Is the Bible a collection of sixty six books? Or, Is the Bible a single book? The Bible is both. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, and over approximately 1,600 years. Yet, behind every human author was a single divine author.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV
Each individual book of the Bible does have it’s own natural flow of thought, context, audience, and narrative. Therefore, it is easy to think these 66 books are only loosely connected through the divine author. However, there is a glorious connection to all sixty six books that is often overlooked. Jesus made this connection for us when He declared all the Old Testament is to be rightly understood in light of His person and work. To summarize Jesus’ interpretation of the OT is to say it’s grand narrative is the gospel. In 1 Peter 1:9-12, the apostle teaches the first century church that the gospel they have believed was the divine message of the Old Testament. This, i think, was exactly what Augustine had in mind when he said, “This grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament”.
This grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages, forasmuch as God knew how to dispose all things.Augustine of Hippo
What does this overarching story look like? I am glad you asked. I will try to give a brief and sketch, or a simple rough draft for your consideration. Let’s see this gospel story in 5 parts. This simple outline is not unique to me, but I do think it will be a helpful introduction to seeing a basic outline of that “Big Story” of the gospel I have been taking about.
God is Holy
As we try to think about the grand narrative of scripture, we always want to begin where the Bible begins. So then, we begin with God. You might think, all Christians begin with God first, you might be right, and I hope you are right. Even so, let’s make sure there is no confusion about who God is. Let’s use this section of the Baptist Confession of 1689.
The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and withal most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself, is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and He hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever Himself pleases; in His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent or uncertain; He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands; to Him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever He is further pleased to require of them.1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2.1-2
In God’s infinite wisdom, before the foundation of the world, He made a plan, or a covenant, for the end goal of manifesting His glory. The Father, Son, and Spirit chose to reveal Himself through Creating, Redeeming a fallen Creation, and Glorifying all He would redeem. Before the creation, the Son was already agreed to be the Lamb of God for fallen sons of Adam. This Lamb of God, Jesus, would enter into His Creation to reveal God, and to redeem His creation that would become corrupt though the first man, Adam. This redemption was purchased by Christ through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. This is the gospel, God declaring the end from the beginning.
Remember the former things of old: For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times the things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all my pleasure:Isaiah 46:9-10 KJV
God Created Everything Good
God created all things for His own good pleasure, manifesting His own glory for the good of His creation. King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, wrote so beautifully of God’s glory being revealed through His creation in Psalm 19:1-6.
On the last day of creation, before God rested, He declared His creation to be “very good”. The exact details of all that phrase encompasses is far beyond my grasp. However, it surely means that the world in it’s original created order was very different from the world that we find ourselves in today.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.Genesis 1:31 KJV
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.Romans 8:19-22
It is my belief that our world, as it was originally created, was without natural disasters. The original state of creation had no need of rain, but was full of vegetation. Every tree we have now was available in the garden of Eden as we call it, and possibly other trees that we may have forgotten to history. Tree’s of every kind of fruit and vegetable easily grew without the aid of rainfall. Earth was full of animal life. Man and beast dwelt together in perfect harmony with each other. All species of animals existed, and more than we know. All creation was at peace under the rule of a God appointed king and queen. Adam and Eve, in their original righteousness were perfectly suited to care for all that God had given to them for safe keeping.
Man is at once placed in an exalted position. Man is represented as standing at the apex of all the created orders. He is crowned as king of the lower creation, and is given dominion over all the inferior creatures. As such it was his duty and privilege to make all nature and all the created beings that were placed under his rule, subservient to his will and purpose, in order that he and his whole glorious dominion might magnify the almighty Creator and Lord of the universe.Louis Berkhof
Man Corrupted Everything Good
The obvious question to be asked is, “How did we get from there to here”? “How did God’s good world become so corrupted?”. I do think we have all felt the natural frustration of living in this broken world. That common frustration, if it is to be articulated, often says; “This isn’t right!”, or “This isn’t fair!”, or “It isn’t supposed to be this way!”. Have you said something like that? Have you heard something like that? Have you felt something like that? As we grow older and older, we naturally become more and more cynical and often respond with an attitude akin to, “life isn’t fair, kid”. Yet, the ravages of human suffering often turns the cynical heart to feel this cold injustice, and so they declare their longing for peace, and vent their craving for vindication.
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another worldCS Lewis
What went wrong? This tragedy struck in the beginning of the story and has remained, even until this day. When God created all things, and set His image bearers to be rulers above all creation, He also gave Adam a law. Adam, with this law was set into a covenant of works with God.
The problem was not this covenant of works. Certainly not! God’s law is perfect and upright. But, the problem arises in context to this covenant. Eve was deceived by the father of lies, that old serpent we call Satan. That wicked deceiver fooled our mother. But Adam, our father, was not deceived. No, he willfully disobeyed. He chose to rebel. He committed the sin that plunged us all into this corruption that we bemoan. Every one of us, all sons and daughters of Adam are born as sinners. Adam was our representative in the garden. Therefore, when he was displaced for his treason, we too were displaced. The honor of basking in the glory of our maker was lost. We are now all sinners, both by nature and by our own choosing. The breaking of the covenant in the garden is the cause of our damnable state of misery.
Let me briefly mention these covenants. There was the covenant with Adam, the covenant of works: “Obey me, and thou shalt live; disobey me, and thou shalt die.” That covenant God did not break. He did not subject Adam to pain or misery until he had first broken the covenant, and so became the inevitable heir of suffering.Charles Spurgeon
The consequences, declared by God for the sin of Adam, were pervasive. Corruption now spread and infected all of God’s good creation. Adam and Eve would no longer experience perfect harmony. But it was not only the rulers of the realm that experienced loss. Everything under the authority of these Image-bearers rule would no longer experience perfect harmony. The entire created order was corrupted as the direct consequence of Adam’s willful sin. Natural disasters, famine, the difficulty of growing food, the difficulty of child birth pains, the harshness of human depravity. Everything now would fade, erode, and die. Death was the warning given in the covenant, and now it had come. Death is an enemy that does not show mercy or pity. Death is an enemy that can not be reasoned with or fought against. Death is an enemy that has come to rule and will not willingly return this rule to Adam’s race.
Redemption is God’s Good Work
Now, let me pause to make sure we are all understanding the word “Redemption”. Imagine an abused slave that can not free himself is looked upon with pity by a King. Now imagine that good King purchased the freedom of that abused slave through an exorbitant price. Consider this now, does that slave have his freedom? Surely he is free indeed from the abusive master. However, he has been bought with a price. His freedom was gained from the misery of his former master, and to the joy and service to his good king. This picture is now scratching the surface of what we mean by the word “Redemption”.
“Redemption, which in the Scripture is … the delivery of any one from captivity and misery by the intervention, of a price or ransom. That this ransom, or price of our deliverance was the blood of Christ is evident. He calls it … the price of such a redemption, that which was received as a valuable consideration for our dismission”John Owen
Adam’s race is now in a miserable state. All creation groans according the words of Paul in Romans 8:22. There is no hope for mankind outside of a rescue. And so we come to the gospel, or good news. God the Father, Son, and Spirit covenanted before creation to purchase a people through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God condescended to us through a virgin birth. The Eternal Son took upon Himself human nature. Jesus was truly God and truly man, two natures perfectly united in one person without confusion, mixture, division, or separation. This concept is called the “hypostatic union”. The Gospel of Matthew identifies this concept by giving Jesus the title, “Emmanuel”. The necessity of this truth is felt in theology when we think about the atonement, or sacrificial death of Jesus. We must recognize that only a human can represent humans before God. Then, see that the sacrificial atonement on the cross is only valuable enough to cover all sins of all believers if that person is divine. Furthermore, only God can receive the wrath of God and survive. Here is the gospel, Jesus is truly God and truly man.
That covenant of works that Adam, our representative, failed to obey plunged our race into utter destruction. But, the second Adam, Jesus, obeyed that covenant of works as our representative and merited for us a righteousness that is imputed to all His people by grace through faith. This is the gospel. Jesus is our high priest, our mediator with God.
For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.Romans 5:15-18
The redemption story is still not yet finally completed. Jesus truly has paid the price of redemption once and for all. Gods Spirit truly is imputing Christ’s righteousness to all who believe, and conforming them into the image of Christ’s likeness. However, we are still waiting patiently, through tears, for our final glorification. All creation awaits the final judgment when God will make all things new and all of God’s creatures finally rest in the glorious presence of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.Augustine of Hippo
ReCreation Is Incorruptibly Good
Now we approach the end. “Eschatology” is the word used to describe the study of last things. Christians may find themselves disagreeing and debating on the details of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, but all good eschatological opinions agree on the main point. The main point, at least in my estimation, is Jesus Christ is the Creator, Redeemer, and Eternal King of Glory. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. In the end, the earth has more than regained the original glory it had upon its original creation. Now the created world is permanently inhabited by the Creator. He will have made all things forever new, and finally banished the corruption that once ravaged all these things.
The redeemed ones will forever bask in the glorious light of His presence. We will see His face. We will talk with Him. We will touch Him. We will worship Him. We will sing to Him, for Him, and because of Him. Sometimes, young believers want to know, “what else will we do there?”. I truly do not have all the answers, but I do know what we won’t do there. We will never again weep tears of sorrow. We will never again experience the bitter loss of death. We will never again struggle through and against pain. I do also have unanswered questions, but our final state will be beyond what our minds can conceive. The final state will be so much better than our current state; all the sufferings in this life will not even be worth mentioning in comparison to that glorious place. Our God will be with us and we shall be His people forevermore.
I hope you have been helped and you now see this overarching story of the Bible a little bit clearer. Remember, I have only given you a sketch, or a simple rough draft. There is so much more to see. There is so much more to learn. There is so much more to study and to add to this picture causing it to come into clearer and clearer focus.
So then, let me encourage you to never stop searching the scriptures. Never stop looking for Jesus in the pages of your Bible. May you keep this sketch for your use as a student of the Bible. Always seeking to see the whole as you investigate the parts. Always seeking to see the person of Christ above all else; for He is the author of all Biblical content, and the content of all Biblical authors.Tweet