Does the Bible really say that people will burn in hell forever?
How can that kind of God be loving and just?
Or does the Bible say something else?
The Bible didn't create Christianity.
Christianity (death and resurrection of Jesus) created the Bible.
The Bible came 30-70 years later.
The Bible is the record of what Jesus said and did.
A recent Gallup Poll reveals that 68% of weekly church attenders believe that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago. It is a fair assumption to conclude that this is still the teaching of most churches today.
The typical traditional belief – at least the publicly stated belief – is that the entire universe was created in less than a week about 6,000 years ago.
The basis for this belief is Genesis 1 – the first chapter in the Bible – which says that God created everything in six 'days,' assumed to be 24 hour days.
This contrasts sharply with the scientific community which believes that the universe was formed over a period of 13.8 billion years.
Almost all doubters believe that the earth is billions of years old. They think that anyone who believes the the earth is less than 10,000 years old is simply out of touch with reality and the facts of modern science.
They can't understand why any informed and intelligent person today could still believe in the young earth theory unless they have been blinded by their church, in which case these people are probably thoroughly indoctrinated beyond reason regarding other matters, too.
Many doubters would never seriously consider becoming a Bible-believing Christian because they think they have to choose either the Bible or science, but not both.
Here's a common response from traditional Christians:
It really doesn't matter to me whether God created the world in six days or in billions of years. God's method and timing of creation has nothing to do with accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior.
That's true, but shortsighted and self-serving. That's thinking only about about me, not about others.
The primary reason why getting it right about origin of the universe is because it reflects on credibility of the Bible in the minds of well-educated people.
People will think that if the Bible is wrong about age of the earth, the Bible is probably wrong about other things, too. If the Bible isn't trustworthy regarding our origin, it isn't trustworthy regarding our destiny either. If Christians don't have it right about physical matters, they probably don't have it right about spiritual matters either.
An erroneous interpretation of the ancient Hebrew word 'yom' makes Christians seem uniformed at best, stupid at worst, and this is a handicap in presenting the gospel. This word, investigated in this Bible study, has become a big barrier to Christian faith.
God's first creation was light, the primary requirement for life. Light is so amazing that it cannot be defined by anything other than itself. See 1.2.2 for the qualities of light, physically and spiritually. It is the first require meant for life.
About nine billion years passed between Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 1:3.
The Biblical account of creation is seen from perspective of earth. The universe is about fourteen billion years old, but the sun is only about five billion years old. Because of younger age of the sun and earth's intense heat and dense cloud cover, the earth has been in darkness for most of its existence.
The enormous cloud of cooling gasses and dust collapsed over the first nine billion years to form a crust on planet earth.
Violent collisions with comets and asteroids and condensing steam brought water, eventually covering the crust. God created an atmosphere ('expanse') of life-sustaining air between ocean and cloud.
The atmosphere makes earth habitable by absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun to warm the earth's surface, bringing rain for vegetation and air for breathing.
As temperature changed on the earth's surface, the thickening crust (floating on molten rock) began cracking, shifting and buckling. Parts of the crust were thrust above water to form dry land.
At first, there was total darkness on earth, but eventually light began to glow through the dense cloud cover and support simple organic life.
Starting with single cell organisms fed by photosynthesis and water, the food chain began in the sea and land about four billion years ago.
The Biblical account of creation is seen from human perspective of land on earth. First life on earth was tiny organisms like bacteria. Then vegetation started in water, gradually spreading and adapting to land. Ancient people would not have understood micro organisms and biological processes, so the Bible skips directly to vegetation they knew.
All celestial bodies were created from the Big Bang, starting as formless spinning gasses, too hot for light to penetrate. It took billions of years for them to merge, cool, solidify and achieve stable orbits.
Eventually there were breaks in the thinning clouds so that the sun, moon and stars became visible from human vantage point. Light existed before Day 4, but the sun had been obscured by dense cloud cover and unable to provide the direct sunlight needed for rapid growth of plants and trees, growing seasons, bird migrations and ultimately for human navigation and schedules.
For centuries the Bible's creation order was used by critics as irrefutable proof that the Bible is not trustworthy. They said it is impossible to have light (Day 1) and organic growth (Day 3) before sun (Day 4). But now that we understand the Big Bang – that most of earth's life has been clouded by vaporized gasses – the creation order shows that the Bible is trustworthy. No writer three thousand years ago could have possibly known this modern science without some direct knowledge from the designer/creator.
With direct sunlight, vegetation proliferated, especially in water, and became an abundant food source for a new category of life – fish – which God created about 500 million years ago.
Then a new kind of creature appears, the dinosaurs. We know from archaeology that there were more than 700 species of dinosaurs of all sizes and types – from five pounds to fifty tons, some walked, some swam, some flew – and they dominated the earth for 175 million years.
This is particularly interesting because scientists now believe that modern birds are descendants of small avian dinosaurs that escaped the mass extinction 66 million years ago. All non-flying dinosaurs and three-fourths of all other species of life on earth were killed in this extinction, caused by an enormous meteorite about six miles wide crashing into the ocean near the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in scorching fires, radioactivity, volcanic eruptions and sun hidden by dust.
Dinosaurs were the dominant part of God's creation in Day 5, but the Bible never mentions them, probably because they went extinct and no one in Bible times could comprehend the time scale or believe that these creatures actually existed. The Bible account skips dinosaurs and goes direct from fish to birds.
'God blessed them and said, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let birds increase on earth.'
There was extensive evolution and proliferation of fish and birds throughout the earth, expanding the food chain, getting ready for animals and humans in the next stage of life.
Shortly after the great extinction 66 million years ago, God created a new kind of creature – animals – adapted to the new environment and reproducing with live births instead of eggs.
Then, about four million years ago – very recent in geological time – new kinds of creatures appear, known as hominids and hominins, with physical form very similar to today's apes and humans, all having 95-97% identical DNA.
The last known hominin population (Neanderthals) was in Europe and vanished suddenly about 30,000 years ago.
The Bible never mentions hominins, probably because they went extinct and because few people in Bible times could comprehend a time span of millions of years or believe that these kind of soulless creatures actually existed. The Bible account goes direct from animals to humans.
Archaeological digs reveal the first evidence of humans about 40,000 years ago. Hominins and humans may have coexisted at one time, and apparently there was some interbreeding, because today Europeans and Asians have approximately 2% Neanderthal DNA, but other groups have little or none. This low percentage is further evidence that humans did not evolve from hominins.
God said: 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move upon the ground.'
The concluding act of the six days (ages) of creation was creation of humans, made in likeness of God, not evolved, created with capacity to have a relationship with God and to rule the earth – the crowning jewel of God's creation!
A concluding statement is used to end each of the six days of creation – 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' – but not used for the seventh day of rest, meaning that this day has not yet ended. We are still in the seventh day (age).
God is not making new creations during this pause, but procreation and evolution within categories continues. God has equipped humans with a unique body, mind and soul to rule the earth and do creative work to further fashion life on earth.
Other portions of the Bible tell us that in a future day (age), God will take back rule of the earth from humans and will resume new creative work here ... a new heaven and a new earth ... (see 3.4).
The Bible provides sequential order of first appearance but not actual times or time spans. The sequential order summarized above is confirmed by cosmologists, geologists, biologists and archaeologists.
It is unlikely that the ancient writer of Genesis could have known this method and sequence without special knowledge from God.
Now modern science is filling in the time blanks, and a re-reading of Genesis 1 opens our eyes to new understanding of God's unfolding master plan.
In the English translation of Genesis 1, each stage of creation is called a day. In the original Hebrew language in which the biblical account was written, the word is yom.
Just as in English, Hebrew yom usually means a 24-hour period but it can also mean a long indefinite period, depending upon context (as, this is day of the jet plane, this is the day of social media, etc.).
So the question is: In which of these two senses is the word used in the Genesis 1 creation account?
The young earth concept is totally out of synch with modern science due to translation a single Hebrew word (yom), which is the subject of Bible Study 1.2.1.
The Bible is it's own best interpreter. This study shows, right from the Bible itself, direct from the Genesis 1 account, that the word yom should be understood to be a long indefinite period of time.
See for yourself ...
Some traditional Christians say that the earth is not actually old but just looks old, that it was created about 6,000 years ago with built-in apparent age. See 1.2.3 for fatal problems with the apparent age theory.
School text books often use a cartoon-like drawing to teach that humans evolved from apes or a common animal ancestor. The drawing usually shows a series of six or more creatures with changing physical characteristics, starting with an ape on one end and a man on the other, with part-ape and part-man creatures morphing in-between.
The secular teaching is clear: Man is an animal, an improved animal evolved through the process of natural selection.
The Bible teaching is also clear:
'God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.' (Genesis 1:27)
'The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being' (Genesis 2:7).
Humans are a unique creation. We are not animals and did not evolve from apes or a common ancestor.
'Evolution' is an emotionally charged word for some Christians. It frequently implies a creation that happened by itself without God.
Actually, 'evolution' just means the process of gradual change that takes place over many generations, during which species of animals, plants and other life forms slowly change physical characteristics and eventually die out.
More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth are estimated to have died out. We know this from archaeological finds, and we observe hundreds of species dying out every year.
Evolution is a fact of life. Christians believe that evolution is part of God's design plan.
Bsdically, there are two ways people think about evolution:
And, basically, there are two ways people think about theistic evolution:
God created everything within major categories at specific times ('days') in geologic history. The categories of creation seem to be walled:
Light never turns into water ... Water never turns into rock ... Rock never turns into vegetation ... vegetation never turns into fish ... fish never turns into bird ... bird never turns into animal ... animal never turns into human.
There are no continuous lines (missing links) of in-between creatures connecting one category with other categories. For example, there are no flying horses and no talking cows.
Each category makes it possible for more complex kinds of life to exist in the next higher category. It all culminates with humans made in the image of God.
The viewpoint on this site is that humans are a unique creation, not evolved from any other creature. There are four primary reasons for this view:
God is certainly big enough to create all of life from a single cell OR to create certain kinds of life within walled categories. Many devout Bible-believing Christians believe in single cell evolution.
The issue is not what God is able to do, but rather what God actually did. The important point is not how the world was created, but to recognize that GOD DID IT!
'And God created every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird accord to its kind. And God saw that it was good.' (Genesis 1:21)
'And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move upon the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.' (Genesis 1:24-25)
Simple observation shows that evolution does not jump from one major category to another, but simple observation also shows that thereabundant evolution within each category, continuing to this day. This adaptation to change over time is God's method of continuous improvement, an awesome unfolding design plan.
'Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all creatures that move along the ground. God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.' Genesis 1:26-27)
Humans were created as a unique kind, not evolved from other kinds. See 2.5 for the amazing qualities and possibilities of a life made in the image of God.
The qualities that most separate humans from animals are NOT evolutionary, such as laughter, music, mathematics, language and worship.
These qualities are unique to humans and not found in other creatures.
In dialog with doubters, age of the earth is usually a bigger issue than evolution.
The 13.8 billion year age of earth is now regarded as proven by overwhelming scientific evidence, but evolution from animal-to-man is debated even among scientists and archaeologists because of missing links.
Most doubters probably align more with some form of theistic evolution than with godless evolution, but almost all doubters believe that the earth is billions of years old.
Most doubters will not conclude that the Bible is flat-out-wrong if it states that man did not evolve from animals, but they will conclude that it is flat-out-wrong if it states that everything was created in six days.
Saying that God created the universe in six days makes God less than he really is and puts him into human time frame. Creating a universe that unfolds over billions of years with majestic precision is even more amazing than designing a quick universe that's static.