If there ever was a perfect summary of the Bible John 3:16 might be it,
[Jhn 3:16 ESV] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
People that are new to the Bible might be intimidated by how large it is and how many different parts there are. Even though there are 66 books of the bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament that all span over 4,000 years of time, the Bible is one cohesive unit and the ultimate message is that God loves you so much that he sent his son to die for you so you could be saved.
To make the Bible’s pieces easier to understand, we will use an illustration. This diagram will help us understand how all the stories of the Bible fit together to tell the story of God’s love for us through his Son’s sacrifice.
Let the line on the left side of the paper represent the beginning of time. The Bible refers to that as creation. The Bible also tells us that time will end one day. The line on the right side of the page represents the day we will stand before God, and life on this earth will be over. That day in the Bible is called Judgment. Not only is that day going to be the end of time as we know it, but it will also be the beginning of a timeless existence that will continue for eternity, either with God in Heaven or separated from him in Hell. We will talk more about this later.
Someplace in between creation and judgment (as illustrated by the cross), God sent His Son Jesus in order to buy us back from sin and separation from Him. Think about this: God purposed to send Jesus even before He created the world.
[1Pe 1:18-21 NIV] 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Isn’t it amazing that God knew we would need to be saved from our sin even before he created the world? He still loved us enough to create us with free will and the power to decide whether to trust him or not. Jesus Christ was a part of God’s plan before creation. He was chosen or destined before the world was made to become the sin payment for us. Jesus was the Lamb, sacrificed for our redemption. He came to reveal God’s will and through him we can have a relationship with God.
- Through the Bible: Sin v. Faith
Let’s go back to creation. God put Adam and Eve in the garden and created them with the ability to make choices. Remember the choice God gave Adam and Eve when he put them in the garden (Genesis 2:15-17). He gave them everything they needed while they were in perfect fellowship with him. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the garden. They were not to eat of it, but God gave them everything they needed while they were in perfect fellowship with him. God gave them the choice whether to obey him or not with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they did eat, they would sin and the consequence would be separation from God.
Well, we read that Adam and Eve did eat the fruit and they were cast out from God’s fellowship and kicked out of the Garden. This kind of failure of sin is what we see throughout the bible. But we also see throughout the Bible of people who had faith in God and obeyed his commands. These people were rewarded for their faith and are examples for us.
Later in Genesis, there is Noah. The world had gotten so sinful that God would send a worldwide flood. But Noah found favor in God’s eyes,
[Heb 11:7 ESV] 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Because of Noah’s faith in God, he found favor in God’s eyes. Noah had a choice, either to follow him or not. Noah’s faith or trust in God is what brought about his obedience. This is what made him different from everybody else.
Faith is more than just believing. It is trusting God in an active way. Faith trusts what God says enough to do what he asks. Faith without action is dead (James 2:26). It is not a saving faith when there is no action.
Noah’s response of obedience to God brought back the quality level of mankind to what God desired so that he could have fellowship with Noah. However, history repeated itself. Noah’s descendants were disobedient to God (Genesis 10:1-9).
Continue through the Bible, there are people like Abraham who show their faith. Abraham and his wife Sarah were too old to have children, but God promised that Abraham would have countless descendants. Miraculously, they gave birth to Isaac. Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob had twelve sons. Ten of his sons, along with two of his grandsons became the twelve tribes of Israel. Abraham’s family multiplied like God promised.
[Heb 11:8-9 ESV] 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Abraham’s family ended up in Egypt where they were made slaves. A man named Moses was called by God to lead the people out of slavery. Moses was chosen because of his faith (Heb. 11:24-27). Moses led God’s people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where he was given the Law of Moses, called the Old Covenant. It is the laws the nation was to obey.
[Heb 11:27 ESV] 27 By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
You can read through the Old Testament and you can see humans constantly going against what God commanded them to do. God would send prophets to preach God’s message, remind them of their responsibilities to God, and point out their disobedience. No matter how often they are reminded, many people simply refused to have faith in God. Those people who accepted God’s words and had faith in God stood out and were rewarded by God.
- The Bible’s Main Character: Jesus
Throughout the Old Testament God is foreshadowing a person to come in the future. This person would be a king of God’s people; he would be a prophet; he would be a priest. He would lead God’s people. He is called the Messiah or the Christ, which means God’s chosen one.
This Messiah was foreshadowed with Adam and Eve, in a promise given to Abraham, in the Law given to Moses, and by the prophets. Everything in the Old Testament is setting up the arrival of this Messiah. Like 1 Peter 1:18-20 said, God chose Jesus before the creation of the world, so throughout the timeline of the world God was hinting along the way of Jesus’ arrival.
When we get to the New Testament, we see Jesus. Jesus fulfills many prophecies, predictions made by God. Because Jesus fulfilled all these predictions God made we can know for sure Jesus is the Messiah. God predicted that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, in the tribe Judah, in the family of David, born in the city of Bethlehem, born of a virgin. Jesus fulfills at least 60 major prophecies.
In the first four books of the New Testament we read of Jesus’ life. Jesus was different from the other prophets. Instead of preaching a message from God, Jesus was the message. Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1-18). Jesus was tempted but never sinned (Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus was crucified, which is a humiliating and excruciating death. Jesus chose to die like this to be a sacrifice made to forgive the sins of the world. This was God’s eternal plan. He did this so we could spend eternity with him if we put our faith and trust in him (Rom 3:23-25).
Three days after his death, God raised him from the dead. Jesus appeared to the Apostles after he was resurrected for forty days (Acts 1:1-3). They watched him ascend to heaven where he has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-4).
About ten days later, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit from God to empower the apostles and inspire them to preach the message of salvation to the whole world. This brough about the birth of the church, the Kingdom of God (Acts 2). The story of the Christians, the church, is recorded in Acts. It tells about the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church throughout the Roman Empire.
The rest of the book of the New Testament is a collection of letters written to churches. The letter explained Jesus’ death and how to live as a Christian. These letters teach us God’s purpose and the plan for the church–they teach us this timeline was God’s plan with Christ as the centerpiece to save all of mankind.
[Rom 3:21-25 NIV] … the righteousness of God has been made known …This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith. …
In these letters we learn how to receive life and how to live life the way it was supposed to be lived. We learn how to love one another, how to be good husbands and wives, and how to build healthy relationships with each other and how to build a healthy relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
From cover to cover, we can see God’s unfolding drama of redemption. When we understand the big picture, it is easier to understand what part we play as members of God’s church. God has been working diligently from the beginning of time to create a family that we could be adopted into. In this world we have the opportunity to be part of that family that God calls the church. Church simply means the “called out/the assembly.” God doesn’t give his family a formal name; he simply describes them in different ways, “the body of Christ,” “the saved,” “the redeemed,” “the reconciled.” All humans, including you, have a chance to be part of God’s family called the church.
The family of God, the church, lives their lives to please God and to faithfully obey his commands. In return they receive the forgiveness of their sins and will be welcomed into Heaven (2Pe 1:11).
When we look at the timeline and the big picture of God’s plan and how he works throught history we learn that God loves you. The Bible, from cover to cover, is meant to show how much God loves you. Jesus is the manifestation of that love. He was willing to die for your sins. To receive God’s love you must first have faith in him and accept Jesus’ death as the sacrifice for your sins.