The world in which Adam and Eve lived with their growing family was so different from the world we live in today, that it is no exaggeration to say that it essentially ceased to exist and was replaced with a new one. Even though God did not create anything new, the materials and life were so altered that the climate was different, the land was different, the vegetation was different, the animals were different, the people were different, and the nature of the planet’s composition was different. I would like to take a few of the 100-year intervals in the history before the great Flood to explore some of these characteristics of that world.
The one outstanding and underlying feature of that world was its watery nature. Though this fact may have lingered in the mind of man for many hundreds of years after the Flood, Peter is inspired to remind us of this fact because man has convinced himself that the world of today has always been the way it is with its mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes, rivers, and oceans. “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7).
Our world today is characterized by fire. Water is still essential for life, and the surface of earth is still 75% water. From a million miles away, our planet looks like a beautiful blue marble because of all the water. The world of today has a lot of water, but it has been redistributed, and its impact upon the earth and life on the earth is much less than before. The world of Adam and his family was much more watery in nature. In contrast to the world that then was, ours is a fiery world. Molten rock spews from cracks in the crust exposing the incredible heat that seethes below our feet.
When God first spoke the earth into existence, we read that “the Spirit of God moved upon the waters.” And after creating light, God used the second day to divide waters beyond earth from those of the earth. The third day dawned upon a world entirely covered with water. It was not until God called the waters together into one place, that an area of land appeared which was to serve as the platform upon which the power of God’s grace was to be displayed.
The land, which may very well have been one large continent, was surrounded not only around the coastline by water, but was virtually floating upon the “fountains of the great deep” which were “broken up” at the time of the great Flood (Gen 7:11). And water filled the atmosphere in such a way that it did not drop down as rain, but was held in store until these too were released in a torrent when “the windows of heaven were opened.” Sandwiched, as it were, between these waters, the life God created to live on land thrived and rapidly multiplied to fill the earth. The space beneath the canopy of water was a perfect incubator for life. Even here, “there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:6), and a “river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads” (2:10).
Water was everywhere! The life that God created is itself made primarily out of water, and in this world life burst forth in fantastic abundance. The life we observe in this world is stunted, sickly, and stressed by comparison. In the best spot of Eden, God prepared ‑a special sanctuary of select trees to display all the wonders of created life, and life with God. “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (2:9). Artists have tried to capture this garden on canvas, but really have only the best parts of this world to inspire their imaginations.
The plant life that filled that world was far more diverse and abundant than that of this world. We are unable to even fathom the quantity and variety of life which surrounded the church of Eden. Plants were designed to supply the energy needs of the life created to inhabit the earth. Every creature with its unique qualities and jobs in the earth were provided with the exact type of food needed by their bodies. For every creature, God created the plants that would supply the food they needed. Their leaves were designed to absorb the solar radiation and store that energy in molecular bonds perfectly suited for the consumption, digestion, and health of every type of life. “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.” (Gen 1:29-30) Whether plants existed in that world that produced meaty type fruits to satisfy the diet of a lion, or the lion’s diet and eating habits changed after the Fall or the Flood, is not clearly revealed to us. Perhaps some space can be used later for further discussion into this question.
Ironically, one indication we have today of the magnitude of plant and animal life that existed on earth at the time of the flood is the millions of barrels of oil man burns every day, and the tons of coal burned to supply our energy demands. All these fuel reserves found buried in the earth are the trapped remains of all the plant and animal life that existed from the time of Adam to Noah. Each creature, plant and animal in the ocean and land had been busy capturing and storing energy for its life. The solar energy gathered for 2600 years by plants was then buried under the rock, clay, and sand that was dredged from the earth by the Flood. And in these final years of history, man is busy releasing all that energy for his own glory and power. He now releases as fire the energy that was produced in a watery world.
The known quantities of oil and coal buried in the earth boggles the imagination. Estimates vary widely, but about 1 trillion barrels of oil have already been burned up. That figure is difficult to comprehend. My calculations come out to about 38 cubic miles of oil which would cover the whole United States in about ¾ of an inch of oil. Pour that on Wisconsin and we would be wading through some three to four feet of oil. That does not include all the coal. If all the plant life on earth and sea for 2600 years was made into oil and coal that was easily accessible, 1 trillion barrels would only be the tip of the iceberg.
As we dig around in the rubble of the living world that then was (we can find it trapped in fossils and coal mines) we are given tidbits of information about that world. God tells us about giants born from man. What about other creatures? Fossils of giant dragonflies with 30 inch wingspans, 14 inch cockroaches, and cattail plants 30 feet long have been found throughout the earth. When we try to picture a world swarming with such life, we find ourselves in a new world.
The scientific world was recently abuzz about the finding of at least four square miles of tropical forest floor etched into the ceiling of the Vermilion Grove coal mines in eastern Illinois. The mud, rock, and silt of the Flood had buried the forest without first uprooting and washing it away. Coal miners have dug out the 2600 years of plant growth that had been compressed into a vein of coal, leaving imprints of tree trunks, leaves, and other plant debris in the ceiling. It is like looking at the world that then was from a worm’s point of view. Plants we now have such as the horsetail which grow no higher than one’s knee, grew like trees. Many plants and trees that grew then no longer thrive in this world or are so reduced that they are no longer recognizable.
An air sample of the world that then was had been preserved in a lump of fossilized pine sap. When analyzed, that air bubble had an oxygen content that was 50% higher than the air we breathe today. Such an oxygen concentration in today’s world would fuel fires that would rage out of control and burn up all the forests. This fact of oxygen concentration leaves scientists baffled, but is not a problem for a watery world. All the water would prevent such fires. In fact, such oxygen concentrations can be explained by the abundance of water compressing the atmosphere, and even helps to explain dinosaur life and how insects could attain such great sizes.
This was the world in which Adam and his family gathered for worship. Life in all its forms thrived and multiplied with amazing speed. Corrupted now by sin, the life of man apart from the grace of God would thrive and multiply in sin.