I’ll be the first to admit that the Bible is a difficult book. One of the reasons it’s difficult is that it’s not really even one book, but rather a collection of books. (That’s what “bible” actually means: a collection of books.) Over and over again people will say to me, “I’d like to read the Bible, but I just don’t understand it.” I hope the following simple framework helps you get a little more clarity and understanding.
All of History in 3 Acts
The Bible tells the story of the great drama of History in 3 acts, with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end.
Subject: Beginnings. Adam to Abraham. The Prologue tells us why the world is the way it is. After a beautiful beginning (“And there was light….”) the story quickly becomes a story of blood and betrayal: Cain kills Abel, and we’ve been killing our brothers ever since.
Scripture: Genesis 1-11
Subject: Israel. The Lord’s plan to save all of humanity begins with one man–Abraham–and it culminates in one of Abraham’s descendant’s: Jesus of Nazareth. Act 1 is about God’s chosen people Israel, and Israel’s slavery, exodus, kingdom, exile, and return.
Scripture: Genesis 12-Malachi
Subject: Jesus. Act 2 is all about Jesus, from his birth to his death to his Resurrection.
Scripture: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Subject: The Church. Act 3 is about how the church is God’s means to redeem the world. It begins with a small group of disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday and it’s still going, right up to and including the present. We are living in Act 3.
Scripture: Acts-Revelation 20
Subject: Forever and Ever Amen. The Epilogue is about History’s culmination, when Jesus returns and all the bad things come untrue and evil is finally ended.
Scripture: Revelation 21-22
I realize that the above doesn’t answer most of our good questions about the difficult parts of scripture, but it does give us a framework within which we can at least get our bearings when reading scripture. Keep reading–it’s worth it.
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