If you were to ask most people if they had heard of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Ten Commandments, and Jesus and His disciples, almost everyone would say yes. If you were to ask them to put them in chronological order, however, many could not. So is it surprising that for many people, the Bible is seen as a big, dusty, collection of old stories? For some, those stories are nothing more than fairy tales. For others, they are about real events and real people, but their importance is merely to give us some good tips on how to live today (“What’s the moral of the story?” they ask). Still for others, these stories contain the very words of God, but how, or if, they are connected is left unexplained.
The fact of the matter is that all of those biblical stories are part of a larger story. If you ask most people to start from the beginning and tell it to you, they will get about as far as Adam. We want you, though, to be able to start at the Creation and tell the story all the way through to the Consummation; from Adam to the Great White Throne Judgment; from Eden to the New Jerusalem; in short, from beginning to end. What follows, then, is that story, in condensed form.
There was nothing but God. He had existed from all of eternity in a timeless state, having no beginning and no end. Until that moment of creation, absolutely nothing else existed. There was no time, no matter, no energy, and no space. Then, He brought “The Beginning” into existence by creating the heavens and the earth. In seven days, there went from being nothing to being everything; first light, then the sky, then vegetation, then the sun, moon, and stars, then birds and fish, and finally animals and man. God looked over all that He had made and blessed it and called it “good.”
The last of His creation, mankind, was made to be ruler over the earth in which he lived and everything in it. This man was made in God’s own image, and thus God established a special relationship with him. He placed the man in a paradise and blessed him. He named him Adam and gave him dominion over everything. He also gave the man a choice: he could live in peace in paradise forever, or he could turn away from God and try to rule on his own.
Sadly, Adam chose to rebel. The perfect relationship he had once had with God was broken, as was his relationship with the rest of nature, including his own wife. Yet rather than starting over with a new creation, God decided to save it. He promised Adam and his wife that one of their children would someday restore the relationship between them and God, but until that time came, they and all creation would suffer under a curse, especially a curse of death.
Eventually Adam and Eve did die, along with their children, Cain and Abel. Abel was the first to die when his brother murdered him. Cain was banished, and Adam had another son named Seth in the place of Abel. Cain’s family, like himself, was evil. For generations, Seth’s family walked before God, but generations later, the day finally came when even Seth’s family had forgotten God. The entire world became corrupt and was filled with death, violence, and murder.
Man had proven that he could not govern himself. Therefore, God flooded the world, killing all the men and animals on it except for one man, his family, and two of each kind of animal. The man’s name was Noah. He alone had remembered God, and therefore God spared him. After the Flood, God blessed Noah as He had blessed Adam centuries before. It was a fresh start for mankind. To prevent the world from falling into chaos again, God instituted governments among men so that evil men could be restrained.
Almost immediately, though, man took this blessing and used it against God. They built a city and tower and declared that they would not obey God. In response, God came to their city and confused their languages so they could no longer communicate with one another as they had before. Men were forced to separate and go their own ways, just as God had originally commanded. As they left, they formed people groups around common languages, and those people groups eventually became cities and nations. The world was now far from what it had been when it was first created. Everywhere there once was unity, there now was division.
God had not forgotten His promise to Adam, however. Eventually, He chose a man named Abram. Amazingly, Abram did not worship God. Like the rest of the world, he worshipped his own gods. Yet God took him and promised to make a nation out of his family. He took him from his home land and brought him to a land called Canaan and promised to give it to him and his descendents forever. He swore this to Abram by an unconditional oath and changed Abram’s name to Abraham. The problem was that Abraham had no children. Further, both he and his wife Sarah were very old. Yet God did as He promised. He gave them a son named Isaac, and when Isaac became a man, God made the same promise to him that He had made with Abraham. And even though Isaac’s wife Rebekah could have no children, God intervened and gave them twins, Jacob and Esau.
Although the custom was for the oldest child to receive everything of his father’s, God promised Jacob rather than Esau that He would build through him the nation promised to his grandfather Abraham. Jacob, however, had not yet learned to trust God as had his father and grandfather, and so he tricked his father Isaac into giving him his blessing. This enraged Esau, and Jacob was forced to run to his uncle Laban for protection. He worked there for fourteen years in exchange for Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah, to be his wives. By his two wives and their servants, Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, had twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph, being the oldest son of Rachel, whom Jacob loved more than Leah, was his favorite son. For that, his ten older brothers hated him. To make matters worse, Joseph dreamed that one day his entire family would bow before him, which only made them angrier. Eventually, Joseph’s brothers took him and sold him to a traveling caravan. He was taken to Egypt, and the brothers told Jacob that he had been killed by wild animals.
In Egypt, Joseph was sold to a man named Potipher. God was with him, and he was quickly promoted. Potipher’s wife attempted to seduce him, but when Joseph refused her advances, she told the guards that Joseph had tried to rape her, so they threw him into prison. Again, God blessed him and he was promoted even among his fellow prisoners. While in prison, he met two men from the Pharaoh’s palace. Both had dreams they did not understand, which they told to Joseph. Joseph explained to the one that he would be restored as the king’s cupbearer and to the other that he would be executed. Both dreams happened just as Joseph predicted. When the Pharaoh had a dream he could not understand, the cupbearer recommended Joseph to him. Again, Joseph was able to interpret the dream. There would be seven years of good crops followed by seven years of a worldwide famine.
The Pharaoh was so pleased with Joseph that he promoted him to second in command over all of Egypt. Throughout the seven years, Joseph took a portion of all the grain grown and saved it for the coming famine. When the famine did come, all of the world’s nations were forced to go to Egypt to buy food.
In Canaan, Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt, so he sent his sons there to buy food. They appeared before Joseph, although they did not recognize him. When he finally revealed his identity, he sent them home and told them to bring back Jacob and all of their families. All in all, seventy people migrated from Canaan to Egypt and they stayed there under Joseph’s care.
As the years past, Jacob’s family of seventy multiplied and became thousands upon thousands. They became so great a force that the new Pharaoh feared they would try to overthrow him, so he had them enslaved and commanded that every male child born to Hebrew women be killed. One child, Moses, survived and was adopted by Pharaoh’s own daughter and raised as one of her own. Although he was raised as an Egyptian, he still deeply loved his own people. One day, he killed an Egyptian taskmaster for beating a Hebrew slave. He was found out and was forced to flee into the wilderness where he lived as a shepherd for forty years.
After those forty years, Moses was in the desert when he saw a burning bush. Amazingly, the fire seemed to have no effect on it. When Moses approached it, God spoke to him from the bush. He told him that He would use Moses to save Israel from their slavery. He sent Moses back to the Pharaoh multiple times, each time demanding he let the people of Israel go. Each time, the Pharaoh refused, and God responded by sending a plague, ten in all, until finally God destroyed the firstborn son of every house in Egypt. After this final plague, Pharaoh relented and let Israel leave.
Moses took them to Mount Sinai where they would meet the God who delivered them. Along the way, Pharaoh changed his mind and gathered an army to recapture the people. Soon, Israel was caught between the army of Egypt on one side and a sea on the other. God delivered them by parting the sea so they could cross on dry land. When the Pharaoh’s army pursued them, God let the water go back to its place, washing them away.
At Sinai, the people and God made a promise to one another. Moses would take them back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God gave them the Law, and if they obeyed it, He promised to always protect them like he had with the Egyptians. They would live in the land in peace. If they disobeyed it, then He would punish them and drive them from the land, yet such a punishment would not be permanent, for eventually, He would call their descendants back.
The people agreed and went to the Promised Land—Canaan. They sent spies to survey the lands. When they returned, they reported that the land was just as amazing as God had promised, but they also argued that they could never take it, for the Canaanites who lived there were very strong. Rather than trust God, they rebelled. In response, God took them back into the desert for forty years, where every Israelite of that generation died, including Moses. Joshua, one of the spies who had argued that they could take the land since God was with them, was to lead them into the land this time. He did, and they conquered it, just as God promised.
Unfortunately, they did not completely destroy the Canaanites as God demanded. Over the next several generations, as the Israelites settled into their new land, the remaining Canaanites constantly harassed them. They drew Israel away into the worship of local gods, for which God punished them as He warned. When they turned back to him, He would give them a deliverer. This cycle continued—idolatry, punishment, repentance, deliverance—until the people demanded a king. Until that time, they had been ruled by local judges. When the people made this request, God told Samuel, the last judge, to anoint Saul king over Israel. He was an impressive man by any standards, and his reign began very well. For a while, he ruled as God would have had him to.
Saul, however, was a proud man. In time, he began to rule his own way rather than as God would have him, so God sent Samuel to anoint David the new king of Israel. Unlike Saul, David was not an impressive sight. He was the youngest of several brothers, a small boy, and a shepherd. He did not become king immediately, but became one of Saul’s musicians. In time, the Israelites went to war with a group of people called the Philistines. Rather than have the two armies fight one another, their champion, Goliath, challenged Saul. He would fight Israel’s best man. If he won, Israel would become Philistine’s slaves; if he lost, they would become Israel’s. But no one would fight Goliath, because he was so large. When David heard Goliath mocking Israel and Israel’s God, he became angry and went out to fight Goliath himself. Carrying only a sling and a few stones, he killed Goliath and became Israel’s hero. Saul put him over Israel’s army, and in time, David’s power grew.
When it became apparent to Saul that David was a threat, he tried to have him killed. Repeatedly, God protected David until Saul’s death, after which David took the throne. He continued to demonstrate his military prowess and expanded Israel’s kingdom, capturing Jerusalem and making it his capital. Although he was a man after God’s own heart, he was far from perfect. He slept with one of his soldier’s wife, and when she became pregnant, he had the man killed and took her for himself. The child died, but their next child was named Solomon, and God chose him to be the next king of Israel. David’s family life never knew peace, and David had to defend his throne against his own children. Toward the end of his reign, He decided to build a Temple to God, but God forbid him to do so since David had been responsible for so much bloodshed. Instead, Solomon would build the temple. God did, however, promise to make David’s throne permanent and that his family would always rule over Israel.
After David died, Solomon became king and built the Temple as David desired and God commanded. Israel reached its height of glory under his reign. Unlike David, Solomon expanded the kingdom by his political skills rather than by war. Early in his life, Solomon had asked God for the wisdom to rule Israel as God desired, a request which God granted. Unfortunately, Solomon’s personal dedication to God was not as firm as was his father’s, and he began worshipping idols as part of his political program. God responded by promising to take the kingdom away, not from Solomon directly, but from his son Rehoboam.
When Rehoboam became king, the people of Israel asked him to reduce the tax burden Solomon had laid on them. He refused and, in an attempt to show his strength, increased the burden, which caused the people to rebel, just as God had promised. The ten northern tribes split from the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin and became their own kingdom under the rule of Jeroboam. The northern kingdom retained the name Israel. The southern kingdom became known as Judah.
Jeroboam immediately led the people into idolatry rather than letting them worship at the Temple Solomon had built in Jerusalem. His reign was the first of a long line of evil kings. God repeatedly sent prophets to Israel to urge her to repent, but she refused. Eventually, God allowed Assyria to destroy the northern kingdom in 722 BC.
The southern kingdom of Judah did better. They had a mix of both good and bad kings, but they never came near achieving the glory of Solomon again. By the sixth century, even the southern kingdom was fully committed to idolatry, and even those who worshipped God did so in name only. Just like He had with Israel, God sent prophets to Judah time and again, but they refused to listen. Jeremiah came and predicted that they would fall to Babylon, and in 586 BC Jerusalem, Judah’s capital, fell and the people went into exile for seventy years.
At the end of the seventy years, Cyrus of Persia decreed that the people could return to their land. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people returned to find Jerusalem and the temple in ruins. At the urging of the prophets, they rebuilt the city and Temple, though it was not anywhere near its former glory.
The next four hundred years appeared to be a period of silence from God. He sent no prophets, and the Israelites lived under the Persian, Greek, and finally Roman empires. History was actually fulfilling Daniel’s prophecies, which he wrote under Babylonian and Persian rule. By the first century, the people of Israel had not been free for over five hundred years. They were ready for their Messiah.
God finally broke the “silence” in the ministry of John the Baptist. He called the people to repentance so that God could raise for them a deliverer as He had done so many times in their past. When people asked if he was the Messiah, he told them no, but that he was preparing His way. The religious rulers of Israel opposed his message, because he challenged their authority and self-righteousness. In response to their forefather’s idolatry, they had developed a very rigid religious system of oral laws around Moses’ written Law. They believed that by keeping the Law, they could please God, an idea which John challenged.
It was into this environment that Jesus, a direct descendant of David, came to be baptized by John. He was thirty years old at the time, and that baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry. He called twelve disciples to Himself and taught the people publically for three years. During that time, He claimed that God was His own Father, that He was equal to God, that He could forgive sins, that He was worthy of worship, and that the only way to salvation was not by keeping the Law, but by believing in Him. He also did many miracles such as healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead.
To silence Him, the religious leaders paid Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, to betray Him. They took Him before Pilate, the prefect of the Roman province of Judea, and charged Him with treason. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, which, according to the promise God made David, would mean that He was the rightful king of Israel. They asked that He be crucified. Pilate tried to dissuade them, but seeing he could not and fearing a revolt, he agreed.
Upon Jesus’ crucifixion, all of His disciples ran in fear. For three days they hid until they heard the news from the women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb that He had been raised from the dead. Jesus then appeared to the remaining eleven disciples multiple times to prove that He had been resurrected. Then He ascended into heaven and commissioned them to go into the entire world and make other disciples.
A few weeks later, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and all those that were with them while they were staying in Jerusalem. They immediately went into the streets and began to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection and that He was, in fact, the Messiah promised from centuries past. Jewish people converted by the thousands, and the Christian Church was born. Even Gentiles (non-Jewish people) put their faith in Jesus and became a part of His Church. Through this, God began calling people outside of Israel to join themselves to the promise of Israel’s salvation, which has continued to this day.
The religious leadership of Israel tried to quell the movement. They stoned Stephen, one of the Church’s first deacons. Saul, one of the most dedicated Jews in Israel, was present at the stoning and committed himself to destroying the Church. On his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians he found there, Jesus appeared to him and, amazingly, called him into His service as an apostle. Overnight, Saul, also known as Paul, became the greatest evangelist Christianity has ever known. He went on to write half of the New Testament, with the other apostles or their close associates writing the remaining half.
Jesus promised the disciples when He went to heaven that He would return for His Church and establish Himself as the rightful king of Israel. Christians today, both Jewish and non-Jewish, still wait for that return. The book of Revelation, along with several extended passages from other books, including Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Matthew, describe in detail what will happen in the last days. Those prophecies promise that God will again turn His attention to His people Israel, and that following a period of intense persecution, they will return to their King Jesus, and He will deliver them. At that time, He will establish a kingdom to last one thousand years, which will be a time of peace and prosperity not seen since Eden. At the end of those thousand years, mankind will rebel against God for the last time. God will then bring human history to a close. At the Great White Throne Judgment, all of those throughout history who rebelled against Him will be condemned forever, and those who believed in Him will be saved. God will make a New Heaven and New Earth, where He and His children will live forever. Thus, just as God promised Adam in the garden so many years ago, evil will finally be defeated, and God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, will reign in peace forever.