A fellow believer called me awhile back, one who also has a degree in the Life Sciences, and asked how I reconciled the natural record of science with the biblical account of Creation.
Let me state my view on the world's origins first. I believe the seven day account in Genesis to be a literal account, not of creation but of the renovation or rehabilitation of the earth. I believe that God the Son created the heavens and the earth in the blink of an eye long before the account that begins in Genesis 1:2. Some call this the Gap "Theory". I don't consider it a theory since it's been demonstrated through scripture quite satisfactorily for me.
My timeline then is that in an instant of time God created the heavens and the earth as stated in Col 1:16. Some time previous to that He had already created the angels, inferred from Job 38 where it says, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth...when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of god shouted for joy?"
The greatest of those angels, Lucifer, son of the dawn, the morning star, was the Lord's right hand man, guardian of the throne of God (Eze 28). He was and is the most beautiful, talented, clever, personable and intelligent creature ever to come from God's hand. That was not enough for him, though, and even though everything he had came from God, even his place above the other angels, arrogance crept into his heart. He wanted more. He wanted to take God's place, says Isaiah 14:12. He started a revolt and the scriptures indicate that he persuaded not just a third of the angels but all of them, to follow him.
There was a big battle, God won and offered a form of salvation to them all. Two thirds of them came back. (Jesus is said in Rev 4 to be the only holy one in heaven. If any of the angels hadn't fallen, wouldn't they be holy, too?) Those who refused were tried for their rebellion, found guilty and sentenced to the Lake of Fire. (Mt 25:41)
At that point Satan appealed his sentence and God fixed the ruined earth as a place for his new but lower creation, man. Using man God would reproduce the entire conflict on this theater we call earth, and demonstrate to all the angels that He was indeed just in his actions. This is inferred in part from the fact that the sentence has already been pronounced (see above) and yet will not be carried out until the end of human history. (Rev 20:10)
(This is a vastly oversimplified summary of the doctrine of the angelic conflict and all the scriptures that point to it. If you are interested in a more rigorous -- and convicting! -- study, I recommend the 57 hours of teaching my pastor has given on the subject, which you can find here.)
All this to say, on the one hand, that since there was a time when there was no man on the earth, yet there were cities, and a time when the earth was perfect before it became tohu wa bohu ("without form and void," the phrase found only one other place in the Bible and that's Jeremiah 4:23 describing a ruined battlefield) there is plenty of room for a lengthy natural history predating man's entrance on the scene.
To be continued...
Have a great weekend