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Bible overview in 1,500 words

Bible overview

A Bible overview in 1,500 words

There’s a native American saying, “The one who tells the story rules the world.”

What is the story of the Bible? Can I tell it in 1,500 words?

There are many narratives in the Bible, but what is the single overarching account it gives? What is it saying about human history, about the universe?

One of the ways to help yourself grasp what that story is may be to write out a Bible overview in your own words. There are several ways to approach this. Fifteen hundred words is a good length to attempt something that is more than the barest skeleton outline. Maybe you’d like to give it a go.

Here is my attempt at a Bible overview based on Desmond Alexander’s work!

In his book “From Eden to the New Jerusalem” Desmond Alexander argues that we can make most sense of the story of the whole Bible, a Bible overview, if we start at the end and work back from there.

God’s presence — lost… and restored.

For Alexander that means he understands the whole story, a Bible overview, in terms of God’s presence with humanity:

  • God’s presence lost with the entrance of evil.
  • God’s refusal to accept that loss.
  • God fighting evil.
  • God offering his presence in measured ways by grace through various covenants.
  • God’s action in Christ to break evil decisively and to create a new basis of God’s presence.
  • The final restoration of God’s presence to the earth, and with humanity forever, when Christ returns (“which is, however, only the beginning of the rest of the story…” CS Lewis wrote)
  • God’s presence never to be lost again in the promised new earth and heavens at the end of the story.

The universe God made was good — very good.

The universe is God’s temple — and within that temple is one planet where God placed beings made in his image. God placed these image-bearers, Adam and Eve, in the world as his representatives on earth — they were his viceroys, his assistant rulers — which assumes that the whole universe can be described as God’s kingdom.

God’s call upon Adam and Eve was that they should rule the earth kindly in his name and the earth would be God’s dwelling place — just as fully as the rest of the universe is his dwelling place. However, Adam and Eve jeopardised the whole plan because they lost faith in God, and put their confidence in the insinuations that God’s enemy, the serpent, told them.

The consequences for Adam and Eve — and for the earth — were tragic.

Adam failed. They were expelled from God’s presence! Their commission to build the earth as the temple of God, or as the city of God — a place where humanity and God dwelled together — was aborted before it had hardly begun. That’s because the one you obey becomes your Master! Adam and Eve had obeyed Satan’s suggestions so he became their master. “By obeying the serpent, Adam and Eve take on his image and defile the earth.” (Alexander, 2008, p. 107)

Bible overview
Bible overview – Adam and Eve

There’s one more negative to be noted: where this ‘fall’ left the earth itself.

The Bible is clear that God is sovereign. Satan is merely a created being. There really is no contest between the two! With respect to the earth, therefore, we affirm with Scripture that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1). The issue of ownership and sovereignty is clear-cut: it’s with God!

Control of the earth, however, had been delegated to Adam and Eve. By refusing to go God’s way they not only unleashed the foolishness of human choices on the world, they also gave control of the world to Satan. This is referenced numerous times in Scripture (not least by Jesus himself in John 12:31; 14:30 and 16:11). The Apostle John also references this in 1 John 5:18-19.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19 NIV-UK.

So Satan is ‘the ruler of this world’ — for the time being anyway! This Bible overview does not end there, however.

This turn of events was no surprise to God — though it was a disappointment. There was, however, already a plan to overcome those obstacles…

The plan involved God himself taking on humanity and becoming one of the rebel race. To prepare for this mission, the Father set in motion a plan to elect one tribe from the race of humans to use as his instrument to bless all of humanity. This nation, the Jewish people. The descendants of Abraham, would be singled out to receive God’s self-disclosure. They would be shown his ways, his character and his purpose to restore his presence to the earth. They would know what had to be overcome in order to bring about the restoration of all things because the whole creation has been broken by sin.

In the fullness of time, the preparations were complete in the timescales of human history, and…

God the Son was incarnate, as predicted, as a baby, as a Jew, as a human, in Bethlehem. Deity was united with humanity.

He came both (1) to be the most complete self-disclosure of God’s moral character, and (2) to take the decisive step in the long-planned rescue mission.

One reason Jesus came was to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

OT sacrifice is superseded by this ultimate sacrifice. The aim of this sacrifice is to make us fit to receive God’s presence, and live in fellowship with him afresh.

Justification and forgiveness are steps that enable God the Father to adopt us as his children. The gift of righteousness — of right-standing and acceptance by God — qualifies us to enjoy God’s presence as he had first intended. Since this depends on what God has done, not on what we do, Paul says it’s “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6 NIV).

This enjoying of God’s presence is not merely an individual blessing. It is cosmic in scope as Paul frequently sets out. Personal salvation is an essential step in God’s plan for cosmic restoration.

A broader statement about the reason Jesus came is to say that he came to undo the effects of sin, Satan and sickness.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8b NIV-UK).

The devil was told this, by God, right back in Genesis 3. In the curse pronounced on the serpent God said:

“And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

and you will strike his heel.’” (Gen 3:15 NIV-UK).

Even Jewish commentators teach that this is a Messianic prophecy! It predicts that a single descendant of the woman would arise who would crush Satan.

The NT shows that the promised ‘seed’ or descendant of the woman is Jesus Christ!

Jesus stands at the heart of God’s rescue mission. He came to destroy the work of the devil, not just so we can know personal deliverance — though praise God that is also secured through the cross — but also to act to restore the whole creation.

This rescue mission does not revolve around me! It’s not just about Christ rescuing me from my sin and shame and failure — from Satan, sickness and sin to put it more fully. The Bible places equal emphasis on the cosmic story gospel — that Christ’s death is also God’s action to restore the whole creation!

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV-UK)

Jesus is ‘the last Adam’ (1 Cor. 15:45; Romans 5), the successful Adam.

A true Bible overview will always centre on Christ. Jesus Christ puts God’s original plan back on track and completes the foundations for creating a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. He inaugurates a new place where God dwells with humanity — in his own body and person which he calls a temple.

Jesus then sent his Holy Spirit to construct this new temple out of living stones. He predicts that he will return to earth one day to remake it. Then Christ will never leave the new heavens and earth again, because after that decisive return the Apostle John heard in the Spirit…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Rev. 21:3-5 NIV-UK)

In Christ new creation! (2 Cor. 5:17).

The devil’s plans will not succeed — thanks to Jesus.

Whereas the first Adam (Adam means ‘man’) failed to fulfil his calling, failed to obey God, and failed to kick the serpent out of the garden, the last Adam — Jesus Christ — succeeded in his calling, succeeded at obeying his Father in heaven, and succeeded at kicking the serpent out of the garden! That’s why Jesus could say:

30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:30-31 NIV-UK)

The goal of the story is the goal of the Creator / Redeemer.

That goal is the restoration of God’s presence to the earth — only in a greater way than could ever have happened without sin. The restoration is now to the praise of his grace because God is the giver of everyone’s righteous standing before him.

There are many different themes you can use to find an overall metanarrative on which to base your Bible overview.

Good books to use might be:

Vaughan Roberts: God’s Big Picture

Philip Greenslade: A Passion for God’s Story

The Bible Society have a course about the Bible and their video giving a short Bible overview is here: Session 1, Lesson 3: The Bible is a story – Bible Society

Or try the excellent videos opening up each Bible book at The Bible Project.

The Bible Project also has videos giving an overview of the whole Old Testament and the whole New Testament.

For other material on Theologica there’s a post about English Bible versions here, and a post about Bible interpretation here.

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