Ex nihilo is Latin for “from nothing.” The term creation ex nihilo refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment, there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from preexisting building blocks. He started from scratch.
The Bible never expressly states that God made everything from nothing, but it is implied. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Scholars take this to mean that the universe came into existence by divine command and was not assembled from preexisting matter or energy. Things that are visible do not owe their existence to anything visible.
Humans can be very creative, but we cannot create ex nihilo. Strictly speaking, we cannot create; we can only synthesize. We require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics that we are all familiar with. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can be converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural.
The term creation ex nihilo refers to the supernatural event that was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something (everything) from nothing.