The precise duration of the creation days in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 remains an area of debate among evangelical Christians. One specific area of controversy lands on creation day seven, God’s day of rest. Many Christians have interpreted the seventh day, or God’s Sabbath, as a 24-hour period in which God rested from His creation work. Still, biblical and scientific evidence suggest the seventh day extends for an ongoing yet finite period of time.
In Genesis 1, each of the creation days—except the seventh day—is marked off with the same refrain: “There was evening and there was morning.” This literary device provides a pattern for the events of the first six creation days. Each “day” was of an unspecified duration, with a starting time and an ending time. But no such boundary is assigned to the seventh day, in Genesis or in any other passage of Scripture, which strongly suggests God’s day of rest had, or has, not yet ended.
The picture of an ongoing seventh day receives mention in other portions of Scripture. Psalm 95:7–11, John 5:16–18, and Hebrews 4:1–11 (each by a different author) indicate that the seventh day began, from an earthly perspective, after the creation of Adam and Eve and extends through the present era to a future time. For example, the author of Hebrews, referring back to Psalm 95, writes:
For somewhere he [God] has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”…Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:4–10)
Revelation 21 says that the seventh day will eventually end when God’s purposes for this cosmos have been fulfilled and He unveils an entirely new heaven and earth for humanity. The new creation comes with new physical laws, appropriate, as always, to the fulfillment of His divine purposes and plans for life beyond cosmic time.
It is also important to note God’s command to Moses that implies a Sabbath can be longer than a 24-hour day: “But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest…The land is to have a year of rest,” (Leviticus 25:4, 7, emphasis added).
If the seventh “day” continues, as Scripture indicates, it could imply that the other six creation days were also long periods of time, rather than just 24-hour days. The continuation of the seventh day also makes sense of the fossil record. Research shows that for most of life’s history, new animal species appeared regularly and in abundance. But after the appearance of humans, not a single (undisputed) new species has come into existence. This data makes sense in light of God’s continuing cessation from creation as described in Scripture.