Have you ever considered carefully the opening words of the Bible? “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Why doesn’t it simply say that God created the Universe? Why the heaven and the earth?
As we go on reading we find the answer to this question, for the Bible clearly teaches that God has a two-fold purpose; one having to do with the earth and the other with heaven. The former is the subject of prophecy, while the latter is the subject of the “mystery”, or secret, revealed to and through St. Paul. (See Acts 3:21; and cf. Romans 16:25). The former concerns Israel and the nations; the latter “the Body of Christ”, the Church of the heavenly calling.
Some people are surprised to learn that there is not one promise in the whole Old Testament about going to heaven. There the whole outlook is earthly, with Messiah reigning as King (Jer.23:5; et al). When our Lord appeared in the flesh the angels cried: “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). He Himself said that “the meek” shall “inherit the earth” (Matt.5:5). He taught His disciples to pray: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt.6:10).
Even at Pentecost Peter declared that after “the restitution of all things” God would send Jesus back to earth and the times of refreshing would “come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-21).
Not until the raising up of Paul do we learn that now all believers in Christ are “baptized into one body” (ICor.12:13), and Colossians 1:5 and many other Pauline passages, speak of“the hope which is laid up for you IN HEAVEN”. Indeed, before God, believers are already given a position “in heavenly places” and are “blessed with all spiritual blessings IN [THE] HEAVENLIES in Christ” (Eph.1:3; 2:4-7).
The prophecies regarding the Kingdom, however, will still be fulfilled and Christ will reign on earth and bring the promised “times of refreshing”. Thank God, this world will not forever be a place of war and bloodshed, sickness and death, misery and woe. Indeed, at that time, heaven and earth will be opened to each other, and thus will be fulfilled God’s two-fold purpose: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ…” (Eph.1:10).