This question addresses something that is normally called the “gap theory.” In fact, there is no gap “theory,” there is a gap “reality.” Now we are not with the so-called scientists (1 Tim 6:20) who have tried to insert a long enough period of time between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 to accomplish millions of years of evolution. We are simply stating a fact as recorded in the Bible.
The evidence for a gap in time between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 is quite extensive.
In Gen 1:1, the heaven and the earth were created. Notice, at that time, there is the mention of only one heaven being created, not heavens [plural]. Two other heavens were created later in Gen 1. The firmament called “Heaven” was created in Gen 1:6-8; this is where the solar system was placed. The heaven in which the fowl fly was created in Gen 1:20. So, by the fifth day there were three heavens. Thus, Paul stated that he was caught up to the third heaven when he saw paradise (2 Cor 12:1-4).
In Gen 1:2, water is already covering the earth and there is no mention of when water was created; it’s just there. The earth is completely submerged in water, and it is without form and void. The Lord never created anything without form and void. The only other time you see the phrase “without form and void” is in Jer 4:23. The context of that verse is Jer 4:19-27 and revealed that “without form and void” is the condition of the earth after destruction, not after creation. Everything created was created with form and was created with the ability to reproduce itself after its kind.
So, what’s that water doing there? Why is the earth without form and void? Did God create it that way or did he flood it? Actually, he flooded it. You can see this in 2 Pet 3.
2 Pet 3:4-7 says, “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 [Gen 1:1]. 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 [Gen 1:1] and in the water [Gen 1:2]: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished [Gen 1:2]: But the heavens and the earth, which are now [Gen 1:3-31], by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
According to Peter, things “from the beginning of creation” were different than they are now. He said that the earth was originally “standing out of the water” (see other references to this in Ps 24:2 and Ps 136:6). But when we see it in Gen 1:2, it is standing “in” the water. So, something must have happened to it between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 for the earth to be submerged in water, because it didn’t start out that way. The waters that overflowed it caused it to perish – to be without form and void. That’s what happened in the gap.
Many argue that 2 Pet 3:5-6 is Noah’s flood. However, there are several problems with that. The first problem is that the earth didn’t perish in Noah’s flood, yet it did in this flood. Only the men, creeping things, cattle, beasts of the earth, and fowl of the air that were not in the ark perished in Noah’s flood, Gen 7:22-23. Everything else survived, including the fish. After getting out of the ark, God did not have to create anything, they just reproduced. And vegetation in the earth began to grow after the water was dried up from Noah’s flood as evidenced by the olive leaf that the dove brought back to the ark in Gen 8:11.
Yet, Peter said that “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” That can’t be Noah’s flood. It has to be a flood that made the world totally lifeless. In fact it’s the flood that took place between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 that left the earth without form and void. After Peter’s flood, God had to even create the vegetation in Gen 1:11-12.
The second problem with 2 Pet 3 being a record of Noah’s flood is that the water in Noah’s flood “returned from off the earth continually,” (Gen 8:3). It took 273 or 274 days for the water to dry up off the earth (Gen 8:13 minus Gen 7:11-12). So, the waters dried up gradually over a long period of time.
However, after the flood described in 2 Pet 3, the waters were removed instantly. It only took one day for the excess surface water to be removed (the second day). Ps 104:6-7 describes this flood on the earth after which the waters from the flood fled at the Lord’s rebuke. The Psalmist said, “…they hasted away.” That’s a description of what happened when God created the second heaven by dividing the water that covered the earth from the water that remained on the earth (Gen 1:6-8).
Unlike Noah’s flood, there was no gradual decrease in the water, it was removed immediately. And those waters are now above the firmament between the second and third heavens as seen in Ps 148:4. The waters beneath the firmament were gathered together and called “Seas,” (Gen 1:9-10).
So, the flood in Peter’s epistle can’t be Noah’s flood. And yet it is a flood that overflowed the world that then was. It can’t be a flood that came after Noah’s flood because God promised to never flood the whole earth again (Gen 9:11). He gave us the rainbow as a token of that covenant. It had to be a flood that preceded Noah’s flood. And the only place it will fit is between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2.
Think about it. The earth was completely flooded between Gen 1:! and Gen 1:2 and then it was completely flooded again in Noah’s flood. The resulting pressure on the earth from these two floods is probably incalculable. Nevertheless, it was so significant that there is absolutely no way the geology of the earth is uniform. It is catastrophic. And as such, typical dating methods used by scientists to date the earth are flawed because they assume a uniform geology.
Did you ever notice that when God created man he told them to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” (Gen 1:28)? Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “replenish?” It not only means, “To fill or to fill completely” it also means “To fill or make complete again, to add a new stock or supply to,” as in Gen 9:1. The implication is that something had been here before. The only place where something could have been is between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2.
So, you see, the gap is not a theory, it is a fact. The time of this gap is unknown but you can be sure that it is not the billions of years that scientists are looking for to “prove” that God didn’t create the earth. God created it once (Gen 1:1), flooded it (Gen 1:2; 2 Pet 3), and then replenished it in Genesis 1. After the millennium he will create new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet 3:13, Is 65:17).
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder