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The Great Story of God: From Creation to Revelation

The Bible - More Than Just a Book!

Probably you know at least some verses of the Bible by heart, famous quotes like "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son." (John 3:16) or "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) It's definitely not a bad idea to know at least a few sentences from the Bible by heart, but the Bible is much more than just a collection of old verses. It would be like knowing only a few quotes from "The Lord of the Rings" without ever having read the book and not even knowing the context they come from.



To understand the Bible, you must consider it as a great work as a whole. It tells the Great Story of God - a story of love, redemption, and restoration. From the creation of the universe to the revelation of the new heaven and the new earth, there is a red thread running through the Bible, revealing God's central message to humanity.


I want to give you a brief introduction here that can help you read and understand the Bible better in context. One thing you will notice is that it always revolves around the fact that God has a plan with humanity and actually executes it. The exciting part: we are an important part of the story!


The Story Begins

God's story with humanity naturally begins with creation. God, the almighty and eternal Creator, spoke the universe into being: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) In six days, he formed the world and all life on it, according to his perfect plan. "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)


Humanity, the crown of creation, was created in God's image. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:26-27) Being in the image of God does not mean that we look like God, but that we reflect his nature and character, and that we have a creative will. In love and communion with God, the first human couple lived for a while in paradise.


The First Great Mistake

However, the harmony of paradise was lost in the Fall. Adam and Eve, seduced by the serpent, disobeyed God's command and separated themselves from him. "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Genesis 3:4-5) Wanting to be like God and not listening to anyone else is a real problem for us humans - even today. When people chose to decide for themselves what is right and wrong, sin and death entered the world, destroying the life-giving connection with God.


The Promise of Redemption

Despite their failure, God did not give up on humanity. He promised a savior who would defeat sin and restore the relationship with God. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15) This promise runs like a thread throughout the entire Bible, from the first to the last pages.


However, at first glance, there seemed to be no salvation at all. On the contrary, people became more and more wicked and violent, until God had to put an end to it and destroy creation in a great flood (Genesis 6-9). Eight people survived the desaster in a large ship (ark) and formed the basis for a new beginning: Noah and his family. But even the people who lived after them cared little about God, preferring to be independent of him. The mega-building project of Babylon failed, and people scattered all over the world, marking the beginning of languages and nations (Genesis 11).


Abraham and the People of Israel

But again, God did not give up! He continued his story with a man named Abram (or Abraham). God called Abram from his homeland and promised to make a great nation out of him (Genesis 12:1-3). Abram and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob, lived as nomads in the land of Canaan (approximately present-day Israel).


Jacob's family, later called Israel, migrated to Egypt due to a famine. There they became a large people group, but they were enslaved and oppressed.


After several hundred years, God chose Moses to free his people from slavery. Through powerful signs and wonders, Moses confronted the Pharaoh (king) of Egypt and eventually led the Israelites to freedom (Exodus 7-14). Here we encounter the so-called "Passover" - a festival that faithful Jews still celebrate till today, reminding them that they were spared from the angel of death and freed from Egypt (Exodus 12). This festival, where a small lamb was slaughtered and unleavened bread was eaten, already forecasts the death of Jesus, which will happen only about 1470 years later. Jesus died at the Passover festival and is referred to as the Lamb of God. But more on that later.


At Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with the people of Israel. He gave them the Ten Commandments and the Torah, the foundation of the Jewish faith. Israel became a priestly kingdom and a holy people (Exodus 19:6). From this people, the Savior (the "Messiah") was to come and bring salvation to all people and nations.


But will the liberated people of Israel, to whom God revealed himself in a truly radical way, finally be obedient to him and set a good example for other nations?


 

Interlude

The journey of the people of Israel from Abraham to the exodus from Egypt is an important part of the Great Story of God. It shows God's love and faithfulness to his people, his justice, and his will to redeem humanity. The liberation from slavery in Egypt is an important symbol of redemption from sin and death through Jesus Christ.

 

The history of the people of Israel is unfortunately not a pure success story. Although the people did indeed enter their promised land (modern-day Israel) and conquered it, they repeatedly turned away from God, returned to him, only to be unfaithful to him again. This cycle went on for hundreds of years. Most of the Old Testament was written during this time period.


Perhaps the most outstanding figure in the Old Testament is King David. As a teenager, he killed the giant Goliath, and later he became king over Israel. He remained faithful to God, and therefore God made him a radical promise: one of his descendants would be king forever (2 Samuel 7:16)! By the way, many of the Psalms we still read today come from David, including Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd..."). However, David was far from perfect. He made some major mistakes, including abusing a married woman and having her husband killed.


The centuries that followed were a sequence of victories and defeats, of many wars and kings, some of whom were good, but many were outright evil. Most of the prophets lived during this time. Unfortunately, the Israelites preferred to worship the cruel idols of neighboring nations, such as Baal and Astarte, rather than the kind God of their ancestors, and they behaved absolutely contrary to what one would expect from a people of God, so God had to draw a line here as well. A large part of the people were deported to Assyria and never returned. The other part (the tribe of Judah) was later exiled to Babylon. Daniel in the lion's den and Queen Esther are examples of stories from this time.


But God had always predicted that the captivity would not last forever, and after about 70 years, the Jews were allowed to return to their land, rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and cultivate the land again (see Ezra and Nehemiah).


Years of Patience

But of course, the story doesn't end here. Because the decisive step in God's plan of salvation is still ahead! In the next centuries, a lot happens in this part of the world. The Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks by the Romans... Not an easy time for the population in Israel, because Israel was always affected by political changes, and the people were never truly free. The more they longed for the promised Savior to come. In the Bible, we find no records from these centuries. This means that the Jewish Bible ends with the return of the Jews from Babylon. Even though in your Bible, it immediately continues with Matthew after the book of Malachi, there are 400 years in between!


 

Interlude

Although the history of the people of Israel is marked by failure and guilt, we owe them a lot, and God has repeatedly used individuals from this nation to bless the people of the whole world. Without the people of God, we would not have written records of God's words and actions throughout history. And we can only understand the teachings of Jesus and the letters in the New Testament correctly when we see them in the context of the first part of our Bible (the so-called "Old Testament").

 

Jesus Christ - finally, the promise is fulfilled!

In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the promise of a Savior, which we read about at the very beginning, finally finds its fulfillment. He came into the world to redeem humanity. Jesus was the first and only human to fulfill God's will 100% and never commit a sin. Therefore, he could offer his life as the perfect sacrifice. Through his death on the cross, he defeated sin and death and opened the way for a new life. "He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:25) But there is much more than just the forgiveness of sins!


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the beginning of a completely new creation. Jesus says, "Behold, I am making all things new!" (Revelation 21:5) The Holy Spirit gives people new life and leads them back into relationship with God: "For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." (Galatians 3:26) The eternal reign of God begins, and the world is being renewed piece by piece.


You might now ask yourself, "But if Jesus Christ has defeated sin and death, why is there still so much evil in the world? Where do we see the Kingdom of God?" That's a valid question! Since the first disciples nearly 2.000 years ago, this message of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the world. From a small group of disciples, it has become millions and millions. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus as Lord is invited to become part of God's family. This family is also called the church. But the time we live in is also a transition, as the worldwide family of God continues to grow. It is said that the kingdom of God is already here, but not yet completed. Evil is still present, even though it has actually been defeated.

Because there is still an important step missing!


The Grand Finale

The Great Story of God reaches its climax in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. In it, we read that Jesus Christ will come again to finally defeat sin and the serpent and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. There will be a new creation where there will be no more pain, suffering, or death. God will live with his people for eternity (Revelation 21:3-4).


Closing Thoughts

Of course, these are just a few pointers to help you engage with the Bible differently than you may have done before. The Bible is an absolutely fascinating book worth reading!

There are great resources that provide good insights into every book of the Bible and the Great Story of God. Above all, I highly recommend "Bible Project" (bibleproject.org).


Uli Braun


By the way, the Great Story of God is also one of the topics covered more deeply in the Discipleship Training School. Would you like to learn more about it?



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