Monday, October 02, 2006

The Bible Has 6 Chapters

My graduate degree training came from Kendell H. Easley. Yes, I went to seminary, but pretty much I went to Dr. Easley. As much as it was possible to fit into my schedule during my four years of graduate study, I took every course he taught - regardless of how it aligned with my degree track (At one point, Dr. Easley being my only professor for six consecutive courses!?).

In his helpful, easily readable, and inexpensive Guide to Understanding the Bible, Easley gives the following eight-part (6 chapter) outline of the Bible. He explains:
Think of the biblical narrative as something like a modern novel. There is a prologue, giving the background information that helps make sense of the plot. Then there is the plot development in a number of chapters. In the biblical narrative, the story develops in six chapters that take the account from beginning to culmination. Then finally at the end is an epilogue, telling what happens after the main story has ended.
As you think of the Bible in this way, it is also helpful to keep in mind the one sentence summary of the Bible that Easley puts forth:

The Lord God through his Christ is graciously building a kingdom of redeemed people for their joy and for his own glory.

The Bible's eight parts and six chapters:

Prologue: The Need for Redemption
(Genesis 1:11)

It all beings by explaining why the story must be told. God is building a kingdom of redeemed people because human beings are rebels who cannot save themselves. Other religions begin by assuming that people can do enough good works or perform enough religious deeds to earn a place in heaven. The Bible starts by telling the opposite story. Genesis 1-11 belongs to real human history, but the events are almost impossible to date. The main thing about the prologue is that it describes events involving the entire human race and shows that mankind has rebelled against God since the beginning.
Chapter 1: God Builds His Nation
(Genesis 12 - 1 Kings 11)

Israel Chosen as the People of Promise, c. 2000-931 B.C.
The first chapter in God's plan to build an everlasting kingdom was to build an earthly nation in a particular time and place. This chapter carries the plot from the first family he called to his covenant (Abraham and Sarah) to the full splendor of the Israelite nation at its grandest expression (under David and Solomon).
Chapter 2: God Educates His Nation
(I Kings 12- 2 Kings 25; Some Prophets)

Disobedient Israel Disciplined, c. 931-586 B.C.
The second chapter in God's plan was to educate Israel about the consequences of sin. The Israelites compromised by worshipping other gods during the entire time they were in the land. God raised up spokesmen the prophets to urge people to repent of idolatry and injustice, to warn of the coming "day of the LORD" in judgment. They also predicted the coming of the Messiah. Their message was largely ignored. This chapter carries the plot from the division of the nations (because of sin) to its destruction (because of sin).
Chapter 3: God Keeps A Faithful Remnant
(Ezra through Esther; Some Prophets)

Messiah's Space and Time Prepared, c. 586 - 6 B.C.
Chapter three in God's story is the "quiet chapter." Outwardly, it appeared that God was doing nothing for more than five centuries. For those who read the story carefully, however, he was doing two important things. On the one hand, God was keeping the Jews together as a nation. They had their own land, laws, and temple, even though the kingship and national independence had disappeared. God was preparing to send his Son "in the fullness of time." On the other hand, God scattered most Jews throughout the nations to be testimones to his name. By building synagogues to preserve their religious and ethnic identity, these Jews were often the starting point for proclaiming the message that the promised Messiah had come. This chapter carries the plot fro the Babylonian captivity until the birth of the Messiah.
Chapter 4: God Purchases Redemption and Begins the Kingdom
(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

Jesus the Messiah, 6 B.C - A.D. 30
The fourth chapter in God's plan to build an everlasting kingdom of redeemed people is the most important one of all - the four Gospels. It shows how God's unconditional covenant promises - first to Abraham, then to David - were fulfilled by the new covenant of Jesus. Thsi chapter carries the plot from the birth of the Messiah to his resurrection and exaltation.
Chapter 5: God Spreads The Kingdom Through The Church
(Acts and the Epistles)

The Current Age, A.D. 30 - ?
With chapter five in God's story, we come to our own part of the story. We belong here. This is the period of the Great Commission, when God's plan no longer focuses on persons of one ethnic group in one place (Israel). He is now redeeming persons out of every ethnic group in every place. Wherever and whenever God's people are, they meet as churches, worshipping communities of the new covenant. From Pentecost until the end-time scenario unfolds, God is about the business of spreading the message of the kingdom through the church.
Chapter 6: God Consummates Redemption and Confirms His Eternal Kingdom (Revelation 1-20; Other Scriptures)
In chapter six God's plan to build an everlasting kingdom of redeemed people through his Christ for their joy and for his own glory is fully realized. Although students often disagree in interpreting the details of this chapter, the main points are clear. There will be violent hostility against God's people in the end times. Yet God will prevail through the personal, bodily, glorious return of Jesus. When he returns, the world's kingdoms will become the kingdom of Christ forever under his visible rule. This chapter carries the plot from the opening of "the day of the LORD" to the final judgment.
Epilogue: New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21-22)
The kingdom of God will last forever. God's people will be filled with everlasting joy. God's glory will be magnified as his redeemed people fully enjoy him forever, without any taint of evil. This is visualized in the last two chapters of Revelation that describe a new heaven and new earth. The people of God are compared to a great and glorious city, as well as to a wonderful bride. God's servants will reign with him forever and ever, and they will serve him gladly, fully beholding his face. The epilogue to God's story shows a brief glimpse of the glory that will be. The end of the story in time is only the beginning of the story in eternity, for the Lord God through his Christ has graciously built a kingdom of redeemed people for their joy and for his own glory.
Ken, I thank God for you, and I love the vision of the God of the Bible you possess. Because of your influence on my life I have a greater love for the God of the Bible Who possesses you. Thank you for keeping the cookies on the bottom shelf!

This eight part Bible overview is taken in its entirety from pp 5-7 of Guide to Understanding the Bible.

1 comment:

am said...

I failed to get the degree (from Easley), but oh, the education, the insight, the counsel, the benefits of sitting in his classroom, and office, and over the lunch table.