God's Big Picture

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GodsPicNEWpp1-4.fm Page 3 Friday, October 5, 2012 5:33 PMGOD ’S BIG PICTURETracing the sto r ylineof the BibleVaughan Roberts

GodsPicNEWpp1-4.fm Page 4 Thursday, August 14, 2014 10:40 AMInterVarsity PressP.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426Internet: www.ivpress.comE-mail: [email protected] Vaughan Roberts 2002Published in the United States of America by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, with permissionfrom Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission fromInterVarsity Press.InterVarsity Press is the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA , a movementof students and faculty active on campus at hundreds of universities, colleges and schools of nursing in theUnited States of America, and a member movement of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.For information about local and regional activities, write Public Relations Dept., InterVarsity ChristianFellowship/USA, 6400 Schroeder Rd., P.O. Box 7895, Madison, WI 53707-7895, or visit the IVCF website at www.intervarsity.org .All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New InternationalVersion . NIV . Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission ofHodder and Stoughton Ltd. All rights reserved. “NIV” is a registered trademark of International Bible Society.UK trademark number 1448790. Distributed in North America by permission of Zondervan PublishingHouse.ISBN 978-0-8308-6389-1 (digital)ISBN 978-0-8308-5364-9 (print)

To my parentswith much loveand gratitude

AcknowledgmentsI am grateful to Clare Heath-Whyte and Matthew Mason forcommenting on the manuscript, to Andy Rees and DavidHeath-Whyte for help with the diagrams, and to Jonty Frithfor suggesting the title.

ContentsPreface9Introduction13The Bible is one bookThe kingdom of God13211. The pattern of the kingdomBible study: Genesis 1:1 – 2:2527352. The perished kingdomBible study: Genesis 337453. The promised kingdomBible study: Genesis 17:1–8; Galatians 3:6–1447574. The partial kingdomGod’s people: Genesis 12 – Exodus 18God’s rule and blessingBible study: Exodus 19:1–13; 20:1–17God’s placeGod’s kingBible study: 2 Samuel 7:1–1759606874768090

5. The prophesied kingdomBible study: Hosea 1 – 3931106. The present kingdomBible study: Luke 1:39–80; 2:25–321131277. The proclaimed kingdomBible study: 2 Corinthians 41291438. The perfected kingdomBible study: Revelation 21:1–8; 21:22 – 22:5147160Epilogue163Notes169If you would like to run a course based on this material,downloadable resources are available fromwww.ivpbooks.com/resources

Preface‘Which passages would you choose if you were devising aseries of Bible studies on the theme of the temple?’It was an innocent question from a young man I had justmet at a conference for trainee ministers. I was about to startat college. Within two years I would be let loose on a church,and I was far from ready. I had been a committed Christianfor six years, but my knowledge of the Bible, especially theOld Testament, was very limited – which explains why mynew friend’s question unnerved me so much. I had heard ofthe temple, but I did not really know what its significancewas, and had no idea where to look in the Bible to find outmore; so I stalled: ‘Which passages would you choose?’In the next ten minutes I was taken on a whistle-stop tourof the whole Bible that left my head reeling. We began in thegarden of Eden, where Adam and Eve did not need a templebecause God’s presence was everywhere; and travelled tothe new creation, heaven, where once again there is notemple ‘because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb areits temple’ (Revelation 21:22). Along the way we made briefstops at the tabernacle in the wilderness; the temple inJerusalem; the new-temple prophecies of Ezekiel; the Lord

10 god’s big pictureJesus Christ, who ‘tabernacled’ among us (John 1:14,literally); and the church (‘a holy temple in the Lord’,Ephesians 2:21).I was very impressed. I had already completed a theologydegree at university, but it left me unable to find my wayaround the Bible. There had been detailed analysis ofindividual books and passages, but no-one had shown mehow they fitted together. My friend, however, was able totravel through the Bible with apparent ease. It was as if he wasusing a map while I was left without any sense of direction.I asked him how he did it. He told me about a bookthat outlined the main elements in the story of the Biblefrom beginning to end. It wasGraeme Goldsworthy’s GospelMy aim is to provide all and Kingdom.1 I bought it theChristians, from thenext day and read it withinnew convert to thethe week. At last I had the mapmature believer, with an I needed. I was still very ignoroverview of the whole ant about much of the Bible, butBible that will helpthe framework was in place.Anyone who has read Gospelthem see how theand Kingdom will see its infludifferent parts fitence in these pages. This is nottogether.an attempt to improve on thatbook. I adopt largely the sameapproach, but hope to do so in a slightly less technical way.My aim is to provide all Christians, from the new convert tothe mature believer, with an overview of the whole Bible thatwill help them see how the different parts fit together. I hopethe book will be simple without being simplistic. I want to putinto the reader’s hands the map that I have found so helpful.A Bible study outline is provided at the end of each chapter(and an extra one in the long chapter 4). These are designed

preface 11for individual or group use. You will gain more from thesestudies if you, or the members of your group, read thechapter (or the relevant half of chapter 4) in advance.I am grateful to Richard Coekin, who first set me on theroad, and to Graeme Goldsworthy, whose book gave methe map. This material was originally prepared for talks atSt Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, Titus Trust Holidays, SpringHarvest Word Alive and the FIEC Caister conference. I havebenefited from the teaching of many writers and speakers inthis area, including Shaun Atkins, F. F. Bruce, Edmund P.Clowney, Jonathan Fletcher, Ian Garrett, Phillip Jensen,Walter J. Kaiser, Simon Manchester, Mark Meynell, AlecMotyer, Mike Neville, Alan Purser and Simon Scott. Veryfew good thoughts are new and I make no apology forstanding on the backs of others throughout this book. Iforget where I first heard many of these ideas. If yourecognize your back, thank you!Vaughan Roberts

IntroductionThe Bible is one bookIgnorance of the BibleA police inspector went to visit a primary school, where hewas asked to take a Scripture class. He began by asking,‘Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?’There was a long silence as the children shufflednervously on their seats. Eventually, a little lad put up hishand and said, ‘Please sir, my name is Bruce Jones. I don’tknow who did it but it wasn’t me.’The policeman thought that reply very cheeky, so hereported the incident to the headmaster. After a pause theheadmaster replied, ‘I know Bruce Jones; he’s an honestchap. If he said he didn’t do it, then he didn’t.’The inspector was exasperated. The headmaster waseither rude or very ignorant. The inspector wrote to theDepartment of Education to complain, and received thisresponse: ‘Dear Sir, We are sorry to hear about the walls ofJericho and that nobody has admitted causing the damage. Ifyou send us an estimate we will see what we can do aboutthe cost.’

14 god’s big pictureIt is a silly story and it is probably not true, but it doesmake a point. A few decades ago everyone would haveknown about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. A largeproportion of children went to Sunday school, and the reststill received a grounding in the main stories of the Bible inclass. But those days are gone. I mentioned the prodigal sonto an Oxford student recently. He looked blankly at me. Theaverage non-Christian is almost completely ignorant ofthe contents of the Bible. It remains the world’s best-sellingbook; one and a quarter million copies are sold in the UKalone every year. But although many have a copy on theirshelves, very few ever read it.The knowledge of Christians is often not much better. Weall have our favourite passages, but much of Scripture remainsuncharted territory, especially the Old Testament. If we arehonest, we find it outdated and rather un-Christian at times.What have dietary laws, animal sacrifices and the temple gotto do with Jesus Christ? And what about the exodus fromEgypt, David and Goliath, and Daniel in the lion’s den? Theyare great stories, but what relevance have they got for ustoday? I hope this book will answer those questions, or at leastgive you a framework that will enable you to answer them foryourself. Its aim is to help Christians to find their way aroundthe Bible and to see how it all holds together and points usto Jesus.A diverse collection of writingsThe Bible is a diverse collection of different writings. Itcontains sixty-six books written by about forty humanauthors over nearly 2,000 years. It has two main sections(Old Testament and New Testament) written in two mainlanguages (Hebrew and Greek respectively), and includes amixture of types of literature.

introduction 15HistoryPoetryProphecy(Genesis to Esther)(Job to Song of Songs)(Isaiah to Malachi)Figure 1. The Old Testament (English Bible)In our English Bibles, the thirty-nine books of the OldTestament are arranged as in Figure 1. This order follows theGreek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, madein the third century bc.The original Hebrew Bible arranges the books in adifferent order, listed in Figure 2.LawProphetsWritingsGenesis toFormer ProphetsPsalms, wisdom literature,Deuteronomy(history booksJoshua to 2 Kings)history of the exile andbeyondLatter Prophets(Isaiah to Malachi)Figure 2. The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books, allwritten in the first century ad. The Gospels are four accountsof the birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus.Acts, written by Luke as a continuation of his Gospel,records the spread of the good news about Jesus after hisascension into heaven. The Epistles are letters writtenmainly by those chosen by Christ to be his apostles. TheHoly Spirit revealed to them all the truth about Christ sothey could teach the full significance of his salvation and itsimplications. Paul wrote most of the Epistles (Romans to

16 god’s big picturePhilemon), but the New Testament also contains lettersfrom Peter, John, James (the brother of Jesus) and Jude.No-one knows who wrote the letter to the Hebrews. Thatjust leaves the last book of the Bible: Revelation. It describesa vision that John was given of spiritual realities normallyhidden from view. (See Figure 3.)GospelsMatthew, Mark, Luke, JohnActsLuke’s history of the spread of the gospel in thefirst centuryEpistlesRomans to Jude (letters written mostly by theapostle Paul)RevelationJohn’s vision from GodFigure 3. The New TestamentOne authorAlthough the Bible contains a great variety of material,written by many human authors over a long period of time,it holds together as a unity. Fundamentally, it is just onebook written by one author with one main subject. As thosetruths underlie everything that is written in the rest of God’sBig Picture, it is important that we understand them beforewe continue.The apostle Paul wrote, ‘All scripture is God-breathed’(2 Timothy 3:16). Most of the New Testament had not beenwritten down at that time, so he was referring to what weknow as the Old Testament. But the New Testament writersmade a similar claim about what they wrote. They wereconvinced that their teaching was also the very Word of God(e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:16).

introduction 17Muslims are taught that Muhammad had no creative rolein the production of their holy book. He acted simply as asecretary who wrote down what was dictated to him byAllah via the angel Gabriel. They would be outraged by thesuggestion that the Qur’an was in any way a human book.But Christians should have no qualms about accepting thatthe Bible was written by people. Its books were written by avariety of authors at different times in history and bear themarks of the personalities and eras that produced them. ButGod ensured by his Spirit that everything they wrote wasexactly what he wanted them to write. Just as the Lord Jesuswas both fully human and fully divine, so the Bible is both ahuman and a divine book. It is God’s Word: he is theultimate author.One subjectThe Bible obviously covers a great deal of ground. But thereis one supreme subject that binds it all together: Jesus Christand the salvation God offers through him. That is true notjust of the New Testament but of the Old as well. Jesus,speaking of the Old Testament, said, ‘These are the Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39). After he had risenfrom the dead he met two believers on the road to Emmausand led them in a Bible study. What a privilege for them!‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained tothem what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’(Luke 24:27). A short time later he met with his disciples andsaid, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you:Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in thelaw of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (Luke 24:44). Herefers there to the three main divisions of the Hebrew Bible(the Writings were sometimes called ‘the Psalms’ becausethe Psalms made up the largest part of them). The apostle

18 god’s big picturePaul also believed that the Old Testament points to Jesus. Hespoke of ‘the holy Scriptures [the Old Testament] which areable to make you wise for salvation through faith in ChristJesus’ (2 Timothy 3:15).Many Christians have an idea that God decided to sendJesus to earth only after his first plan had failed; his originalidea (Plan A) was to give people an opportunity to becomehis people by obeying his law. But they failed, so hescratched his head and came up with another idea (Plan B):to save people by grace through the death of Jesus. Nothingcould be further from the truth. God had always planned tosend Jesus. The whole Bible points to him from beginningto end. In the Old Testament God points forward to him andpromises his coming in the future. In the New TestamentGod proclaims him to be the one who fulfils all thosepromises (Figure 4).PROMISEFULFILMENTOTNTFigure 4. God’s planNot a book of quotationsThe fact that the Bible is one book should have bigimplications for the way we read it. The way you read abook depends on the kind of book you think it is. So, forexample, we do not read a Shakespeare play in the same wayas a telephone directory, or a novel in the same way as abook of quotations. I have just opened a book of politicalquotations at random and read Winston Churchill’s comment on Field Marshall Montgomery: ‘In defeat unbeatable;

introduction 19in victory unbearable.’ The compiler of that book does notexpect me to read those words in context. I do not have toread the quotations that appear immediately before and afterit. Each saying in the book stands alone.A novel works very differently. Each sentence is meantto be understood in the light of the whole. Turning to arandom page in Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library Iread, ‘Risk everything – that’s my motto! Yes, it’s a luckything for me that somebody strangled that poor kid.’ I amleft confused. Who is speaking? And who has beenstrangled? If I am to understand the story, I need to knowwhat happened before and learn what happens afterwards.It is the same with the Bible. With the exception of someof the Proverbs, the Bible does not contain isolated sayings. Ishould be wary about dipping into it at random andextracting individual verses without any regard for theircontext. I am almost bound to misunderstand the Bible if Iread it in that way. Each verse needs to be understood in thecontext of the chapter in which it appears, and each chapterin the light of the book as a whole. And there is a widercontext we must consider as well: the whole Bible.Not a collection of booksI own a collection of Hermann Hesse novels. Each is anindividual book that can be read and understood in isolationfrom the others; they just happen to be bound in the samecover. Many people read the Bible as if it were like that: acollection of independent books that can each be readwithout reference to the others. That was how I was taughtthe Bible at university. We looked for the message ofEzekiel, Jonah or John without considering how thosebiblical books contribute to and fit in with the message ofthe Bible as a whole. And there was a great division between

20 god’s big picturethe Old and New Testaments. I was criticized when Imentioned Jesus in an answer to the question, ‘Who is theservant in Isaiah’s prophecy?’ We were discouraged fromreading the Bible as the Bible itself demands to be read: asone book that presents the unfolding story of God’s planto save the world through his Son Jesus. If we want tounderstand any part of the Bible properly, we must considerwhere it fits in that great plan and how it contributes to it.One bookAndy’s children are avid readers. He has just bought thelatest whodunnit for Matt. Lizzie announces that she wantsto read it too. The bookshop is out of stock and Lizzie willaccept no substitute, nor will she wait for her brother tofinish it. In desperation, Andy takes the book and tears it inhalf and gives his children half each. Both are soon veryfrustrated. Matt discovers that Colonel Bufton-Tufton hasbeen killed with a candlestick in the billiard room, but hispart of the book ends before he can find out who committedthe crime. Lizzy reads that ‘the butler did it’, but she has noidea what he did.No-one would really be so foolish as to divide a whodunnitlike that. Both parts must be read together; they do notmake sense otherwise. The same is true of the Bible. The OldTestament on its own is an unfinished story; a promisewithout a fulfilment. We must read on to the New Testamentif we want to know what it really means. And the NewTestament constantly looks back to the promise it fulfils.We shall not make much sense of it if we are not aware ofwhat has come before. What does it mean that Jesus isthe Christ, the Passover lamb, the Son of Abraham and Son ofDavid, the true vine or the good shepherd? 1 The answersare all found in the Old Testament. The Bible must be

introduction 21understood and read as one book with one ultimate author,God, and one ultimate subject, God’s plan of salvationthrough his Son Jesus.I am told that when SAS soldiers parachute into unknownterritory they are trained to pause before moving. They mustfirst get their bearings and only then set out for theirdestination. That is wise advice for us too as we read theBible. My aim in this book is to give you an overview ofthe main storyline of the Bible. It will not make you an expertin all the details of Scripture, but I hope that it will enable youto get your bearings when you land in any part of it. By theend of this book you should have the outline of the Bible’sstory in your mind so that, whichever part you are reading,you should know where you have come from and where youare heading. That will also help you to discover how each partpoints to Jesus Christ and the salvation he accomplished.The kingdom of GodScholars have debated for years whether or not it is possibleto point to a unifying theme that binds the whole Bibletogether. Many have argued that the search for such a themeis fruitless: it is better just to accept that Scripture contains anumber of different threads and then look at them individually without trying to unite them. They warn of the dangerof squeezing all parts of the Bible into a mould rather thanl

United States of America, and a member movement of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. For information about local and regional activities, write Public Relations Dept., InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, 6400 Schroeder Rd., P.O. Box 7895, Madison, WI 53707-7895, or visit the IVCF website at .