It does not really matter whether each day was 24 hours long, or
thousands of years. Without the sun until the fourth day, the Earth
would have been a cold and lifeless ball drifting in endless space.
And without the sun (which defines our days and our years), days
have no length and no meaning.
The biblical creation narratives are discussed at: http://christianity.answers.com/theology/the-story-of-creation
The Hebrew word for day yom can mean an indefinite period of time. In the context, as qualified by 'evening and morning' it can mean only one thing, namely the 24 hour day that we know today where the sun rises and sets. Even those who do not accept the view of Genesis 1 as being literal do assert that it means a 24 hour day, but they do not accept it as being true for evolutionary or other reasons. They thus are acknowledging what the writer intended to say as being literal 24 hour days but rejecting the facts presented by the author of Genesis.
If the days were meant to be longer, such as 7000 years, then that would mean that the Sabbath day of rest mentioned in Exodus 20:8-11, which alludes specifically to Genesis 1 would have required the Israelites to rest for 7000 years every sabbath, which is clearly not feasible and clearly illogical. 'Scripture interprets scripture' as a clear principle for rightly understanding the word of God, comes into play here.
Interpretations which make the days longer than 24 hours or which insert a "Gap" between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 are adding something foreign to the text itself. The literal meaning is supported by much scientific evidence regarding the age of the earth, although this is denied and suppressed. People may well, for philosophical reasons, find this interpretation objectionable which is certainly their choice. The use of insults demonstrates some kind of annoyance with the contradiction posed by the view of the Bible writer. Indeed, the view of the Bible writer (ultimately Christians attribute the inspiration of the Bible to God Himself) in terms of the 24 hour days stands in stark contrast to the prevailing majority scientific view.
The Bible writer clearly intended to convey the meaning of literal 24-hour days such as we know now. Some find this objectionable and so either ridicule it or re-interpret it. This is unwarranted given the text of Genesis.
That said, why, then, do a group of Christians rush to subscribe to Young Earth Creation (YEC) theory? Because the Bible says it? YEC cultist beliefs suggest the kind of insanity that presented itself at Jonestown or with the Heaven's Gate followers: blind, unthinking, unreasoning obedience. What kind of "faith" is that?
A 24 hour day is just right for earth to sustain life; not burning it or freezing it..
The point of confusion (and confrontation) for most people reading this account in Genesis is the misunderstanding of Gen-1:1 & Gen-1:2. They generally have a problem with trying to cram the entire creation of all physical things including the universe, stars & planets, dinosaurs, and man into 168 hours!
I am not saying that God is not capable of all these things, but before reading these two verses in Genesis again, read Jeremiah chapter 4. You will see that Jeremiah 4 is talking about the a prophesied total destruction of Jerusalem. Total, utter destruction. And in Jer-4:23 we read the same phrase as we find in Genesis 1:2. Now look up the two Hebrew words from these verses "bohuw" and "tohuw" and you will see that they do not mean anything as calm as "without form" and "void" as it is mistranslated in many bibles. It should say "undistinguishable ruin" and "lie waste or desolate".
In Genesis, God does not say that the earth and universe and man and animals were created in 7 twenty-four hour days. He says, "In a beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Then, he says in verse 2 "The earth was an undistinguishable ruin and was laid waste (or desolate)..." This occurring perhaps many millions of years later.
Then, in the seven 24 hour days of creation, God straightened out the atmosphere, made visible the celestial bodies (stars and planets), created life (plants, fish, animals) and created man.
Well I think you either have to accept them as literal days or not believe them at all. God made the plants on the third day but he didnt make the sun until the fourth day. If there was a long period of time in between the two days I dont think they would have made it. God also made the insects the day after so I dont think the plants and trees could have made it without sunlight or pollination for an extended period of time. The creation story does seem to point to or prophesy to several things to come. If you look at II Peter 3:8-10 where he talks about a thousand years LIKE a day and a day LIKE a thousand years. not meaning that a day IS a thousand years but taking the days of creation they seem to line up with the history of the bible. On the second day God separated the waters and our history shows that God separated the people (Jew from gentile) on the fourth day God made the sun (the great light) Malachi 4:2 even refers to the messiah as the Sun of righteousness (spelled SUN)coming with healing in his wings. This clearly refers to Jesus and four thousand years into our history. The other light that God made that day was the moon which reflects the light of the Sun. This is a very good representation of the church. And looking at the six days of creation and then the seventh day of rest fits with the belief that after 6000 years of history Jesus will return and reign on earth for 1000 years. I just think that God could have created the earth in any order that he chose and it seems that it was designed this way on purpose. He made the Sun on the fourth day after making light on the first day. Well any way that is what Ive taken from creation.
If you think about it, an infinite Creator God could have created everything in no time. Why, then, did He take as long as six days? The answer is given in Exodus 20:11. Here we find that God tells us that He deliberately took six days and rested for one as a pattern for man-this is where the seven-day week comes from. The seven-day week has no basis for existing except from Scripture. If one believes that the days of creation are long periods of time, then the week becomes meaningless.
The Bible tells us that Adam was created on the sixth day. If he lived through day six and day seven, and then died when he was 930 years old, and if each of these days was a thousand or a million years, you have major problems! On the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-19), we are given the comparison of day to night, and days to years. If the word 'day' doesn't mean an ordinary day, then the comparison of day to night and day to years becomes meaningless.
Were the days 24 hours? Most definitely! 'Let God be true, but every man a liar'