How Old is the Earth? (The Gap Theory vs. Young Earth Creationism, Plus other Theories)
Is the Earth only 6000 years old, as some theologians argue? They get this figure from adding up the life spans of biblical figures from the time of Adam. If this is true, how do we reconcile it with the evidence of geologists, who say the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old (and the Universe 13.8 billion years old)? Those who support young Earth creationism would argue that, if God creates something in a mature state, like a human being, it would have the appearance of age and thus it is with the Earth. A friend of mine put it like this:
God is able to create something in its mature state. How old was Adam one minute after God created him? Well, one minute, but how old did Adam look? Probably in his 20s or 30s—in the prime of life—certainly not like a newborn baby. The same principle can be applied to the trees, plants, animals, birds, fish, mountains, Earth, planets and universe.
If a doctor studied Adam’s body — his skeletal development, the size of his organs, his mental capacity, etc. — he’d conclude that everything revealed Adam to be an adult male of about 30-years of age. Now, God’s creation of Adam in a mature state (where He might’ve accelerated his growth to a blink of an eye) is included in the creation account of Genesis 1-2 wherein God’s creation of the heavens and Earth is also chronicled. If the LORD created Adam in a mature state — with the obvious appearance of age — is it not possible, even likely, that he did the same with the Earth & Universe? It’s a legitimate argument.
Notice how God Himself refers to his creation of the heavens and Earth:
“‘The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’ ”
We know from authentic science that the Earth & Universe appear to be incredibly ancient — perhaps billions of years old — but we see here that the LORD created them in six days as a testimony to the Israelites. The physical creation is incredibly old, but God evidently condensed the aging process of each phase of creation into six days. Since the LORD was addressing Moses & the Israelites in the above passage and they understood the “six days” to be six literal days, it stands to reason that God meant six literal days.
To understand what the Almighty did in creating the heavens and Earth, think about it like this: If you had a huge project that would take 50 years to accomplish, but you had the power to condense the time into 25 minutes, would you do it? Of course you would. How much more so if your purpose for doing this was to illustrate a point to people? It’s the same principle with God’s creation of the Earth & Universe.
Consider those science videos where a plant is filmed over the course of a year or so and then the growth is condensed to 10 seconds for viewers. If filmmakers can do this via cinematic wizardry I don’t think the Almighty would have a problem doing something similar with his initial creation of people, animals, plants, trees, mountains, canyons, planets, stars and galaxies.
In this article we’re going to consider two views on the age of the Earth:
- The gap theory
- Young Earth creationism.
The “gap theory” postulates that there’s a huge gap of time between when God created the Earth & Universe and when he created Adam and Eve. (The word ‘adam’, by the way, is simply the Hebrew word for “man”; and ‘Eve’ is simply the name Adam gave to his wife, meaning “source of the living,” as shown in Genesis 3:20).
Those who adhere to the gap theory support old Earth creationism. Believers who embrace the day-age theory and the functioning christening theory also fit in this category; as do theistic evolutionists. While we’ll briefly look at these theories our focus is going to be on comparing the gap theory with young Earth creationism.
What we’re going to do is look at passages that adherents of the gap theory cite to support their view followed by the young Earth explanation of these same passages. Then we will consider three other old Earth theories. I’ll leave it to you draw your own conclusions after you study & meditate on the data. At the close I’ll inform you of my own journey of discovery on this topic and what position I favor. But I humbly confess some amount of agnosticism on the subject. I wasn’t present when the LORD created the Earth & Universe and neither were you or anyone else. All any of us can do is make an educated guess based on biblical and scientific data, as well as logic.
Please keep in mind that this is a non-essential issue and genuine Christians can hold to one position or another without it affecting their relationship with God or their Christian service. The more important an issue is, the more directly and fully the Bible addresses it. For instance, our moral responsibilities and the means to eternal salvation are clearly addressed at length in the Scriptures, but less critical topics are not, like the age of the Earth. When it comes to God’s Word “The main things are the plain things.”
Actually, the Bible does not directly say what the age of the Earth is and so people draw conclusions based on various data. In light of this, the age of the Earth is not an issue that we should fight about or separate over. I’m not saying it’s unimportant. Only one of these positions reflects the truth—young Earth creationism or old Earth creationism, the latter of which has a few different views. This means that either one or the other is reality—the way it really is—which naturally makes the other position false or, at best, only partially true. Truth is always important because it’s only the truth that can set us free (John 8:31-32), but not all truth is equally important.
The Gap Theory
The gap theory speculates that there were millions or billions of years between the first verse of Genesis chapter 1 and the second verse. As such, Genesis 1:2 describes the Earth after some kind of worldwide cataclysm, which made the Earth “formless and empty”:
In the beginning God created the heavens [the universe] and the earth. (2) 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.
The mystery of this passage is the obvious contrast between verses 1 and 2: The first verse says that God created the Universe and the Earth, but then verse 2 states that the Earth was formless, empty and dark. What’s the problem with this? Since when does God create something that’s “formless and empty”? It doesn’t make sense and it struck me as curious way back in the mid-80s before I ever heard of the gap theory.
Gap theorists argue that Isaiah 45:18 lends support: “He is God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it to be a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited” (NASB). The words “waste place” are one word in the Hebrew, tohu (TOH-hu), and this is the same word translated as “formless” in Genesis 1:2. This word means “formless,” “desolation,” “waste place,” “chaos” and “emptiness.” You can read it for yourself here. The hermeneutical principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture” applies: Isaiah 45:18 plainly states that God did not create the Earth to be tohu—formless, empty, chaotic, desolate, a waste place—but Genesis 1:2 shows that the Earth was tohu sometime after he created it.
“Now the Earth was (became) Formless and Empty”
Lending further support to this theory, they say, is the statement in Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty.” If you look at the footnote in the New International Version of the Bible it shows that the word ‘was’ might better be translated as “became” to fit the context because the Hebrew verb hayah (haw-yaw) is often translated as such. As a matter of fact, it’s translated as “became” 59 times and “become” 164 times in the New International Version. However, it’s translated as “was” 305 times.
The Greek for ‘Formed’ also means “Mend,” “Restore”
Further evidence can be observed in Hebrews 11:3, which states: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The word ‘formed’ in the Greek is katartizó (kat-ar-TID-zoh), which means “to complete,” “to perfect,” “make complete,” “mend,” “restore” and “bring into its proper condition (whether for the first time, or after a lapse).” See for yourself here. While this doesn’t negate the young Earth theory, it’s certainly friendly toward the gap theory.
The Young Earth Response to the Supposed Gap of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2
How do advocates of the young Earth position explain this seemingly convincing support for the gap theory? It’s simple, they say: Genesis 1:1 states that God created the heavens (Universe) and the Earth in the beginning and verse 2 shows that the Earth was as yet without form and empty. In other words, the Earth’s shape was not finished and, as such, was void of living creatures. In the following six days the LORD would quickly decorate his initial creation. Let me share a couple examples that reflect this principle:
I used to be a part-time musician in a local band and regularly composed songs, recording the various instruments on a 4-track recorder. The initial track I recorded would be a dummy track or foundational rhythm track. To hear it you wouldn’t be moved or impressed because it was nothing more than a bland groundwork track. From there, I would add drums, bass, rhythm, leads, keys and vocals. In short, I would decorate the foundational track and a song would emerge. I now write for a living and before actually writing a book I come up with a basic outline of the chapters and their content. From there I fill the pages with convincing and moving content.
The same principle applies when God created the Earth in the beginning. Once created, he masterfully shaped it and filled it with foliage and creatures. This explains Isaiah 45:18, which says that God “fashioned and made the Earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” The explanation is obvious and simple.
As for the Hebrew verb hayah (haw-yaw) in Genesis 1:2 where it says “Now the earth was formless and empty”: While this word could be translated as “became,” it more obviously means “was” since, after God created the Earth, it was as yet shapeless and empty of living vegetation and creatures. As such, most English versions translate the word as “was” in this verse, which is how the word is most often translated in the New International version.
In regards to the Greek word katartizó (kat-ar-TID-zoh) translated as “formed” in Hebrews 11:3 where it says “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”: While this word could also be rendered “mend” or “restore,” it more obviously simply means “formed” because the second part of the verse stresses that what is seen in the physical realm was not “made” out of what was physically visible. “Made” in the second part of the verse corresponds to “formed” (katartizó) in the first part. In other words, they’re synonymous in this context. With this understanding, the word translated as “made” is ginomai (GIN-oh-may) in the Greek, which means “to come into being, to be born.” Moreover, Hebrews 11:3 is referring to the whole Universe being “made”—created, born—not just the Earth. So “mend” or “restore” simply doesn’t fit.
Supporters of the gap theory argue that this passage from Jeremiah lends additional support for their position as it gives us a picture of cataclysmic global judgment whereupon no living thing survives, which they say only fits the pre-Adamic context between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Let’s read the passage:
(23) I looked at the earth,
and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
and their light was gone.
(24) I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking;
all the hills were swaying.
(25) I looked, and there were no people;
every bird in the sky had flown away.
(26) I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
all its towns lay in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
Notice what the prophet says in verse 23: “I looked at the earth and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens and their light was gone.” This is the exact same description as Genesis 1:2. ‘Formless’ is the same Hebrew word tohu and ’empty’ (or ‘void’ in some translations) is the same Hebrew word bohu (BOH-hu). These Hebrew words appear together in Scripture only these two times and, in the case of Jeremiah 4:23, it’s clearly an occasion of globe-spanning judgment.
Verse 25 goes on to say that the prophet couldn’t see any people on the planet, at least from the perspective of his vision, nor could he see any birds. We know there will be people and animals on the Earth after the Tribulation judgments noted in the book of Revelation because, after all, Christ will judge the living nations upon his return, which is The Sheep and Goat Judgment, aka The Judgment of Living Nations (Matthew 25:31-46). As such, adherents to the gap theory argue that Jeremiah 4:23-26 more likely refers to the Earth after a pre-Adamic cataclysm or judgment that took place between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
The Young Earth Explanation of Jeremiah 4:23-26
The book of Jeremiah involves Jeremiah’s grim speeches in poetry and prose warning Judah of God’s impending judgment due to their constant willful disobedience.
Numerous verses in Jeremiah 4 show that God was talking about the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah, and particularly its capital Jerusalem. Verse 1, in fact, plainly shows that he’s talking about Israel and verses 3-4 specify Judah & Jerusalem. Verse 16 warns the unrepentant Israelites: “proclaim it to Jerusalem: ‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.” In verse 22 God laments, “My people are fools; they do not know me… They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” This is the context of verses 23-26, which cite Jeremiah’s description of the destruction of Judah and its cities, leaving them in ruins and void of inhabitants, which is verified by verse 27: “The whole land will be ruined, though I [God] will not destroy it completely.” Verse 29 shows the Hebrews fleeing the Babylonian invasion by “going into thickets” and climbing “up among the rocks” and, as such, “all the towns are deserted; no one lives in them.” In light of this, Jeremiah’s statement in verse 25 that he “saw no people” didn’t mean that everyone was wiped off the face of the Earth. Furthermore, his statement that “every bird in the sky had flown away” didn’t mean that there were no birds on the Earth, but rather that they had all flown away due to the smoke from fires that were burning the cities. This also explains why the prophet said the light of the heavens was gone—the smoke of the massive destruction blocked the light.
As to the resemblance of Jeremiah 4:23 to Genesis 1:2, the Holy Spirit simply borrowed the imagery of Genesis 1:2 and applied it to God’s sinful nation at the time of Jeremiah, ironically reversing the creation narrative of Genesis 1. Instead of beautiful creation taking place, the reverse was happening due to Judah’s stubborn unrepentance.
As noted above, adherents of the gap theory believe in a pre-Adamic judgment. When exactly did this supposed judgment occur? They say it happened after Lucifer’s fall from Heaven to the Earth whereupon he “made the world a desert” (Isaiah 14:12-17). Notice that Jeremiah 4:26 (quoted above) also says that the land became a desert. This idea of a pre-Adamic judgment is supported by the fact that Satan was already fallen and on the Earth when he tempted Eve, as shown in Genesis 3:1-4. Adam was present during this temptation, incidentally, as shown in Genesis 3:6.
When exactly did Satan fall to the Earth after his heavenly rebellion (Luke 10:18 )? It’s not mentioned in the creation account of Genesis 1:3-2:25, which is curious considering the monumental importance of the event. As such, we have to determine when it occurred via the scriptural evidence. With topics like this, students of the Bible have to put the pieces of the puzzle together based on the relevant texts. Gap theorists suggest that it took place after Genesis 1:1 and before Genesis 1:2. They suggest that this is perhaps when he “made the world a desert,” causing it to become a tohu and bohu—an empty wasteland—prompting God to “complete, mend and restore” his creation over the course of six days (Hebrews 11:3), starting with Genesis 1:3.
But, again, Genesis 1:3-2:25 mysteriously mentions no such significant event. There’s not even a hint of it. However, gap theorists argue that something cataclysmic must have happened after Genesis 1:1 to make the earth an empty wasteland, as shown in verse 2. Remember, they argue, Isaiah 45:18 makes it clear that the LORD did not create the Earth to be an empty waste place. It seems obvious to gap theorists that something of great magnitude and devastation took place after verse 1 and resulted in verse 2, which may have something to do with the devil’s fall and the subsequent global ramifications thereof, making the world a “desert.”
So gap theorists argue that Satan’s rebellion & fall doesn’t fit anywhere in Genesis 1:3-2:25, but it easily fits between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
The Young Earth Explanation of When Satan Fell
Due to the fact that the devil was already fallen and on Earth in order to tempt Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, young Earth advocates suggest that Satan must’ve fallen sometime after Adam & Eve’s creation and before their eventual temptation, which means sometime between Genesis 1:31, when everything was “good,” and Genesis 3:1. They speculate that there’s plenty of time for Satan’s harebrained coup attempt and the subsequence ousting from Heaven.
Who knows? Perhaps Satan’s rebellion had something to do with his jealousy of the recently-created human race. Perhaps in their arrogance these angels didn’t want to fulfill their God-given mandate to serve people (Hebrews 1:14). Perhaps these angels were upset because the world to come would not be subjected to them (Hebrews 2:5). These could’ve been factors that triggered their foolish scheme.
“Fill (Replenish) the Earth”
One last bit of support for the gap theory, according its supporters, can be observed in God’s mandate to Noah after the worldwide flood, which is the same as the LORD’s instruction to Adam:
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
As you can see, Noah was commanded to increase in number and “fill the earth” after the global flood destroyed everyone but Noah and seven others. To “fill” the Earth obviously meant replenish it after God’s judgment wiped out Earth’s population en masse. This explains why several translations render the Hebrew word for “fill”—male (maw-LAY)—as “replenish,” as observed in the King James Version and the English Revised Version:
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 9:1 (KJV)
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 9:1 (ERV)
Male is the same Hebrew word used in God’s earlier mandate to Adam and several translations render it as “replenish” as well, witness:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:
Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it;
Genesis 1:28 (ERV)
And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it;
Genesis 1:28 (ASV)
And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:
Genesis 1:28 (WBT)
Despite this, most English translations render male as “fill” in both verses. The point, according to gap theorists, is that male clearly refers to “replenish” in Genesis 9:1 and therefore could also refer to “replenish” in Genesis 1:28, particularly since it’s the same command from God given to two different sets of people. Young-Earth proponents who argue that male simply means “fill” and not “fill in the sense of replenishing” are not being honest with the Scriptures because it definitely means replenish in Genesis 9:1.
The Young Earth Response to the Definition of Male in Genesis 9:1 and 1:28
Young Earth advocates point out that this argument is much ado about nothing. The Hebrew word male(maw-LAY) simply means “to fill” and is translated most often in the New International Version as “filled,” “fill,” “full” and “be filled.” It’s never translated as “replenish” or anything akin to that in the NIV.
While “fill” in the context of Genesis 9:1 would technically mean “replenish” because the population of the Earth was just wiped out by the flood, it doesn’t negate that male still means “fill,” which is how it’s rendered in the NIV.
Reconciling with Scientific Estimates of the Age of the Earth
Needless to say, the gap theory helps supporters of this position reconcile the Bible with current geological theories of an Earth that’s approximately 4.5 billion years old. And this might help scientific and academic types who refuse to give the Bible serious consideration because they can’t get past the idea that the Earth is only about 6000 years old. Gap theorists argue that the Bible never states this and that the figure of 6000 years was derived from studying genealogies and counting the years from Adam onward.
The Young Earth Response
The typical young Earth response is that the above argument begs the question: Is a person’s adherence to the gap theory based solely on what the Bible teaches from Genesis to Revelation or is it actually an attempt to force God’s Word into lining up with man’s word?
Furthermore, just because the gap theory might help academic types get past the hump of the age of the Earth and honestly consider the Bible’s authenticity, it doesn’t make the gap theory true.
Old Earth creationists would argue that the above is an example of taking a narrowminded fundamentalist — even legalistic — approach. It makes the issue black and white, Bible or science. Yet both Bible and science require interpretation. People who make such arguments are wearing blinders by only reading the Bible and not considering — or outright poo-pooing — other evidence. Certainly the Bible is God’s word. But God speaks in other ways to us also, like through his creation, which “reveals knowledge” to all the Earth (Psalm 19:1-4). We must seek this data and listen, they suggest, considering all of the data because all of the data comprises the voice of the LORD.
The Gap Theory and Dinosaurs
Gap theorists believe their position best solves the question of dinosaurs: They say that the existence of these fascinating reptiles can be placed somewhere between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2—millions of years ago—with a likely vestige existing up to more recent times, which explains dragon legends in most cultures that have existed in isolation from one another around the world.
The Young Earth take on Dinosaurs
Actually, both old Earth and young Earth creationists acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs and the Bible mentions them several times. The behemoth and leviathan of Job 40-41 are obvious references to dinosaurs. Then there are the occasional references to literal “sea monsters” and “dragons” in other passages (I’m not referring to the figurative references), which are translated from the Hebrew word tannin (tan-NEEN) in the Old Testament; Psalm 148:7 is a good example.
Young Earth advocates argue that there’s no need to place dinosaurs between the supposed gap of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 because dinosaurs were created by God during the creation week (Genesis 1:21). As such, contrary to the staunch claims of academics, humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time, which can be observed in ancient art from around the world and explains the legends of warriors fighting dragons. Here are several examples of ancient art (or fossils) depicting evidence of humans and dinosaurs coexisting:
In the top two photos the (obvious) stegosaurus appears alongside other conventional animals, like a deer, a rat and a monkey.
So how did the dinosaurs die out with possible vestige still living today in the vast oceans and perhaps even remote areas of the earth, like mokele mbembe (moh-kay-lay um-bem-bay), which reportedly dwells in the Congo River basin? Ken Ham says:
According to the Bible: Dinosaurs first existed around 6,000 years ago. God made the dinosaurs, along with the other land animals, on Day 6 of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:20–25, 31). Adam and Eve were also made on Day 6—so dinosaurs lived at the same time as people, not separated by eons of time.
Dinosaurs could not have died out before people appeared because dinosaurs had not previously existed; and death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering are a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 1:29–30; Romans 5:12, 14; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22).
Representatives of all the kinds of air-breathing land animals, including the dinosaur kinds, went aboard Noah’s Ark. All those left outside the Ark died in the cataclysmic circumstances of the Flood, and many of their remains became fossils.
After the Flood, around 4,300 years ago, the remnant of the land animals, including dinosaurs, came off the Ark and lived in the present world, along with people. Because of sin, the judgments of the Curse and the Flood have greatly changed earth. Post-Flood climatic change, lack of food, disease, and man’s activities caused many types of animals to become extinct. The dinosaurs, like many other creatures, died out. Why the big mystery about dinosaurs?
You can read more here.
Much as large, threatening animals like lions, tigers, bears, crocogators and pachyderms have been killed or driven out of populated areas by humans, so the last vestige of land-dwelling dinosaurs were slain or driven out. Those that survived largely died out due to the other factors Ken notes above.
For more insights on dinosaurs in the Bible see this article.
A Pre-Adamic Race?
Some advocates of the gap theory get real creative by suggesting a “pre-Adamic race” that Lucifer ruled over on Earth before his rebellion and fall. One of the main passages they use to support this is this one:
How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
(13) You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
(14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
(15) But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
to the depths of the pit.
(16) Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,
(17) the man who made the world a wilderness,
who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?”
Some supporters of the gap theory use this passage to “prove” that Lucifer reigned on Earth before his rebellion & fall because he said, “I will ascend to the heavens” and “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds” (verses 13 & 14). In order to “ascend,” they argue, you have to first dwell below.
This is easily explained by young earth advocates on the grounds of the law of double reference, which suggests that biblical prophecies sometimes have two applications—a soon-to-come one and a far-flung one, whether the distant future or the distant past. A good example of this can be observed in the first two chapters of Isaiah: The prophet jumps from the restoration of Jerusalem to the Millennium and the new Earth. From a warning to the inhabitants of Jerusalem of impending judgment to a warning of God’s Day of Judgment of the entire world (see 2:12-22). You see, what was about to happen in Jerusalem was just a foreshadowing of what will happen to the whole Earth. Just as Jerusalem was restored, so the Earth will be restored after God’s reckoning. This prophetic tendency is the law of double reference.
The soon-to-come application of Isaiah 14:12-17 applied to the king of Babylon, as shown in verse 4, whereas the far-flung application refers to Lucifer. As such, parts of this prophecy apply specifically to the king of Babylon while other parts obviously refer to Satan; and others to both. Put simply, Isaiah prophesies the Babylonian king’s doom and parallels it with the much earlier fall of Lucifer.
Observe verses 16-17, which clearly refer to a “man” who “overthrew cities” and “made kingdoms tremble,” thus making “the world a wilderness.” This was true, of course, of the king of Babylon who infamously conquered surrounding nations and sacked Jerusalem in 586 BC, taking the Israelites captive (verse 17). Furthermore, verse 15 shows the end of this man—he would perish and be brought down to “the realm of the dead,” which is Sheol in the Hebrew (corresponding to Hades in the Greek), a term that refers to the “world of the dead” where the dead souls of unregenerate people are stored until the Day of Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The “pit” is a synonymous word for Sheol, as shown in the second part of verse 15. Why is this significant? Because Sheol (Hades) applies only to human beings and never to fallen angels. See SHEOL KNOW for more details. Lucifer was not a “man,” of course, and therefore this part of the prophecy doesn’t apply to him.
But certain parts of this prophecy clearly apply to the devil. For instance, verse 12 shows Lucifer falling from Heaven, which could never be literally true of the king of Babylon. After all, did this infamous king literally fall from Heaven down to the Earth, like the devil? Was he nicknamed “morning star,” aka “Lucifer” (which is how the King James Version and New King James Version translate the Hebrew word for “morning star”)? Furthermore, Jesus partially cites verse 12 as a reference to the devil in Luke 10:18, which is reinforced by Revelation 12:7-10.
The question must be asked: Why would the LORD draw a parallel between the king of Babylon and Satan with Isaiah’s prophecy? The answer: The same reason Jesus rebuked Peter as “Satan” in Matthew 16:23 for being a mouthpiece for the devil’s ungodly agenda. Just as Satan was the spiritual force behind Peter’s rash words, so he was the diabolic authority behind the king’s oppressive reign.
Just as Isaiah 14 parallels the fall of Satan with the demise of the king of Babylon, so Ezekiel 28:9-19 parallels Lucifer’s fall with the king of Tyre’s doom. Why? Because the devil was the evil spiritual authority who pulled the strings of both of these pagan rulers. With this understanding, Ezekiel 28:12-19 is speaking of either Satan or the king of Tyre, and sometimes both, depending on the verse. Let’s look at the passage:
“ ‘You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
(13) You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.
(14) You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
(15) You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
(16) Through your widespread trade
you were filled with violence,
and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
(17) Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
(18) By your many sins and dishonest trade
you have desecrated your sanctuaries.
So I made a fire come out from you,
and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground
in the sight of all who were watching.
(19) All the nations who knew you
are appalled at you;
you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more.’ ”
Verses 12-17 refer to Lucifer and could only be applied to the king of Tyre in a figurative sense. After all, the person addressed is described as “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12) who dwelled in “Eden, the garden of God” and is plainly called a “guardian cherub”—an angel—in verses 14 and 16. The LORD then throws this archangel to the Earth in disgrace after he’s corrupted by pride due to its beauty and splendor.
Verses 18-19, however, more clearly apply to the earthly king of Tyre because they show his body being “reduced to ashes” in the sight of spectators as he comes to “a horrible end” and is “no more.” Since we know from numerous other passages that Lucifer wasn’t reduced to ashes when he fell to the Earth and didn’t become “no more,” these statements obviously refer to the king and not Satan. The latter’s alive and not-well on planet Earth to this day. He dwells in the underworld, the dark spiritual realm that parallels or underpins the Earth and Universe, which you can read about here.
I went into a little detail with the law of double reference to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Isaiah and Ezekiel prophesied the doom of the kings of Babylon and Tyre and paralleled them with the much earlier fall of Lucifer. Where some gap theory supporters have gone wrong is to suggest that every element of these passages apply to Satan, even though it’s clear that they don’t. This is where they come up with the idea that Lucifer was reigning on Earth over nations of peoples before his fall and the later supposed judgment on a dubious pre-Adamic race. It’s a clear case of unrightly dividing the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Nature of the “Pre-Adamic Race”
Speaking of this so-called pre-Adamic race, gap theorists won’t go as far as to call them human beings, presumably to suggest that they were what evolutionary academics refer to as Cro-Magnon man and Neanderthal man or perhaps even the “missing link.” They’re very ambiguous on this point. The real reason they won’t refer to this mysterious race as human beings is because the Bible cites Adam as the “first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45,47).
A couple of gap theorists I know get real creative (to be kind) by suggesting that evil spirits or demons are not fallen angels on the grounds that all fallen angels are bound up in darkness to be held for judgment (Jude 1:6 & 2 Peter 2:4). They suggest, believe it or not, that demons are the spirits of this dubious pre-Adamic race that perished in the “Luciferian flood” that occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. We’ll consider the biblical support for this supposed flood momentarily.
A similar creative idea is that evil spirits are the disembodied souls of the Nephilim (NEF-ah-lim) of Genesis 6, who were destroyed in the Noahic flood. While the Bible does not specifically say what happened to the souls of the Nephilim when they were killed, it’s assumed that their lifeless souls went to Sheol (Hades) just as all unregenerate people because—powerful giants or not—the Nephilim were still just “men,” according to Scripture (Genesis 6:4). Besides, as S. Michael Houdmann points out, it would be illogical for God to physically destroy the Nephilim in the flood only to allow their incorporeal souls to cause even greater evil as demons.
The most biblically consistent explanation for the origin of demons—evil spirits— is that they are fallen angels, the rebellious angels who rebelled against God with Satan. For support of this, see this article. For more info on the fascinating Nephilim see this article.
The “Luciferian Flood”
As for the so-called Luciferian flood (or “Lucifer’s flood”), some gap theorists argue that it took place between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Let’s look at the few passages that they use to support this supposed flood, followed by the young Earth explanation.
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.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
Gap theorists argue that the references to “the deep” and “the waters” are evidence of a flood while young Earth advocates say that these are simply references to the primordial waters—the planet’s water-covered surface before the dry land emerged, as observed here:
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Here’s another passage gap theorists use to support the so-called Luciferian flood:
But they deliberately overlook the fact that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water, (6) through which the world of that time perished in the flood.
2 Peter 3:5-6
Gap theorists cite this as a reference to what they call the Luciferian flood because Peter doesn’t specify that it’s the flood of Noah’s day. But this is negated by the fact that a mere 23 verses earlier Peter references the flood of Noah’s day:
if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, among the eight;
2 Peter 2:5
If Peter was referring to an altogether different global flood 23 verses later he would have indicated so, but he doesn’t. Why? Because the “Luciferian flood” is a false doctrine. It never happened.
Lastly, the doctrine of the so-called pre-Adamic race is proven false simply because the Bible plainly states that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12). Before Adam there was no death because it’s through his sin that death entered the world.
Is the Gap Theory Linked to the Day-Age Theory?
As noted at the beginning of this article, the day-age theory suggests that each of the six days God created from Genesis 1:3 to 1:31 represent ages of time. As such, those who adhere to the day-age theory are old Earth creationists like those who embrace the gap theory.
Some young-Earth supporters try to discredit the gap theory by erroneously linking it with the day-age theory, but this simply isn’t true. While I’m sure there are believers who adhere to the gap theory who also embrace the day-age theory, it’s not necessarily true or even generally true.
I object to this type of argumentation because it’s a guilt-by-association tactic: The young Earth advocates who present such an argument are obviously trying to discredit the gap theory by linking it with (what they think is) a dubious theory. It’s a dishonest strategy and those who do so discredit themselves.
As far as the day-age theory goes, do the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest literally represent 24-hour days? Genesis 1:14 suggests that they do, but we have to take into consideration that the word “day” is used in three different ways in the creation account of Genesis 1-2: (1.) an approximately 12-hour period of sunlight, as shown in 1:5, (2.) as a 24-hour day, as observed in 1:14, and (3.) a period of time involving, at least, all seven days of creation, as seen in 2:4 where the word translated as “when” is the same word translated as “day” elsewhere in the creation account:
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when [“the day”] they were created.
Other Dubious Argumentations by Young Earth Advocates
Speaking of questionable debating practices by young Earthers, while I have come to view the young Earth theory as the most biblically-faithful position (more on this momentarily), I must object to a couple of other illegitimate arguments I’ve heard used by devotees of the young Earth perspective.
One is the argument that God declared his creation “very good” at the end of the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:31), which some young Earthers claim is difficult to square with the theory that evil already existed because of Satan’s fall during the “gap.” Actually, all the LORD said was that what he created during the six days was good; He didn’t say anything about the devil & his filthy spirits and their fall (and any possible devastation thereof) being good.
Secondly, the young Earth argument that current scientific theories of an Earth that’s billions of years old bring into question the authority of the Bible is simply not true. All it brings into question is the young Earth position. To young Earth advocates: Please drop these illegitimate non-arguments.
Old Earth Theories and their Strengths/Weaknesses
The day-age theory proposes that Genesis 1 is not a literal account of seven 24-hour periods. Each “day” may have been millions or billions of years, likely narrowing as the sequence of creation progresses.
This culminated with the 6th day, starting about 200 million years ago when major land animals first appeared. The 6th day continued — according to the day-age theory — until about 10,000 years ago with the special creation of Adam.
Advocates of this position deem it superior to the young Earth theory, because it deals with the scientific data, instead of just ignominiously blowing it off with a Bible trump card, i.e. the LORD created the Earth & the Universe in a mature state and therefore it inherently possesses the appearance of age, just like Adam when he was created.
The young Earth response is that God’s creation of Adam in a mature state is detailed in the creation account along with the creation of the Earth/Universe. If God did this with Adam, why not the whole creation? Besides, they argue, it’s not merely just the “appearance” of age because God — who is Almighty and can do practically anything — likely sped-up the aging process during creation. In short, the aging process occurred, but it happened in a flash.
To illustrate, consider walking from the East coast to West coast USA, which would take roughly 280 days if the person covers 15-20 miles a day (more miles on the flat landscapes and less in the mountains). It would thus take the better part of a year. If someone had the powers of The Flash, however, he or she could traverse this distance in a split second. My point is that the Almighty would be “The Flash” in the creation scenario. While there is no Flash in reality, there is a miraculous all-powerful Creator.
Hence the appearance of aging in the Earth isn’t merely appearance because the developmental process actually occurred, albeit in a flash. Thus there’s no element of trickery or deception and God has an effective “stumbling block” for proud God-deniers/haters. If that doesn’t make sense, the LORD and godly characters in the Bible have been known to set out “stumbling blocks” to intentionally discombobulate proud fools, whether secular or religious (e.g. Ezekiel 3:20, Romans 11:9 and Psalm 69:22), and so it’s not inconceivable that He could do the same with modern pompous “scientists.” Now don’t get me wrong, because I love real science and have been known to subscribe to National Geographic for years, but there’s a lot of bogus “science” out there (more on this momentarily).
This creation miracle, if true (and I don’t know with absolute certainty because I wasn’t there), is no more incredulous than many of the miracles cited in Scripture.
In any case, the day-age theory has obvious problems, the biggest two being: Why is the sun not created till the 4th “day”? Also: What did the Earth revolve around for the first 3 “days” (wherein there were billions of years without gravity)?
The functional christening theory is another old Earth creationist position, as advocated by John Walton in his book. He proposes that Genesis 1 is not about origins: It’s not about “when” God created, which would be a Western chronological mind-frame. Rather, it is all about functional christening. Think of a graduation ceremony from college. You have already spent 4 years to be prepared for this day. At the ceremony you are ordained to have been educated. The educating has already taken place in the past. Today, in a single day, you are christened for your purpose in life as a college graduate. Walton makes a legitimate argument that deserves consideration.
The theistic evolution theory is basically the position that “The LORD started it all and has basically watched over his creation as it evolved over the last 13.8 billion years of the Universe’s (supposed) existence.” The problem with theistic evolution is that the Bible is held as an assortment of manuscripts that only somewhat contain God’s Word. The Bible therefore doesn’t necessarily contain commanding, requisite truths, but must be newly construed and modified in view of whatever is in vogue.
Arguments for old Earth creationism. Old Earth creationists rightly point out that the stars and sky at night are a testament to the glory of the LORD and his magnificent creation (Psalm 8:1-3). The Universe “pours forth speech” and “reveals knowledge” to all the Earth (Psalm 19:1-4). Furthermore, Paul says that everything that exists (all of creation) is evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:19-20 ).
This is consistent through the Scripture, they argue. We listen to the prophets from Moses (Genesis) to John of Patmos (Revelation) because they write for us about God, but we also must study, observe and learn from the natural world surrounding us. Old Earthers find it difficult to dismiss all of the scientific evidence for a very old planet. Viewing the moon through a telescope, it is pot-marked with thousands of asteroid hits, which would take a long, long time to accumulate. Red shift in astronomy, natural selection in biology, vestigial organs in zoology, glaciation in geography, fossilization in paleontology, sedimentary rock in geology, radioactive decay of zircons in nuclear physics, etc, etc. Every field of science points toward a very old Earth. Scientific effort and evidence is valid for drawing conclusions about the age of the Earth. There is nothing wrong with reconciling the Bible with legitimate science.
The problem is, of course, determining what is “legitimate science.” A lot of “science” is ideologically driven and funded. They surely give lip service to seeking the truth, but — let’s face it — they’re also agenda-driven and concerned with self-preservation — like securing a high-paying job and getting & maintaining funding — and the yes-man actions that go along with this. Old Earth creationists rightly scoff at some of the claims of Young Earth fundamentalists, but some of the claims of so-called scientists can be scoffed at even more. For instance, where’s this supposed missing link? Don’t they deny the scientific axiom of biogenesis — “life only proceeds from life” — by insisting that life originated from non-living matter? How is it that homosexuality is natural, normal and healthy, not to mention hebephilia and ephebophilia? (And, yes, “scientists” are teaching the latter, and many other totally absurd things).
Old Earth creationist J. Altieri writes:
There appears to be a vast majority of opinion that the Earth is billions of years old, even many believer scientists consent to this.
I’m satisfied leaving it with the professional audience. I am not ashamed to rework my biblical interpretations around the evidence.
This topic is not important to spiritual growth or salvation. Scientific evidence is not challenging us to reinterpret grace, hell, sin, life, eternity or angels. It is about rocks and stars, so I do not feel any Christian defensiveness that the scientific community is out to get me.
Throw them a bone. “Ok you scientific guys were right, the Earth is likely billions of years old. Isn’t it glorious that God almighty was the force behind it?!!”
Saint Augustine said in his commentary on Genesis: “…be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are far fetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”
That is darn good advice. Young Earthers makes a mockery of bible belief.
Old Earthers furthermore argue that the old Earth theory shows the glorious patience and majesty of God. If he took billions of years to prepare this place for humans, then it displays the Creator as being above time. It displays him as being incredibly slow moving. By contrast, modern Westerners run around like chickens with their heads cut off — in a tizzy trying to accomplish as much as possible in as short as possible, because we know that our days are limited. God is not like that, they argue.
The young Earth position ends up teaching go-go-go because time is of the essence. The old Earth view, by contrast, teaches us to wait on the LORD.
Old Earth displays God as being incredibly patient. If he has that level of patience for the development of creation, then we know that he will have patience with us in our spiritual development in growing in Christ.
I’m sharing the old Earth perspective here — it’s arguments and strengths — to be fair and provide you with points to ponder in your pursuit of truth on this topic.
The Young Earth Response
We can be certain that the Earth APPEARS millions or billions of years old from various scientific data (as noted above), but we cannot be certain that it is billions of years old.
After all, Adam (and Eve) also appeared mature when they were created. Everything about their bodies and mental capacity scientifically proved that they were about 30 years old, but they weren’t. They were freshly created, probably with their development accelerated to a flash. Their special creation appears in the same account as that of the creation of the Heavens & the Earth. As such, the same principle could’ve happened with the Universe & Earth with each of the parts of creation sped-up to a “day,” as detailed in Genesis 1.
After all, why should the Almighty — who can do anything — wait about 30 years to create an adult human being if he can get it done in a few moments or what have you? By the same token, why should El Shaddai wait 13.8 billion years to create the Universe & Earth when he can get it done in a matter of a handful of days? He could wait, of course, but He didn’t have to.
Job 38:4-7 shows that “all the angels shouted for joy” when the LORD created the Earth. Did they do this for millions or billions of years or was it more likely a matter days? These verses better fit the latter scenario.
Let’s face it, the young Earth position is a legitimate theological argument despite the condescending scoffing of Old Earthers, whether creationists or secularists.
Concerning J. Altieri’s argument:
Throw them a bone. “Ok you scientific guys were right, the Earth is likely billions of years old. Isn’t it glorious that God almighty was the force behind it?!!”
Actually, young Earth proponents do acknowledge that the Earth appears this old. In fact, many agree that it is that old: the LORD simply accelerated the billions of years (or whatever) into a matter of days, as detailed in Genesis 1. God is the Almighty who can do anything. So doing this would be a piece of cake.
My Journey of Discovery on the Age of the Earth
I embraced the gap theory for three whole decades after first hearing about it in the mid-80s and investigating its scriptural “support,” as detailed above. I thought the evidence was profoundly convincing and therefore assumed that there was a huge gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. This doctrine resolved the contradiction with modern scientific theories of an Earth that’s supposedly billions of years old. It also resolved the issue of dinosaurs, which I placed somewhere between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (with a possible vestige living till relatively recently and perhaps some species even existing to this day in the ocean or perhaps remote areas of the planet).
I realize now that I embraced the gap theory because it was the only theory on the age of the Earth that was presented to me as a young believer and therefore it was the only one that I investigated (superficially) and this is why I found the support so convincing. However, after examining the evidence for the young Earth position and considering their simple and convincing explanations of the biblical passages that gap theorists use to support their theory I was more open to young Earth creationism.
But it wasn’t until the early Summer of 2016 that I discarded the gap theory and tentatively embraced the young Earth view. What was the final straw for me with the gap theory?
I listened to an hour-long audio teaching by a gap theorist. The whole first half of his presentation involved the general scriptural support for the gap theory, as cited earlier, and it was impressive and convincing if you’re unaware of the obvious young Earth explanations of the data, but the second half of his teaching fell apart as he got highly creative with his ambiguous belief in a pre-Adamic race, a Luciferian flood that took place between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (where he cited “proof texts” that obviously referred to the Noahic flood, as detailed above), and his especially dubious claim that evil spirits are the incorporeal lifeforms of the supposed pre-Adamic race. This, of course, sparked me to see what the Scriptures say about the nature of evil spirits and the only legitimate conclusions I could find were that they were fallen angels who had supported Satan’s rebellion and were thus cast to the Earth with him, as covered above.
Basically, the deeper you go into the gap theory the more creative you have to get and the further you wander from obvious scriptural truth. That’s when I jumped ship. (That said, I suppose it’s possible to hold to the gap theory without supporting the idea of a pre-Adamic race or the odd notion that demons are the wandering spirits of this supposed race, although I haven’t researched this possibility to see if it’s scripturally plausible).
The last piece of evidence was how the timetable of events since God created the Universe and Earth tie into the six days of creation and one day of rest, keeping in mind that a thousand years to God are like a day to us (2 Peter 3:8). As such, the first 6000 years of planet Earth correspond to the six days of creation whereas the thousand-year reign of Christ corresponds to the seventh day of rest (for details on the millennial reign of Christ see this article). After this the eternal age of the new Heavens and new Earth begin (Revelation 21-22). Here’s an illustration of what I mean in very general terms (click to enlarge):
This diagram shows the proverbial big picture — God’s plan for the ages in basic terms. For instance, the New Testament kicked-started with the ministry of John the Baptist circa 29 AD (Luke 16:16), Christ died circa 33 AD and the Church officially started in 33 AD on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days later.
For more support for the young Earth theory go here.
For important details on young Earth creationism vs. old Earth creationism see this outstanding article by David Reagan: The Beginning and the Ending (David explains light from distant stars reaching us, provides details on carbon dating, etc. ).
Seven Closing Points
I’d like to close by emphasizing several things:
- The issue of the age of the Earth is a fascinating topic and well worth studying, but it’s veritably irrelevant to the believer as far as one’s relationship with the LORD and the corresponding spiritual growth & fruit-bearing service go. For instance, I adhered to the gap theory for three decades and it didn’t hinder my relationship with God whatsoever; in fact, this doctrine helped me dismiss the issue of the age of the Earth as a non-factor since the gap theory leaves open the age of the Earth and allows a place for dinosaurs before human history.
- Since the age of the Earth is a non-essential issue it’s not worth fighting over and separating from other believers. As it’s said: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
- What’s important is that we live in a world & Universe created by the Almighty. The mechanics of precisely how and when God created the physical universe and all living things are far less important than why he created us.
- From the creation account documented in Genesis 1-2 the Earth is about 6000 years old, according to young Earth advocates. To what degree and what form the planet may or may not have existed prior to this account is a matter of speculation and has no bearing on the human race and our Creator’s salvation for us.
- I wasn’t present when God created the Heavens and the Earth and neither were you or anyone else. All we can do is draw a likely conclusion based on the Scriptural data. While I tentatively embrace the young Earth position, I’m open to change my view if someone can scripturally prove their position. This can be seen in the fact that I was open and teachable enough to drop the gap theory once I saw that the supposed scriptural support for this view simply didn’t add up and got increasingly bizarre as you went deeper into it.
- That said, while I lean toward the young Earth position I still leave a possibility for old Earth creationism, even the gap theory, although I thoroughly reject the more creative imaginings of some of its supporters, as noted above.
- Lastly, I never tell people what to believe; I merely share biblical data as I currently understand it. I encourage you to seek the issue out and prayerfully draw your own conclusions.
God Bless You as You Seek & Serve!
Note: Special thanks to J. Altieri for his arguments for old Earth creationism used in this article.
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