Literal or Figurative?
Moses, inspired by God, penned the beautiful words describing the account of creation in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. The first words that were written were In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, (Genesis 1:1). In the verses that follow it is commonly understood that creation took place over a period of six days. There has been much debate, however, among brethren, especially during the ongoing controversy between brethren and a few of the Bible teachers at Florida College, over this teaching that affects our entrance into Heaven. Some say that the days of creation are literal, while others believe that the days are figurative. Then, there are those who say the days could be both, in the name of unity-in-diversity. But, what does the Bible say?
The word day is used both literally and figuratively throughout the Scriptures. In order to identify which, it is necessary to consider the context first. After this has been accomplished, it is possible to know what the word day is referring to in a particular passage. Before we examine a few examples of the word day, the following table from a previous article, The Gift in Acts 2:38 that I wrote, found at:
Whenever the word day is used in the literal sense it always refers to an actual day, regardless if the person speaking is describing or mentioning the day itself. For example, in John 11:9, we read, Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. Here, Jesus is describing the day.
In Genesis 8:13, Moses indicates which day of the month the flood ceased. The scripture says, And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.
The day on which Christ rose from the dead is also a literal day. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus, (Luke 24:1-3).
The word day is also used in the figurative sense. For example, in 2 Peter 3:8, Peter says, But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. In this passage, Peter is instructing us that God does not count time like we do.
Another passage where day is used in the figurative sense is found in Psalm 59:16. David says, But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. In this verse, David is saying that God has always been there beside him during his days or moments or times of trouble.
Christ used the word day figuratively as well as literally when He prophesied His second coming. Matthew 24:36 says, But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Also, 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up". In the figurative sense, day in this passage refers to the moment or time of His second appearance. In the literal sense, Christs second coming will come on a day that no one knows.
Now that we have learned how day is used in various passages, let us examine its use in the first chapter of Genesis. The following table compares the days of creation with another passage which also contains a listing of days:
There are several important clues in the word of God that help us to understand that the days of creation are literal twenty-four hour days. However, the most compelling evidence is found in Exodus 20:10-11. The children of Israel were commanded by God to keep the Sabbath, which was the seventh day, holy. The Scripture says, But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Israel understood the meaning of the word day when they were reminded of His creating the heaven and the earth in six days. We are also forced to conclude that they knew how to count time; otherwise, they would not be able to keep the Sabbath and other important feast and holy days and other time requirements in the Law of Moses.
As we have seen, the word day is used literally and figuratively throughout the Scriptures. Furthermore, there is ample evidence in the Scriptures that proves the days of creation are literal twenty-four hour days.
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