You hold in your hands the most remarkable collection of books in the world. That is what the original word Bible means: “the books.” It is a very ancient and diverse collection, written and compiled by many different writers in different cultures, times, and places over roughly 1600 years. But that is not the most remarkable thing about the Bible. The remarkable thing is that all of these books add up to tell one amazing story: the Big Story of the Bible. And although it is a very old story, equally remarkable is the fact that it still speaks to us today.
It is the story of God and His relationship with creatures He made to be like Him, what went wrong, and what God did– what He is doing– to make everything right again. We are those creatures– you are one of those creatures– and the Big Story of the Bible is your story, too.
The Bible begins with the story of creation– how God created the heavens and the earth, and human beings as the masterpiece of creation (Genesis 1:1-31). God created humans in His image– able to think, reason, create, and have their own identities– to build a relationship with them (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:1-23). Everything God created was very good (Genesis 1:31).
Unfortunately, things went wrong soon after– the first man and woman did what God told them not to do, and pain, suffering, and death entered God’s creation as a result (Genesis 3). The relationship between man and God changed, for humans thought, felt, and acted in ways that were not good and that did not honor God (Romans 3:20-23). These bad thoughts, attitudes, and actions, called sin, separate people from their God, the Source of all life and all that is good (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Humans find themselves in a bad condition. All of the good they do cannot make up for the evil they have done, for once they break God’s law, they stand judged as lawbreakers, and there is nothing they can do about it (Romans 3:20). We will all pay the penalty of physical death because death is in the world (Romans 5:12-14); those who remain separated from God because of their bad deeds suffer spiritual death, separation from the Creator God, which is described as eternal suffering and condemnation (Romans 6:23). All who have done bad things face this terrible fate, because they leave a just God with no alternative– they choose to do without God, God grants them their choice.
But God loved humans and His creation even though they did not love Him, or even know Him, as they should. He wasn’t– and isn’t– ready to give up on humankind (2 Peter 3:9). He first chose one man, Abraham, through whom He would bless all people (Genesis 12-24). Through that man and his children came the people of Israel, through which He wished to bless all people, as He promised to do through the One the nation of Israel came to expect as the Messiah (Exodus-Malachi). Finally, in order to fully rescue humans from the just and certain penalty of their bad deeds, He sent His Son, God in the flesh, to earth, as Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of Abraham and a man of Israel (Matthew 1, John 1).
Jesus of Nazareth
In a brief period of about 3 years, Jesus of Nazareth taught people about God through how he lived and spoke. He taught others about how to love one another and to do good for other people. As the ultimate demonstration of love, He suffered execution at the hands of the authorities even though He did nothing wrong. Since he did not do anything bad in life, His death could pay the price for those who had done bad things (Matthew 22:37-38, Romans 5:6-11). Since he suffered terrible evils without doing evil in return, he was able to overcome evil!
Jesus overcame evil fully on the third day after his execution when was raised from the dead by God (1 Corinthians 15). By this, God demonstrated that Jesus was the expected Messiah, the One God had promised to send, through whom He could now bless all people. God then gave Jesus power over heaven and earth, and He now rules as King (Matthew 28:18). God also promised that Jesus would return to judge every person according to what they did in life– those who do what God said to do would live, but those who did not do what God said to do would suffer pain eternally, being finally separated from Him, the Source of life and all that is good, forever (Acts 17:30-31, Romans 2:5-11).
This is the message that the first followers of Jesus spoke: Jesus died so that things could be made right again between God and man, and God made this Jesus King. Jesus’ death and resurrection show that God has power over sin and death, and that we can defeat sin and death and be restored to God’s image through Jesus. God now calls everyone everywhere to change their ways and follow His Son Jesus so that they can overcome sin and death through Him, live eternally, and be– finally– everything that God intended us to be when He made us. Those who do not change their ways and follow Jesus will be judged as rebellious and disobedient and will suffer God’s condemnation (Acts 2, 10; Romans 8:1-10, 1 Corinthians 15).
When people first heard this message in the first century, many not only accepted it and understood that Jesus is King, but also trusted in Him and sought to do what He wanted them to do (Acts 2:37, Romans 1:5). They declared that Jesus was the Christ, which means Messiah and King, and that He was the Son of God (Acts 8:37). They began to change the way they thought and acted, trying to be more like Jesus and less like the world around them (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:29, 12:2). They were then immersed in water for the forgiveness of their sins, to join Jesus in His death to end their lives in sin and to begin their new lives following after God (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7). After that, they were known as disciples, or followers, of Jesus, and came together often to learn about God and to strengthen one another as fellow followers of Jesus (Acts 2:42, 11:26). They kept on following Jesus and doing what He wanted them to do until they died, never letting go of the hope of rescue from sin and death within them (Matthew 10:22, Romans 8:1-10).
The Hope: What This Story Means for You
We believe that we can share in the same rescue, joy, peace, and hope in which those first disciples enjoyed and cherished so long ago if we would do just as they did. While the writing of the Bible has been finished for over 1900 years, God’s Big Story continues, you have your chance today to be a part of that story, follow after God, and to make sure that you are right with Him. The story has an end: the day is coming when God will make everything right, at once and forever (Revelation 21-22). Meanwhile, God has already done what is necessary for you to be rescued from sin and death. You have only to trust and follow after Him to share in Jesus’ victory, and take your place– as God truly means for you to do– in His Big Story.