The Bible is comprised of 66 books written by about 40 authors, over a period of 1600 years. It is made up of 2 parts: The Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament.
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The Bible begins with an act of creation. God, eternal and glorious, is unique in his triune nature. He is completely satisfied in himself and shares his joy by creating the universe, bringing time and space into being. He creates man and woman in his image. They live in his presence and act as his representatives on earth. Life is plentiful, relationships are harmonious.
There is only one constraint in this world. Mankind is to trust God’s commandment not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their decision will reveal if man remains loyal to God. An obscure mystery darkens the garden; a created being rebels against his Creator and raises himself up as the enemy of God and man. Seduced, the first couple rebels against God and falls away. They become mortals. They are banished. They run, they hide. God’s image in them is deeply scarred.
This disobedience, the very essence of sin, impacts all creation. Everything changes. Suffering becomes universal.
The story is so familiar: life offers beauty and wonder, but so much of it is tainted with fear, shame and guilt. We, as humans, try to hide our true nature, but nothing can truly heal our distorted hearts, relationships and emotions. We are spiritual orphans with no family name.
The rest of the story is the amazing saga of God’s loving offer of reconciliation to mankind. God promises the coming of a Man who will crush evil and restore us to his family.
God reveals himself to Abraham and makes him a promise, which will benefit all nations. This becomes the axis around which everything else turns. Abraham’s clan, called Israel, is enslaved in Egypt, and God sends Moses to deliver them. Moses also brings the Law, summed up by these two principles: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. But who can love like that? Israel’s calling is embody the joy of living in harmony with God. They fail miserably.
Nonetheless, God’s promise remains and becomes clearer. God sends David, a shepherd who symbolizes the coming Messiah. A succession of rulers, many evil, lead Israel to 70 years of exile. God then sends out prophets who announce the coming of the Messiah King who will first transform the hearts of men before establishing his kingdom. This promised Messiah will be the ultimate healer.
Four hundred years of silence separate the Old and New Testaments. Empires shift. Rome rules over Israel. The promise will soon become a reality.
God the Father sends Jesus, the eternal Word, to become man. He is born of a virgin. The sign is unmistakable – he is unique, he is a gift, he is human. He confronts religious hypocrisy, restores outcasts and accomplishes miracles that prove his power and authority.
For three years, Jesus travels through the land. He chooses 12 men, known as the apostles, to accompany him and they learn from him. They witness his wonders, his teaching and his unconditional love. They witness the glory of God, but struggle to make sense of what is happening.
Jesus is crucified, fully accepting the Father’s eternal decree. This is a masterpiece of righteousness and love. Righteousness, because evil must be condemned. Our evil… that of our independence and selfishness. God pours our transgressions out upon Jesus, who pays for them on the cross. And love, because God’s goodness, his honor and his forgiveness are now available. If I will accept it, God the Father purifies me completely. He adopts me as his child, frees me from fear and cancels my debt. This is the Great Exchange, the perfect rescue.
This is the heart of the Gospel. Everywhere else people try to appease God by good works, rituals and sacrifices. Jesus cries out from the cross, “It is finished”. He dies and is raised from the dead, then ascends back to the Lord. He is, now and forevermore, the God-Man, the Man-God, the perfect bridge between the two.
Jesus lived the perfect life that I should have lived
Jesus experienced the fear, judgment, shame and death that I deserve
(but will never experience)
Jesus rose again to a life that I don’t deserve
(but that I can live eternally)
His life for mine, my life for his!
Jesus is the great defender. He simply demands that I admit my spiritual bankruptcy and trust him fully and exclusively.
Fifty days after his resurrection, the promise is fulfilled. God sends his Spirit upon all who believe in Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the second defender. He applies Jesus’ work to the believers’ lives, walking alongside them, lifting them up when they fall, exhorting, encouraging and making them ready for service… he restores the image of God in them.
The new believers are excited and the message spreads. The apostles testify about the Gospel, proclaiming that a new and changed life is possible through a personal conversion to Jesus. He is the bread of life, the water that quenches thirst. Life begins to make sense through this relationship with God.
Without pressure or violence, only through the testimony of believers, churches are founded in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Corinth, in Ephesus, in Rome… They experience ups and downs and have many questions! In response, the apostles and their colleagues send out 21 letters to instruct the churches and their leaders. These letters deepen the message of the Gospel: God’s loyal love changes lives. The church forms a family, a temple, a body, a spiritual bride meant to live out his love. Each believer can be useful.
Here is the second part of the promise. Jesus will return one day. He will cast away those who reject him. He will establish a universal reign of peace, where the curse will be cancelled and the world freed from corruption. God will wipe every tear; paradise will come again. Eternal redemption will be achieved: God, happily dwelling in the midst of his people, filled with joy. Forever.