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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, July 29, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7).

The Hebrew word translated “firmament” means “expanse” or “space.” Dr. C. F. Keil said,

When the light had been separated from the darkness, and day and night had been created, there followed upon a second fiat [command] of the Creator, the division of the chaotic mass of waters through the formation of the firmament, which was placed as a wall of separation in the midst of the waters, and divided them into upper and lower waters (C. F. Keil, Ph.D., Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, Eerdmans, 1973 reprint, volume I, p. 52).

So, God divided the bodies of water. God made a “space” or “expanse” (firmament) between the waters on earth and the waters “which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7). The firmament was, thus, the atmosphere (or space) between the waters above the earth and the waters on the earth.

There is no mention of clouds in the text. Dr. Edward J. Young said, “I am unable to accept the opinion that the waters above the expanse refers to the clouds, for the position does not do justice to the language of the text which states that these waters were above the expanse” (Edward J. Young, Ph.D., Studies in Genesis One, P and R Publishers, 1973, p. 90).

Dr. Joseph C. Dillow postulates that “the earth [was] actually surrounded by a literal ocean of liquid water…Thus, the sheer amount of water necessary to sustain a torrential downpour for 40 days [in Noah’s Flood] required a massive amount of water in the ‘waters above’” (Joseph C. Dillow, Ph.D., The Waters Above, Moody Press, 1982, pp. 51, 70).

Whether the waters above were a “liquid ocean” or existed in the form of vapor has been debated by creation scientists. Personally I think the view of Dr. Henry M. Morris is correct. Dr. Morris earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and served for thirteen years as the chairman of the civil engineering department at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He then served as president of the Institute for Creation Research for many years. Dr. Morris said,

     On the second day, God separated the primeval deep into two deeps, with a great space between. The waters below the space [were the oceans]. The waters above the firmament had apparently been transformed into a vapor state in order to be separated from the heavier materials and elevated above the atmosphere, where it could serve as a thermal [warming] blanket for the earth’s future inhabitants.      Such a vapor canopy would undoubtedly have provided a highly efficient “greenhouse effect,” assuring a perennial spring-like climate for the entire earth. Water vapor both shields the earth against harmful radiations from space and also retains and spreads incoming solar heat. A vapor canopy would thus provide an ideal environment for abundant animal and plant life and for longevity and comfort in human life. Water vapor is invisible, and thus would be translucent [semi-transparent, admitting rays of light, but not capable of being distinctly seen through]…these waters extending far out into space [forming an envelope wrapped around the world] eventually condensed and fell back to earth at the time of the Great Deluge [the Flood of Noah’s time], providing the source of the worldwide rainstorm that contributed to the Flood. Although the exact extent and structure of this canopy is still being researched by computer simulations, there are no insuperable [insurmountable] scientific problems with the concept (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing Company, 1995, pp. 4-5, notes on Genesis 1:6-7)


My wife Ileana and I went to a big orchid greenhouse a couple of weeks ago. Orchids will not live in direct sunlight. They normally live in the semi-shade of the great rainforests. Men bring them to the arid, dry region of Southern California but, knowing they will not live in direct sunlight, they put them in greenhouses. The one my wife and I entered was not a true greenhouse, one made of white slats, nailed an inch or so apart to keep out most of the sun. It was a more modern structure, with a high roof and walls made of a semi-transparent material not unlike the opaque glass used for shower doors. This orchid greenhouse is very large; its several partitioned sections together would be about the size of a city block. When we were outside, it was rather hot (typical July weather on an afternoon in Southern California). But inside the greenhouse it was moderately cool. It is kept about the same temperature of, I would say, about 70 degrees year around by the protection of the opaque material that provides a canopy over the beautiful flowers inside. Storms do not occur within that greenhouse. In the winter they are kept from harming the plants by the protective covering. The heat of summer is also prevented from entering by the covering. Thus, the temperature is always about the same. Furthermore, the radiation from the sun never penetrates the canopy of the greenhouse, but is filtered out by the canopy of opaque material from which it is built, so that a uniform temperature exists there throughout the year.

As my wife browsed around, selecting several orchids, my mind drifted to the canopy of water vapor that surrounded the entire earth before the Flood. I thought that the early earth must have been something like the inside of that greenhouse. As Dr. Morris pointed out, “Such a vapor canopy would have provided a highly efficient ‘greenhouse effect,’ assuring a perennial spring-like climate for the entire earth” (ibid.). Dr. Morris went on to say that that canopy of water vapor shielded the earth against harmful radiation from space and also retained the incoming solar heat. Dr. Morris said that such a vapor canopy would provide an ideal environment for abundant animal and plant life. In the orchid greenhouse I saw this taking place on a small scale, for the owner had, within its walls, a large cage with three pairs of fragile finches in it, who were living quite well in the protection of the greenhouse. I realize that the comparison of that greenhouse to the canopy of water vapor around the early earth is not perfect. But I think it will help you to realize what it was like on this planet before the waters above came down during the great Flood.

Dr. Morris went on to say, “Water vapor is translucent [semi-transparent]… these waters [vapors] extended far out into space [around the earth]” (ibid.). Thus, the “waters which were above” the expanse or space between the earth and the region above the sky would, as Dr. Morris said, “provide an ideal environment for abundant life and for longevity and comfort in human life” before the canopy of “waters which were above” condensed and fell to earth during the Great Flood in the days of Noah, many years later.

This canopy of water in the outer atmosphere caused many things in the pre-Flood world to be quite different from what they are today. Dr. Morris pointed out that the vapor canopy would accomplish the following things:

  1. Since water vapor has the ability both to transmit incoming solar radiation and to retain and disperse much of the radiation reflected from the earth’s surface, it would serve as a global greenhouse, maintaining an essentially uniformly pleasant warm temperature all over the world.

  2. With uniform temperatures, great air-mass movements would be inhibited and windstorms would be unknown.

  3. With no global air circulation, the hydrologic cycle of the present world could not be implemented and there could be no rain, except over the bodies of water from which it might have evaporated.

  4. With no global air circulation, and therefore no turbulence or dust particles transported to the upper atmosphere, the water vapor in the canopy would have been stable and not precipitate itself.

  5. The planet would have been maintained not only at uniform temperatures, but also at comfortable uniform humidities by means of daily local evaporation and condensation (like dew or ground fog) in each day-night cycle.

  6. The combination of warm temperature and adequate moisture everywhere would be conducive later to extensive stands of lush vegetation all over the world, with no barren deserts or ice caps.

  7. A vapor canopy would also be highly effective in filtering out ultraviolet radiations, cosmic rays, and other destructive energies from outer space. These are known to be the source of both somatic and genetic mutations, which decrease the viability of the individual and the species, respectively. Thus the canopy would contribute effectively to human and animal health and longevity.

  8. Some have objected to the idea of a heavy vapor canopy because of the great increase in atmospheric pressure which it would cause at the earth’s surface. Rather than being a problem, however, this effect would contribute still further to health and longevity. Modern biochemical research is increasingly proving that such “hyperbaric” pressures are very effective in combating disease and in promoting good health generally. There would be no problems in organisms living under high external pressures, provided their internal pressures had time to adjust correspondingly.

  9. Later, when needed, these upper waters would provide the reservoir from which God would send the Flood, to save [Noah and his family] from the hopelessly corrupt population of that day (the content of water vapor in the present atmosphere, if all precipitated, would cover the earth only to a depth of about one inch)…Although the waters above the firmament were condensed and precipitated in the Flood, they will apparently be restored in the millennial earth and in the new earth which God will create. Psalm 148:4, 6 speaks of the “waters above the heavens” which, like the stars, will be established “for ever and ever” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, 1986 edition, pp. 60-61).

Thus, the canopy of water vapor that enveloped the outer atmosphere around the earth explains both the longevity of man in the early chapters of Genesis, as well as explaining the source of much of the water in the great Flood of Noah’s time. Let us stand and read the text aloud.

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7).

You may be seated.

The division of the waters on the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8), if not a type, is at least a picture of God appealing us to be separated from the world. The New Testament, in II Corinthians 6:14, 17-18, says,

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:14, 17-18).

The classical commentary of Matthew Henry says of the passage in II Corinthians, “We should not yoke ourselves in friendship and acquaintance with… unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing, hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for our bosom-friends” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 reprint, volume 6, p. 503; note on II Corinthians 6:11-17). Leave the world behind and come to Jesus! Jesus will save you when you cut loose of the world and come to Him. As the waters above were separated from the waters below, so you must be separated from the world! When Christ calls you, He calls you out of the world, to become God’s child and live in harmony with God’s people in the church. May it be so! Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Corinthians 6:14-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: 
    “Take the World, But Give Me Jesus” (by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).