Q: Can you explain the timeline that eventuated between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?
A: Let’s have a look at these two verses first:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
A better translation for Genesis 1:2 is “The earth became without form, and void…” We find the same exact word, hâyâh, translated appropriately in Genesis 2:7 as became. The translator had certain leeway based on the context of the sentence in terms of whether they would translate it was or became. In the case, it really should be the latter.
Back to verse two, the earth, in other words, was not this way to begin, but became this way over the course of time. The words depicting this state are tohu and bohu. According to Strong, tohu means: to lie waste; a desolation, that is, desert; figuratively a worthless thing; confusion, empty place, without form, nothing, (thing of) nought, vain, vanity, waste, wilderness. Similarly bohu is defined in this manner: meaning to be empty; a vacuity, that is, (superficially) an undistinguishable ruin: – emptiness, void.
As was mentioned in the Q&A on what happened before Genesis 1:1, the angels predated the creation of the earth and notice what their reaction was in Job 38:4-7 when the earth was originally created:
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth… when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
It stands to reason that the angels would not have shouted for joy if the earth had been an empty morass of confusion or a wasteland devoid of beauty as it was to become later. In addition to this, it fits in perfectly with what we know of God’s character. He does everything decently and in order and not in a confused manner (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).
The question then is how did the earth become this way between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1? To answer this we need to go back to the ultimate creation of the angelic realm – Lucifer. His name means “light bringer” and he was the “seal of perfection” and “perfect in [his] ways” (Ezekiel 28:12, 15).
Being the epitome of angelic creation though would prove to be his undoing. In Isaiah 14:14, Lucifer’s ego got the best of him and he said, “…I will be like the Most High.” The thoughts of his heart were that he could and should be above God since there can only be one who is the “highest” (Isaiah 14:13).
When this thought became action, Lucifer said he would rise above the clouds (Isaiah 14:13). This puts his location at that time as being on earth. Presumably his assignment was to tend the earth and prepare for the coming of man. But this was not good enough for Lucifer so he left his domain, the position that he occupied here on earth in an attempt to take God’s office.
It was then at this time that the transition from Lucifer to Satan happened. God calls things as they are and when Lucifer committed himself to acting another way, one that was contrary to Him, Lucifer became Satan. Satan means enemy or adversary and that is exactly what he had become to God and would be to man. Satan was able to persuade one-third of the angels (the ones that are now demons; Revelation 12:4) to join him in his assault on the throne. His plans were derailed when he was met in heaven by Michael and his angels and a war ensued (Revelation 12:7).
It was during this momentous conflict that we presume that the earth, as well as other celestial bodies received their pockmarks, some of which can still be seen today throughout our solar system. It was because of this war that the earth became tohu and bohu and thus needed to be renewed (Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 45:18, the word tohu is translated “vain” here). As a side note this battle also goes a long ways towards explaining what happened to dinosaurs and how the Earth can be billions of years old while the re-creation week was a literal week.
Satan and his minions lost the war and he was no longer welcome in the heaven where God resides. Because of these iniquities Satan and the demons were cast back down to the earth, where he had previously been (Revelation 12:8-9; 1 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Luke 10:18; Ezekiel 28:16). This, of course, supersedes the renewal of the earth and the placement of man here. In Genesis 3 we read that the serpent, Satan the devil, wasted no time getting into his new role as deceiver which places him back on earth before the creation of Adam and Eve.
To summarize the chain of events that have to be taken a little from here and a little from there, we can conclude that much transpired in the indeterminable amount of time between first two verses of the Bible. That being said, it is evident that God did not create the earth and universe in disarray, but rather it became that way through the prideful and belligerent acts of Satan who had been Lucifer. Subsequently, he and the demons were cast back to earth where they had originally become discontent with their assignment from God.