This section is not intended as proof of “The Father’s heart” view described in Chapter 23, but to provide insights.
Once you accept that Genesis 1:1 is an introduction and not the creation of the heavens and the earth, you find something beautiful in the way God has laid things out. Verse 2 describes the earth as existing, formless and void, covered by water and shrouded in darkness. This planet, on which God subsequently created an atmosphere and dry land, is not described as being created. But wait, even the angels are created beings – the only thing that was not created is God Himself!
So why does God choose to start with the planet seeming to already exist? The answer is that it was always on His heart to have a place for His children and there will always be a place for His children. When this universe is discarded there will be a new heaven and a new earth for His children. Thus God’s starting point is unquestionably a reflection of His heart.
So why didn’t God start with the empty black void of outer space? This is a great question – be sure to ask God if you don’t like my answer. So, tell me somewhere in the Bible where there is a black void. Even death and the abyss where the dead descend is not a void. The point is – there are no voids. When we die we will end up somewhere – either Heaven or Hell. There is no place to hide and there is no place hidden from God. Many who do not believe in God picture death as a black void – the end of everything. But it is not! Therefore, God does not describe that.
As mentioned earlier, the separation of waters below from waters above on day 2, and the gathering of waters to reveal dry land on day 3, are just adjustments to what is already there. Matter was not created. Even in the flood, where I am personally happy to allow God to miraculously multiply the water on the earth if required, He actually said that the water came from “the fountains of the great deep” (Genesis 7:11). This implied it pre-existed. Similarly, Adam was created from the dust of the earth, not out of thin air. So I find it easy to see the formation of the sun, the moon and the stars on day 4 as an adjustment to a pre-existing heavens in some formless and void state. And being formless and void, it was not describable nor needing to be described by God.
It is interesting to note that God described both the first and second heavens as being made, not created. The made verb speaks of fabrication from what already exists while the created verb speaks of bringing things into existence. (There is a wonderful extension to the understanding of these two verbs in chapter 8, Created for heaven, but here I look at them purely in the context of the creation of the inorganic matter.) So God made the sky (the first heavens) on day 2. On day 4 He made the sun, the moon and the stars. Actually He made them to shine. So the made verb reinforces that they were made from the pre-existing unspecified state.
So now we can picture all things, the whole universe coming into existence on day 1 through the declaration of light. After that everything is just an adjustment to that which already exists. For some believers it was a struggle to picture the entire universe being created on day 4 after the earth was created in verse 2. The universe is so immense compared with the earth. Historically, it was not like that. The sun, the moon and the stars were just light sources. In the last few hundred years we have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the universe. Now all glory to God who has revealed His greatness in what He created. But now we can see the whole universe spring into existence in the declaration of light, with the earth at its centre, since it was the centre of God’s heart. We no longer falter at the idea of the whole universe being added after this speck of dust.
We have no problems picturing the earth as a water-covered planet spinning on its axis at the end of day 1. This has a very large amount of structure for something brand new. So we should all be happy to picture other stars and suns in some similarly highly structured state, just waiting for a final adjustment that turns them into the infernos of light and heat that God desired to light the day and the night.
I have already discussed the Jewish understanding of the three heavens using the shamayim word for heaven in chapter 25. Strongs 8064 defines shamayim as air, but is usually translated as sky, heaven or heavens. On day 2 God established an expanse and He named it heaven.
Originally I pictured the expanse as being the entire volume above the earth containing the atmosphere and the rest of the universe. Then I took note of how verse 6 says that God inserted the expanse in the midst of the water surrounding the planet. So this was picturing a layer being inserted between the waters above and below. It is a layer around the earth and not some general unbounded region above the earth. This established the atmosphere which in turn provided the mechanism by which water could rain down from above. This is air, the plainest meaning of shamayim, and it really is a layer around this planet.
This layer does not extend up to the sun, the moon and stars, and Genesis 1 has been seen to be correct well before the technical insight of man understood it. And since this is pictured as a layer being inserted, it does not deny that in some unspecified state the sun, the moon and the stars were already present above this inserted layer. When they did appear on day 4, the heaven established on day 2 became the heavens – a second visible layer.
Here is a warning for people who misunderstand or try and attack the simple perceptual framework God has employed:
The three heavens are pictured as three layers. Descending into the deepest darkness and Sheol is pictured as a layer below. Some foolish people attack the Bible and suggest that this pictures a flat earth mentality. However it is a clear and simple perceptual framework. The highest places naturally picture superiority. It conveys a clear understanding to all men over all ages and it is the height of arrogance for a 20th century physicist to imagine that God should describe things to their satisfaction. Such men still casually refer to a sunset, knowing that it is the earth rotating and not the sun setting. We all use perceptual frameworks. Scriptures like Job 22:14, where God walks above the vault or circle of heaven, or Job 26:10, Proverbs 8:27 and Isaiah 40:22 all indicate that the earth was known to be circular.
This is not about being stupid, but about seeing God’s intent. We have become set in the picture of a water-covered planet floating in a black void which is then followed by the addition of light. But God’s description never pictured a black void. God described a featureless flat sea. It is like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on. It was us, when we pictured the planet earth, covered in water, and floating in a black void, that established the black void as a starting point before the planet was created. And because we pictured the black void as the starting point then the sun, moon and stars had to also appear out of nothing. So we made it hard on ourselves.
It is noted that Options 1 and 2 in Appendix C1, have the universe existing right from the start, but it never appears in the overheads that only show the planet earth with a light beside it at the end of day 1.
When we look at what God actually said, He referred only to the dry land as the earth. I accept that we generalise this to the whole planet, but look at what He said. I have already pointed out that God knew the world was spherical. This is not God making a mistake – it was God revealing His heart. The earth is initially formless and below the deep. Then the waters recede and reveal the dry land. It is the dry land that is the home for His children. Everything else is just supporting infrastructure! It is all about a home for His children. It has always been about His children.
Now it gets better. This planet is still partially covered by water, but in the new earth, there will be no sea (Revelation 21:1). There is a lot of symbolism here but also a clear message. Look at the progression:
Now that we can see creation is all about a home for His children, it is no surprise that verse 2 only talks about the earth and does not mention supporting infrastructure like trees and animals and stars. Even though God must have pictured the entire universe before the declaration of light, He mentions only His focus. God’s focus and purpose was to have a place for His children. The heavens were created for a starry sky; to show God’s glory to man; and for signs and seasons. The heavens were there to support man on this planet. God’s focus is on this planet and specifically the dry land, the earth, as a home for His children and so that is all He mentions.
I describe how the heavens appeared through the light of verse 3. It is popular today to suggest that there are multiple (even infinite) parallel dimensions in which this universe is just one instance. God did create other realms not mentioned in Genesis:- Heaven itself; Sheol; and the Lake of Fire. This world or universe alone was created as a place for His children. I work as a software engineer. I take some code – a descriptor and add some resources; typically RAM or memory and I have an instance of my program. Another person may take the plans for a house, then adds building materials and out comes a home. God takes some code (DNA), wraps it in water (a cell) and you get a plant or an animal. Then impart an eternal spirit and you get a living being. God took His concept for the universe, added light, and it appeared.
Notice there was no explosion of light – no big bang. It was God manifesting His will, and at the end of day 1 the universe had structure because in His mind it had structure. I cannot predict from Scripture whether there were intermediate stages as matter appeared. I cannot picture from Scripture what characteristics were imposed on the heavens by the stretching out. I have no idea what the stars looked like before they were ignited. Scripture does not tell me these things.
Late Update: Well, I had no idea about the early universe from scripture, but about a year or two after writing this (Oct 2012) I was amazed to see a physical model for the creation of the universe that was both feasible and scriptural. It became Appendix C4 “The COI Universe”.
I am aware of research that reveals concentric rings or layers as we look out into the universe. This confirms that our galaxy is near the centre of the universe. (Check out quantised red-shifts and background radiation at CMI.) I have noted that Scripture does allude to layers in the heavens. So this is a hint, not that this hint is dependent on Option 3, “The Father’s heart” view. (Options 1-4 are defined in Appendix C1.)
Option 2 pictures everything created in verse 1 as part of the waters around this planet, and then everything is stretched out to form the rest of the universe as the expanse is created on day 2. This has some benefits. By picturing all the mass of the universe gathered around the earth at the start, we see a galacto-centric model of the universe appearing. In this model time runs faster as the heavens are stretched out or moved away from the centre. This is an application of the theory of General Relativity which would predict that time is running faster in the distant stars than in our galaxy at the centre. This explains why we can see light from stars millions of light years away when our part of the universe is still quite young.
However, Option 3 is also consistent with a galacto-centric universe, but it is not as obvious. When God created the universe in the declaration of light, would not that which is at the centre of His heart: this earth, also be at the centre of the universe? And when God stretched out the universe, pictured in the separation of light from dark, isn’t this the same mechanism as pictured in Option 2?
What sustained the plants created on day 3 until the sun was made to shine on day 4? Such questions are just an excuse to reject the Bible. But once you have transitioned from light on day 1 as mere visible radiation, to light alluding to the fundamentals of physics; this question becomes unimportant. You will see the explanations yourself. You can see why God just said “Let there be light” without specifying a light source. It was because He was hinting at the properties that light manifested in this universe that cause space-time and matter to appear – just as He willed it. Then you can start to understand why so many things are linked to light and not light sources (John 8:12, Matthew 5:14).
So what light sustained plants created on day 3 before the sun started to shine on day 4? The best answer is Jesus himself (Revelation 21:23). Some might postulate other sources but now that I am not focused on physical light, I see it as a minor issue. If God was creating plants He certainly knew how to sustain them. The better question to ask is, “Why did God wait till day 4 to ignite the sun?” In my opinion that is answered in chapter 2, dealing with God’s timetable.
I have mentioned the Special and General Theory of relativity. The following links have a simple overview but also have some graphics at the bottom to show how space-time is curved by the gravity associated with matter.
These two-dimensional diagrams are often called “rubber-sheet” images. The presence of matter seems to stretch space-time. What a coincidence that God said that He “stretched out” the stars. When you see how gravity curves or stretches space-time in these diagrams then you will see just how precisely God chose His words. Wherever He caused the stars to form or move, space-time was stretched. So the Theory of Relativity is consistent with God’s Word in regard to creation. This reinforces my earlier assertion that time could not exist before the creation of light because this was also implied by the Theory of Relativity.
But God’s “stretched out” description also pictures the spreading out of the universe from the centre against gravity. This is also seen in data that reveals this galaxy is close to the centre of the universe. And finally, chapter 26, “From concept to creation”, pictures the transformation of God’s concept to the actual materialisation of the universe as a stretching-out.