Timeline of Earth History

EDITOR’S NOTE: The earth history timeline presented below represents the consensus among young-age scientists, but other variations of the Creation/Flood model do exist. Even if the basic outline presented here is ultimately true, the fine details are going to change as we continue to study the rocks, animals, plants, and celestial bodies we share the universe with. That is how science works! Nevertheless, the disagreements between different young-earth models have no significant bearing on the timescale or overall sequence of events recorded in Genesis 1-11.

Creation & Eden

Upon its creation in the beginning of time, Earth was little more than a water-covered sphere floating in the empty darkness of space. Then, the Lord God created light, dividing the darkness of night from the brightness of day. On the next day God divided the waters. Some remained on the earth to become oceans, lakes, and rivers, while the rest became the expanse above our heads, the heavens. On the third day, God caused the dry land to rise up from underneath the waters that covered the earth in order that plant life could propagate on its surface. For the next three days, God filled these empty voids. The fourth day saw the creation of our sun, moon and stars that light up the heavens. On the fifth day, God filled the skies and the waters with an array of flying and swimming creatures, like birds, pterosaurs, fish, and marine reptiles. And on the sixth day, God made land creatures, large and small, to fill the dry land. Lastly was the creation of humankind itself, male and female, in His own image. God ceased His creative acts by the establishment of the Sabbath, a day of rest, on the seventh day. At this early stage of life on earth, there was no death, disease or suffering. People and animals did not kill or eat each other, as they were originally designed as peaceful vegetarians. The first humans, Adam and Eve, shared an intimate, uninhibited fellowship with their God as they exercised their righteous dominion over the creation, caring for its inhabitants as a form of worship to the Creator.

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The Curse

The world, as it was originally created, was one of joy, peace and symbiosis. Everything changed when the first humans, Adam and Eve, decided to rebel against God. In response, God cursed all aspects of the universe—from the tiniest cell to the biggest galaxy, whether by natural or supernatural intervention. A number of plants began to develop thorns and thistles. Bacteria and viruses were perhaps re-engineered as the initiators of disease. Many animals developed sharp teeth and claws, hooked beaks and talons, and even fangs and deadly venom with which to capture and kill other creatures. God was no longer upholding the universe to the point of perfection as He had been before.

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Pre-Flood Era

Artwork by Fred Wierum

Though heavily marred by the Curse, the world of the time between Adam and Eve’s rebellion and the global Flood was one of beauty and diversity; the splendor and intelligent design of God was visible throughout. This pre-Flood world was different from our own in many ways. There were no ice caps at the poles, and the overall climate was much warmer than it is today. What would become the seven continents of our own time were joined up together as a massive supercontinent. Much like today, the pre-Flood world was home to a myriad of ecological communities, each with its own unique set of plants and animals. One group of reptiles, the archosaurs, appears to have been the most widespread and prevalent lifeforms on Earth at the time. The most famous archosaurs, dinosaurs, thrived in many of the world’s lowland forests, prairies, coastal areas, floodplains, and swamps. Pterosaurs, flying reptiles, ruled the skies, while marine reptiles swam through the ancient seas. Offshore, there were coastal reefs inhabited by trilobites and other shallow water marine organisms, as well as continent-sized forests that floated atop the ocean’s surface. The pre-Flood world was unlike any era of earth’s history, before or since.

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The Global Flood

When the wickedness of man and the violence of all living things in the pre-Flood world had become so great, God enacted judgment upon it. He told Noah, the only righteous man left on earth, to build a huge wooden Ark to preserve him, his family, and representatives of every kind of air-breathing land animal in the midst of a global Flood destined to destroy the world as it existed at that time. The Flood began with what Scripture calls the break-up of the fountains of the great deep and the opening of the windows of heaven. This likely refers to large-scale tectonic activity, volcanism, and torrential rain. Over the next 150 days, the pre-Flood supercontinent was divided and the floodwaters covered the earth, wiping out one ecological community after another and burying them in thick, widespread packages of sediment layers. After covering even the highest mountains of that time, every land animal and human not on the Ark had perished. When the Flood’s destruction was complete, the waters receded. In its wake, they left behind a new world for Noah, his family, and the surviving animals to explore.

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Post-Flood Recovery Era

The thick, fossil-bearing sediment layers lay in the upper portions of the geologic record document the recovery of plant, animal, and human life after the global Flood was over. The Flood’s aftermath was characterized by a successive decline in the intensity of natural disasters and catastrophic processes. Unique climate conditions brought on by tectonic and volcanic activity during and—to a lesser extent—after the Flood made the world a pretty wet and balmy place from pole-to-pole. Humans remained in the Middle East near the Ark’s landing location for some time after the Flood. Meanwhile, the ancestral kinds of our modern animal species on took advantage of the favorable post-Flood climate and flourished across the far reaches of the globe. As the years wore on, the climate cooled. Forests receded and were replaced by grassy plains. To cope with the rapidly changing climate, the various animal kinds diversified into species that were larger, faster, bulkier, or woolier. During the latter part of this era, ice sheets that were hundreds of feet thick spread across the mountainous and high latitude regions of the world. This was the Ice Age, and it held a frigid grip upon the earth.

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Modern Era

In the centuries following the Flood, humans did not travel far from the Ark’s resting place. Instead, they congregated in the Plains of Shinar (now called Sumer), where they increased in number and built what would later be known as the Tower of Babel. This was a direct violation of their God-given command to multiply and fill the earth. As a result, God confused their languages, forcing mankind to disperse to the four corners of the earth. As people groups migrated away from Babel, they survived by becoming nomadic hunter-gatherers. During the Ice Age, they utilized land bridges to colonize otherwise hard to reach regions. They diversified in various forms, from neanderthals and “hobbits” (Homo floresiensis) to our own direct ancestors, Homo sapiens. In their travels, they came across exotic animals they had never seen before, many of which sometimes became prey for these post-Babel immigrants. Other animals learned to live alongside humans and became domesticated. It is often around this time that humanity began to utilize written language to preserve their history.

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