(From Elpis Israel, chapter 2)
The following article shows the belief of the Christadelphian founder, John Thomas, that the earth was very old and the present world is a recreation from the ruins of a former one destroyed in a global flood. He appeals to geological evidence to support this claim as well as verses in the Biblical books of Peter and Jude and suggests this as an explanation for the existence of fossils. The verses in the New Testament he uses are strange ones that have been used by other Christians as evidence of an angelic rebellion against God and as a source for the devil and demons. They relate in all probability to Jewish beliefs that are only mentioned in extra-Biblical sources such as the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. A reference to a prophecy of Enoch is mentioned in Jude by name and it should be noted that the Book of Enoch was accepted as canon and is still considered scripture today by the Ethiopian Church. These books were widely available and were read and used by Christians living at this period and were found together with Old Testament books in the Dead Sea Scrolls and support the historical Christian beliefs, although entwined with very strange mythological claims.
These former inhabitants of the earth are suggested by John Thomas to have had the ability to leave the earth as messengers to other parts of the universe (where presumably God has other creations) and it seems the rebellious ones are being held somewhere (where?) for the judgment by the saints. The hint seems to be that the present angels were the faithful from this pre-Adamic creation.
Although Elpis Israel was a seminal work in the establishment of the Christadelphians it should be noted his views on this topic have not been adopted by the Christadelphians and are not required beliefs.
The general account of the work of the six days is contained in the first chapter of Genesis; while in the second is presented, among other things, a more particular narrative of the work of the sixth day in the formation of the first human pair.
Let the reader peruse the history of the creation as a revelation to himself as an inhabitant of the earth. It informs him of the order in which the things narrated would have developed themselves to his view, had he been placed on some projecting rock, the spectator of the events detailed. He must remember this. The Mosaic account is not a revelation to the inhabitants of other orbs remote from the earth of the formation of the boundless universe; but to man, as a constituent of the terrestrial system. This will explain why light is said to have been created four days before the sun, moon, and stars. To an observer on the earth, this was the order of their appearance; and in relation to him a primary creation, though absolutely pre-existent for millions of ages before the Adamic Era.
The duration of the earth’s revolutions round the sun previous to the work of the first day is not revealed; but the evidences produced by the strata of our globe show that the period was long continued. There are indeed hints, casually dropped in the Scriptures, which would seem to indicate, that our planet was inhabited by a race of beings anterior to the formation of man. The apostle Peter, speaking of the “false teachers” that would arise among Christians “by reason of whom the way of truth would be evil spoken of,” illustrates the certainty of their “damnation” by citing three cases in point; namely, that of certain angels; that of the antediluvian world; and that of Sodom and Gomorrha. Now the earth, we know, was the place of judgment to the contemporaries of Noah and Lot, and seeing that these three are warnings to inhabitants of earth, it is probable, that they are all related to things pertaining to our globe in the order of their enumeration -- first, judgment upon its pre-Adameral inhabitants; secondly, upon the antediluvian world, which succeeded them; and thirdly, upon Sodom after the flood.
Peter says, that “the Angels,” or pre-Adameral inhabitants of the Earth, “sinned;” and Jude, in speaking of the same subject, reveals to us the nature of their transgression. He says, verse 6, “the angels maintained not their original state, but forsook their own habitation.” From which it would appear, that they had the ability to leave their dwelling if they pleased; secondly, that they were sometimes employed as messengers to other parts of the universe; this their name (aggeloV, aggelos, one sent) implies: thirdly, that they were forbidden to leave their habitation without special command to do so; and fourthly, that they violated this injunction and left it. Having transgressed the divine law, God would not forgive them; “but casting them down,” or driving them back, “He committed them to everlasting chains of intense darkness to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). Hence, it is clear, when they were driven back to their habitation, some further catastrophy befel them by which their committal to darkness was effected. This probably consisted in the total wreck of their abode, and their entire submergence, with all the mammoths of their estate, under the waters of an overwhelming flood. Reduced to this extremity, the earth became “without form and empty; and darkness overspread the deep waters” (Genesis 1:1). Its mountains, hills, valleys, plains, seas, rivers, and fountains of waters, which gave diversity of “form” to the surface of our globe, all disappeared; and it became “void,” or empty, no living creatures, angels, quadrupeds, birds, or fishes, being found any more upon it. Fragments, however, of the wreck of this pre-Adameral world have been brought to light by geological research, to the records of which we refer the reader, for a detailed account of its discoveries, with this remark, that its organic remains, coal fields, and strata, belong to the ages before the formation of man, rather than to the era of the creation, or the Noachic flood. This view of the matter will remove a host of difficulties, which have hitherto disturbed the harmony between the conclusions of geologists and the Mosaic account of the physical constitution of our globe.
Geologists have endeavoured to extend the six days into six thousand years. But this, with the Scriptural data we have adduced is quite unnecessary. Instead of six thousand, they can avail themselves of sixty thousand; for the Scriptures reveal no length of time during which the terrene angels dwelt upon our globe. The six days of Genesis were unquestionably six diurnal revolutions of the earth upon its axis. This is clear from the tenor of the Sabbath law. “Six days shalt thou labour (O Israel) and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Would it be any fit reason that, because the Lord worked six periods of a thousand or more years each, and had ceased about two thousand until the giving of the law, therefore the Israelites were to work six periods of twelve hours, and do no work on a seventh period or day of like duration? Would any Israelite or Gentile, unspoiled by vain philosophy, come to the conclusion of the geologists by reading the sabbath law? We believe not. Six days of ordinary length were ample time for Omnipotence with all the power of the universe at command to re-form the earth, and to place the few animals upon it necessary for the beginning of a new order of things upon the globe.
But what is to become of the evil angels in everlasting chains of darkness, and who shall be their judge? Jude says, they were committed “for the judgment of THE GREAT DAY.” He alludes to this great day in his quotation of the prophecy of Enoch, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His Holy Ones (angels of His might, 2 Thess. 1:7) to execute judgment upon all, &c.” This coming of the Lord to judgment is termed by Paul “the Day of Christ” -- “A DAY in which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ” -- during which the saints, with angels ministering to them, having lived again, will reign with Christ a thousand years on the earth (2 Thess. 2:2, Acts 17:31; Rev. 5:10; 20:4, 11-15). This is the Great Day of judgment, a period of one thousand years, in which Christ and His saints will govern the nations righteously; judge the raised dead in His kingdom according to their works; and award to the rebel angels the recompense awaiting their transgression. “Know ye not,” saith Paul, “ that we (the saints) shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor. 6:3). From these data, then, we conclude that these angels will be judged in the Day of Christ by Jesus and the saints.
In the period between the wreck of the globe as the habitation of the rebel angels and the epoch of the first day, the earth wasas described in Genesis 1:2, “without form and void, and darkness upon the face of the deep,” -- a globe of mineral structure, submerged in water, and mantled in impenetrable night. Out of these crude materials, a new habitation was constructed, and adapted to the abode of new races of living creatures. On the first day, light was caused to shine through the darkness, and disclose the face of the waters; on the second, the atmosphere called heaven, was formed, by which the fog was enabled to float in masses above the deep; on the third, the waters were gathered together into seas, and the dry land, called the Earth, appeared. It was then clothed with verdure, and with fruit and forest trees, preparatory to the introduction of herbivorous creatures to inhabit it. On the fourth day, the expanded atmosphere became transparent, and the shining orbs of the universe could be seen from the surface of the earth. Our globe was then placed in such astronomical relation to them as to be subjected by their influences to the vicissitudes of day and night, summer and winter; and that they might serve for signs, and for years. Thus, the sun, moon, and stars which God had made, by giving the earth’s axis a certain inclination to the plane of the ecliptic, became diffusive of the most genial influences over the land and sea. It was now a fit and beautiful abode for animals of every kind. The dwelling place was perfected, well aired, and gloriously illuminated by the lights of heaven; food was abundantly provided; and the mansional estate waited only a joyous tenantry to be complete.
This was the work of the fifth and sixth days. On the fifth, fish and water-fowl were produced from the teeming waters; and on the sixth, cattle, reptiles, land-fowl, and the beasts of the earth, came out of “the dust of the ground,” male and female, after their several kinds (Gen. 1:20-25; 2:19).
But among all these there was not one fit to exercise dominion over the animal world, or to reflect the divine attributes. Therefore, the Elohim said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the living creatures.” So Elohim created man in His image; male and female created He them. Further details concerning the formation of the human pair are given in the second chapter of Genesis, verses 7, 18, 21-25. These passages belong to the work of the sixth day; while that from verse 8 to 14 pertains to the record of the third; and from 15 to 17 is parallel with chapter 1:28-31, which completes the history of the sixth.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them;” and the Jehovah [Yahweh] Elohim, on reviewing the stupendous and glorious creation elaborated by the Spirit, pronounced it “VERY GOOD.” Then the Elohim, or “Morning Stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7).
Some antecedent to the ideas of a pre-Adamic creation can be found on Wikipedia.