Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
So when God started creating, what did He create? I mean, what exactly is included in the words “the heavens and the earth”?
Let’s start with the heavens. The Jewish people believed that there were three heavens (as opposed to our ability to be in a “seventh heaven”). This structure is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 12:2, where he wrote: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” The third heaven was as high as a person could get. In the Jewish understanding of the structure of the heavens, the first heaven was what we would call the sky. It includes the air that we breathe and the clouds – basically it’s where the birds (and now the airplanes) fly. The second heaven was the place where the sun, the moon, and all of the stars have been placed. Today we call the second heaven “space”. The third heaven is the place where God lives; it actually exists outside of our universe (maybe in another dimension?). This third heaven is the place where the man that Paul knows was caught up to.
So when Moses started out with the one sentence overview of God’s creative activity, what was included in God’s creation of “the heavens”? A LOT! In addition to including our own earth’s atmosphere (78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, and 1% trace elements, including water vapor and carbon dioxide), it would include our sun, the planets with their moons, comets, asteroids, meteors, stars, nebulas, galaxies, quasars, black holes…EVERYTHING in the Universe. And it would also include the place in God’s presence that we are headed to if we belong to Him, and all of the beings that inhabit it. (Of course, Moses has to go on in the next several verses and give us the specific order and timing of God’s creation of these elements. Verse 1, as previously noted, is the overview.)
So what would be included in God’s creation of “the earth”? Again, a LOT! In addition to creating the framework of the earth, a molten core with a rocky mantle and crust, it also includes all of the water on the earth, and the landforms that rose out of the water on day three. It includes all of the lifeforms that He created on days 5 and 6, including everything from single-celled organisms, all of the creatures that live on the land and in the sea, all the way up to His crowning work in all of creation – Mankind.
So when it says that God created the heavens and the earth, it includes everything that we can see: things on earth and things in space, as well as many things that we can’t see, such as the angelic host that surrounds the throne of God in the “third heaven”. There is NOTHING that wasn’t specifically created by God through Jesus. (See John 1:3.) Nothing was left to time and chance; nothing was forgotten so that it had to evolve from something else; nothing was overlooked. God created everything, and everything that God created shows forth the work of His hands and His marvellous design.