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The Hebrew word used for "day" is the word yom. Every other time the word is used in the Old Testament in conjunction with a number, a literal, 24-hour period of time is being described; what we know as a day. The word is never used metaphorically in the Bible.
The verses most commonly used to say that the word day in Genesis could mean more than a 24 hour period are Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3, which quotes Psalm 90:4.
Psalm 90:4 -
For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.
2 Peter 3:8 -
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
Notice the phrases "are like" and "is like." The Greek word used in 2 Peter is 3:8 for that phrase is like is the word hos, a word used in a figurative comparison - the word as.
We must always keep things in the proper perspective: Science is of men; the Bible is of God (2 Timothy 3:16 - "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"). The almighty, all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent God we worship obviously has the ability to create the world in an even shorter time; He could speak one word and it ALL would come into existence. He says in His Word that He created it in six days, why can't we let Him speak for Himself and take it at face value. God's Word is infallible, people ARE NOT.
Exodus 20:11 -
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 31:16-17 -
'So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.' "It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed."
If we were to assume that Creation lasted more than 6 24 hour days, the "sign" the second passage speaks of would be a pretty poor sign - a comparison between a 6000 year creation and our 7 day week wouldn't be very meaningful.
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Some people argue that scientists can determine the age of rocks fairly accurately. Actually, scientists like to make you think they can work out the age of the rocks accurately. Think about something for a moment. One strong argument of the scientists is that it takes millions of years to compress all the rocks in sediment. This could be very true, but it assumes that nothing drastic happened. We know from the Bible, though, that Noah's flood occurred. Looking at the description of the account from the Bible and the mass destruction that occurred then gives us a pretty good explanation of how all the sedimentary rocks were formed, with all the fossils in them and such. Back to the main point here, though. Even if we didn't have the evidence of the Flood, scientists' dating has been proven wrong. For example:
Shortly after its death, a seal was dated using carbon dating. The result of the scientific dating: it had died 1300 years prior.
Living mollusc shells were dated scientifically at up to 2,300 years old.
Living snail shells were dated at up to 27,000 years old.
Gotta love that accuracy there, huh?
Adam was created on day six, according to the Genesis account of Creation. That means he lived for part of the sixth day and the seventh day. Then, in Genesis 5:5, we see that he died at the age of 930. Were the days in Genesis longer than 24 hours, say 1000 years apiece, or a million years each, Adam's age at death would be completely different. One could attempt to argue that the counting of his days didn't begin until leaving the garden. But look at the language of Genesis 5:5: "So all the days [yom] that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died." Can the Scriptures be any clearer? ALL the days Adam lived were 930 years.
Look at the context in which the word day is first used in the Bible. Genesis 1:5 says, "God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day." What do we know our day as today? Light and darkness - night and daytime; NOT 500 years of light and 500 years of darkness.
Why is it so important to believe in a 24-hour day, as described in the Bible? Well, in short, if we don't take the Bible at face value and add fallible, human interpretations to it in one area (such as Creation), we're bound to do that in other, SALVATION-CRITICAL areas of the Bible, such as the account of Jesus death and resurrection.
Here's how my friend put it:
Creation and Evolution aren’t mere trivial theological concepts that we don’t have to agree on. They aren’t merely something that each individual decides on for himself. They are the raw truth on which every belief you will ever have is founded. Yeah that’s right… It all starts with Creation. You’re given two options. One, you descended from boogers and monkeys over billions of years because of raw chance. Now there is the twist to that one, that God clapped his hands and that was the big bang, and he decided that he was going to use Evolution to make man. Two, God made everything you see before you in 6 literal 24-hour days.
Creation is basically an incredible grace event that showed the awesome power of God and his sovereignty. It takes a lot of power to make a whole world, and he did it all by Himself. The minute we doubt creation, we doubt a lot more than our origin. We doubt our salvation. When you compromise creation, and say we evolved from some lower form of life, you compromise salvation… you compromise Jesus… you compromise your eternal life.
It’s real simple - If God couldn’t make everything in six literal twenty-four hour days, then how is He going to be able to save you from all of your sins and guarantee you a place in heaven?
I believe in a God that made this world in six literal, twenty four hour days, but if God wanted to, he could have made it all in six literal twenty four second snaps of the finger.
I believe in a God that is almighty and powerful. I believe in a God that alone stands firm as the rock of my salvation. I believe in a God that died for me on the cross of Calvary and saved me from all of my sins. I believe that when I die, I am going to go to heaven and Worship my Savior. I believe that God created the world in six literal twenty-four hour days. I can’t believe anything else and be absolutely sure of it unless I believe that pure, raw, fundamental doctrine.
What’s the first thing that the Bible says? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) If I can’t believe the first words of the Bible, how can I believe that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life?” Compromising creation, by saying God couldn’t, says that God can’t save you. If he can’t save you, who can?
Is the Bible clear about the age of the earth and universe?
The Answers Book : The 20 Most-Asked Questions About Creation, Evolution, & the Book of Genesis Answered by Ken Ham, Andrew Shelling, and Carl Wieland
"When ya think we crawled rawled out of slime… You need a reality check check!"