The Angelic Conflict, the Gap Theory, and Some Observations

I feel like I need a break from the Ten Commandments for a week. It has been very enjoyable to me but sometimes a break is just the thing I need to refresh my enthusiasm. So, as a break, I have decided to write another post on the angelic conflict. I plan to keep coming back to this topic occasionally since it is the cornerstone of how I view world history, current events, and the path history is headed down. It is such a part of my worldview that if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t have a biblical explanation for anything going on in the world (as most Christians don’t).

As a refresher, I believe the angelic conflict began when Satan (or Lucifer the Son of the Morning) rebelled against God and sought to perform a coup d’état against God Himself. God put Satan on trial whereby he was convicted of sedition and sentenced to the Lake of Fire forever. Why wasn’t the sentence immediately executed? Here is what I believe to be the best explanation:

It is very likely that Satan appealed his sentence with a statement to the effect of – “How can a God of love cast one of his creatures into the Lake of Fire?”  Through a lower creature, man, God is demonstrating the unified function of the attributes of His essence (sovereignty, eternal life, love, justice, righteousness, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, veracity) in answer to Satan’s appeal.  Thus, human history serves as evidence in the appeal trial of Satan.  The perfect environment over which man had dominion prior to the Fall in the Garden will one day be restored to the dominion of man (Jesus Christ, the Messiah) Who will rule from a restored Jerusalem as capital of a restored Israel.  The lower creature, man, will serve as vindicating evidence of God’s fairness in the appeal trial of Satan.

The Real Meaning of Life?

But you may ask: What does this have to do with the “Gap Theory” and, by the way, what is the Gap Theory? This is an excellent question. The Gap Theory is the idea that there is a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 and that it was during this “gap” when Satan rebelled. Most of the teachers that I know of who believe in the angelic conflict also hold to the Gap Theory (Charles Clough is the one exception I know of).

Of course this idea is controversial but then I can’t really think of anything in Christianity which isn’t controversial any more. I will have more to say about this at the end of the post.

As some background there are several varying ideas as to how creation took place and the Gap Theory is only one of them (in fact there are at least two versions of the gap theory). Arnold Fruchtenbaum in his commentary on the Book of Genesis lists three major views:

–         Initial Chaotic Theory/Original Creation View which was held by Keil and Deilitzsch, Leupold (a Lutheran commentator), and Dr. U. Cassuto (an orthodox Jew).

–         Pre-creation Chaos Theory/The Relative Beginning View of which there are five different variations.

–         The Gap Theory/Restitution Theory. There are at least two versions of this theory with one version holding to an old earth view and the other to a new earth view. The Gap Theory with a young earth is the view that Dr. Fruchtenbaum, and I, believe to be biblical.

I will now quote some of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s discussion of the gap theory which makes some very good points:

The second option is known as the Gap Theory but it is not an ideal name because of the misconceptions about what it teaches. In this view, Genesis 1:1 is the original creation in a perfect state; God created the heavens and the earth in a perfect state. Then between verses 1 and 2 there was a gap of time; and in this gap of time there was the fall of Satan, which resulted in the chaos of verse 2. The chaos of verse 2 is a result of divine judgment. In the Gap Theory, verse 3 marks the beginning of the first day of creation. Therefore, the original creation is in Genesis 1:1, followed by a gap of time in which something happened to cause the original creation to become chaotic. From parallel passages such as Ezekiel 28:11-19, that something was the fall of Satan; and when Satan fell, it caused the chaos of verse 2. Then 1:3 begins with the first day of creation. This is the correct use of the Gap Theory: to explain the chaos of verse 2. The wrong use of the Gap Theory is for “dinosaur space.” It has been a convenient place to dump the in the fossil record, the geological ice ages, etc.; and those who have held it for “dinosaur space” have been forced to make it millions, if not billions, of years long. This only results in conforming biblical interpretation to scientific theories, which is never, ever necessary. The Bible clearly teaches that physical death originates with the fall of Adam. The gap is there only for the fall of Satan and to explain the chaos of 1:2, but it need not be a very long time at all. It is not known how long it was, but it need not be millions and billions of years.

Ariel’s Bible Commentary
The Book of Genesis
by Arnold Fruchtenbaum
pp. 36-37

A few years ago Dr. Robert Dean taught an Old Testament survey course which, as you would expect, had to deal with Issues in Creation. If you follow the link you will see that Dr. Dean has listed out all of the major creation views along with each views weaknesses and strengths. It is worthwhile to reproduce what he wrote about the Young Earth Gap view:

5A Young Earth Gap or Creation-Chaos-Restoration View

1B Statement of the view

Genesis 1:1 states the original creation of the universe, “the heavens and the earth.” The fall of Satan and the angelic revolt resulted in a divine judgment on that universe which is depicted in v.2. Beginning in v.3 God restores the planet and the universe restoring the planet for the habitation of man. The time gap between 1:1 and 1:2 is not very long and no geologic ages or pre-Adamic life forms are inserted.

Positive aspects of the view from the perspective of those who hold it:

1C It is based on an exegetical and sound biblical basis.

2C It takes into account that “good” does not equate to moral or righteous.

3C It provides a basis for understanding “Eden, the garden of God” to be located on earth.

4C “Formless and void,” “darkness” and “deep” all have ominous overtones of judgment.

5C Recognizes that the stars were not created until the fourth day.

6C The view that a gap exists between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 to explain the time of Satan’s fall goes back to at least to the Targum of Jonathon.

2B Problems with the view

1. Critics argue that the grammar is not that determinative. Answer: These exegetical possibilities are legitimate and possible.

2. The fall of Satan must be after Genesis 2:4 because God said everything “was very good.” Answer: But “good” is not a moral evaluation, as in it was not good for man to be alone. “Good” indicates that the result was what God intended.

3B Evaluation of the view

This view recognizes the clear scriptural evidence that the earth is young, avoids all assimilation with evolution, and provides a better time frame for the fall of Satan. Further, this view accords with recent findings of creationist scientists which supports a young earth geology.

4B Modern advocates of the view

This is a fairly recent view. Many creationists reject it because of their hostility to the old-earth gap view. Arnold Fruchtenbaum holds this view as do a number of other pastors who formerly held to an old earth gap view.

At the end of this article I will provide some internet resources on the subject that I found so any readers can begin checking into this for themselves. The one thing that I saw brought up time and again by those who disagree with the Gap Theory is that it was originally advanced by a certain Thomas Chalmers in 1814. Then most of the sources that I found go on to say that Chalmers came up with the theory to “accommodate” the bible to science and that proponents of the Gap Theory are “accomodationists” (which is not a good thing). I don’t have access to Thomas Chalmers’ writings and can not advance a theory as to what his thought process was. For all I know he may very well have been an accomodationist.

The one thing that comes to mind for me is the idea that God has been forcing the church to mature over the centuries by causing a series of crises which the church has had to deal with (certainly modern, atheistic science would be such a crisis) by renewed study of scripture. I first heard this forwarded by Charles Clough (who, by the way, believes in a literal six day creation) and it made a major impression on me:

As we noted above, Church history offers us a clear picture of present sanctification at work. Most of the time, we learned, God has had to force the Church against its will to advance spiritually. Various trials, including political pressures and religious attacks, have prodded the Church to go back to the Scripture again and again to seek His will, to understand it better, and to apply it by faith. Church history even offers insight into the sequence of lessons learned. Figure Seven pictures God’s “lesson plan” as observed so far in Church history. First, He brings us back to the Bible as our supreme authority when we try to replace its authority with our private experiences, mysticism, rationalism, and human organizations. Second, He leads us through various spiritual journeys in order to learn about what He is like and Who Jesus Christ really is. Only as we know Him can we worship Him as we should. Third, usually through our failures and sins, He renews our appreciation for what Jesus did for us on His Cross as well as the necessity to walk by faith without trying to impress Him with our good works. Finally, He opens our eyes to His coming works, prophesied details of what He alone can accomplish to fulfill human history. He seems to utilize personal and political tragedies to restore our hope in the proper eschatology.

A Biblical Framework
Part VI: NEW TRUTHS OF THE KINGDOM ARISTROCRACY
by Charles Clough
pp. 104-105

I do think that the Gap Theory was spurred by challenges from the unbelieving world and that some of those who have promoted may not have had theology that I can agree with. But in the end I really don’t care. I do believe that God is doctrinally dragging the church somewhere, warts and all, of His choosing.

This is all of the detail that I am going to go into in this post but I do want to end with a comment and then I will provide some links for anyone who would like to do some more research on their own. One of these is the Google search that I used to do research on the Gap Theory via the internet. You will be able to find those who agree with the Gap Theory and those that really hate it. One thing really impressed me after reviewing many of the links: Christians treat each other worse than they treat unbelievers! Believers often show great patience with unbelievers in order to be able to provide them with the Gospel. This is fine, in fact I encourage it. However, we Christians should never forget that other Christians are fellow members of the Body of Christ and should be treated that way! Proving your zeal by calling other Christians heretics, being rude, and being an all around jerk does not glorify Christ. I thought about actually providing scripture about how we are supposed to treat others (including other Christians) but I think that is something I will save for later. If a Christian doesn’t understand the Lord’s commands regarding the treatment of others then I sure don’t see how they know enough to be commenting about the Gap Theory with any authority.

Here are my references:

–         My Google Search

Pro Gap Theory Sites

–         Without Form and Void by Arthur Custance
–         The Gap Theory of Creation by Landmark Missionary Baptist Church

Anti Gap Theory Sites

–         WHAT ABOUT THE GAP THEORY?
–         The Gap Theory

Update: I have found out that some of what I wrote in the original post may not be accurate. When reading the anti-Gap Theory sites they do claim that the Gap Theory was first proposed by Thomas Chalmers in 1814. I have now found out that that is wrong. I was recently listening to a Bible Study by Robert Dean and he stated that the Gap Theory is part of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost which was written in1667 (that is about 150 years before Chalmers is supposed to have come up with the idea). Dr. Dean also stated that he has found a reference to what we would call the Gap Theory in Rabbinical writings dating to the 8th Century A.D. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!

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9 Comments on “The Angelic Conflict, the Gap Theory, and Some Observations”


  1. THANK YOU again i find that you are so expert in explaining some difficult aspect of the subject,i agree this is not right to insult our brothers over the non beleiver; is’nt it what the government does himself? knowing some non beleivers that have done wrong to this country, GOD gave us a real challenge this time it’s on the whole earth’s peoples; if we could only knew how long it will stay,and when it will end .

  2. Glenn Says:

    Hi I ♥ Bees!

    I am glad that you liked the post and I’m also happy that I explained this topic well. I am never sure if what I write is understandable. Thank you for the nice compliment.

    Glenn

  3. Jason Taylor Says:

    appreciate you article on the gap theory, Starting to teach Genesis this next week for church and was blessed

    Pastor Jason

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Pastor Jason,

      I am very glad to hear that my post was of use to you.

      I have another resource that you might find useful. When I wrote this post I wasn’t aware that Chafer Theological Seminary covered this topic in their 2010 Pastor’s Conference. Most of the men that teach at that conference hold to the Gap Theory (even though they hate that term) so, if you are opposed to that view this won’t help you. You can download videos and slide presentations from that conference at this link.

      I hope this helps you and thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      Glenn


  4. I must agree with you that Christians often are harshest toward their own. The old saying “Christians shoot their own wounded” comes to mind. I think the difference between a robust discussion and legalism can be found in Jesus answering the question of which is the greatest commandment. When we love being “right” more than we love God or love others (as ourselves) we can fall into this trap. For example, I don’t see scriptural support for “Satan’s appeal” but your speculations don’t affect salvation or orthodox teachings of the same. I don’t see a compelling reason from either science or scripture for a “Gap” theory (I’ve summarized creationist thinking on this at http://www.understanding-creationism.com/gap-theory.html) but I also don’t condemn folks who do believe in the Gap theory. Once again, soteriology is not at issue.

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Patrick,

      Thank you for your comment. I will check out your article when I get a chance. I am currently on a business trip so my time is more limited than usual.

      Glenn

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Patrick,

      I wanted to add one more quick comment. You mentioned that you don’t see any scriptural support for Satan appealing his sentence. While that is true I think it can be shown that something happened. Satan revolted and he, and his angels, were sentenced to eternity in the Lake of Fire. Why hasn’t the sentence been executed? Why is Satan still free? One answer that fits is that he has appealed his sentence.

      Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote a book titled “The Invisible War” where he deals with some of these issues (the Lambsound website has an electronic copy of the book). I excerpted some of it in my “God’s Reaction to Satan’s Fall” post. Dr. Barnhouse has a different explanation for why God has not executed the sentence yet.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Glenn


  5. I hold to this view, and thank you for making a post about it!


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