The Bible, Genesis and Geology Logo

The History of the Genesis Gap Theory Interpretation and its Basis in Bible Doctrine

The World Before the Seven Days of Genesis

The Bible says, "In the beginning God Created the heaven and Earth" (Genesis 1:1) and at Genesis 1:3 God says, "...let there be light", which is followed by the seven-days of "Creation" and the making of the world into which He placed Adam and Eve. But between those two verses there is the mysterious and enigmatic statement of Genesis 1:2 which says:

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
(Genesis 1:2 KJV)

This verse should not to be dismissively taken as just some 'throw away' statement of how God began the creation process, because it is a serious declaration of factual conditions by the Holy Spirit to call the reader's attention to something that is abnormal and out of place. Those facts are: 1) The "Earth" already exists, 2) The planet is void of life, 3) There is great darkness everywhere, 4) Water already exists. WHY? When was all this created?

That mysterious verse is the Holy Spirit's guidance to a key Scriptural Truth. Specifically, the heaven and Earth of the original creation (Genesis 1:1 & Job 38:4) had been destroyed and corrupted as a result of Lucifer's sin of rebellion back in Earth's ancient past (Isaiah 14:12-16 & Ezekiel 28:13-17). That first world on the face of the Earth was now in complete ruin. What remained was shrouded in a great physical and spiritual darkness and the power of death. The reason? Sin in Deep-Time.

The Apostle Peter spoke of this mystery in the New Testament:

"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: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
(2 Pet 3:5-7 KJV)

People assume that the mention of the word "water" in the above passage makes it a reference to Noah's flood and the antediluvian world of man, but it is not. The phrase "willingly ignorant" and common sense should tell you otherwise. After all, anybody even remotely familiar with the Bible knows about Noah's flood. No, the verse is speaking about something else, and the only other place in the Bible where the Earth was covered in waters is Genesis 1:2. The ramifications are obvious: The Bible itself reveals that the "heavens and the earth, which are now" (made during the seven days) was not the first-time creation of all things. The Word of God is telling the observant reader there was a previous world on the face of this old Earth before the present world of man.

The Lord God created the heavens and the Earth and He authored the Bible through His Holy Spirit. Those are two (2) witnesses to God's truth (Matthew 18:16) . One witness is the Earth's geology, which reveals evidence of death in the fossil record extending back millions and millions of years. The other witness is the written word of God which, when rightly-divided, can tell men why there is death in the fossil record. The Genesis Gap Doctrine, commonly called the "Gap Theory" or "Ruin-Reconstruction" interpretation of Genesis, is not a modern-day interpretation of the Holy Bible. It is a theological teaching that was espoused by the early Church and even the fundamental Protestant faith in the years before Darwin's Theory of Evolution was even published, at a time when the geological sciences were still in their infancy. The Genesis Gap Doctrine has always been within the Holy Bible. It was there when Moses penned the book of Genesis, it is not a recent notion.

The Genesis Gap Doctrine does not contradict the modern-day geologic observations that indicate an Earth that is at least 4.5 billion years old with known evidence of death in Earth's fossil record extending back at least three-billion years, nor does it contradict the Holy Bible. On the contrary, the doctrine clarifies why these apparent contradictions between the Bible and Science exist. Why the old "world that then was" ended, and why God made a new world and modern Man (Adam), requires a study into the ancient origins of Lucifer and the Angels. This Biblical knowledge opens a clearer window into understanding why we see the world as it is today. It also provides a more perfect understanding and warning against what is yet to come upon the world in the near future, and why. The subjects of the Bible and Geology are not mutually exclusive concepts. The Earth has an ancient natural history that can be deciphered from the geologic record, but it also has an equally important ancient spiritual history that can only be deciphered from a Rightly-Divided Holy Bible. Knowledge of both, and enlightenment through the Holy Spirit, brings comprehension of the proper context of Earth's Geology within the Book of Genesis.


Clarence LarkinThe Holy Spirit reveals there is a time-gap between the first two verses of the Old Testament. This is not the only time-gap in the Old Testament; there are two (2) others. There is the "gap" in the Old Testament between the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is commonly called the "Church Age" or the "Age of Grace." The other is the 1,000 year Millennial reign of the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, which will be here on the Earth after His second coming and before the final great Judgment Day, followed by the creation of the New Heaven and Earth in eternity. The late Clarence Larkin referred to these Old Testament "gaps" as Valleys between the peaks of prophecy. The illustration below is a schematic of this line of reasoning:

Mountain peaks of prophecy

All three of these Scriptural Old Testament "gaps" or valleys have one thing in common: These are things that are spiritually discerned through the Holy Spirit, spelled out plainly in the New testament, which sheds light on what is written in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit reveals these things through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ - the source of all true wisdom. (See Revelation 19:10 & Colossians 2:2-3).  The Spirit of Prophecy certainly looks forward into the future, but it also can look backward into the past and you will be able to see this in the KJV Holy Bible. Keep in mind that what transpired in the past directly sets the course for what will happen in the future. This is why it is essential to understand why there is a gap between the first two verses of the Bible.

Peter's New Testament statement (2 Peter 3:5-7) tells us something that is not directly revealed in the Old Testament at Genesis 1:2. But before we amplify the matter further, you need to see why Peter is NOT speaking about Noah's flood:

"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: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
(2 Pet 3:5-7 KJV)

Compare the phrases: "the heavens and earth, which are now" to the phrase the "heavens were of old" in that verse. Ask yourself this question: When Noah's flood happened did it change anything in the upper heavens? That is, would a flood on the Earth's surface have any effect on the sun, moon, or stars high above? The obvious answer is NO.

"And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
(Genesis 6:13 KJV)

The heavens of Noah's days were the same heavens as in Adam's day; same sun, same moon, same stars. Noah's flood had no effect on the upper heavens. All of Noah's flood's effects were confined to the Earth's surface and its atmosphere. If the effects of Noah's flood were confined to the Earth's surface and atmosphere, then Noah's flood did not affect or alter anything in the upper heavens, so logic and common sense demands that this verse must be speaking about an event other than Noah's flood. And Genesis 1:2 is our only other Biblical alternative.

Notice also in that passage that the earth is said to be "standing out" of the water and "in" the water. In our English language, these descriptive terms suggest that these particular waters were not confined to the surface of the planet. The passage describes a deluge that raged across the solar system, and beyond with Earth caught up in the destructive overflow. Try to draw this mental picture: Think of a dark and ruined universe with water strewn throughout it like one big messy galactic spill. That is what Genesis 1:2 is speaking about when it says that darkness was upon the face of the "deep" (Genesis 1:2). And imagine the planet Earth drifting awash in this roaring and rolling, formless mess while still orbiting around the dead star that once was Earth's early sun. Where would such waters have come from? Well, it is an established scientific observation that aging stars create and give off lots of water. (See also Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

Certainly there must have been lots and lots of stars in the heavens that were "of old" (just as there are today) and, if something had caused the entire cosmos to have gone dark, and all those stars died (including our sun), then there would be excessive waters everywhere throughout outer space. If that was indeed the case, then all those extinguished stars would need to be reignited to be seen in our present heavens. Although many "Gap Theory" advocates believe that the sun, moon and stars were not affected and were only being obscured by deep cloud cover until the fourth of the seven days, that interpretation does not hold up under closer scrutiny of the Scriptures.

At Genesis 1:2 the heaven and the Earth are in darkness and great waters are upon the deep. If we interpret the deep to include everything in the physical universe, which included everything below God's heavenly realm far above (See John 8:23), then the situation becomes clear. Before any reconstruction of the heavens and Earth could begin, God had to do something with all that water scattered across space. That is why the Bible says:

"And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so."
(Genesis 1:7 KJV)

The heavens and firmament

The Bible is saying that God placed a "Sea" (waters above the firmament - See Psalms 148:4) between the footstool of His heavenly throne and the less than pure physical cosmos down below that Satan's rebellion ruined. This division was not good, but necessary. Note that, although God says, "it was good" concerning days 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, He does not say that about the work of day 2 (see for yourself).

Prior to that, God made another division at the beginning of the seven-days that was good:

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. 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. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
(Genesis 1:2-5 KJV)

This light was NOT PHYSICAL LIGHT as in sunshine, because God did not make the sun, moon and stars of this present world until the fourth-day. This light was the light of God. You should take note that the translators of the King James Bible did something very important in this passage. They capitalized the words "Day" and "Night" in Genesis 1:5 to stress the importance of these word definitions. The correct interpretation of these terms is found in this New Testament passage:

"Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."
(1 Thessalonians 5:5 KJV)

The  Bible itself provides the correct interpretation of the meaning. There were two (2) types of darkness present at Genesis 1:2: Yes, there was literal darkness (an absence of light), but there was also spiritual darkness (the presence of evil within the ruins of the creation). The Scriptures tell us that both good and evil are present when God made Adam's world.

"And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
 (Genesis 2:9 KJV)

Why this was the case is discussed in greater detail elsewhere on this website. 


History of the "Gap Theory" Interpretation:

Thomas ChalmersThis Ruin-Reconstruction interpretation of Genesis was the bread and butter Creation doctrine of the Protestant Fundamentalist Church in the early part of the 20th century. The interpretation has mainly been credited to the Scottish theologian, Thomas Chalmers, who began to preach it back in the early 19th century. Contrary to contemporary Young Earth Creationist allegations, Chalmers did NOT invent the Genesis Gap interpretation as a compromise of the Word of God to accommodate the Theory of Evolution. The fact that Chalmers was preaching the Genesis Gap out of the Holy Bible for well over twelve years BEFORE Darwin even published his 'On the Origin of Species' reveals the fallacy of such unfounded accusations.

Keep in mind that from the days of the Apostles up through the Dark Ages, and until just a few centuries ago, a 6,000 year age for the heavens and Earth was accepted dogma in the institutions of both the Church and Academia. Up until then, the real age of the Earth was not a burning issue. However, after the Bible was published for the masses, and as the scientific evidence for an old Earth grew, so did the breech between the establishment Church and establishment science. What we have in the case of Thomas Chalmers and the post Reformation times is an example of Revelation and Illumination from the Holy Scriptures. That is, when the proper time came, the Word of God once again proved itself timely and relevant to the level of scientific and Spiritual understanding of the day, and the Holy Spirit began opening eyes to a truth that was already there in the Scriptures. The Bible can provide true and faithful answers to all scientific 'discoveries' that appear to challenge the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. The problem today is that people have, for the most part, abandoned faith in the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures.

cartoon lecture

Rightly-Dividing the Word of God:

God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Divine Author of both the Scriptures and the Earth's Geologic record. Both are from His hand. Both witness to historical and spiritual Truth. He established the principles of science (knowledge) by which we can search out the answers to things preserved within the Earth's geology. His Scriptures provide us with a definitive and infallible source of Authority and a faithful guide to verify the validity of the things man observes hidden within the Earth. Therefore, there cannot possibly be any real contradiction in facts between Geology and Genesis. Any such contradictions only arise within the flawed paradigms of our understanding, be they scientific or Biblical. Remember, the Theory of Evolution is a faith-based belief; a belief system founded on observations without the benefit of Biblical clarification.  

Let's be honest, Biblical Creationism will never find fair and equal standing and acceptance with the non-believing world's accepted paradigm of origins. The world has placed its "faith" in the Theory of Evolution and carnal reasoning. The truth of the Bible must be accepted by faith as the Word of God, and you have to trust Him above what your Pastor or Science teacher thinks is truth.

The supernatural intervention or acts of an invisible Divine Sovereign can neither be proved nor disproved by the scientific method. Regrettably, a large segment of Fundamental Christianity has placed its faith in an interpretation of Genesis which denies not only the historical facts contained within the Earth itself but, in some cases, the very wording of the Holy Bible as well. TRUST YOUR BIBLE.

"For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
(Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

On the page that immediately follows, we will discuss the initial creation of the heaven and Earth (Genesis 1:1) where it is amplified and described in greater detail in the Book of Job. And we will begin the discussion concerning the Earth's first designated inhabitants - the Angels, also known in the Old Testament as the "sons of God" who were with the Lord God since before the creation.

Next Page: Zircon
The Ancient Earth and the Angels





Disclaimer: External Links from this website are for instructional or promotional purposes and do not constitute an endorsement
 by the The Bible, Genesis & Geology Ministry.

 All original text © 1997 - 2021
Gaines R. Johnson, D.D., D.Th.
The Bible, Genesis & Geology Ministry

Materials from this site may be freely copied to paper for personal use or church Bible studies.
 They may not be reproduced elsewhere on the Internet, for either personal or commercial use, without the express written permission of this Ministry.

Are you saved? Are you Sure? Click the image below for the Gospel Truth about the Lord Jesus Christ in your native language!