7-8-2 Previous Creations
As to whether there were previous creations before our own, my basic sense is 'Yes, probably there were'. The earth being " without form and void" (Gen. 1:2) uses a phrase elsewhere used to describe the judgment that has come on an order of things (Jer. 4:23; Is. 24:10; 34:11). It may be, therefore, that there was a previous creation on earth which was destroyed in judgment. John Thomas in the first section of Elpis Israel suggests (without much direct support from the Hebrew, it must be admitted) that the command to Adam to " replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28) implies to re-fill, as if there had been a previous creation that was destroyed, presumably by water. " In the beginning" , perhaps a huge period of time ago, God created the heavens and earth. But the present creation can be seen as being constituted some time later, after the previous creations. When during the six days of creation He said " Let there be light" this may not have necessitated the actual manufacture of the sun; this was presumably done " in the beginning" . But the sun was commanded to shine out of the darkness (2 Cor. 4:6), and therefore from the viewpoint of someone standing on the earth, it was as if the sun had been created. The earth was covered with water at the time the present creation began (Gen. 1:2). This would mean that the destruction of the earth by the flood in Noah's time was actually a repeat of something God had previously done. This sheds light on His promise to never again destroy the earth with water: " I will stablish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11). This sounds as if destruction of the earth by flooding had happened several times before. It's almost as if the God of all grace is showing Himself progressively gracious to earth's inhabitants: 'I've done it before several times, but now I promise you humans, you new race of inhabitants upon whom my special love is to be shown through My Son, that I'll never do it again'.
All That Fall
It was presumably in one of the previous creations that the Angels were developed. They have knowledge of good and evil, just as fallen man has (Gen. 3:22). This could suggest that they too had the experience of temptation and choice between sin and obedience. Job speaks of the angels who were charged with folly as if this fact was well known (Job 4:18). Bro. Thomas suggests that the " angels that sinned" in 2 Pet. 2:4 lived at this time. There is no doubt that this passage in Peter, and the parallel in Jude, has some reference to Korah's rebellion. However, there are many such warnings to God's people which combine reference to more than one historical event, and it could be the same here: as if to say, 'History repeats itself. The angels that sinned so long ago went through in principle the same process of apostasy as Korah's company, and you too are capable of falling from grace in the same basic way'.
Apostasy has a long continuity; all who fall follow a similar pattern, ultimately sharing the same apotheosis. It could even be that the fall of the Kings of Tyre and Babylon (Is. 14; Ez. 28) are recorded in the language of an angel / " anointed cherub" who wanted superiority over the others, and who then fell from Heaven (Ez. 28:14; Is. 14:13,14 cp. Eph. 4:10). There are strong similarities between these passages and the Jewish understanding of Angels that sinned before creation. These similarities would be in order to show the same kind of historical continuity: between the Angels who once sinned, and spiritually blessed men who turned away from what they could have had. The fact that all the Angels now are righteous and incapable of sinning (cp. Lk. 20:35,36) doesn't mean that Angels never sinned in a previous creation. But the point to note is that they are now in the grave, chained in darkness- not running around as evil spirits causing mischief. They are " reserved unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4), when " we shall judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:3).
The Wonder Of It All
From these thoughts comes a powerful devotional point. God, who existed from eternity, has doubtless been active from eternity. He is Spirit, and His Spirit is essentially His power in action. There was at least one previous creation, involving the Angels. The fossil record, if indeed it can be taken seriously, would suggest that there were plants and animals (e.g. dinosaurs) which lived millions of years ago. These may have been part of those previous creations. And yet Adam was the first human being (1 Cor. 15:45), created around 6,000 years ago.
The human race which descended from him has generally rejected God. The majority of His chosen people, Israel, rejected Him to the point of crucifying His Son. But for such a small group of people, existing at such a small time and in such a tiny physical area in the perspective of infinite time and space, God gave His only begotten Son. The Lord Jesus didn't physically exist before His birth; He wasn't some kind of time traveller who had shown up in previous creations. The only begotten Son of God was born for the very first time. This is the pure wonder of the narratives of His birth. He was a human being, not an Angel, because He shared the nature of those He came to redeem (Hebrews 2 develops this at length). The only and begotten Son of God was a human being because He came to save just a few million (or however many) little human beings on this little insignificant planet, a pin prick in the vastness of space even within this present creation, people who lived out their history for just a few thousand years compared to infinity. And this only son of His was born to an illiterate young girl, and then the crying, gurgling Son of God was laid down in a cattle stall (Luke, the doctor who appreciated the need for hygiene, so emphasizes this: Lk. 2:7,12,16), because the other guests in that cheap hotel couldn't make space for a heavily pregnant woman (again, Luke the sometime-gyn doctor would've sensed the shame of it). And this was the beginning of the only and ever begotten Son of God, who dwelt light years away from that humble barn. It's almost too wonderful to believe. There will be many " ages" to come, as there have doubtless been many " ages" of previous creations already (Rom. 1:25; 9:5; Heb. 13:8); but for our " age" alone was the only begotten Son of God given as a representative of us, the humans who live in this brief " age" . God thus describes Himself as a first timer falling in love with His people; as a young marries a virgin, so God marries us (Is. 62:5); Israel were as the lines graven on a man's palm, with which he was born (Is. 49:16). Thus from absolute eternity, we were the great " all things" to Almighty God, the God of all, all past and future creations.
We may well ask why space is so big, why there were countless previous creations, why out of all the teeming species and forms of life on this planet (and perhaps others), God's salvation in Christ is only for human beings, whom He represented in His very nature; why out of all humans, only a few are called, and why out of those few called are even fewer chosen; why in the past He delighted to chose Israel, one of the smallest and unlovely nations, and their small, despised land, as His land and His people (and in principle He has done the same in His calling of the new Israel)... and the answer may be that God has arranged it this way in order to show us the magnitude of His humanly senseless love; that He has given so much, even His Only Son, for so very few in such a very small geographical area in such a very short time span. Brethren, think on these things. Look up at the night sky and like father Abraham, struggle, successfully, to believe the wonder of it all.