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Personal view: Why I disagree with the Genesis Gap Theory

August 2015 | by Michael W. J. Phelan

Some years ago, I was asked to examine the theory that there is a ‘gap’, perhaps as long as several million years, between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. 

The result of that study was a small book entitled, The Genesis ‘gap theory’: its credibility and consequences in which I set out my reasons for believing that the theory is contrary to Scripture. What I wish to do in this article, is explain the consequences of accepting the ‘gap theory’. Does it really make any difference whether we believe in the ‘gap’ or not? Well, I believe that there are important theological consequences for us all.

The ‘gap theory’ does not affect directly our conception of the persons of the Godhead, nor does it affect our understanding of redemption, the church, or the return of Christ. It does, however, affect our understanding of the fall of Lucifer, and the place of man in that tragedy. And it is in this, I believe, that the importance of this controversy lies.

Related events

Were the gap theory to be true, the fall of Lucifer would necessarily and inevitably pre-date the creation of Adam by an unspecified expanse of time, and, therefore, the two events would be absolutely unrelated. Rejection of the gap theory, however, inevitably drives these two events into the closest proximity, which helps our understanding of them greatly.

When we consider the events of the six days of creation, we notice that there is something different about the creation of man. With the creation of plant life, heavenly bodies, winged life, marine life and wild and domestic land animals, we are left with the impression that whole multitudes of creatures were created simultaneously; for example, ‘let the waters bring forth abundantly’ (Genesis 1:20).

Against this background of teeming multiplicity, the uniqueness, solitariness and individuality of man stands out starkly. He is the only one of his kind. Reflecting the uniqueness of man’s maker, the one God, amidst the multiplicity of life forms surrounding him (and the potential woman still within him), man as a conspicuous and significant unity stands alone.

In the very image of the one God, and bearing his likeness, Adam was to have dominion over all the other life-forms that roamed around him. In his essential nature, he is like God, though he is formed from the mere dust of the ground.

Now from the book of Job we know that the sons of God, among whom was Lucifer, later Satan (Job 1:6), watched with awe and excitement the bringing forth of the dry land from the waters (Job 38:1-7). We may be certain then that the creation of man, and the special nature of that event, were observed keenly by the angelic hosts.

All very good

Yet, given that there is no gap before Genesis 1:1, or between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, the declaration by God in Genesis 1:31 on the sixth day that everything that he had made ‘was very good’ must include the angelic hosts as well, for the word everything must include just that, whether Genesis 1 informs us about it or not.

Therefore, Lucifer was unfallen when Adam was created; God’s creation in its entirety was unmarred in its perfection. By contrast, the gap theory, of course, makes Lucifer a fallen being, way before the six days of creation, leading to an unjustified qualification or restriction being imposed upon God’s declaration of Genesis 1:31.

The sons of God, no doubt, watched as the Lord breathed ‘the breath of life’ into Adam, instructed him personally, and caused the animals to come to him for naming. It would have been obvious to these sons of God that Adam was of the highest significance.

When the ‘deep sleep’ fell upon Adam, the woman formed from his side, and the void filled up with flesh, Adam’s headship received its final and emphatic confirmation. It is then, I propose, that the jealousy of Lucifer awoke.

We notice from Isaiah, the sinful ambition in Lucifer’s cry, ‘I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:14). The likeness of God that pertained to Adam was noted and coveted by Lucifer in his jealousy of Adam’s role.

We perhaps notice also in Satan’s temptation of Eve, a subtle denial of the truth by the serpent that man was created in the likeness of God, inasmuch as the prospect of being as God was presented as a goal to be achieved by human endeavour through the acquisition of knowledge, rather than simply accepted as the already present gift of God (Genesis 3:5).

The implication might have been that Adam was not made in the likeness of God, since this was a state Satan desired for himself, and therefore would refuse to recognise within man.

Second Adam

So we see that rejection of the gap theory inevitably forces together the fall of Lucifer, ambitious to be like God, and the creation of the image and likeness of God within Adam. How galling to Satan that, when the Logos became manifest in flesh as Jesus Christ, it was as a man — as a Second Adam!

How bitter Satan’s defeat, when it was wrought through the death of this Second Adam, when he himself had triumphed by bringing death to the first Adam! How vexing for him to consider ‘that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, [God] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth (Ephesians 1:10)’, so that, within Christ, man will achieve an even greater dominion than was promised to Adam!

We know that by the uniting of the redeemed within Christ, God’s wisdom is even now being revealed to the unseen realms, which would include the fallen angels (Ephesians 3:10-11). This enables us to understand more keenly Satan’s hatred for mankind and his peculiar hatred of Christ.

Lucifer’s fall is bound up with the creation of man and his insane jealousy of man’s position. The history of fallen man’s redemption and the exaltation of man to a situation greater than any finite mind can comprehend, would cause that hatred to resort to acts of the greatest depravity in the pitiless pursuit of revenge, driven by a rage and madness the depths of which we will never know.

Believers will benefit from seeing that the creation of their first human father is what provoked the jealousy of Lucifer and led to his fall, and from understanding that to his jealousy for us, a diabolical hatred has been added.

Not independent of God

Further, by the propagation of the gap theory, I believe that the evil one also seeks to create the false impression that he has achieved an independence from the Creator which might be seen as viable, inasmuch as it would be thought of as having endured for very many millennia, even perhaps for many millions of years.

But we ought also to rejoice in the fact that, by being born from above (John 3:3-6), we derive our new nature from a realm beyond the reach of Satan, and that, while we walk this earth, simultaneously, we are at God’s right hand, in Christ (Ephesians 2:5-7; Colossians 3:1-4).

Jesus Christ, as the Second and triumphant Adam, has defeated the evil one finally, and irreversibly, and thereby made absolutely certain the ending of the evil one’s foolish and short-lived rebellion.

We must not allow the untenable gap theory to rob us of these insights, especially those which show that the fall of Lucifer was induced by his jealousy over the nature and destiny of man.

The author is an engineer and Christian writer, who has had nine books published. These include The Genesis ‘gap theory’: its credibility and consequences  (Twoedged Sword Publications; ISBN: 978-1905447022)