The gap theory – also called the ‘ruin-and-reconstruction’ theory – is the idea that between the first two verses of the Bible (Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2) there was a gap of time which lasted billions of years during which several important things occurred. Here is what this theory says:
A) God created the universe billions of years ago. The passage of the Scripture “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 – NKJV) refers to that creation.
B) Then the geological ages proposed by evolutionists took place over billions of years of earth’s history. Life-forms arose during that time that are now preserved in the fossil record, and these fossils allegedly verify that the geological ages took place.
C) At the end of the geological ages, Satan rebelled in Heaven and many angels followed him. God then cast Satan down to earth, the earth underwent a huge disaster or cataclysm, and it was left without form and void, with darkness on the face of the deep. The passage of the Scripture: “The earth was without form, and void” (Genesis 1:2 – NKJV), refers to the state of the earth after that great cataclysm, so it should be translated: ‘The earth became without form, and void.’ That God did not create the earth without form and void is evident from Isaiah 45:18 which says that God “did not create it in vain.” At this point, it must be said that some of the adherents of the gap-theory assert that all the plant, animal and human fossils upon the earth today date from this cataclysm; so they do not think that the fossil record formed over billions of years but that it was the outcome of the cataclysm (called ‘Lucifer’s flood’) which occurred because of Satan’s rebellion.
D) God then re-created the earth in the six literal days of creation described in the first chapter of Genesis. Therefore there were two creations: the former took place billions of years ago, while the latter took place after the earth was destroyed by a devastating global cataclysm which occurred as a result of the rebellion of Satan and his angels against God, with God casting them out of heaven to the earth. The six-days of the first chapter of Genesis are actually days of recreation, for God had to re-create all the animals and the plants which had been destroyed by that great cataclysm.
The gap theory was developed by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a notable Scottish theologian and first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. The most notably influential 19th century writer to popularize this view was G.H. Pember, in his book Earth’s Earliest Ages, first published in 1884. The 20th century writer who published the most academic defence of the gap theory was Arthur C. Custance in his work Without Form and Void. This theory is upheld by many evangelical theologians.
The Scofield Study Bible notes on Genesis I include the following: ‘The first act refers to the dateless past, and gives scope for all the geologic ages. . . . The face of the earth bears everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe. There are not wanting intimations which connect it with a previous testing and fall of angels. . . . Relegate fossils to the primitive creation, and no conflict of science with the Genesis cosmogony remains.
The Nelson Study Bible, published in 1997, in its footnotes on Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, says: ‘Here it means that God renewed what was in a chaotic state. God changed chaos into cosmos, disorder into order, emptiness into fullness. . . . The two words, without form and void, express one concept—chaos. The earth had been reduced to this state—it was not the way God had first created it.’
The Italian Assemblies of God (ADI, which stands for Assemblee di Dio in Italia) endorses the gap-theory. In an article written by Francesco Toppi, former president of ADI, which appeared in 1988 on the fortnightly magazine ‘Cristiani Oggi’ [Christians Today], which is one of the official magazines published by the above mentioned denomination, we read as follows: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Genesis 1:1-2 – NIV). Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ does not describe the first step of the creation, it does not refer to the creation of the formless matter out of nothing but to a perfect creation: “The heavens and the earth” (….) This original physical creation is complete in itself, like all the things that God creates, even though we don’t know the details of this first creation (….) Genesis 1:2 would be the result of a destruction, of a catastrophe and implies a result of an episode of the ‘protohistory’ of the universe. This first original creation of Genesis 1:1 was followed by an indeterminate period of time, to which can correspond all the geological eras of billions of years nowadays settled through radiometric instruments (….) the great cataclysm that left the earth “formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep” must have been an event of cosmic importance and thus it can refer only to the rebellion of Satan, to his expulsion from heaven and to his fall from heaven to the earth: (…) therefore Genesis 1:3-31 describes the ‘re-creation’ during which the Creator reconstructed from the formless matter of the original creation existing before the adamic creation’ (Cristiani Oggi, 1988, n° 4, page 2 – Translated by myself). This interpretation ‘allows us to state that the Bible does not contradict science’ (Ibid., page 2).
The gap-theory is endorsed also by those who follow Herbert Armstrong’s heretical teachings, for in his book The Incredible Human Potential he wrote: ‘Now back to Genesis 1:1-2. Verse 1, as stated above, implies a perfect creation. God is the author of life, of beauty, of perfection. Satan has brought only darkness, ugliness, imperfection, violence. Verse 1 shows the creation of a perfect earth, glorious and beautiful. Verse 2 reveals the result of the sin of the angels. “And the earth was [became] without form, and void.” The words “without form and void” are translated from the Hebrew tohu and bohu. A better translation is “waste and empty” or “chaotic and in confusion.” The word “was” is elsewhere in Genesis translated “became,” as in Genesis 19:26. In other words, the earth, originally created perfect and beautiful, had now become chaotic, waste, and empty, like our moon, except its surface was covered with water. David was inspired to reveal how God renewed the face of the earth: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:30). Now another surprise for most readers. Here is another bit of the missing dimension in knowledge, actually revealed in the Bible, but unrecognized by religion, by science, and by higher education. From verse 2 of Genesis 1 on, the remainder of this first chapter of the Bible is not describing the original creation of the earth. But it is describing a renewing of the face of the earth, after it had become waste and empty as a result of the sin of the angels. What is described from verse 2 on, in the supposed “Creation chapter” of the Bible, did occur, according to the Bible, approximately 6,000 years ago. But that could have been millions or trillions of years after the actual creation of the earth described in verse 1! I will comment later on the length of time it might have taken before all earth’s angels turned to rebellion. The earth had become waste and empty. God did not create it waste and empty, or in confusion. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). This same Hebrew word — tohu — meaning waste and empty, was inspired in Isaiah 45:18, where it is translated “in vain.” Using the original Hebrew word, as originally inspired, it reads: “For thus saith the [Eternal] that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain [tohu], he formed it to be inhabited.” Continue now with the remainder of verse 2 (Gen. 1) (the earth had become chaotic, waste, and empty): “And darkness was upon the face of the deep [the ocean or fluid surface of the earth]. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (verses 2-4). Satan is the author of darkness. The rebellion of the angels had caused the darkness. God is the author of light and truth. Light displays and enhances beauty, and also exposes evil. Darkness hides both. The verses which follow in this first chapter of the Bible describe the renewing of the face of the earth, yielding beautiful lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetation — then the creation of fish and fowl, animal life, and finally man.’ (Herbert W. Armstrong, The Incredible Human Potential, Pasadena, California, 1978, pages 41-42). However, it must be said that the gap theory taught by Armstrong does not include evolution nor the existence of man before the global cataclysm for he taught that before the great cataclysm the world was under the authority of angels who were ordained to preserve and prepare it for man. The angels, under Lucifer, rebelled. The world ended in chaos as a consequence, and in six days it was re-created for man.
The gap-theory is a false doctrine, for it contradicts the Word of God, and thus it must be rejected
The gap-theory affirms that the things created by God spoken of in the first chapter of the book of Genesis are things which were re-made or reconstructed by God, and therefore we should no longer speak of a creation but of a re-creation or reconstruction. Whereas the Scripture, referring to the events of the first chapter of Genesis, speaks continually of creation. For after God rested from His work on the seventh day, the Scripture says: “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4 – NKJV). God Himself, when He commanded the Israelites to remember the seventh day to keep it holy, said to them: “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” (Exodus 20:11). Is it not enough clear that there were no other creation-days before the six creation-days? If the first day was not the one described in verse 3 because there had been a first day billions of years before, why does the Scripture say “so the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5), “were the second day” (1:8), “were the third day” (1:13) and so on? What then would these expressions mean? Don’t you think that we would implicitly acknowledge that in the book of Genesis there are some lies, for the first day spoken of in the first chapter of the book of Genesis actually was not the first day, and consequently the second day actually was not the second day, and so on? Don’t you think that if the gap theory were true we should affirm that for many centuries God deceived all Christians into believing a lie, since the creation spoken of in the first chapter of Genesis was a reconstruction and not a creation?
Let us talk about man now. If this theory were true, we should come to the conclusion that Adam was not the first man: why? Because if “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” meant that God made a perfect creation which afterward was destroyed by the fall of Satan from heaven, that would mean that at that time God had created also man and woman on the earth since that creation would have been imperfect without the creation of the human being. Therefore, before Adam there would have been other human beings on the earth, that is to say, there would have been other human beings before the earth became formless and empty. But this is not possible because the Scripture calls Adam the first man, as Paul says to the Corinthians: “The first man Adam became a living being” (1 Corinthians 15:45 – NKJV). Furthermore, when Jesus spoke about the creation of man and woman, He said: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4-5 – NKJV), didn’t He? What does ‘at the beginning’ mean? What creation did He refer to? As far we know, He referred to the only creation of man and woman accomplished by God, that is, the creation described in the book of Genesis. Therefore ‘at the beginning’ must refer to the only beginning the Scripture speaks of, that is, the time in which God created, and not recreated, man and woman. Not only that, but if the gap-theory were true we should also conclude that when Adam gave names to all the animals, it was not the first time that such a thing had occurred, because the first man, who had lived billions of years before Adam, had already given names to the animals, and therefore Adam had to rename them, and at this point we should wonder if Adam gave the same names to the animals. In other words, if we accepted this theory as a true theory we could eventually affirm many things that are inconsistent with the Scripture. And perhaps somebody might put even the homo erectus and the man of Neanderthal etc. etc. in those billions of years that preceded the re-creation accomplished by God recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, thus we would conclude that the so called evolution of man took place before the re-creation.
How can we explain then the fact that in the book of Genesis it is written that the earth was formless and empty (this passage, according to the proponents of the gap-theory, supports their thesis)? We explain it in this way: when God created the earth it did not have the form it has now, but it was formless. Therefore the earth did not become formless but at the beginning of the creation it was made formless by God and afterward God formed it. For you should keep in mind that at the beginning the continents were not visible as they are now because they were submerged (underwater) as it is written that on the third day God said: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so” (Genesis 1:9). And the words of the Psalmist are in agreement with this, as it is written: “You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away. They went up over the mountains; they went down into the valleys, to the place which You founded for them” (Psalm 104:6-8 – NKJV). Therefore when we read that at the beginning the earth was formless we have to bear in mind that the earth had not yet risen out of water, in that it rose out of water on the third day as Peter says: “By God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water” – 2 Peter 3:5 NIV). Furthermore, the earth was empty because we know that the plants, the animals and man, were made by God on the third day (plants) and on the sixth day (animals and man). That’s why the Scripture states that the earth was empty and not only formless. Therefore we must not be surprised to read that the earth was empty.
We can say a similar thing also about man, because man did not take immediately the form he has now because the Scripture says that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). The expression ‘the Lord God formed man’ implies that at the beginning he was formless and afterward he took the form that God had determined (we don’t know how long the formation of man lasted, anyway it took place during a day of 24 hours, I mean it might have lasted 5 seconds or 5 minutes or 15 minutes or 1 hour or 2 hours, etc.; we can say that the formation of man took place between the morning and the evening of the sixth day). That’s not a strange thing because even the baby who is going to be born, before taking the form he will have when his mother gives birth to him, at the beginning was formless and has undergone a process of formation which in this case lasted several months. When David said: “Your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:16 – NIV) did he not mean that at the beginning his body was unformed (or shapeless)? Please note that everything is the work of God because David said to God: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 – NIV) and Job said: “Your hands shaped me and made me” (Job 10:8 – NIV). However, when the hands of God began to form man he was not only shapeless but also empty because there was no life in him. It was when God finished forming his body that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Therefore, that’s the way God worked, but unfortunately His way of working things, so clearly described in the Scripture, has been darkened by the above theory, which is nothing but an idea that sprang from a wrong interpretation given to the words “was formless and empty”. However, it is an idea that not only contradicts the teaching of the Scripture concerning the creation, but also builds a sort of bridge between science and the book of Genesis because somehow it confirms that the geological eras of the scientists – which we don’t accept at all – actually can be placed in the book of Genesis. In other words, this theory sprang from the need to reconcile science and Scripture. And the damage caused by it is evident. Know this, brothers, that many believers, wanting to reconcile the untrue theories of science with the truth of the Scripture, have wandered from the truth!
Last of all, let me say a few words about fossils. How do we explain the presence of so many animal fossils in the earth’s crust? Well, their presence can be best explained as one of the results of the worldwide flood which occurred in the days of Noah, for according to the Bible when God brought the flood upon the earth to punish the world for its iniquity He put to death all animals and men (except Noah, his family, and all the animals that were with him in the ark), as it is written: “All flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died” (Genesis 7:21-22 – NKJV). That’s why we are not surprised at hearing that there are many dead animals buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth. This is the only global and devastating cataclysm which the earth has experienced, which can be proved through the Holy Scripture. But as for the cataclysm (or ‘Lucifer’s flood’) of which the adherents of the gap theory speak, it must be said that the Scripture does not mention it at all, so we do not believe it ever occurred. You may say, ‘Not all events which occurred in ancient times are recorded in the Bible!’ That’s true, but I firmly believe that if a global and devastating cataclysm had occurred before the flood of Noah, which destroyed a creation previous to the one recorded in the Bible, certainly God would have moved Moses or someone else to write about it so that the account of that cataclysm might be recorded in the Bible. So the fact that the account of that supposed cataclysm is missing in the Bible, shows that it is a godless myth, and we are commanded not to give heed to godless myths. That this cataclysm is a godless myth is evident from the fact that it is inconsistent with the Holy Scripture.