 and blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. [see NASB]
In the end, God will get what He has always wanted all along. A perfect planet full of people that love and worship Him.This page last updated April 25, 2018