Introduction to the
The Bible is a collection of 66 documents inspired by God. These documents are gathered into two testaments, the Old (3) and the New (27). Prophet, priests, kings and leader from the nation of Israel wrote the OT books in Hebrew (with two passages in Aramaic). The apostles and their associates wrote the NT books in Greek.
The OT record starts with the creation of the universe and closes about 400 years before the first coming of Jesus Christ.
The flow of history throughout the OT moves along the following lines:
- Creation of the universe
- Fall of man
- Judgment flood over the earth
- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel)__fathers of the chosen nation
- The history of Israel
– Exile in Eqypt_430 years
– Exodus and wilderness wanderings _40 years
– Conquest of Canaan_7 years
– Era of Judges_350 years
– United Kingdom_ Saul, David, Solomon_110 years
– Divided Kingdom_Judah/Israel_350 years
– Exile I Babylon_70 years
– Return and rebuilding the land_140 years
The detail of this history are explained in the 39 book divided into 5 categories:
- The Law_5 (Genesis-Deuteronomy)
- History_12 (Joshua-Esther)
- Wisdom_5 (Job-Song of Solomon)
- Major Prophets_5 (Isaiah-Daniel)
- Minor Prophets_12 (Hosea-Malachi)
After the completion of the OT, there were 400 years of silence, during which God did not speak or inspire any Scripture. That silence was broken by the arrival of John the Baptist announcing that the promised Lord Savior had come. The NT records the rest of the story from the birth of Christ to the culmination of all history and the final eternal state; so the two testaments go from creation to consummation, eternity past to eternity future.
While the 39 OT books major on the history of Israel and the promise of the coming Savior, the 27 NT books major on the person of Christ and the establishment of the church. The 4 gospels give the record of His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Each of the 4 writers views the greatest and most important event of history, the coming of the God-man, Jesus Christ, from a different perspective. Matthew looks at Him through the perspective of His kingdom; Mark through the perspective of His servant hood; Luke through the perspective of His humanness; and John through the perspective of His deity.
The book of Acts tells the story of the impact of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord Savior-from His ascension, the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the church, through the early years of gospel preaching by the apostles and their associates. Acts records the establishment of the church in Judea, Samaria, and into the Roman Empire.
The 21 epistles were written to churches and individuals to explain the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ, with its implications for life and witness until He returns.
The NT closes with Revelation, which starts by picturing the current church age, and culminates with Christ’s return to establish His earthly kingdom, bringing judgment on the ungodly and glory and blessing for believers. Following the millennial reign of the Lord Savior will be the last judgment, leading to the eternal state. All believer of all history enter the ultimate eternal glory prepared for them, and all the ungodly are consigned to hell to be punished forever.
To understand the Bible, it is essential to grasp the sweep of that history from creation to consummation. It is also crucial to deep in focus the unifying theme of Scripture. The one constant theme unfolding throughout the whole Bible is this: God for His own glory has chosen to create and gather to Himself a group of people to be the subjects of His eternal Kingdom, to praise, honor, and serve Him forever and through whom He will display His wisdom, power, mercy, grace, and glory. To gather His chosen ones, God must redeem them from sin. The Bible reveals God’s plan for this redemption from it inception in eternity past to its completion in eternity future. Covenants, promises, and epochs are all secondary to the once continuous plan of redemption.
There is one God. The Bible has one Creator. It is one book. It has one plan of grace, recorded from initiation, through execution, to consummation. From predestination to glorification, the Bible is the story of God redeeming His chosen people for the praise of His glory.
As God’s redemptive purposes and plan unfold in Scripture, 5 recurring motifs are constantly emphasized.
- The character of God
- The judgment for sin and disobedience
- The blessing for faith and obedience
- The Lord Savior and sacrifice for sin
- The coming kingdom and glory
Everything revealed on the pages of both the OT and NT is associated with those 5 categories, Scripture is always teaching or illustrating: 1) the character and attributes of God; 2) the tragedy of sin and disobedience to God’s holy standard; 3) the blessedness of faith and obedience to God’s standard; 4 the need for a Savior by whose righteousness and substitution sinner can be forgiven, declared just, and transformed to obey God’s standard; and 5) the coming glorious end of redemptive history in the Lord Savior’s earthly kingdom and the subsequent eternal reign and glory of God and Christ. It is essential as one studies Scripture to grasp these recurring categories like great hooks on which to hang the passages, topics, and recognizing that what is introduced in the OT is also made more clear in the NT.
Looking at these 5 categories separately gives an overview of the Bible.
- The Revelation of the Character of God.
Above all else, scripture is God’s self-revelation. He reveals Himself as the sovereign God of the universe who has chosen to make man and to make Himself known to man. In that self-revelation is established His standard of absolute holiness. From Adams and Eve through Cain and Abel and to everyone before and after the law of Moses, the standard of righteousness was established and is sustained to the last page of the NT. Violation of it produces judgment, temporal and eternal.
In the OT, it is recorded that God revealed Himself by the following means:
·Creation_ primarily through man; who was made in His image
·Signs, wonder, and miracles
·Spoken words by prophets and others
·Written Scripture (OT)
In the NT, it is recorded that God revealed Himself again by the same means, but more clearly and fully:
·Creation; the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was the very image of God
·Signs, wonder, and miracles
·Spoken words by apostles and prophets
·Written Scripture (NT)
- The Revelation of Divine Judgment for Sin and Disobedience
Scripture repeatedly deals with the matter of man’s sin, which leads to divine judgment. Account after account in Scripture demonstrates the deadly effect in time and eternity of violating God’s standard. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Only 4 of them don’t involve a fallen world: the first 2 and the last 2_before the Fall and after the creation of the new heaven and new earth. The rest is the chronicle of the tragedy of sin.
In the OT, God showed the disaster of sin; starting with Adams and Eve, to Cain and Abel, the patriarchs, Moses and Israel, the kings, priests, some prophets, and Gentile nations. Throughout the OT is the relentless record of continual devastation produced by sin and disobedience to God’s law.
In the NT, the tragedy of sin becomes more clear. The preaching and teaching of Jesus and the apostles begin and end with a call to repentance. King Herod, the Jewish leader, and the nation of Israel along with Pilate, Rome, and the rest of the world; all reject the lord Savior, spurn the truth of God, and thus condemn themselves. The chronicle of sin continues unabated to the end of the age and the return of Christ n judgment. In the NT, disobedience is even more flagrant that OT disobedience because it involves the rejection of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ in the brighter light of NT truth.
- The Revelation of Divine Blessing for Faith and Obedience
Scripture repeatedly promises wonderful reward in time and eternity that come to people who trust God and seek to obey Him. In the OT, God showed the blessedness of repentance from sin, faith in Himself, and obedience to His Word; fro Abel, through the patriarch, to the remnant I Israel; and even Gentiles who believed(such as the people of Nineveh).
God’s standard for man, His will, and His moral law were always made known. To those who faced their inability to keep God’s standard, recognized their sin, confessed their impotence to please God by their own effort and works, and asked Him for forgiveness and grace; there came merciful redemption and blessing for time and eternity.
In the NT, God again showed the full blessedness of redemption from sin for repentant people. There were those who responded to the preaching of repentance by John the Baptist. Others repented at the preaching of Jesus. Still others from Israel obeyed the gospel through the apostles’ preaching. And finally, there were Gentiles all over the Roman Empire who believed the gospel. To all those and to all who will believe through all of history, there is blessing promised in this world and the world to come.
4.The Revelation of the Lord Savior and Sacrifice for Sin
This is the heart of both the OT, which Jesus said spoke of Him in type and prophecy, and the NT, which gives the biblical record of His coming. The promise of blessing is dependent of grace and mercy given to the sinner. Grace means that sin is not held against the sinner. Such forgiveness is dependent on a payment of sin’s penalty to satisfy holy justice. That requires a substitute; one to die in the sinner’s place. God’s chosen substitute; the only one who qualified was Jesus. Salvation is always by the same gracious means, whether during OT or NT times. When any sinner comes to God, repentant and convinced he has no power to save himself from the deserved judgment of divine wrath, and pleads for mercy, God’s promise of forgiveness is granted. God then declares him righteous because the sacrifice and obedience of Christ is put to his account. In the OT, God justified sinner that same way, in anticipation of Christ’s atoning work. There is, therefore, a continuity of grace and salvation through all of redemptive history. Various covenants, promises, and epochs do not alter that fundamental continuity, nor does the discontinuity between the OT witness nation, Israel, and the NT witness people, the church. A fundamental continuity is centered in the cross, which was no interruption in the plan of God, but is the very thing to which all-else point.
Throughout the OT, the Savior and sacrifice are promised. In Genesis, He is the seed of the woman who will destroy Satan. In Zechariah, He is the pierced on to whom Israel turns and by whom God opens the fountain of forgiveness to all who mourn over their sin. He is the very One symbolized sacrificial system of the Mosaic law. He is the suffering substitute spoken of by the prophets. Throughout the OT, He is the Messiah who would die for the transgressions of His people; from beginning to end in the OT, the theme of the Lord Savior as a sacrifice for sin is presented. It is solely because of His perfect sacrifice for sin that God graciously forgives repentant believers
In the NT, the Lord Savior came and actually provided the promised sacrifice for sin on the cross. Having fulfilled all righteousness by His perfect life, He fulfilled justice by His death. Thus God Himself atoned for, at a cost too great for the human mind to fathom. Now He graciously supplies on their behalf all the merit necessary for His people to be the objects of His favor. That is what Scripture means when it speaks of salvation by grace.
5.The Revelation of the Kingdom and Glory of the Lord Savior.
This crucial component of Scripture brings the whole story to its God-ordained consummation. Redemptive history is controlled by God, so as to culminate in His eternal glory. Redemptive history will end with the same precision and exactness with which it began. The truths of eschatology are neither vague not unclear; nor are they unimportant. As in any book, how the story ends is the most crucial and compelling part; so with the Bible.. Scripture notes several very specific features of the end planned by God.
In the OT, there is repeated mention of an earthly kingdom ruled by the Messiah, Lord Savior, who will come to reign. Associated with that kingdom will be the salvation of Israel, the salvation of Gentiles, the renewal of the earth fro the effects of the curse, and the bodily resurrection of God’s people who have died. Finally, the OT predicts that there will be the “uncreation” or dissolution of the universe, and the creation of a new heaven and new earth; which will be the eternal state of the godly; and a final hell for the ungodly.
Israel’s promised kingdom will be enjoyed, with the Lord Savior reigning on the throne, in the renewed earth, exercising power over the whole world, having taken back His rightful authority, and receiving due honor and worship. Following that kingdom will come the dissolution of the renewed, but still sin-stained creation, and the subsequent creation of a new heaven and new earth-which will be the eternal state, separate forever fro the ungodly in hell.
Those are the 5 topics that fill up the Bible. To understand them at the start is to know the answer to the question that continually arises; why does the Bible tell us this? Everything fits into this glorious pattern. As you read, hang the truth on these 5 hooks and the Bible will unfold, not as 66 separate documents, or even two separate testament; but one book, by one divine Author, who wrote it all with one overarching theme.
My prayer is that the magnificent and overwhelming theme of the redemption of sinners for the glory of God will carry every reader with captivating interest from beginning to end of the story. Christian; this is your story. It is from God for you; about you. It tell what He planned for you, why He made you, what you were, what you have become in Christ, and what He has prepared for you in eternal glory.
By; John Macarthur