By Leon Mauldin
Before the creation of the heavens and the earth, before time began, God had a plan. He planned to create this universe and the earth to be inhabited by man (Isa. 45:18). He designed a plan by which man could be saved; that plan was the redemption that would be in his Son Christ Jesus. Though all have sinned, and the wages of sin is death (separation from God), the sin- less Son of God would die on the cross as a sacrifice for all of us. Although God’s plan was complete, much time would pass after the creation before Jesus would come to this earth. His coming, and the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, is the theme of the Bible.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son . . .” (Gal. 4:4). Time was required for God to prepare man for the coming of his Son. Time was needed to teach that sin is not to be treated lightly, that it is ugly, destructive, and costly. This was seen in the continual shedding of blood of the animal sacrifices during the Old Testament period. Since God’s plan called for Jesus, who was Deity, to become flesh, time was required to develop a nation, and a lineage, though which Jesus would be born.
As you study each book of the Old Testament, keep in mind that God never lost sight of his purpose. If you are studying the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), these are not merely interesting stories. Throughout this period God was looking ahead to the coming of his Son. These men are in the Bible because they had an important role in God’s plan.
The following outline demonstrates the flow and continuity of Scripture:
• Creation (and Pre-flood)
• Flood (and Post-flood)
• Egyptian Bondage/the Exodus
• Wilderness Wanderings
• United Kingdom
• Divided Kingdom
• Judah Alone
• Return (and Rebuilding)
• Silent Years
• Life of Christ
• Establishment and Growth of the Church
Genesis lays a foundation for what is to follow in the rest of the Bible, Old and New Testaments. In six literal days God created the earth and all things in it. Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). God gave Adam and Eve a law, which prohibited their eating of a certain tree. When they yielded to temptation and violated that law, sin entered the world, and consequently they were banished from the presence of God (Gen. 3:23-24).
The ray of light that shines in that dark picture is God’s statement to Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen.
3:15). This is so important because it is the first promise of Christ! He is the seed of woman (born of the virgin Mary), who would “bruise the head” of Satan (see Heb. 2:14). Again, a long time would pass, and many events would occur, before that promised Seed would come.
Genesis 5 lists the generations from Adam through Seth down to Noah, because that is the lineage through which Jesus would come. The flood occurred because the point was reached that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). Genesis 11 records the descendants of Noah through Shem down to Abraham.
This brings us to the patriarchal period of Bible history. Abraham was given three important promises: that God would make of him a great nation (the Israelites), that he would give to that nation the land of Canaan, and that through his seed (Jesus) would all the families of the earth be blessed.
The remainder of Genesis is concerned with how God developed that promised nation, through Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and his twelve sons. After Joseph was elevated to being ruler of Egypt, Jacob, his sons, and their families moved to Egypt, and from that family, God developed that promised great nation. But first Israel underwent a period of slavery in Egypt. At God’s appointed time he chose Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. To accomplish this it was necessary first for God to send the ten plagues. This was done to let Pharaoh and the Egyptians know that the Lord was the true and living God, and that he was all-powerful (Exod. 7:5). Also, these plagues were judgments against the gods that the Egyptians worshiped (Exod. 12:12).
Israel left Egypt, and made their way to Mount Sinai. It was here that they actually entered into covenant relationship with God, to be his people, and to obey his law (Exod. 19-24). The tabernacle, which was central to their worship, was built. The Aaronic priesthood was established (Leviticus). Then the march began toward Canaan. At Kadesh-Barnea, just south of Canaan, the people became fearful and rebelled (Num. 13-14). This began the next period of forty years of wilderness wandering, during which all of the soldiers, except Joshua and Caleb, died.
Joshua then led Israel across the Jordan to receive the promised land. A key verse is Joshua 21:43: “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.” As time passed the Israelites were influenced by and attracted to their immoral neighbors. They soon forsook God, and worshiped the Baalim and Asherah. God would punish them by allowing an enemy to oppress them. When Israel would cry out to God, he would raise up a judge, who would deliver them. There would be peace during his lifetime, but after the judge died, this cycle would start again. This is the message of the book of Judges.
The events narrated in the book of Ruth occurred dur- ing the judges (Ruth 1:1). The book reinforces what we have seen about the theme of the Bible as the conclusion reaches back to Judah’s son Perez, and traces the lineage through which Jesus would come through Boaz, and his son Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 4:18-22).
Samuel’s judgeship marked the transition to the United Kingdom, with three kings, Saul, David (of the tribe of Judah), and Solomon (David’s son), each of whom reigned forty years. A key passage is 2 Samuel 7:11-13, where God promised to raise up David’s descendant and establish his kingdom. This was a promise of the Christ who was to come, and of his kingdom. Peter refers to this promise in Acts 2:30-31, and emphatically affirms the fulfillment in Christ.
Solomon’s apostasy is described in 1 Kings 11:1-8. Consequently, the kingdom divided at his death into Israel to the north, with Jeroboam as the first king, and Judah to the south, with Solomon’s son Rehoboam reigning. Jeroboam made many unauthorized changes in worship: the time, the object, the place, and the persons who officiated as priests. That false system of worship would continue in Israel until its destruction in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians. This portion of Biblical history is not only the record of the kings, but this is also the history of the prophets. 1 Kings 18-25 continues with the record of Judah alone. Then Judah was destroyed in three successive invasions by the Babylonians, and was taken captive (seventy years).
The prophets had also foretold of the return to the land of Israel. The first was under Zerubbabel — 536 B.C. (Ezra 1-6). It was during this time that the temple was rebuilt. The second return was under Ezra in 458 B.C. (Ezra 7-10). Nehemiah led in the third and final return from the Babylonian captivity, in 444 B.C. The Old Testament closes in anticipation of the coming and work of John the Immerser, who would herald the coming of the Lord (Mal. 3:1; 4:5).
This brings us to the silent years, the intertestamental period. Though no additional Scripture was being revealed, remember that God rules in the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 4). Daniel gave very specific prophecies of the Medo Persian, Grecian and Roman powers. He, more than any book in the Bible, deals with that period of history between the Old and New Testaments. These nations would all make contributions to a state of readiness for Christ’s coming.
The New Testament record takes up right where the Old Testament leaves off. Luke tells of the announcement, which broke the silence, that aged Zacharias would have a son, John, who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Months later, the same angel told Mary that she would miraculously conceive a son, Jesus, the Son of God.
The ministry of Christ divides into seven periods. These are: (1) Preparation, (2) Early Ministry, (3) Great Galilean Ministry, (4) Retirement, (5) Perean, (6) Final Week, (7) Post-Resurrection Appearances. This is the record of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The book of Acts takes up where the Gospel records leave off, with the carrying out of the Great Commission. The hope of all the ages was to be realized. Salvation had been brought down! Acts 1:8 concisely foretells the path the Gospel would take: the apostles would be witnesses first in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-12), and to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 13-28). Wherever the Gospel went, the message was the same. Men were declared to be sinners, and Jesus Christ was held up as their only hope. Those who obeyed from the heart were saved from sin, and added by the Lord to his church (Acts 2:26-47; Rom. 6:17, 18).
Romans through Revelation were letters, written to individual Christians and churches, with instructions regarding all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those who had been saved from past sins were told how to maintain their salvation, and ultimately to receive that salvation which is ready to be revealed at the last time (1 Pet. 1:5). That is the theme of the Bible. Hallelujah! What a Savior!