How thankful we ought to be that we know God exists and what His plan is for us. His existence is not a truth to take for granted, as many very intelligent people do not recognize this reality. And many very sincere religious folks who do believe He exists do not understand who He is or what He is doing. They do not understand His Sabbaths, His Holy Days, His wonderful plan for mankind, and so much more. These truths are priceless and provable.
Believing in the truth of God’s existence can and should go beyond the personal, as there is a wide world of solid evidence for any willing to look and see. There is evidence in flowers and trees, and in creatures great and small. We see the marvel of thoughtful design and engineering all around us. Modern science has revealed the amazing complexity of life—in effect debunking the idea that even one so-called “simple” cell could ever possibly form by chance, though many fail to admit this obvious fact. There is no such thing as a “simple” cell, and to assert that life could come into being by chance requires a leap of faith so immense that, as Michael Denton puts it, “Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle” (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, p. 248).
We are so blessed by God with knowledge and understanding. Consider how wonderful it is to know that our unconverted family and friends will not go to an ever-burning hell to fry for eternity. How wonderful it is to know that our destiny is not merely to “stare into the face of God” endlessly, or to collect our harps and wings and spend all day—every day, forever—rolling around heaven on clouds, plucking strings and eating Philadelphia cream cheese. Instead, God has opened our minds to understand that we can become His sons and daughters—children in His divine Family. These are just some of the many, many truths revealed to us. They are our special heritage in the Church of God.
But there are other things we do not understand at this time, and we should not be afraid to recognize and admit this. For example, Earth’s history prior to Genesis 1 remains something of a mystery. We recognize that there is a span of time between the actions described by the first two verses of Genesis 1, and we are not the only ones to recognize this. While this is called the “Gap Theory,” often by those who seek to dismiss the idea, it is more than a “theory”—it is the only plausible explanation that places what we do know from Scripture in the proper order.
God created the angelic realm prior to the earth (cf. Job 38:4–7), and sometime in the distant past, a powerful cherub rebelled against Him (Ezekiel 28:12–16). We also know that he took with him one-third of the angels (Revelation 12:4), and that this archangel Lucifer had a throne on our planet—a throne we know to be earth-centric, as the Bible says plainly that it was below the clouds (Isaiah 14:12–14). He ascended above the clouds, up to heaven, in a vain attempt to take rulership away from his Creator.
As a result of this rebellion, the earth became “without form, and void,” as Genesis 1:2 describes. The Hebrew words for this expression are tohu and bohu, a state of destruction only found elsewhere in Scripture as a result of rebellion (e.g., Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). The Hebrew word tohu is used another 16 times, and “It refers to a desert wasteland… to a destroyed city… to moral and spiritual emptiness or confusion… and to nothingness or unreality.… In most (if not all) of these cases, tōhû has a negative or pejorative sense…” (“tōhû,” #2494a, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
Uniformitarianism has long been a bedrock geological theory, presuming that all things we currently see in Earth’s crust are the result of ancient forces that operate in the same manner we see forces operate today. For example, Earth’s mountains would gradually have formed over eons of time by volcanic and seismic upheavals and slowly shifting land masses. Obviously, it would take millions of years to form the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas by such slow processes as those we see in our world today.
But scientists have also come to recognize that some things can only be explained in terms of catastrophic events far more powerful than the normal processes we now see at work in the world.
On a road trip earlier this year, my wife, her sister, and I visited Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, and the Scablands in eastern Washington. Most have heard of the first two parks, but it seems that few are familiar with the Scablands.
Relatively recent discoveries have revealed that Yellowstone is essentially the caldera (crater) of a supervolcano. The caldera stretches across an area approximately 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 kilometers). Without getting into all the details (which are readily available online or at the library), if this supervolcano were to erupt now, it would destroy the United States and Canada as we currently know them, and the effects would be felt around the world for years to come—an example of the sort of catastrophes that have contributed to the history of our planet.
That the lesser-known Scablands were formed by a catastrophe has only become widely recognized during the last half-century. Geologist J. Harlen Bretz first proposed the explanation in 1923, but it only became accepted in the 1970s. It is now believed that the bizarre formations and massive channels cutting across the landscape of eastern Washington are the result of calamitous floods that occurred during the last ice age, estimated to have ended some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago according to mainstream geological reckoning.
As the history is currently understood, a portion of a large glacier blocked the Clark Fork River in northern Idaho, creating a massive lake in western Montana.
This lake eventually grew to cover 3,000 square miles, containing as much water as Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined. Then the ice dam collapsed…. Over 500 cubic miles of water swept across the landscape in a wall of water hundreds of feet deep and washed away everything in its path in a matter of days. The water flow of this mega flood was as great as the combined flow of all the rivers in the whole world, times ten. Geologists calculated that the Missoula Floods created their own earthquakes as they thundered across the landscape…. Geologists believe this happened more than forty times over a period of several thousand years… (“The Channeled Scablands,” SevenWondersofWashingtonState.com, 2015).
Of course, evolutionists have a vested interest in expanding the scale of time on earth to fit their theory of life’s development. Did this event take place 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, and were there really over 40 such floods? Certainly, we should not blindly accept such statements, and future discoveries may show such conclusions to be in need of revision. At the same time, there is nothing in Scripture that contradicts this account in and of itself, and the visible evidence certainly does point to a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.
The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris burst onto the scene in 1961. It was an attempt to assign all geologic phenomena to the Noachian Flood and support the idea that the earth and universe are only 6,000 years old. According to these authors, everything from Arizona’s Grand Canyon to Washington’s Grand Coulee was the result of the worldwide flood that occurred more than 4,000 years ago, and many attribute the beginning of the current “young earth” movement to their book. Of course, such an assertion carries with it a lot of baggage. Those who visit the life-size “Noah’s Ark” near Cincinnati, Ohio, see dinosaurs depicted among the animals Noah took onto the Ark, an assumption lacking both common sense and scriptural backing.
We used Whitcomb and Morris’ thesis as a textbook when I attended Ambassador College in the mid-to-late 1960s, but we also understood that not all geologic features were the result of the Noachian Flood; Satan’s pre-Adamic rebellion also contributed to the picture. At one time, The Plain Truth magazine had articles attempting to relegate all geologic features to these two destructions. However, we came to realize this was rather simplistic and that some of the evidence in Whitcomb and Morris’ text was flawed. We also realized that our understanding of the pre-Adamic world was limited and incomplete, and we stopped publishing articles on the subject.
Anyone who takes even a casual look at some of the Scablands’ features realizes that something happened that cannot be explained by traditional “young earth” ideas. This is in part because these are relatively localized phenomena—even if you define “localized” as half of a moderate-sized state. If those features were caused by the worldwide flood of Noah’s day, for instance, why wouldn’t the rest of the earth show similar bizarre features? Why would this area be unique?
Even some members of the Church hang onto “young earth” ideas in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I find this interesting, since the public proponents of these ideas are wrong about almost everything else in Scripture. These proponents have rejected virtually all the revealed, biblical truths mentioned at the beginning of this article, and so many other truths of God, including the Bible’s clear evidence that Genesis 1 describes the reshaping of the earth following a disaster that was the result of Satan’s rebellion.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament brings clarity to this subject, explaining two different words that are found in the opening chapter of Genesis. Even in English the words make/made and create/created carry different connotations, but they especially do in the original Hebrew.
The root bārā’ has the basic meaning “to create.” It differs from yāsar “to fashion” in that the latter primarily emphasizes the shaping of an object while bārā’ emphasizes the initiation of the object.... Since the word never occurs with the object of the material, and since the primary emphasis of the word is on the newness of the created object, the word lends itself well to the concept of creation ex nihilo [from nothing], although that concept is not necessarily inherent within the meaning of the word (“bārā’,” #278a, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
The use of bārā’ in the opening statement of the account of creation seems to carry the implication that the physical phenomena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence in the form in which they were created by divine fiat. The use of ‘āśâ may simply connote the act of fashioning the objects involved in the whole creative process (“‘āśâ,” #1708a, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
Scientists tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old. We do not endorse such large numbers, but neither should we doubt that they may be true. What we know from Scripture is that Earth is more than 6,000 years old—meaning it existed some time before the “creation week” of Genesis 1—and hard science indicates that the universe has been around for a long time. By properly understanding the opening verses of Genesis, comparing them with other passages of Scripture, and admitting certain facts and observations of science, we are not left to assume that the T-Rex and other dinosaurs roamed the earth with Adam and his descendants prior to the flood, as young-earth creationists erroneously assert.
Can we explain more about the Jurassic period than scientists who spend their lives studying the subject? Is it wise and sound-minded to think so? On the other hand, when scientists attempt to explain the world with an evolutionary bias, should we accept all their conclusions? That would not be wise, either. As Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and Dr. Roderick C. Meredith always explained, true science and the Scriptures do not contradict one another when they are understood properly.
The Past Reveals the Future
What is interesting about Yellowstone and the Scablands is that they force us to acknowledge that catastrophes of unthinkable scope have occurred on our planet in times past. We know that what we now call Yellowstone is a supervolcano that has erupted several times during Earth’s history. And looking forward to Earth’s future, the book of Revelation describes a level of destruction that is reminiscent of the impact of a supervolcano eruption as one of the seven trumpet plagues marking the Day of the Lord. It will destroy one-third of all ships and one-third of the creatures in the sea (Revelation 8:8–9).
One leading theory regarding the sudden extinction of dinosaurs is that an asteroid ten kilometers (6.2 miles) in diameter struck our planet near Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. This is only one of several theories, but there is ample evidence that an asteroid struck this region long ago. Is this what destroyed the dinosaurs? One day we will know. But such a finding should call to mind Revelation’s prophecies, which seem to indicate that another large asteroid will strike the earth during the Day of the Lord (Revelation 8:10–11).
The important point is that it is not true that everything we see on earth has come to be by means of a slow, uniform, and gradual process over billions of years—and in this way, the past carries with it elements that foretell our future. God’s word predicts further disasters to come during the time pictured by the Feast of Trumpets. These may be natural disasters, but the timing of them will be supernatural.
Why did God once allow asteroids, supervolcanos, and catastrophic floods far greater than those that have occurred during mankind’s existence? Until recent decades, catastrophes such as those described in the book of Revelation may have appeared outrageously impossible except as direct acts of God. There is no doubt that their timing will be an act of God, but the evidence around us puts us on notice that forces capable of fulfilling many of the seven trumpet plagues already exist in nature. Should He choose to use them, it is only a matter of God letting them loose during the one-year Day of the Lord.
Our understanding of the pre-Adamic world is very limited, but this curious period is nevertheless fascinating to the inquiring mind. By studying Earth’s history, we can better understand the future destruction that will surely come as a result of our rebellious world.
For more insight into this subject, please read Mr. Wallace Smith’s booklet, Evolution and Creation: What Both Sides Miss.