Let's admit it ... the Bible can be confusing. It was written during a much different time to a much different audience. Sometimes it's hard to cross the bridge that spans the gap between the biblical world and our world.
But when we step back and view the Bible as a whole, we quickly realize that the 66 books of the Bible actually tell one story. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is one grand narrative of relentless redemption. God used 40 authors over 1500 years to write His story on the page of His Word. It's important that we understand the metanarrative of Scripture.
The Bible tells the story of the Kingdom.
The kingdom of God is central to the Biblical story of redemption and refers to God's rule over God's people in God's place. God creates humans in His image and instructs them to rule over creation. But humanity rebels against God's sovereign authority, and wanting to rule on their own terms, begin building an alternate kingdom. They reject God as their King. Nevertheless, God promises an eternal kingdom to David, which is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus came to this earth announcing that the kingdom of God has come. He was enthroned as King during His crucifixion - given a robe and a crown and lifted up. His triumph over sin and death at His resurrection gives Him the name above every name. Even though the kingdom has begun, the fullness of the kingdom will not be realized until the Son of Man comes in His glory and sits on His glorious throne. And He will reign forever and ever.
The story of the Kingdom, which is the story of Scripture, has 21 chapters.
The first words of the Bible are "In the beginning God" signalling the Bible is a book about God, not a book about us. This eternal and Triune God is King over the universe. There is a pattern of creation: on the first three days God formed spaces and on the last three days He filled them. The climax of God’s good creation was the creation of man and woman, made in His image. God commissions His people to rule over His creation. The humans have a royal task. At the end of the creation story, God pronounced His creation 'very good', and then He rested on the seventh day.
A serpent entered the garden and tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God’s word and eat from the forbidden tree, plunging humanity into sin and brokenness. God pronounced judgment on the serpent, man, and woman. Genesis 3:15 is the protoevangelium (first gospel). Satan bruised Jesus’ heel on the cross, but Jesus bruised his head (fatal blow). God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve, which was the first hint of the shedding of blood to cover sin. Sin manifests in the next generation when Cain murdered his brother Abel, and culminates in the Tower of Babel.
As time progressed, sin and wickedness became so rampant on the earth that God decided to destroy the earth with a global flood. Only one man, Noah and his family, were found to be righteous. God commanded him to build an ark for the saving of his family. God made a covenant promise never to flood the earth again and gave us the rainbow as a sign of that promise. The flood of God’s judgment will destroy the wicked on the final day of judgment, but we will be safe inside the ark of Christ.
God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him, promising him land and offspring. He said all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham, including the Gentiles. This is God's plan of salvation. After a misstep of taking matters into their own hands, Abraham and Sarah finally welcomed the promised child, Isaac into their family. Isaac became the father of twins, Jacob and Esau, and God chose Jacob to be the father of twelve sons, who would eventually become the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph, the favoured son, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, and eventually he rose to power and saved his family during a famine.
When the book of Exodus begins, Joseph is long gone, the Israelites have multiplied greatly, and the Egyptians have enslaved them. God heard the cries of His people and delivered them through ten miraculous displays of His power, culminating in the death of the firstborn sons across Egypt. At the very first Passover, the Israelites painted blood on their doorposts and the angel of death passed over their homes. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness to worship God. Christ, our Passover Lamb saves us from death. The first mention of God as King is at the climax of the Exodus story. After the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, the people sang a song that ended with this line: "The Lord will reign forever and ever."
6. The Law
God gave Moses the Law to distinguish His people from all the other nations. God called them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. He established the Levitical priesthood through Aaron and his sons. Although the people were confident they could obey God's laws, they quickly turned to idolatry, fashioning a golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. While the Law clarified God's demands, it could not empower the people for obedience. They were still in desperate need of a Saviour.
7. Promised Land
The Israelites moved on from Mount Sinai towards the Promised Land. But when they spied out the land, they let their fear of the giants trump their trust in God, and as a consequence, God made them wander the wilderness for forty years until that unbelieving generation died. Even Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God and struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it. After the death of Moses, Joshua was appointed the new leader, and he led the people across the Jordan River into the land. Their task was to drive out the inhabitants of the land, which ultimately they failed to do.
The Israelites were caught in a cycle of defeat during the time of the judges.
Sin: Israel fell into idolatry.
Servitude: God gave them over to their enemies.
Supplication: They cried out to God because of their oppression.
Salvation: God raised up judges to deliver them.
The people needed a Great Judge to deliver them, who would ultimately be found in Jesus Christ. During Israel's Dark Ages, God brought a loyal Moabite widow named Ruth to the town of Bethlehem where she married her kinsman redeemer and became the great-grandmother of King David.
Israel rejected God as their king, and wanting to be like all the other nations, they demanded a human king. Samuel, Israel's last judge and first prophet, anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. He was tall and handsome, looking every bit the part of a king, but his heart was not fully committed to God. After Saul's blatant disobedience, God told Samuel to anoint David, a young shepherd boy, as the next king of Israel. God made a covenant with David saying He would raise up David's offspring to sit on His throne forever. David's son Solomon took the throne after his death, and the nation enjoyed the height of its prosperity. After the reign of Solomon, the kingdom split in two, and the years that followed embodied a series of mostly wicked kings ruling the divided kingdom. Israel was spiralling downwards.
Selah. We pause from the narrative of Scripture to reflect on the character and ways of God in the Psalms and wisdom books. The Lord reigns as King over the universe and is worthy of our worship. Psalms is a collection of songs, ranging from upbeat lyrics to mournful melodies. They contain longing for salvation, redemption, justice, purity and God's presence. Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom. Ecclesiastes confronts us with the futility of life under the sun and teaches us to fear God and obey His commands. The events of Job take place during the time of the patriarchs, but is a lesson for us in how to respond to suffering.
Through the prophets, God continually warned His people to turn from their idolatry, repent of their sin, and turn back to Him. These prophets were God's spokesmen. Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Malachi and others all faithfully delivered God's message to His people. But the people refused to repent. Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of a coming day when God would establish a new covenant with His people. He would put His Spirit in them and give them the ability to walk in obedience. The King was coming - the One who would sit on the throne of David and reign with justice and righteousness.
After repeated warnings, God kept His word and pronounced His judgment on His people. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was exiled by Assyria in 722BC and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was exiled by Babylon in three waves, 605BC, 597BC and 586BC. God's people were no longer in God's place under God's rule, no longer a nation set apart for Him, and no longer experiencing His provision and blessing. The Israelites spent 70 years in exile until God miraculously moved the hearts of several pagan kings and allowed them to return to their land. They rebuilt their temple and the city of Jerusalem, but the glory of the latter paled in comparison to the former.
Four hundred years of silence lie between the Old Testament and the New Testament, while God's people were waiting for the promised Messiah. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent His Son. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a young virgin, and told her she would conceive a son through the Holy Spirit and be the mother of the Messiah. The Christ-child was born in a humble stable while an army of angels appeared to nearby shepherds who shouted praise to God. The King had come!
Jesus began His ministry at the age of thirty. After His baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan. Unlike the Israelites who failed their test in the wilderness, Jesus overcame with the Word of God and proved His obedience. Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples throughout His earthly ministry. His predominant message was announcing the nearness of the kingdom of God and calling people to repent and believe the good news. He taught about life in the kingdom and performed countless miracles. Jesus truly was the Messiah they had been waiting for.
But the Light of the world would soon be extinguished by the unbelief of the people. The Jews missed their Messiah and plotted to kill Him out of sheer envy. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, betrayed Jesus and handed Him over to be crucified. Jesus paid the full price for our sins on that cruel Roman cross, as the Father poured out His wrath on the Son. But the story was not over. On the first day of the week, several women visited the tomb and found it empty. He had risen just as He said! Jesus appeared to many of His disciples in His new, resurrected, glorified body. Their deep sorrow turned to inexpressible joy!
After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised Holy Spirit. Then the King ascended to heaven and took His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. The disciples met together daily to pray, and on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit dramatically descended and filled them with power for ministry. Peter stood in the power of the Spirit to proclaim Jesus to the crowds and many were saved that day. This was the birth of the church.
The early church grew rapidly, devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, sharing meals with one another and prayer. They were in awe of what God was doing. But this movement wasn't without opposition. God used the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen, to scatter the church and take the good news of the gospel to other areas. Saul, formerly a zealous persecutor of Christians, met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus and was dramatically transformed. God called him to be a witness to the Gentiles. As the gospel spread beyond Judea, local churches began to form in every city. Christ-followers were witnesses to His salvation. This is where we fit into the story, the church age.
Several apostles penned letters to the local churches under the authority of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of these letters, which became our New Testament epistles. They give us commands for kingdom living and a picture of how to live and grow as disciples of Christ. As a manual for Christian living, they contain doctrine and deeds, creed and conduct, instructions about theology and descriptions of how to live out that theology in daily life.
The book of Revelation contains a series of visions given to the Apostle John about the end times. After sharing a vision of the throne room of God, John symbolically describes the judgment that will be poured out on the earth with the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. This will be an unparalleled time of distress on the earth. God will judge those who have rejected Christ as their King and will ultimately give them what they desire, which is to live apart from Him, which they will do for all of eternity. God's people - the ones who have placed their faith in Christ - will be spared this judgment.
John uses prophetic imagery to show how the kingdom of God will be consummated when Jesus returns. He will come riding on a white horse with all the armies of heaven with Him (that's us!). His feet will touch the Mount of Olives and it will split in two. He will merely speak and His enemies will be destroyed. Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth for 1000 years and we will rule and reign with Him. All of redemptive history has been steadily marching towards this goal, when the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
21. New Heavens and Earth
Then God will make all things new. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. The New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. God will finally dwell with His people. Every promise of God will be gloriously fulfilled. The people of God will gather around the throne. Our faith will become sight, and we will worship the King who has gone to great lengths to redeem us. The story ends with a never-ending kingdom of unhindered joy in the presence of God. This is God's story. Your story. This is the story of the KINGDOM.