Genesis 1:31. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
“Sin is a later intrusion into an originally good creation. It is not inherent in the world, and so it can be completely removed when God achieves his purposes in the consummation (Rev. 22:3–5)” (“History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” ESV Study Bible’s, p. 2635).
Genesis 1:31 stands at the end of God’s creative work and registers his evaluation of the world. It was not as though God was uncertain that would he made would be good. Rather, when the paint dried on his cosmological temple, he could with supreme satisfaction state: “It is very good.”
Already in Genesis, Elohim had said (six times), “It is good” (vv. 3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Now, God’s seventh word confirms the perfection with which our Creator made the world. This statement, which follows the creation of mankind, is heightened by the modifier “very,” and it indicates that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that with Adam and Eve, the capstone of creation has been put in place (see Psalm 8). In context, this statement provides four foundational truths.
Four Foundational Truths
First, it reveals God’s emotions towards creation. God is not ashamed of man’s nakedness or repulsed by human bodies. He is the creator of a material world, and it is very good. Too much Christianity has been infected with a Platonic aversion to material things—i.e., the material is bad, the spiritual is good. Yet, Genesis 1:31 says the opposite. God, who is spirit, delights in the flesh of his creation. Going a step further, we can say that God made creation in such a way that his Son could take on flesh and become one of us. God’s very good creation affirms his love for the material world and his plan to send the Logos into the world in the form of a man.
Second, it utterly denies any kind of evolutionary or dualistic worldview. God did not create a world red in tooth and claw. The survival of the fittest is a property of life issued from the fall and the curse (cf. Rom 8:18-22), not God’s original design. Evil arose out of goodness; it is, as Augustine asserted, a disordered love. Evil is parasitic on God’s creation. In the end, it will be swept away. In the meantime, God is using evil to accomplish his purposes in the world (see Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). God’s very good creation fully affirms his intentions with the world, and while it boggles our mind to understand his goodness and the world’s wickedness, the fact remains, since he is God, all things happen under his loving care. Thus, even evil is subject to his divine prerogatives and decree.
Third, the goodness of creation explains how and why God can rest on the seventh day (Gen 2:1-3). Since his work is complete, there is nothing left for him to do. And since it is very good, he intends on that seventh day to enjoy his creation. Of course, this enjoyment is short-lived, but it is indicative of what God will do for eternity, when the work of Christ’s new creation is completed. On that final Sabbath rest, God will dwell with and enjoy his people—this time not just for a few days with two people (Adam & Eve), but now forever with billions of his Son’s offspring. The good creation substantiates what true rest is—life together with the Lord in a world devoid of sin and death.
Fourth, the Creator will not stand by idle when the forces of evil rebel against him and devastate his good creation. Rather, as he intended all along, God predestined his Son to come into the world in order to make all things new (Rev 21:5). When the first creation was marred, the Creator did not formulate plan B. Just the opposite, now that the first creation was shattered by sin, the plan of redemption—God’s eternal plan—could now go into effect. Creation was made so that new creation could come.
From Creation to Consummation
What is found in Genesis 1 is a world ordered for truth, beauty, and goodness. Still, it is a world needing completion (see ‘Eschatology from the Start (Genesis 1:28)‘), a world subject to corruption and death. The world that Christ is re-making through his own death and resurrection is one impervious to sin, swept clean of evil, and devoid of death. This world is far more than very good; it is infinitely good and eternally glorious.
While Genesis 1:31 is most specifically a verse that speaks of God’s fundamental goodness in making the world; it is also a verse that gives Christians hope that what he started as good, he will bring to fruition. Indeed, the canon of Scripture is filled with “new creation” promises, promises which tell us that God will not permit his good creation to suffer forever. To paraphrase and apply Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6: He who began a good work in the world will complete it on the day of Christ Jesus. This is true with individual Christians and it is true of creation.
Therefore, when we think about creation and its original goodness, we must affirm that God created the world good, and that in his goodness, wisdom, and love, he intended for sin and evil to come as permissive, temporary means to the greater good of a new creation united in the person and work of Jesus Christ.