This is the introduction to my upcoming book, Study Notes on Books of the Bible.
In becoming students of the Bible, we must begin by gaining an overview of the entire Bible because it will greatly help us in studying its details. Sometimes we cannot see the forest because of the trees. Before we begin our overview of all sixty-six books of the Bible, let us first seek to answer the question, “What is the Bible all about?”
The Bible is not all about you! Yet, to listen to the average sermon today one would think that it was. Of course, it reveals that God loved the world and provided salvation for all who will trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4), and the word of God will certainly work effectually in those who believe it (1 Thess. 2:13). However, while all the Bible is for our learning (Rom. 15:4), it was not all written directly to us or about us.
To get the big picture of the Bible in mind, compare how it opens and closes.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Rev. 21:1)
Why does there need to be a new heaven and earth? God is an eternal King (1 Tim. 1:17) over an eternal Kingdom. He created angels and mankind with a free will. There has been a rebellion against God in both heaven and earth. The major theme of the Bible is the King and His kingdom. The Bible is first and foremost about the glory of God and His plan to reconcile all things in heaven (the mystery) and earth (prophecy) to Himself through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Col. 1:15-20)
Before the foundation of the world, the anointed cherub named Lucifer lifted up his heart in pride and became a fallen creature (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:11-19; Lk. 10:18). Satan revealed his great ambition when he declared “I will be like the most High.” Based upon the first mention of it in the Bible, “most high God” is a title associated with the fact that the Lord is the possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:18-19). Satan deceived a multitude of the angels into rebelling with him against God which brought about a cataclysmic judgment (Gen. 1:2) and the creation of the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41).
In response to Satan’s challenge, God reconstructed the earth, created man, and gave him dominion over it (Ps. 8). The six days in the first chapter of Genesis were literal days that took place about 6,000 years ago. God made three heavens (cf. Gen. 1:1; 2:1) for the purpose of separation. Satan and his angels have a “place” in the second heaven (Job. 15:15; Eph. 2:2; 6:12; Rev. 12:8).
Satan approached and deceived Eve and then used her to tempt Adam which led to the fall of man (Gen. 3). Satan usurped Adam’s dominion and became the prince (politics) and god (religion) of this world (Jn. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4). God spoke the first prophecy to Satan about the coming Redeemer (Gen. 3:15) which announced the great conflict of the ages. He will be the “seed of the woman” which implies the virgin birth (Gal. 4:4). The scope of prophecy concerning the Messiah becomes more and more narrow as God reveals more through His prophets. Ultimately, it was revealed that He would be born of a virgin from the house of David (Isa. 7:13-14) in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Throughout the OT we find Satan seeking to prevent the promised seed from coming into the world.
The first eleven chapters of the Bible record what God wants us to know about the first 2,000 years of human history and covers four main events: creation, the fall, the flood, and the tower of Babel. Satan raised up a king to set up a one-world religion and kingdom on the earth (Gen. 11). God judged Babel and gave up on the idolatrous Gentile world (Rom. 1:18-32).
God chose a man, Abram, and promised to make of him a great nation, to give him and his seed a great land, and to make him a blessing to all nations of the earth (Gen. 12). This was the beginning of God’s plan to create a nation through which He would bring forth the Messiah and set up His kingdom on the earth.
God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17) and separated out His people from the Gentiles. God miraculously provided Abraham a son, Isaac, who begat Jacob, who begat twelve sons from whence came the twelve tribes of Israel. When God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, they became a nation under the old covenant. He also made an everlasting covenant with David concerning his kingdom and throne (2 Sam. 7). Israel is the covenant people of God (Rom. 9:4-5). Throughout the Old Testament (OT) the Gentiles are only dealt with in relation to Israel.
The OT prophets PROPHESIED of the coming King and His kingdom being. Israel rejected God as their king (1 Sam. 8) and persecuted the prophets that He sent unto them.
The Gospels record the earthly ministry of Christ during which the kingdom was PROCLAIMED to Israel (Matt. 4:17, 23; 10:5-8). Christ came unto His own (Matt. 15:24; Rom. 15:8), but His own received Him not (Jn. 1:11). There was a “little flock” that believed He was the Christ, the Son of God (Lk. 12:32). As a nation, Israel REJECTED and crucified her Messiah. However, Christ made intercession for them on the cross (Lk. 23:34).
After Christ rose from the dead, He instructed His apostles concerning the kingdom before He ascended before them back to heaven (Acts 1:1-12). Peter led in replacing Judas with Matthias and then Christ poured out the Holy Ghost on them for power on the Day of Pentecost. Israel had the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 12:39-40) and the witness of the Holy Ghost through the apostles. The kingdom was RE-OFFERED to Israel in the early chapters of Acts (Acts 3:19-21).
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)
Israel must be purged through a fiery trial (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12) to bring the nation to repentance at the second coming of Christ. There is a seven-year tribulation period leading up to the return of Christ that is the subject of much prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27).
Jesus Christ will ESTABLISH His kingdom when He returns to save Israel under the new covenant (Heb. 8:8-13). He will reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6). Israel will be a kingdom of priests through which the Gentile nations will worship the King (Ex. 19:6; Rev. 5:10).
At the end of His earthly ministry Christ prepared His apostles for the impending tribulation period (Matt. 24). He commissioned them to preach the gospel of the kingdom in all the world and then the end would come (Matt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15-18). The apostles never went to the world and two thousand years later the end still has not come. What happened? There was 490 years determined upon Israel from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the kingdom would be set up (Dan. 9:24-27). The first 483 years were fulfilled at the time of the cross, but the last seven years has yet to be fulfilled. Why are there still seven years left?
The kingdom was POSTPONED because Israel fell in Acts 7 at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54-58) and God began to set them aside through a transition that culminated in Acts 28 just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Everything was ripe and ready for God to pour out His wrath. Israel had rejected the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32).
Instead of pouring out wrath, God poured out exceeding abundant grace by saving the leader in the rebellion against Him, Saul of Tarsus, in a sudden glorious appearing (Acts 9) and making him the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) with a new message called the gospel of the grace of God. Christ revealed the mystery of the Body of Christ and the corresponding mysteries for this present age through Paul (Eph. 3:1-13). The apostle Paul is the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for Body of Christ in this present age (1 Tim. 1:12-16). God is building one new spiritual man that is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:13-18). The church which is the Body of Christ is God’s eternal purpose in Christ that He planned before the world began (Eph. 3:11). We are His heavenly people (Eph. 2:6; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4) through which He will reconcile the government of heaven back to Himself (Col. 1:16, 20). Satan thought he was defeating God’s purpose for the earth when he had Christ crucified, but by the cross Christ made it possible to reconcile both things in earth and heaven (1 Cor. 2:7-8).
When this present age ends with the mystery of the rapture of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:51), which will be a sudden glorious appearing (Titus 2:13), God will resume and fulfill prophecy concerning Israel and the nations.
In order to understand the Bible, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The main division is between prophecy concerning Israel (Acts 3:21) and the mystery of the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:25).