in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
The issue of how to correctly identify 'the heavens and the earth' of Scripture has been hashed & rehashed over the past decade or so & still, we are no closer to a uniform position on the subject! To the majority of Christians, most likely, the answer is simple, the phrase is referring to the literal heavens ( sky ) & the literal earth ( land/globe ) or terra firma. To others, maybe, the phrase refers, in some sense, to the ministers of the Temple & the average Israelite. This position has no doubt met with some opposition because it seems to relegate the history of Genesis to a mere metaphorical story about the foundation of the Temple! 'How could Adam have been an Israelite, much less a priest ( minister ) in the Temple since neither came on the scene till many generations later?' Questions like this are unavoidable!
The construction of Genesis 1 is too interesting to ignore! The chiastic structure of Genesis 1 has a beauty beyond words! Beginning with the earth ( Land ), the Author quickly moves from there to the heavens & back, separating the two, and dizzying the reader with his literary style, first bringing order to one & life to the other. Moving back & forth, He weaves the creation account that we all, to one degree or another, have become familiar with. Heaven & earth, Adam & animals; what are we to make of it all?
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church at Galatia, wrote 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' ( 3:28 ). John, in the Revelation, wrote 'there was no more sea' ( 21:1 ). He who had separated the waters from the Land in the beginning had removed the separating curtain, much as He, according to Paul, had removed the distinction between Jew & Greek, or Gentile. Israel was given the task, beginning with Adam's creation, of ministering the justice, mercy & love of the Creator to the rest of His Creation; because they failed to understand His purpose for this distinction, He took matters into His own Hands & removed that distinction!
Those with more knowledge & wisdom than this poor blogger have searched out the Temple Theme throughout the Genesis Creation account! These have found that the physical Temple in Jerusalem was so ordered to represent the Hebrew cosmological understanding of the heavens & earth. The tabernacle in the wilderness, along with its furniture & priests, were patterned after this understanding as well. The separation between the special people of the Creator God & the rest of His Creation was made for a Purpose! That Purpose was hidden throughout the Scriptures ( though glimpses were seen ) & finally revealed with the Advent of His Son, the Creator Himself in human form!
The Purpose for which the Creator God made a separation in His Created Order is not a simple one to discern! Some might say that the distinction was made so that those separated ones ( holy ) might keep themselves pure for the One who sought Union with them. Others might say that the distinction was made so that we could judge between those were consigned to heaven or hell ( it's difficult for us to understand the Hebrew concept-much different than ours ). Whatever the case may be, we understand that the distinction, or separation was made for the Purpose of the Eschaton, for the Revelation of the Son of God!
Genesis begins with the creation of 'the heavens and the earth'. The Author then points to the earth, bringing order & life to it as well as to the heavens! Both earth & heavens were given their own life & order, but they shared one life that inhabited both realms, the birds, or flying creatures! This may engender another post for another time, but it is interesting to note that the birds alone of all the creatures were given wings to fly in the heavens above as well as legs to traverse the earth beneath! Only after the creation of the animals did the Creator God form man in His image. As the Author moves His shuttle back & forth across the tapestry of this first part of Genesis, we may note His focus on the earth under the Rule of Heaven!
The Creator God, He who dwelt in the heavens according to Scripture came to earth in the form of His Prime Creation. With His Advent He brought Heaven to Earth, significantly removing the separating curtain & allowing His Creation to approach His Presence; in fact, He came to dwell in our midst! The New Heavens & New Earth which John saw in the Revelation referred to the resurrected Israel, or the Church in its infancy. We may quibble over whether the Church is the New Heavens & New Earth yet today or whether we are simply the generation of the New Heavens & New Earth, but what is clear is the fact that the Creator God has made His Dwelling with ( in ) His Creation!
Charles Haddon Shank