The Bible is the greatest love story of all time—and it really is a story. In this case the story is a combination of sixty-six literary works whose meaning unfolds over time as the material is read and understood. We must see the Bible in its full context, its metanarrative, if we want to accurately understand it, interpret it, and/or place the contents along a timeline.
A while ago I wondered, “How would I tell the Bible story if I were to summarize it like a short, middle school book review?”
So, what follows is my summary: a short six-point summary of the Bible’s overarching story.
1) BEFORE CREATION + GENESIS 1-3:
A. Before there was time, matter, and the universe as we know it, God existed as a spiritual being comprised of pure and absolute LOVE. Existing as one whole being, yet also as a plurality of persons revealed to us now as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, love was freely given and exchanged among each personage of God. This outwardly-focused and others-interests-over-ones-own based love eventually overflowed and gushed outward leading to an intentional, divine explosive act bringing the material universe into being.
Within the physical universe God also creates sentient beings. Their nature would be defined by one very unique characteristic—they would have the ability to act free from their creators’ will and intention—free agency. This free agency is reflective of how we must define love and the essence of who God is: God is a being whose love emanates from Him in a way that that doesn’t force or coerce His will upon others, but instead allows others to choose from their own free will.
Free agency is bestowed both to angels—our spiritual caretakers and watchers—and humans—who rule and have dominion over the earth as God’s beloved children. God grants free agency to His creation in the hopes that all will come to receive His love, His goodness, and to enter His unfathomable circle of love, experienced among the triune Family of God.
B. Whether God’s creation took eons, or merely six twenty-four-hour days to form, God’s angels soon rejected God’s free invitation of love. They went rogue and set about to establish their own rule and reign apart from God’s love. In turn, some angels used their God-given power and authority over the heavens and earth to pervert and distort God’s gift of free agency. Culpable beings endowed with independent free thought, and in naïve innocence, people were also influenced by these fallen angels. Humans gave themselves over to a system that operated apart from God’s selfless love.
As a result, people became hopelessly entrapped within their own self-focused pleasures and desires. Furthermore, they became slaves to an earthly, demonic system that uses power to further its own agenda, rather than submit to God’s system of love that uses power to put others’ interests above one’s own. Humanity and all of creation became locked up and prisoner to this system with no way of escape. God would need to break humankind and creation out of their bondage Himself.
C. With full knowledge of what agents with free will could and would be capable of, God foresaw every possibility, turn, and permutation that this creation might take. Therefore, before time, space and matter even existed, God had prepared an auxiliary plan to bring His beloved people and the universe back to Himself in the event free agents chose to go their own way.
A problem existed however: How would God be able to witness His love and convince His people to turn back to Him without forcing or coercing them? God would have to find a way to manifest Himself to His people alongside of their free agency. God’s answer would be to send Himself, a part of the Trinity known to us now as His Son—God’s own very being and essence—to testify to His goodness and ways of other-orientated love. However, to do so without force of coercion this would take time.
2) GENESIS 4-MALACHI:
A. As people went their own way, apart from God’s love, His love for His creation remained constant. However, He needed to break the ruling system/kingdom that imprisoned people to themselves, and to the father of disobedience—the devil. To defeat this system (for metaphysical reasons that are far beyond our comprehension), God would need His Son to be born of a woman (Hebrews 2:14, I John 3:8). And since that would be contingent upon human cooperation the only way to accomplish this act without resorting to force or coercion would be through persuasion and faith.
B. Beginning then with Abraham, God begins to build a faith-based community that would make a pathway for the Son of God to be manifest. A few generations later God gave this nation a system of laws and commandments to be followed vigilantly in order to preserve this line of faith.
God first reveals Himself within the very ugly, ungodly, thoughts and practices found within the Ancient Near Eastern cultures. The same thoughts and practices that He ultimately endeavors to destroy—animal sacrifices, worship in tabernacles and temples, a patriarchal societal framework, etcetera. He first steps into the cultural concepts attributed to their gods—living on mountain tops, breathing fire, speaking in thunders, using greater power to force one’s agenda on others and creation, and so on. And then from those starting points, He slowly chips away at the plethora of misconceptions that humans have had about the world such as pantheism, child sacrifices, violence, retribution, how to obtain righteousness, how to treat one’s neighbors and enemies, and begins to reveal His true self and way of life. Although God challenges many of the cultural conceptions of the day, the full and final revelation of God and His kingdom would not be completed until God would come down and manifest Himself in the flesh directly through His Son incarnate.
God had not abandoned the rest of the world. He was always acting in the Earth to bring people to Him (Acts 17:24-28). But Abraham’s story is uniquely inspired, and left behind for us as a divine record precisely because it is the only story line among the many others of the world that brings about the physical and spiritual lineage of the divine savior Jesus Christ.
A. When the time was ripe for the Messiah to come into the world, the virgin Mary gave birth to God’s Son, Jesus, in a supernatural, immaculate conception through her faith. He was both fully human and fully divine. God could now freely reveal Himself in fullness because He dwelled in a body of His own. As a result, Jesus showed God’s love and character with perfect accuracy.
Yet to His own people’s surprise, the long-awaited and promised messiah looked much different than what they were expecting: He was altogether non-violent, He freely forgave sins without penance or payment, He freely healed physical and mental diseases/illnesses, He taught about God’s other-focused love, and offered a way out of this world’s system by freely inviting anyone to follow Him.
B. In His final, grand gesture on earth, He broke the demonic powers/forces who rule the systems of this world by submitting and humbling Himself to the point of death to those same authorities and powers. Jesus allowed Himself to be offered up on a wooden stake, freely taking upon Himself consequences of the sins of all the whole world, so that through Him humankind could freely enter into and experience the love that God had originally hoped they would become a part of.
Through His death and resurrection from the dead, the Son of God judged the demonic powers of this world and in doing so made a path of salvation for humankind. To anyone who would come to Him Jesus now offered a new birth through His Spirit (John 1:12, John 3:5-6, John 7:38-39, I Peter 1:23-25, James 1:18). This new birth would free people on by one from the bondage of having the inherent nature to sin by providing them with a new spiritual nature, created after the perfect and holy image of God, wherefrom heavenly life could be drawn. A new, spiritual life in Jesus, free from the bondage of sin, was now available to any who would answer His gentle call and invitation to receive Him through faith. Through Jesus, the goal of restoring creation back to God’s original intension was set in motion.
C. God’s loving plan to abide with His creation was still missing something—His Presence. How would God dwell with His people now who had freely accepted Him and received the new birth? He would dwell within them through the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit would function as our down payment until God’s full restoration of the universe could be delivered. However, before God could send the Spirit, Jesus had to return to the Father.
4) ACTS 1-2:
A: Following His resurrection, Jesus tells His followers to wait before going into the world to share His message of restoration and reconciliation. They needed to wait until they received the gift of Holy Spirit so that God’s abiding presence could fill, build up, and empower them to be His witnesses. Jesus then ascends back to the heavenly realm leaving His followers with the promise that that the Holy Spirit would soon come.
5) ACTS 3 -REVELATION 20
A: The first followers of Jesus eagerly waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit fell on them a few weeks after Jesus’s ascension, the presence of God through the Holy Spirit took up residence within them. In a joyful display, Jesus’s followers spilled unto the street and began the work of reconciling the world back to God through the Christ (Acts 2). They announced the good news of Jesus’s victory over Satan’s kingdom by displaying God’s unsurpassable love to all they encountered—both through their own loving relational conduct toward others as well as through exorcisms and divine healings. The promise of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit was now available to all who would call upon and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. God’s presence would now slowly be filling the earth and destroying the works of the devil.
B. The acts and words of Jesus, along with further instructions and encouragements, would be written down and collected by His first followers. More and more people come to know Him as this gracious message of reconciliation is spread throughout the world.
6) REVELATION 21-22:
A. In the culmination of God’s ultimate intension to share His love with His creation, Jesus returns and fully enacts God’s Kingdom on earth. All humans who ever lived are resurrected and brought back to life to stand before God. However, the setting is not like that of a courtroom and a judge, but rather a revealing of truth where God’s penetrating light brings everything into the open. Those found to have been in Christ before death, and even possibly those who are responsive to His invitation post-resurrection are welcomed into the glorious kingdom of God that was prepared for them in advance from the beginning of creation. Those who are not receptive and who willfully reject God’s love are given their wish and are given a space to be isolated from the presence of God.
B. Alas, a new age dawns and God fully dwells among His people (Revelation 21:3). Peace is restored to the earth. Death is no more. Pain is no more. There is no darkness. Every tear is wiped from our eye. Humans see God face to face and the behold Him in His full glory. God’s love fully permeates the cosmos. We live and reign over creation for all eternity with Him.
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!