Berean Bible Study Notes
Overview of the Bible
This is far from perfect - even far from adequate - but here is my overview of the whole Bible, in the hopes that it will help you begin to paint that Big Picture. Remember that this is the way I see it, and others would do it differently.
Overview of the Bible
The Bible is God's love letter to us. He took 40 different men and filled them with His Spirit, that they might write His very words. Every single detail is there for a reason. What we call the "Old Testament" was formally gathered together by Ezra the priest, at the end of the Babylonian captivity. (It had been written much earlier, but Ezra gathered it all together). You can read his story in the book by that name. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew (with a little Aramaic) and translated into Greek as a whole (the Septuagint) at least two centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. (That means it was completely codified by that time.) The Old Testament was written over a period of hundreds of years. The New Testament very quickly came together as the writings and letters of the apostles were copied and shared among the early churches. Most of it was completed before the fall of the temple in 70 A.D. John's writings were a little later, but even they were completed and being circulated by 100 A.D. If you'd like to review how the Bible in your hands came to be and why you can trust it, please go back and read some of the early Bible studies from Learning to Be Bereans.
The Old Testament is the story of a nation, Israel, but woven through it, shining out of it on every page, is the picture of Messiah. Jesus said that the volume of the book was of Him. The New Testament tells us outright what the Old Testament pictured - Messiah has come, to save His people from their sins, and He will come again.
The Old Testament
Our Bibles start with the five books written by Moses, called the Torah, or the "Books of the Law." When Jesus talks about the "Law," He usually means the Torah. Don't confuse that with the Talmud, which are basically Jewish commentaries on the Scriptures. Genesis is the book of beginnings. That's what the name means. Exodus describes the birth of the nation Israel and Leviticus gives us the laws for that nation. Numbers is about the wanderings in the wilderness and Deuteronomy is a second telling of the law, with some added attractions.
After the Torah come the twelve historical books. Joshua tells of entering the promised land. Judges tells of the period of time when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." The book of Ruth takes place during the time of Judges, but there is a lot hidden in that little book.
1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles tell of the days of the kingdom, ending with exile. Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther complete the historical books and take place after the Babylonian captivity.
Next come the five books of poetry. Job gives us a unique look behind the scenes. Psalms was Israel's hymnal and is filled with everything life deals with, from birth to death. Most of the Psalms are prophetic. Proverbs is the book of wisdom, and were primarily written by Solomon, King David's son, the man given wisdom by God. Eccesiastes and the Song of Songs were also written by Solomon.
The five major prophets come next: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. They're called "major" because of their length, not because they're more important than the shorter books. They're followed by the twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The last three came after the return from Babylon.
Then comes 400 years without hearing new words from God.
The New Testament
The New Testament starts with the four eye-witness accounts of Jesus' time on earth. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, the long-awaited Lion of the tribe of Judah. Mark shows Him as the suffering servant, doing His Father's will. Luke's Gospel presents Jesus as the Son of Man and John as the Son of God. They are followed by Luke's second book, Acts, which tells of the early years of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts also tells of how Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul through a direct experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul becomes the primary evangelist and teacher of the Gentiles.
Next come thirteen books, which are actually letters, definitely written by Paul. Romans has been called the "Gospel According to Paul" and explains what it means to be justified, which you remember means "just as if" you had never sinned. 1st and 2nd Corinthians were written to help direct church life. Galatians tells us how to live by faith. Ephesians helps us understand the church in eternity. Philippians shows us how to find joy in suffering. Colossians explains what it means for Jesus to be head of all things. 1st and 2nd Thessalonians tell us about end times. 1st, 2nd Timothy and Titus explain the work and life of a pastor. Philemon intercedes on behalf of a runaway slave.
Hebrews tells us about faith and more fully explains the New Covenant to Jews, especially those who were suffering at the hands of their fellow Jews. Many people believe it may also have been written by Paul. James tells us about it means to have a living faith. 1st Peter comforts a persecuted church. 2nd Peter speaks of end times. 1st John tells us of love. 2nd John warns of false teachers and 3rd John is a short letter on welcoming fellow Christians. Jude discusses apostasy and packs an amazing amount into 25 verses. Revelation wraps everything up. Those things that began in Genesis all get settled in Revelation. In Genesis we saw Satan in the garden. In Revelation, we see Satan in everlasting fire. In Genesis, death entered the world. In Revelation, death is no more. In Genesis we saw the first Adam cause a separation between God and men. In Revelation, we see the last Adam end the separation forever.
Genesis - the book of beginnings - begins where it should, at the beginning.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In those few words, God, through Moses, records the beginning not just of the earth, but of time and space. As we've said before, God is not someone with an eternity of time ahead and behind Him. God is not effected by time at all. Time is a physical property, and was created along with everything else. When we enter eternity, the very idea of time will be meaningless to us. And, that whole idea is incomprehensible to us right now, because right now, we are inside time.
You're probably very familiar with the first chapter of Genesis. It records God's first words, "Let there be light," and at His word, there was light. There were six days of creation followed by a day of rest. When I was in college, I thought that God created the world, but that Genesis was only kind of a guideline for how it happened. None of that was to be taken literally. I actually believed that to be true for many years, up to the point where I read the whole Bible for the first time. That was one of the things that changed in me. You know where I'm at now. I believe that not only did it happen exactly as written, but that every single word is both literally true and chosen for a reason. And, I say that as someone with not only a degree in Biology, but as the person with the highest grade point average in my major at graduation. I wish I could go back to some of my professors that taught evolution and just say, "Could you show me the probability of that, please?"
Creation happened, just as written. It's not just an allegory, nor does it simply portray spiritual truths in symbolic language. However, that said, there is more there than you might expect. Over 800 years ago, two Jewish Rabbis, studying the first verse of Genesis and its structure in the original Hebrew, came to the conclusion that there were actually ten dimensions in the universe. Only four were knowable, but six more existed. What is the very latest theory in physics? That there are ten dimensions in the universe. Four are measurable and six are curled. It's part of what's called "string theory."
Studying the original language is way beyond me, but even in English, there are things we can notice. We've talked before about how the phrase "the third day" seems to always point to resurrection. What happened on the third day of creation? Life appeared on the "dead," dry ground. When was the physical light for the world created? On the fourth day. When did our spiritual "light of the world" appear? In the 1600's, using the genealogies and ages given in the Bible, Archbishop James Ussher calculated that the world was created about 4000 B.C. If that is remotely accurate, then Jesus appeared about 4000 years after creation, or about the 4th "day" (using the "day is like a 1000 years" idea) since creation. Long before Jesus was born, Jewish Rabbis were teaching that, based on the creation week, the earth would exist 6,000 years under man and 1,000 years under Messiah. One reason that Jesus was rejected by some of the Jewish teachers was that they thought He was too early to be Messiah.
2. Adam and Eve
We all know the story of the fall into sin and the subsequent curse of the world. God created the world "very good." Everything was perfect. There was no death. The animals ate plants, not meat. There were no weeds or thistles or poisonous things. We all know what happened, but there is a twist that you can miss. Eve was deceived:
Genesis 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done? "The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
In the Genesis account, it sounds like Adam is just a wimp, going along with his wife:
Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
But, Paul sheds some additional light:
1 Timothy 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Adam was not deceived. He knew exactly what Eve had done and what it meant. And, yet, he deliberately ate also. His sin was greater, and he caused the entire world to be cursed. His love for Eve was greater than his love for his own life, and in that, Adam was the first "type" of Christ in the Bible. He was willing to be cursed for her sake. Unlike Jesus, Adam turned his back on God - and because of that, God the Father is forced to turn His back on His Son at the cross in order to pay for that sin and all the others since then.
The first promise of that savior is in Genesis 3. You're probably all familiar with that, but something you might miss in the English (unless you're using the KJV or NKJV), is also the first hint of the virgin birth:
Genesis 3:15 (KJV) And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Many modern translations say "offspring," and while that is perfectly accurate, the Hebrew is truly SEED. Normally, the seed is from the man.
One article on Adam being a type of Christ: Adam, a type of Christ
Adam and Eve went about populating the earth. And those children had children and those children had children, and on and on. Only a few of the family's names were actually recorded. Hidden in those names is a message. This is from Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, Missler, Chuck. 2002. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 25. (It's also in many of his other materials):
Adam: (adomah) "man"
Seth: "appointed" (Genesis 4:25
Enosh: (from root anash, "to be incurable") "mortal," "frail," "miserable"
Kenan: "sorrow," "dirge," "elegy" (we get our word keen from this word. Keening is a wailing lament for the dead)
Mahalal'el: "the Blessed God" - (mahalaal) "blessed"; (El) the name for God
Jared: (from the verb yaradh) "shall come down"
Enoch: "commencement" or "teaching"
Methusaleh: "his death shall bring" - muth, a root that means "death"; shalach means "bring" or "send forth"
Lamech: "despairing" (from which we get "lament" or "lamentation")
Noah: (derived from nacham) "comfort" or "rest" (Genesis 5:29)
We can now look at the genealogy with more insight: The sequence - Adam - Seth - Enosh - Kenan - Mahaleleel - Jared - Enoch - Methusaleh - Lamech - Noah - reads, in English, "Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow; [but] the blessed God shall come down teaching [that His] death shall bring [the] despairing rest."
God brought His judgment on the earth in a great flood. In Archbishop Ussher's chronology, it was about 1650 years after creation or 2348 BC. (that doesn't mean he's right) The Bible says it covered the whole earth, and I have no reason to doubt that. Nearly every culture in the world has stories of the great flood. One of the more interesting comes from China. The Chinese written language has existed for at least 4,000 years. Hidden away in the Chinese characters are some very interesting things. For example, the Chinese word, chuán, meaning "boat," is made up of three individual characters. (The first link below will show a picture of this) The individual characters are little boat or vessel, the character for mouth and the character for the number eight. So, the modern Chinese symbol meaning boat or large boat, is made from individual symbols meaning eight people on a boat.
The Echo of Genesis in Chinese Signs
The reason for the flood is more than it may seem at first, but certainly, the world was filled with wickedness. God instructed Noah to build an ark to save himself and his family. It took 120 years to complete the ark, and when it was finished, the flood came. There is so very much tucked away in that that I would love to get into, but then we'd never get through the rest. According to Genesis 8:4, the ark came to rest on the 17th day of the 7th month on the mountains of Ararat. Now, why does God bother to tell us that?
There are actually two Hebrew calendars. The original one began around September. The official Jewish civil calendar still does, and they celebrate their New Year or Rosh Hashanah every year at that time. God instituted a new one at the time that the Jews left Egypt. Well, this verse in Genesis is before that, so this date is from the original calendar. When you put it in terms of the new calendar, the date becomes the 17th day of the 1st month. Does that date ring a bell? That's the day that Jesus rose from the dead and the women found an empty tomb. So, the new beginning of eight people after a sinful world had been washed away was on the very same day - in advance - of our new beginning, when Jesus paid the price to wash our sins away.
The Tower of Babel
In Genesis chapter 10 is a tiny little account of a man that you'd hardly think it was worth mentioning in our overview of the whole Bible. His name was Nimrod, and he established the first kingdom on the earth - a kingdom that, according to Josephus and many others, was opposed to God. Apparently that comes through in the Hebrew, but it isn't very evident in the English. On the plain of Shinar, which later becomes Babylon, in disobedience to God's command to disperse, the people built a tower. So, here in chapter 10 and 11 of Genesis, you have the first type of Antichrist and his kingdom. Again, there is so much we could talk about Nimrod and the religion he spawned. All the mystery religions, with their talk of secret knowledge, trace their roots to Babylon.
Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, CHAPTER 4.
CONCERNING THE TOWER OF BABYLON, AND THE CONFUSION OF TONGUES.
1. Now the sons of Noah were three, - Shem, Japhet, and Ham, born one hundred years before the Deluge. These first of all descended from the mountains into the plains, and fixed their habitation there; and persuaded others who were greatly afraid of the lower grounds on account of the flood, and so were very loath to come down from the higher places, to venture to follow their examples. Now the plain in which they first dwelt was called Shinar. God also commanded them to send colonies abroad, for the thorough peopling of the earth, that they might not raise seditions among themselves, but might cultivate a great part of the earth, and enjoy its fruits after a plentiful manner. But they were so ill instructed that they did not obey God; for which reason they fell into calamities, and were made sensible, by experience, of what sin they had been guilty: for when they flourished with a numerous youth, God admonished them again to send out colonies; but they, imagining the prosperity they enjoyed was not derived from the favor of God, but supposing that their own power was the proper cause of the plentiful condition they were in, did not obey him. Nay, they added to this their disobedience to the Divine will, the suspicion that they were therefore ordered to send out separate colonies, that, being divided asunder, they might the more easily be Oppressed.
2. Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers !
3. Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them divers languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion. The Sibyl also makes mention of this tower, and of the confusion of the language, when she says thus: "When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven, but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower, and gave every one his peculiar language; and for this reason it was that the city was called Babylon." But as to the plan of Shinar, in the country of Babylonia, Hestiaeus mentions it, when he says thus: "Such of the priests as were saved, took the sacred vessels of Jupiter Enyalius, and came to Shinar of Babylonia."
The Bible could be seen as the story of two cities - the Heavenly Jerusalem and Babylon. In the Bible, Babylon represents the world, the flesh, man-made religion, and God says, "Come out of her, my people." The Bible can also be seen as the tale of two men - Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Antichrist, the seed of the serpent, the Son of Perdition.
The Call of Abraham
The languages are confused, the people spread out, and knowledge of the true God is being lost. In Archbishop Ussher's chronology, about 2,080 years after creation, or 1921 BC, God called a man named Abram from the Ur of the Chaldees to leave his home and his family and travel to a place that God would tell him. Now, if you remember learning about the "fertile crescent" and the "cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia," this is where Abram was from. And, if you remember seeing pictures of those fat, naked, little statues of women, you know that idol worship and fertility religions were the story there. And, yet, Shem, the son of Noah, was still alive. Of all people, he knew the true God. Perhaps Abram listened and knew also.
Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great,and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
If you read Genesis, it sounds as though Abram was perfectly obedient, but you see a different story in Acts:
Acts 7:2 To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.' 4 "So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.
Acts tells us that Abram had actually gotten the call earlier, but hadn't obeyed. Instead, he went with his father to Haran, which was NOT where he was supposed to go. He also didn't leave his father, as he was supposed to. Finally, after his father Terah dies, he sets off for the land of Canaan. However, contrary to God's order, he doesn't leave his people, but takes his nephew Lot with him.
God has promised that he would make Abram into a great nation, but Abram doesn't even have one child. Both Abram and Lot become very wealthy, with many animals and people. They decide to separate. Lot goes to the land near Sodom and Abraham takes the other land, which just happens to be where God wanted him to begin with. So, now, finally, Abram has done what God asked. He has separated himself from his family and has come to the land of Canaan.
The Abrahamic Covenant
In Chapter 15, we come to another of the Bible's turning points - the covenant with Abram. God makes a one-sided deal with Abram. Abram has done what God required of him already. Now, God makes a formal promise. He has Abram take animals and cut them apart. In cutting a covenant, the two parties normally pass between the halves of the animals. This time, God puts Abram into a deep sleep, and God passes through by Himself. There is absolutely nothing that Abram can do to screw up the covenant. He was asleep! God says:
Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."
Later, God confirms the covenant again:
Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."
That word "everlasting" means forever. It is the same word used over and over again in Psalm 136: His love endures forever. This whole Abrahamic Covenant is worthy of further study, but one thing to remember is that it was completely one-sided. There was absolutely nothing Abraham could do to screw it up. That's important for a number of reasons, one of which is that it assures that the serpent crusher, the Messiah, the Savior, will come through Abraham's line. If there was something Abraham could do to mess that up, it could jeopardize the promise God had made in the garden to Adam and Eve.
Meanwhile, in Chapter 16, Abram took matters into his own hands and had a child by his wife's Egyptian servant, Hagar. The child was Ishmael. Do you know the old expression, "God helps those that help themselves?" Not only is that not in the Bible, it is totally unbiblical. Abram helped himself, and look at the mess he made. The Middle East would not be one constant crisis after another if Abram had just waited for God. The events of September 11 would not have happened if Abram had waited for God. We would not be worried about Iran having nuclear weapons if Abram had just waited for God!
You probably know the story, right? Eventually, when the time had fully come, God gave Abram - now Abraham - a son, Isaac. Isaac grew, and when he was probably about 30 (contrary to our Sunday school stories), God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son. Nearly everything in this section of Genesis is a picture. It's really amazing! I wish we had time to really get into it.
Abraham completely believed that God had promised to give him offspring as numerous as the sands of the seashore through Isaac, so he believed that if Isaac would die, that God would resurrect him. The Bible says that when the call came, that Isaac was as good as dead to Abraham. They traveled three days to a mountain. On the third day, Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain together, with Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice. The Hebrew implies that they went in agreement. You know the story:
Genesis 22:9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
They sacrifice a ram that appears and Abraham heads down the mountain. Isaac kind of disappears from the story. Now, all this took place at the same spot where Jesus would later be crucified. In Chapter 23, Sarah dies, and in Chapter 24, Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to get a bride for Isaac.
In this whole section, Abraham is kind of acting out the part of God the Father, Jehovah, and Isaac plays the part of God the Son. Isaac has disappeared from the account, though. He's only mentioned indirectly, but we don't actually see or hear from him. The servant, who we know to be Elieazer, although it purposefully leaves his name out here, (his name means comforter, by the way), goes and gets Rebekah from Mesopotamia. Rebekah agrees to marry Isaac, sight unseen. When Rebekah comes, she sees Isaac coming to meet them.
Here you have a perfect picture. After Jesus' resurrection, He ascends into heaven, and we won't see him again until He comes to meet us, His bride. When Rebekah sees Isaac, he is in the fields, not in the tents, and comes to meet them. They meet there. It will be the same for us when we rise into the air to meet Jesus.
Rebekah has twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau is born first but gives up his birthright. Jacob tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing meant for Esau. Esau swears to kill Jacob, and Jacob runs away to Mesopotamia. There, he sees the lovely Rachel and her sister, Leah. There, the trickster is tricked by his uncle Laban, and he finds himself married to Leah when he wanted Rachel. He gets Rachel also, as well as their handmaidens, as the sisters compete with each other for numbers of children and for their husband's affection. Eventually, Jacob has four wives and eleven sons (the twelfth is born later) After 20 years, God tells him to go home, but he's pretty nervous about facing Esau. He arranges many gifts of animals, and Esau is appeased, but the two groups of people are always uneasy with each other ever after.
On the way back, Jacob wrestled with God in one of the more unusual stories in the Bible. Until you've wrestled with God yourself, you won't really understand that story. He has now become very strong in his faith and God renames him "Israel." He never entirely looses the name "Jacob," though. Throughout the Bible, both names are used. God reconfirms the covenant He had made with Abraham with Jacob. Amazingly, God identifies Himself with Jacob, the man who had been the trickster. He calls Himself "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Joseph and Egypt
Jacob loves his son Joseph the best, because he was the child of Rachel. Joseph has dreams that show his brothers bowing down to him. The other sons are jealous and plot to kill him. They throw him into a cistern to die, but think better of it. Instead, they sell him to a caravan going to Egypt. There, he winds up in the house of Potiphar. He's rather handsome, and Potiphar's wife wants her way with him. When he refuses, she tells everyone that he attacked her, and Joseph is thrown in prison. (He would have been killed if Potiphar had actually believed his wife). While there, he interprets the dreams of two men, a baker and a wine steward. Both dreams come true. The baker is killed and the wine steward is restored to his job with Pharoah.
The Pharoah has a dream that disturbs him and the wine steward tells him that he knows a man that can interpret dreams. Joseph is sent for and interprets Pharoah's dream. There are going to be seven very good years of plenty followed by seven years of such severe famine that the good years will be forgotten. Joseph suggests that Pharoah store grain for the bad years, and Pharoah is so impressed that he makes Joseph second in all Egypt.
The good years pass, and the bad years begin. Back in the land of Canaan, things are getting tough and Jacob and his remaining eleven sons are running out of food. He hears that Egypt has grain to sell, so he sends his sons off to buy some. The sons go to Egypt, but don't recognize Joseph. This is really spoiling the story by skipping things, but to make things short, on a subsequent trip, which they make with brother Benjamin, Joseph reveals himself. The brothers move to Egypt with their father and while Joseph lives, they are well-cared for.
Jacob blesses and gives a prophecy for each of his sons before he dies. He adopts Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. The "twelve" tribes of Israel are actually thirteen, then. Jacob dies and there is great mourning for him. They carry him back to the land of Canaan to be buried.
Later, Joseph dies, too. He believes God's promise to give all the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so he knows that one day, his people will be going back there. He makes them promise to bring his bones when they do.
Eventually, a Pharoah takes over that doesn't know Joseph (turns out he's not even Egyptian), and the family of Joseph is forced into slavery. They have become large group of people, tribes of people, millions all together. The Pharoah starts to get nervous about their great numbers and calls for all the baby boys to be killed.
Each of Jacob's sons became a tribe of people. In the tribe of Levi, a baby is born that his parents know to be special, Moses. They hide him, and when they can't hide him any longer, they make a waterproof basket and set him afloat on the Nile. The daughter of Pharoah rescues him, and Moses is raised in the house of Pharoah.
When he is grown, Moses thinks to free his people. (You don't get that from Genesis, but again from Acts 7). He kills an Egyptian and when Pharoah hears of it, he is forced to flee. He goes to Midian and takes a Gentile bride there. After 40 years, he sees a bush that burns but is not consumed by the fire. (Boy, I wish I could really get into this). God speaks from the burning bush and reveals Himself as the "I AM," Yahweh or Jehovah. We find out from the Gospel of John that this was really Jesus.
God sends Moses back to Egypt, with Aaron as his spokesperson. Through ten literal plagues, Pharoah is convinced to let the Israelites go. The last plague is the death of the firstborn. Here God first introduces the idea of the slain lamb. He calls for each family to select a lamb, to put its blood on the doorposts. Each was to be roasted, but without the bones broken. It had to be eaten entirely. Bread without yeast was eaten, too. It was all to be eaten in haste. It was the Lord's Passover. Remember how John the Baptist introduces Jesus?
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jesus is our Passover. His blood needs to be applied to the doorposts of our hearts, and the death angel will pass over us, too.
Well, as you know, this last plague was the final straw, so Pharoah tells them to leave, and they set out. Yet, he changes his mind still again and chases after. God parts the Red Sea and the Israelites pass through. He closes the water on the Egyptians, and they drown.
God miraculously feeds the people with manna and tells Moses to strike a rock to bring water. After three months, they arrive at Mount Sinai. God tells Moses to have the people wash themselves, because on the third day, He will come in fire.
God speaks the 10 Commandments to the people, but they beg Moses to talk to God for them. God gives Moses a complete law to follow, Law of Moses. The people promised to obey. Moses goes up to the mountain for 40 days and nights. God tells him many things, about making the ark & tabernacle. Yet, while he is there, down below, the people are making a golden calf and calling it their God.
God says He is ready to destroy them, but Moses intercedes for the people. Once again, he goes up the mountain for 40 days, and God writes the commandments again. This time, God sets up the Levitical system because He knew they would sin. (He knew they would sin the first time, but He had to give them a chance to obey). He tells them that if they obey all that he tells them, it will go well with them. They won't have the sicknesses of the Egyptians and they will live long in the land that God is giving them. If they don't obey, they will be forced from the land. Please note that this in no way supersedes the earlier Abrahamic Covenant. The land is still theirs and would be forever, just as God promised.
The book of Leviticus sets up the whole Levitical system. The people would sin, and so a system was set up to deal with their sin. The priest had to deal with his own sin first, and then the sin of the people. It wasn't permanent, but needed to be done again and again. There were many, many laws, over 600. Pictures of Jesus, over and over again.
Begins with a census and orders of how to camp. The camp formed a cross. (pretty cool, actually. You can read about that in our Learning to Be Bereans study if you're interested)
Moses sent out the 12 spies. Ten of them were scared and told an "evil report." The people rebelled and refused to go in. God says they will wander until every one over 20 dies except Joshua and Caleb, the two who said, "Go for it."
In Numbers 20, the people beg for water again. God tells Moses to speak to the rock (not hit). Moses was fed up and impatient and strikes the rock. Water comes out, but God tells Moses that he cannot enter the promised land. Why was this such a big deal? Because Moses ruined the picture that God was setting up of Jesus. The first time that water was poured out (the Holy Spirit) was after Jesus was struck and crucified. Moses pictured this by striking the rock and water poured forth. The second time that Moses brought forth water, he was supposed to speak to the rock, not strike it. When Jesus comes again, He will not be struck again. The first time was enough. In striking a second time, Moses was essentially saying that Jesus needed to be struck again - that the first time was NOT enough. Now, in my view, the Holy Spirit will again pour forth at Jesus' second coming (See Zechariah 12:10 - Zechariah 13:1), but there is no need for Jesus to be struck again.
Second telling of the law, with some differences. Deuteronomy tells of the whole history of Israel, right to the very end. After this second telling, Moses dies and Joshua takes over.
In Greek, "Joshua" would be "Jesus." So, there is an Old Testament book that would be called "Jesus" in Greek. That alone is enough to tell us that there is more here than meets the eye. Just as written, it's an exciting, interesting book. The people finally enter the promised land after the long wanderings in the wilderness. The people older than 20 have all died, other than Joshua and Caleb. This book tells of victories - of lands taken, of lands not taken. Interestingly, those lands not taken are still in dispute today.
After Joshua dies, the people are kind of on their own. They are expected to obey the commandments. The Priests and Levites are expected to teach them. Neither happens. As the people wander from God's commands, God sends enemies to oppress them and make them turn back to Him. When they do, He sends a leader to help them - Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Samson. This is the time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
Just four chapters but very profound. Many other things in the Bible depend on you understanding what happens in the book of Ruth. It is historical but also a picture, especially of our Kinsman Redeemer. Boaz, a type of Christ and the son of Rahab (from the battle of Jericho), restores Naomi to the land and takes a Gentile bride. It hurts me to leave it at that!
During the days of the Judges, a woman named Hannah wants a baby and prays at the tabernacle. The priest, Eli, hears her prayers - and after first thinking she's drunk - says "May it be so." Samuel is born, and when he is weaned, Hannah brings him to live at the tablernacle with Eli. God speaks to him and he becomes a leader for the people. When he grows old, he appoints his sons to take over, but they are miserable excuses for leaders. People demand a king, and God gives them Saul, who is a miserable excuse for a king.
God tells Samuel to seek the house of Jesse (Boaz and Ruth had baby Obed who was the father of Jesse) - in Bethlehem and annoint one of his sons to be king. One by one, Jesse brings seven of his sons to Samuel, but God rejects them all. Finally David, the youngest is brought , who is out tending sheep. He is annointed king, but it will be a long time before he actually takes his kingdom. Remind you of anything?
1st Samuel includes the story of David and Goliath and Saul's terrible jealousy of David. He chases David for 14 years. (during which time many of the Psalms are written). Saul battles the Philistines. He tries to consult God, but God isn't answering, so Saul consults a witch. To the witch's surprise, she actually calls forth Samuel (he had died). Samuel tells Saul that he is going to died because of what he has done. Saul kills himself on the battlefield, after being mortally wounded.
2 Samuel is the story of the beginning of the true kingdom and the throne of David. David is both good and bad. He really screws up - but loves God with all his heart. All the kings afterwards are compared to David. Now that the people have a king, God bases his treatment of them on the actions of that king. David wants to build God a temple, but God won't let him because he has been a man of war. So, he gathers all the materials to do it. God promises David over and over again that he will always have someone to sit on throne of David.
1st & 2nd Kings
David has a bunch of sons, but it is the 2nd son of Bathsheba (the first baby, the result of the David's adultery with Bathsheba, died as a result of David's sin) that he chooses to be king - Solomon. God comes to Solomon and tells him to ask for what he wants. Solomon asks for wisdom. God is pleased with that request and gives him wisdom, plus riches and honor. Was that the best thing he could have asked for? What did David ask God for? To dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Solomon's mind was on earthly things instead of heavenly things, and that was actually the beginning of his downfall. People come from all over to hear Solomon's wisdom. He builds the temple, as David had directed him to. However, He takes many foreign wives from nations that God told the people not to intermarry with. He builds places of worship for Chemosh, the god of Moab and for Molech the god of the Ammonites, detestable - and many others for his other wives. He turns away from God. Does he learn his lesson? I'm guessing that perhaps he does, when I read the last verses of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam becomes king. The people come to him and ask him to treat them fairly and take away some of the heavy burden that Solomon had placed on him. He asks his father's old advisors what to do. They say that what the people ask for is right. If Rehoboam does it, they will follow him and serve him well. He didn't care for that advice, so he asks his young friends what to do. They tell him to make the burden twice as big, so that's what he does.
The people rebel, under the leadership of Jeroboam, and the kingdom is divided. The northern ten tribes align themselves with Jeroboam, and they make him their king. They call themselves the "House of Israel" and they immediately fall into idolatry. Solomon had built high places for his foreign wives, while also worshipping the God of his fathers. Now, under Jeroboam, the people turn away from God entirely. Jeroboam makes two golden calves. He puts one in the country of Dan and one in Ephraim. Back in Deuteronomy, God said he would blot out the name of any tribe that lead the people into idolatry, and that is what he literally did. If you look at the list of tribes in Revelation 7, what two are missing? Dan and Ephraim.
The capital of the northern kingdom is Samaria. They have 19 kings over a period of 250 years, under seven different dynasties or families. There are no good kings. They don't even attempt to keep God's law. God sends them prophets to warn and warn, but they don't listen. Finally, God allows the Assyrians to invade. They carry the northern tribes into captivity and bring other people into the land instead. The people that the Assryians brought in mixed with the few remaining people of the northern tribes and produced the "half" Jews called Samaritans. The northern tribes never come back.
Some people fall into the trap of thinking that the northern tribes kept their identity and moved somewhere else as a group. That's where the concept of "British Israelism" and other such things come in. People like Dan Brown are always bringing up the "10 lost tribes" and trying to make something out of it. What really happened is that those people in the northern kingdom who wanted to stay faithful to God, moved south and joined Judah:
2 Chronicles 11:13 The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him. 14 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD. 16 Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time.
Those people that didn't want to stay faithful to God just merged with the people in the land they were taken to and lost any identity they had had as descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are no "ten lost tribes." Every tribe was represented in Judah when the faithful moved south.
The Southern Kingdom
The southern kingdom keeps Jerusalem as its capital. They call themselves the "House of Judah." They had 20 kings who reigned for 370 years, but all of them were from the House of David. There were a few good kings, but even the good ones weren't always faithful. In between, there was a great deal of treachery, murder, idolatry. . . you name it. No matter what, though, there was always a surviving member of David's family to carry on. One would escape.
God sent prophet after prophet, and finally He had had enough. He allows Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Judah, and then they are carried into captivity in Babylon for 70 years.
All the kings were intended to be pictures of the coming Messiah, the good shepherd who leads His people wisely and well. When they obeyed God, they were somewhat of a good picture, but more often then not, they pictured the other shepherd - the false shepherd - the one that leads his sheep astray.
1st and 2nd Chronicles
These two books give greater details about the kings of Judah, from the perspective of the priests and the temple.
Ezra tells the story of the return from Babylon after 70 years. After Nebuchadnezzar dies, his son takes over, but he doesn't care much for running a kingdom, so he turns the day to day administration of Babylon over to his son Belshazzar as co-regent. Belshazzar hosts a huge party even while the armies of the Medes and Persians are approaching. He thinks that Babylon is impregnable, so he parties on - drinking wine from the captured implements of the temple in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Cyrus of Persia is sneaking into the city through the gates that the river flows through. This is when the hand appears on the wall and Daniel is called in to interpret the writing.
Cyrus takes over Babylon without a battle. According to Josephus, Daniel shows Cyrus a scroll from the prophet Isaiah, written 140 years earlier that calls Cyrus by name, and describes the method that he will use to enter Babylon. It even talks about how Belshazzar messed his pants at the time. Cyrus is so impressed that he lets the Jews return to their land and even finances the rebuilding of their temple.
Ezra tells the story of the return of 70,000 people of Israel (now that the northern kingdom is gone, Israel is used to mean any of the descendants of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob.) and the beginning of the rebuilding.
I wish there was time to tell you this whole story, because it's really interesting, but it will take way longer than we have. Nehemiah is basically the story of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.
Only 70,000 people of Israel had returned to the land of their fathers. The rest were happy where they had moved during the Babylonian captivity. So, they lived there under the rule of the King of Persia.
You probably know the story well. Beautiful Esther saves her people by risking death. The villain of the story, Haman, winds up hanging instead of Esther's cousin Mordecai. Our English translation talks about a gallows, but chances are, Haman was impaled on a very tall stake - the capital punishment used by the Persians.
Job is the first of the five poetic books. It's probably the oldest book in the Bible, written during the days of the Patriarchs. It shows a conversation between Satan and God. God is pleased with Job, but Satan thinks it's just because God has given Job an easy life. God gives Satan permission to take some of that away, and Job loses everything - children, possessions, health. His friends come and give him bad counsel, and finally God Himself speaks to Job. There are lots of things tucked away in here - including dinosaurs! My favorite verse from Job:
Job 19:25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
We could spend weeks discussing the Psalms. Many of them were written by David, especially during the days that he was in hiding from Saul. Many of them are prophetic. This is Israel's hymnal - and the hymns that Jesus and His disciples sang were probably from here.
One of my favorites (and a daily plea):
Show me your ways, O LORD,
Teach me your paths;
Guide me in your truth
And teach me
For you are God my Savior,
And my hope is in You
All day long.
This is the book of wisdom, written mostly by Solomon. There is lots tucked away here, too. My favorite verse in the whole Bible comes from Proverbs:
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.
Ecclesiastes is Solomon's search for meaning in his life. He comes to this conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
And finally Solomon decides that the most important thing in life is this, which is why I think he may have come to his senses at the end:
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Song of Songs
At the very least, this is a lovely story of wedded bliss. Lots of breasts and kissing. Some say that this book is much more than that and may even be a prophetic picture of Christ and the church.
The Major Prophets
Now comes some of the most interesting books of the Old Testament (in my opinion). There are five major prophets - major only because of the length of the book. The prophets came during the time of the kings, primarily. They were sent to warn and warn and warn. They tell of the coming of Messiah more clearly than any place else in the Old Testament. They also tell of the coming of judgment.
In the Old Testament, the coming of Messiah and the final wrath of God are stuck together as though they are one. You cannot see the time period in between, which we know as the time of the church. I'll give you one of the clearest examples.
Luke 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing ."
Notice where He stopped, and what He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Now, compare that with Isaiah:
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God.
If He hadn't stopped where He had, none of us would be here today. Jesus' first coming and the "end of the age" would have both happened.
So, in the prophets, the coming of Messiah, and God's final wrath are lumped together. Knowing that will help it make more sense. The prophets are concerned overall with just a few things - the coming of Messiah, the coming of antichrist, the wrath of God and restoration.
The more times I read Isaiah, the more I'm convinced that nearly all of it is about the day of the Lord - that time of final wrath. There are a few things that aren't, but I believe much of it is. Not everyone will agree with me on that. Isaiah is an interesting guy. Obviously highly intelligent and educated. Went naked for three years. Of course, the most famous passage in Isaiah is Isaiah 53.
Jeremiah's overwhelming concern is the approaching judgment of Judah. He is the one who prophesies that the Babylonian captivity will last 70 years (which Daniel takes literally) He also talks about the Day of the Lord. He is the one who gives the New Covenant its name. Jeremiah was dumped into a cistern, among other things.
This is Jeremiah's sorrow over the destruction of Jerusalem
There is just no way to simplify Ezekiel. Most of his book concerns end times. Interesting stuff.
This is the apocalypse of the Old Testament. It is history and prophecy. It is prophecy that has become history. Daniel's prophecy is so explicit and some of it has been fulfilled so precisely that people try to say that it was really written after the events occurred. I had a pastor once who believed that. Ack. There are common expressions that come from Daniel - feet of clay, the writing's on the wall. Nebuchadnezzar wrote part of the Book of Daniel!
Daniel writes of both Messiah and antichrist. I can't even start talking about Daniel or I won't stop. It's a book that deserves your study. It's the book that Jesus directed his disciples to when they wanted to understand end times. It's the book that tells the exact day that Jesus would present Himself to Jerusalem as their king!
Next come the 12 minor prophets - minor because their books are shorter.
Hosea tells the story of adulterous Israel. He pleads, "Come back. Come back."
Hosea 5:15 Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."
Joel & Amos
Much of Joel and Amos concerns the day of the Lord.
The judgment against Edom
This reads like history more than prophecy, but there's way more here than first meets the eye.
Messiah and end times, including this familiar verse:
Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Ninevah repents when Jonah visits, but 100 years later, when they are warned again, they fail to repent and judgment comes.
A very interesting book. I personally believe that it primarily concerns end times. It is also my opinion that there is a verse in there that warns people to take another book in the Bible literally, Habakkuk 2:3. This was a favorite book of Paul and he quotes from it two times (and maybe three, if Paul wrote Hebrews). This is the book that first proclaims that the righteous will live by faith, the verse that Martin Luther was directed to.
The day of the Lord
A call to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity
Messiah and end times
The last word before 400 years of silence. Tells of the coming of Messiah and the day of the Lord. Now, just a note - those 400 years weren't unspoken about. Their history was written in advance in Daniel.
The New Testament
What makes the New Testament the New Testament, besides the fact that it records things after so much silence? The New Testament is about the new Covenant. The Old Testament was "do, or else." The New Testament is "done." The long-awaited Messiah has come and fulfilled the law.
If you read all the way through the Old Testament, you'll see why the New Testament is good news. God gave the people the law and told them to obey. They didn't. It was intended to do one thing - force them to see that they could never live up to it and needed a savior. It was meant to work this way, as in this parable that Jesus told:
Luke 18:10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
This man knew he hadn't kept the law. He could do nothing except plead for mercy. That was what the law was meant to do.
When did the Old Testament end? With Malachi? Actually, you might be surprised. Jesus tells us:
Luke 16: (NKJV) "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
The Old Testament - the Old Covenant, that is, was until John the Baptist began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." In essence, John the Baptist is saying, "The time of the law is ending. Now, acknowledge that you haven't kept it and repent, because God's prophesied kingdom is near."
Matthew was written to present Jesus as the Messiah. It was written primarily to Jews and emphasizes fulfilled prophecy. Matthew was a tax-collector and so probably was able to take down a form of shorthand. He includes more of Jesus' dialog than any of the other Gospels. Some scholars feel that he may have been writing as Jesus spoke. Matthew includes many parables and has the longest discussion of end times of any of the Gospels. Matthew tells a fairly complete story of Jesus time on earth, from birth to resurrection.
Mark presents Jesus as the suffering servant. It's the shortest Gospel and concentrates on what Jesus did. It seems to have been written for the Roman mind. Scholars agree that Mark is writing the experiences of Peter. Mark's Gospel starts with Jesus' baptism, when Jesus was ready to get to work and ends with Jesus' ascension. There is very little said about the time between the resurrection and ascension.
The Gospel of Luke seems to have been written for Gentiles. It emphasizes Jesus as the Son of Man and tells us how he felt. Luke is the most complete Gospel. It starts with Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist and tells of how the angel Gabriel told Zechariah of the birth of John the Baptist. It tells of the angel's visit to Mary and the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus. It tells of the visit of the angels to the shepherds, to announce the birth of the savior. It ends with the resurrection and ascension, with more told of what happens in between. Some people believe that Luke's Gospel is part of the trial documents that were sent to Rome for Paul's trial (with Acts being the second half).
John is very different. It presents Jesus as the Son of God. It was written later than the other Gospels and was written for the growth of believers. John is deep. He uses simple words with profound concepts. John is full of pictures. It begins with Jesus as the Word of God, the preexistent One. It ends with events that took place after the resurrection and mentions his second coming at the very end. There are many things in John that appear no where else. We'll go through those as we explore that book this year.
This is Luke's second book, which continues the story. It tells what happens after Jesus' ascension and in the days of the early church. It records the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of persecution. It tells quite a bit about Paul, which makes sense as Luke was a companion of Paul. It also makes sense if these are indeed trial documents. Acts is full of action and reads like a story.
The Letters of Paul
In Romans, Paul quotes a verse from Habbukuk - The righteous will live by faith. (or as the King James puts it, the "just.") Most of Romans explains exactly what it means to be justified. Just who are the just? Who is righteous? None of us are. Romans is Paul's careful explanation of Christian doctrine, with emphasis on explaining the "righteous" of the verse in Habbukuk.
1st & 2nd Corinthians
Chuck Missler jokes that these are the letters to the Californians. The church in Corinth had a lot of troubles. They had divisions in the church. They were putting too much emphasis on spiritual gifts. They had immorality in the church. They had false doctrine. They had problems. Paul explains and works to establish order in the church. He corrects and scolds. A lot of Corinthians should hit home very hard to all of us. The Gospel is spelled out more completely in 1st Corinthians than any place else:
1 Corinthians 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
The Galatians were confused about the law. Paul quotes Habakkuk again: The righteous will live by faith. In Galatians, he explains how the righteous LIVE. The righteous live by faith, not by the law. We can't dismiss this book as being for people trying to live under the law of Moses. We wind up being law-driven ourselves. You're a Christian. This is what God expects of you. Now, get to it. Don't we do that to ourselves? Don't we allow others to do that to us? Yet, we are not to live by the law. We live by the Spirit. That whole "purpose driven" thing kind of gets that a bit mixed up.
Paul explains the mystery of the church, the body of Christ. A deep and wonderful book. It helps us understand the church in eternity.
Keeping the right priorities in our Christian walk - finding joy even in suffering - looking to the final goal - understanding and loving each other.
A letter to combat false doctrine about Jesus. It explains what it means for Jesus to be head of all things.
1st and 2nd Thessalonians
Paul spent only three weeks in Thessalonica. What did he teach them? The way of salvation - and end times! These letters remind them of things they had been taught. The Thessalonians were being persecuted, so much so, that they thought the Day of the Lord had begun. Paul tells them No, this and this has to happen first.
This is where the concept of the rapture comes from:
1 Thess. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
That word "caught up" is harpazo in the Greek. When the Greek was translated into Latin, it was translated "rapiemur," a form of the verb "rapturo." That is where the word "rapture" comes from. The next time someone says that "rapture" isn't in the Bible, just point out 1 Thessalonians 4:17. What people disagree on is when and how it happens.
1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus
Instructions for pastors, with lots of good information for the rest of us, including this very important word about the Bible:
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Intercession for a runaway slave
An anonymous letter that was written to Jews, as you can tell from the title. It was possibly written by Paul. One reason that some think that is that it completes the trilogy: The righteous shall live by faith. Once again, the verse from Habbakkuk is quoted. This time, faith is explained. Lots of other good stuff, too. It says outright that this book is meat, not milk.
Also written to Jews. This letter explains what it means to have a living faith.
Very practical , down to earth. Living the Christian life.
Apostasy and the Day of the Lord
The love book! But, more than that, it explains the basis of our love, which is in Jesus. It begins much like his Gospel. It also calls us out of sin, yet reminds us of this:
1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
This book warns us of false teachers and is where we get the name "antichrist" from. John really packs a lot of information into a very short book.
2nd & 3rd John
Gentle warnings & welcoming brothers in the Lord
Apostasy and lots of other interesting things crammed into 25 verses.
(Please note that it is not Revelations) Some people stay away from Revelation, because they think it's too confusing. The way it's often taught, I would agree with them. However, this is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing to those that read and hear it. In my opinion, it's not that difficult to understand, if you just let it say what it says. Sure, it's full of symbolism, but every symbol is either explained right there or somewhere else in the Bible. It's like a code, and the rest of the Bible is the key. The more familiar you are with the Old Testament, the more understandable this book is. Plus, it's the only book that explains how it was written:
Revelation 1:19 (NKJV) "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
What John HAD SEEN was Jesus. Sure, He was right there on Patmos, but John had also spent 3-1/2 years with Jesus. Seeing Him, living with Him, learning directly from Him enabled John to write the description of Jesus that you find in Chapter 1. The things which ARE, are the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. The churches were present at the time of the vision, but if you read the letters carefully, you'll see that there is a completeness to them. They are more than letters to seven churches in history, but letters to our church today. In some way, the entire history of the church, right up to the present day, is embodied in those letters. They are still the "things which are." The rest of the book has to do with the things which will take place after this. After what? Well, in my view, it would appear to be those things which happen after those things concerned with the church. In my opinion (which is not shared by everyone), this would mean that the rest of the book is not the story of the church. I believe there is a reason for each and every thing the Bible includes - and that would include a reason for telling John, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
I encourage you to just read it - without referring to a commentary - and see what God will show you. Trust Him to lead you. Your best preparation for that is to read the rest of the Bible first. Some Bible teachers actually encourage beginning Bible readers to start with the Book of Revelation, specifically because it promises a blessing, and then go back and read the whole Bible. Then, that second time you come to Revelation, it will likely make more sense to you. There is very little in Revelation that is not also somewhere else. Don't worry about the symbolism. Just let it say what it says. The most important symbols are explained right there in the book. In my opinion, you will learn more about what God wants you to know from Revelation if you do not read other people's commentaries, at least the first time through. Again, there is very little in the book of Revelation that is not also elsewhere in the Bible. Revelation just compiles it into one place and into a chronology.
It is my personal opinion that this verse may refer to all the end times Scripture, including the Book of Revelation:
Habbakkuk 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
The Book of Revelation completes all that was begun in book of Genesis. Satan appears in the Garden of Eden, but in Revelation is judged in the Lake of Fire. Sin appears in Genesis, but its effects are removed in Revelation. Death appears in Genesis, but is gone forever in Revelation. The earth is cursed in Genesis and the new heavens and new earth are set in place in Revelation.
The Bible is ultimately one book with one author - God Himself. It all hangs together. If you find what appears to be a contradiction, rejoice. It only means that there is something to be discovered there - something to understand.
Make the Bible yours. Make it part of you. In time, the Holy Spirit will help you understand, at the pace that's right for you. None of us are done learning. I KNOW that I've barely scratched the surface. "Teach me, Lord," is my constant prayer. He does! And He will for you, too!
I hope you benefited at least somewhat from this overview. My great hope is that you will make a commitment to work your way through the entire Bible on your own in the coming year. There is absolutely nothing that will benefit you more. Don't expect to understand it all. Just begin each session with prayer. This has always been mine: "Heavenly Father, please help me understand your Word. Teach me. Send your Holy Spirit to me and open the Scriptures to me. Make me ready for whatever my future holds. Your Word promises that if we lack wisdom, we have only to ask. Give me wisdom, Lord. Help me understand what You'd have me know. In the name of Jesus, my Savior and King, I ask these things."
I did my best to be careful, but you need to understand that the "big picture" that I presented was my big picture, based on where I am today. God will gradually paint your own picture for you. The first time I read the Bible, I only understood a few things. I learned pretty much in isolation. My church taught nothing of substance. I wasn't listening to or reading other people's views. I didn't even know what a commentary was. I didn't talk to anyone about what I was doing. I wasn't reading from a study Bible. It was just me, God and His Word. He was faithful, and taught me the important things. I understood that Jesus was really God, and I finally understood why the Gospel was the "Good news." There was much I didn't understand that first time through. I didn't know that the Psalms were prophetic. I just thought that David was a whiner. I saw no pictures in anything. I had no concept of a "type." I mixed up the names, I paid no attention to geography, and I struggled with remembering what I had already read.
It took me an entire year to get through, but by the end, I was a different person. Nothing has changed me so much as that first year in God's Word - not being a wife, not becoming a mother, nothing. Many things happened during that year. My husband lost his job, and would ultimately be unemployed for two and a half years. I had quit my job to stay home with my first baby, so we had very little money. I lost a baby during that year, and I became pregnant again, but it was a difficult pregnancy. My daughter was born shortly after that year, with a life-threatening birth defect. For several weeks, we didn't know if she would live. I hardly slept, because I was constantly checking to see if she was breathing.
My point? God motivated me to be in His Word, His life-changing, life-saving Word, at a time when I was going to need it the most. I understood little in the vast amount there is to learn, but I understood everything He needed me to know. I would not have made it through the following months had He not prepared me that way.
He will do the same for you. He will make you ready for whatever lies in your future. I encourage you to pray about making a commitment to begin reading through the Bible this coming year. There are 1189 chapters, so one chapter a day will take about 3-1/4 years. Getting through in a year is about 3-4 chapters a day. If you're really motivated, 20 chapters a day will take a little more than 8 weeks. If you get bogged down in Leviticus or elsewhere, I have a four-letter word for you. . .SKIM. Reading through will help you paint that big picture, and subsequent reading and study will begin to fill in the details. I think reading (or hearing) and study are two different things, and both are important. If you're one of those rare people who can do both at once, good for you! As I've mentioned in the past, I encourage you to skip the study notes and commentaries the first time through. Just let God say what He's going to say to you. Pray your way through it. As Jon Courson says, "Read and pray, every day." Don't let Satan tell you that it's too long, too hard, too boring. Just read and pray, every day.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11
© 2012 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 2/1/2012. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.
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