Gap Theory of Genesis Creation

A Study of Genesis 1:1-2

Introduction: Almost forty years ago, I grew up in an independent, Baptist church in Knoxville, Tennessee. At that time, C. I. Scofield’s Reference Bible was in the ascendancy.  You just had to have one.  In some churches, the preacher even gave the Scofield page number when he announced his Bible text.  That was back before independent Baptists had found so many things to split and squabble over.  That was when most independent Baptists believed in the gap "theory" between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  

Today, things are different.  We have exposed many weaknesses in the Scofield Bible—so many that we hang our heads and apologize if we still own one.  We now divide to the right and left of Scofield’s dispensationalism.  We have discovered repentance and lordship salvation and many other doctrines where we draw lines to separate ourselves from the chaff. And the gap "theory" is just about as popular as the Taliban—a group of which we were happily ignorant in the 1960’s.

The purpose of this writing is to ask those of you who hold the Bible in high regard to give one more look at the gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  However, let me mention some things that I am not trying to do. 

  • I am not saying that those who disagree with me on this are heretics.  This is a hard doctrine about which little is said directly.  And, it is not critical to other doctrines.  Men on both sides have given this doctrine too much importance.  It should not be a divisive issue.  Save that for the really important stuff.
  •  I am not using this teaching in order to accommodate modern science.  I believe that all true science can be accounted for with the six-day creation approximately 6,000 years ago.  I believe the Bible teaches that only God’s heavenly abode and the earth survived the original destruction and re-creation.  It also describes an earth that was so destroyed that probably nothing remains of the original surface.
  • I am not building my case on what any author has said.  This writing will quote scripture.  It will not build on the ideas of man.  If I err (and I know that is a distinct possibility), I will err in my understanding of God’s holy word.  Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).  This is not a history of man’s thought but a survey of scriptural teaching.
  •   I am not going to argue from the grammar and vocabulary of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible.  I know some will find fault with me in this.  However, I have found that the meaning is often just as difficult in the Hebrew as it is in English.  I will argue my case from the English text of the King James Bible.  If you wish, you can check my teaching out in the Greek and Hebrew for yourself. 

The Doctrine Stated

There are presently three major explanations of Genesis 1:1 by those who believe in a literal creation.  (We will gladly ignore those who deny this.)  Read the ten simple words again and then I will give the interpretations:  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

  1. Some teach that this is a summary of the six-day creation, almost akin to a title.  To these people, the real story begins with verse two with an empty, dark earth.
  2. Others teach that this verse is a part of the first day of creation which ends with verse five.  God created the heaven, the earth, light and darkness on the first day.
  3. This writing will claim that Genesis 1:1 records the original creation of the earth and that Genesis 1:2 describes the results of the destruction of this earth.  In this approach, the six-day creation is actually a second creation of the earth—although it is the beginning of the universe as we know it.

Importance of the Doctrine

Now I need to convince you not to take something I said earlier too strongly.  I minimized the importance of the doctrine as a divisive issue.  However, that does not mean that it has no importance.  Here are some reasons we should study and seek to understand this doctrine.

  •   “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  That, in a sense, says it all.  If God talked about it, it is important.  If He wrote it, it has profit for us.  Whatever you think about my conclusions, you will find this to be a study that deals much with God’s written word.
  • Origins are a great battlefield between truth and error in this day and age.  Where did we come from?  How did we get to be the way we are?  What is the origin of the universe?  All of these questions (and more) have a humanistic answer and a scriptural answer.  They all have the potential of either denying God or else demoting Him to a secondary role.  Therefore, any scripture and any biblical teaching about this subject is important.
  •  If God did destroy an entire previous world, then His grace to us is even more apparent.  From the beginning, He has found a way to keep giving man another chance.  He evidently did not do that with the angels who fell. 

The Edges of Human Knowledge

Man’s knowledge is strictly limited in certain directions.  He tries to convince himself otherwise, but the Bible states that God has kept some things from man.

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29

This passage show us that there are three kinds of knowledge:  The knowledge man can discover on his own (this is inferred), the revealed things that man knows only because God has made them known and the secret things that God refuses to reveal.  What God does reveal, He does so in order to aid our obedience to Him (“that we may do all the words of this law”).  There are things man may discover on his own and things he cannot.  The following verse tells how God purposely limits man’s understanding of His work.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Those things man cannot discover on his own will either be revealed by God or held secret by Him.  We should not worry over the things God will not reveal (like the seven thunders that were kept secret in Revelation 10:3-4).  The emphasis of Bible study should be on the things man cannot find but that God has decided to reveal.

Man’s knowledge seems to be most limited in five directions:

  1. Up toward the heights of heaven
  2. Down into the depths of the earth
    1. “Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” – Jeremiah 31:37
  3. Back into the past
  4. Forward into the future
    1. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” - Isaiah 46:9-10
  5. Inward into his own heart
    1. “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” – Proverbs 18:2

The reason for this section is to show that nothing can be understood of origins except what God reveals.  Any scientific study of the past makes assumptions that cannot be proven—mainly that the laws of nature in operation today have always been in operation.  This is the error of uniformitarianism (that all things continue as they always have) and it is refuted in scripture.

  • “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:” – 2 Peter 3:4-5

I am convinced by scripture that a world existed before our own world.  But I also see God revealing only slips and slivers of that world.  As with heaven, we want to know more but do not have that information.  It is as if God opens a window into another world for a split second.  In that moment, we sense a vast world of creation filled with inhabitants and established for God’s purpose.  We get a glimpse of light and color as never seen before, of sounds we have never heard, of glories that we have never experienced.  We are limited to almost no real knowledge of that world.  Yet, even this passing millisecond of view reveals the greatness of the God who made all the worlds—not just the one in which we live—but all the worlds. 

  • “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” – Hebrews 1:2
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 21:5

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.