The Eighteen Principles of Divine Revelation

Principle No. 8 The Gap Principle Part 1

By Clifton L. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


The Gap Principle of Divine Revelation is only recognized by a few students. In this it stands in direct contrast with the Context Principle, the importance of which is declared by practically all writers on Bible themes.

Inasmuch as the Gap Principle is of such a character as to be quite beyond human guess or invention, God has given it an unusually clear revelation in His Word. ‘This is harmonious with all of God's gracious dealings with His people. He never deals unfairly. God is never unjust. Lf he had placed such an unusual principle as the Gap Principle in His Inspired Book and had failed to make clear in that Book the presence and the nature of the principle, He would by that act have laid Himself liable to the accusation of having been unjust to those who trust Him. Those who are without a knowledge of the Gap Principle are without excuse, for God has placed the knowledge within easy reach of all who study the Bible with an open mind.

A working conception of the Gap Principle is essential to an intelligent study of prophecy. It is quite futile to expect a clear and satisfying entrance into the beauties of those sections of Scripture which bear upon the things to come if the Gap Principle is ignored. Beginners in Bible study should most carefully avoid Bible teachers whose prophetic studies fail to recognize and employ the Gap Principle. This principle is a divinely given key which quickly and easily unlocks the most important and the most difficult prophetic doors in the Bible.

The definition of the Gap Principle is—


(a) Whereby God in Jewish Scriptures ignores those periods of time during which He is especially manifesting His disapproval of sin, or during which the confusion of a national adjustment may be taking place, or during which God may be holding in temporary abeyance some one of the Divine purposes.

Here is a principle of revelation which has particularly to do with those sections of Scripture which set forth God’s dealings with Israel. Thus we shall expect to find the evidences of this principle in the Old Testament, in the Gospels and Acts, or in the latter part of the New Testament, for in these sections of God's Word, God is specially dealing with those things which pertain to His people Israel.

There are various gaps which a careful study of the Bible will bring to light, but that gap which is of most frequent occurrence in the Word of God is the one in which God places some incident of Israel's past against some prophesied event of Israel’s future, leaping the intervening centuries without comment.

‘The gaps which are found scattered through the Jewish sections of inspiration are not uniform in length. The application of the Context Principle will invariably show up the length either by years or by terminal events, of any given gap.

As has been declared, the existence of the Gap Principle is demonstrated in the Bible. Instead of making a definite statement concerning it, the Holy Spirit has chosen to reveal this principle by showing that Jesus knew of it as a principle of revelation and consequently employed it as a principle of interpretation ‘The passage from which this unique fact is adduced is found in Luke 14:17-20:

“And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias (Isaiah). And. when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me—"

Jesus had turned to Isa. 6121-2. (It were well for the reader of this article to turn to the same passage.)

“because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year” of the Lord. AND. HE CLOSED THE BOOK, AND HE GAVE IT AGAIN TO THE MINISTER AND SAT DOWN.”

Note the explicitness of the record, —“And He closed the book,” for'He had not come to the end of a sentence. All other things being normal there was no occasion for His closing the book, in fact, from every ordinary standpoint, it was incorrect and excuseless for Him to close the book as He did in the middle of a long sentence. But knowing that our Lord Jesus never made an incorrect or meaning less move, we are instantly impressed that so unusual, so unprecedented an action on the part of Him Who could say, “I and My Father are one,” must have significance of stupendous import. It has. A glance at the Isaiah passage (Isa. 61:1-2) will reveal the remarkably meaningful place at which Jesus closed, the book and sat down.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to hind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (HERE IS WHERE. JESUS DISCONTINUED HIS READING. BUT THE PASSAGE CONTINUES AS FOLLOWS:) and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn."

Why did Jesus stop and close the book at the particular point that He did? His next words give the inspired answer to this question.

“This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

He stopped where He did because if He had read on into the sentence to the words, “And the day of vengeance,” He could not have said to the people, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled.” The day of vengeance was then future and is still future. When Jesus in the presence of the minister of the synagogue and the assembled Jews of Nazareth chose that unexpected place to close the book, He was teaching the Gap Principle. In His first coming He did come “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” —He did not come “to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.” ‘The words “year” and “day” in this passage (Isa. 61:1-2) constitute the compound direct object of the infinitive “to proclaim.” When Jesus closed the book of Isaiah in the synagogue that day He was so determined to stop just where He did that He separated the parts of a compound direct object—He dismembered a clearly defined grammatical clement in order to demonstrate a scriptural fact,—that the purposes of His first coming and the purposes of His second coming were not identical. He chose to demonstrate the presence of the Gap Principle in Jewish Scriptures, not by a direct statement, but’ by closing the book in the middle of a compound direct object. He could scarcely have used a more convincing method. By this unique action, He thrusts the “day of vengeance” out into the future and relates it to His second coming. It is a clear example of a passage where a fact concerning Israel's past is placed in immediate contact with a fact of Israel’s future, the intervening centuries (which are the gap) being passed over without comment. Our Lord’s method of handling the passage becomes authority to us to handle similar passages in a similar way.

The Gap Principle has the endorsement of Jesus. He Who was in the beginning with God and without Whom nothing was made that was made, has shown us that the solution of some of the most difficult passages in Scripture is to be found by applying the Gap Principle. How comforting it is to the soul of the eager student of God's Word to find conclusive proofs on every hand that the Bible is self-interpreting.

The Apostle Peter saw and appreciated the importance of the Gap Principle, but the ancient prophets through whom God inspired many of the gap passages, were utterly perplexed by their own writings. Peter definitely teaches that the prophets didn't understand their own prophecies and that their whole difficulty was that they didn't know about the Gap Principle.

The passage is in I Pet. 1:10-11:

“Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto your Searching what, or what manner , of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”

Peter, led by the Spirit, says the prophets “searched” for the “time” that the Spirit of Christ was talking about, when He was speaking through them, and talked about the “sufferings” and the “glory.” Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and the other prophets are here presented as studying their own writings and unable to find the “time” which the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when He inspired them to write beforehand concerning two things,—suffering and glory. No wonder the prophets were perplexed. ‘The prophecies which the Spirit of God had inspired them to write had prophesied the coming of a Messiah and had told of suffering and glory. ‘The sufferings predicted were poignant and the glory predicted marvelous and radiant, and yet they appeared in the prophecies side by side. This made the prophecies seem self-contradictory. The prophets were consequently. puzzled by their own writings (What a testimony to the divine inspiration of the Scriptures). They were puzzled simply because they did not know the Gap Principle. Had they but known the principle revealed by Jesus that day in the synagogue at Nazareth they would have understood that the “sufferings” were predicted for the first coming of the Messiah, that after the sufferings would come a “gap” of many centuries and then the “glory” would follow when Jesus would come back to reign.

Copyright 1923, Clifton L. Fowler