If a day is a thousand years to God, then wouldn’t the 6 days of creation be 6 thousand years? Also, when God said He would be coming soon, was He using the 24-hours-a-day time, or His thousand-year time?
– E.T., North Carolina
Let’s begin by addressing your first question. There are many people that wonder about the length of each day during the Creation Week. But you don’t have to wonder, because the Bible contains the answer to this question!
Here are a few verses from Genesis 1 that use the word “day” in describing the events of Day One and Day Two of the Creation Week.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. Genesis 1:3–8
The Hebrew word used for “day” in these verses is “yom.” Since the word “yom” can have various meanings, it is important that the writer of Genesis further described the exact time period. The words “the evening and the morning” are used to qualify the length of time that “the first day” and “the second day” actually signify. These are actual 24 hour days.
Outside Genesis 1, yom is used with the word “evening” or “morning” 23 times. “Evening” and “morning” appear in association, but without yom, 38 times. All 61 times the text refers to an ordinary day. Why would Genesis 1 be the exception?1
Do you realize that God created time on Day One? It is interesting that God began the measurement of time using days and weeks, which we continue to use today! Our week consists of seven 24 hour days. God originally defined the length of days and a week, using the Creation Week as an example for us to follow.
2 Peter 3:8, which you mentioned in your question, really has nothing to do with the Creation Week. In this verse, Peter is making the point that God is not bound by the measurement of time. God existed before He created time. He is eternal. This is illustrated in Exodus 3:14 when God tells Moses that His name is “I AM.”
This verse [2 Peter 3:8] has what is called a “comparative article”—“as” or “like”— which is not found in Genesis 1. In other words, it is not saying a day is a thousand years; it is comparing a real, literal day to a real, literal thousand years. The context of this passage is the Second Coming of Christ. It is saying that, to God, a day is like a thousand years, because God is outside of time. God is not limited by natural processes and time as humans are. What may seem like a long time to us (e.g., waiting for the Second Coming), or a short time, is nothing to God, either way.2
A similar time comparison is used in Psalm 90:4, which reads, “For a thousand years in Your sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” This verse makes the comparison between a thousand years and two smaller time periods. God is not bound by any of these time measurements.
Your second question was, “when God said He would be coming soon, was He using the 24-hours-a-day time, or His thousand-year time?” Keep in mind that the verses mentioning thousands of years were merely stating that God is not bound by time. We actually cannot know when Christ’s return will occur, but we do need to make sure we are prepared.
There is only one way to be ready. We are all sinners and our sin separates us from God. This is a huge problem. We can’t be ready unless we are made right with God. This is something that we cannot do ourselves—Jesus provides the only way to be reconciled with God. Jesus loves us so much that he gave His life in order to bear the punishment that we deserved for our sins (John 3:16). To find out more about how you can be ready for Christ’s return, please read the good news.
For more information about the length of the Creation Week, please read the following articles:
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1Ken Ham, “Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?”, The New Answers Book, Master Books, 2007, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/could-god-have-created-in-six-days.
2Ken Ham, “Why Did God Take Six Days?”, February 1, 2007, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/articles/2007/02/01/why-six-days.