By Sidney Loo, at the Fellowship Weekend 2016

When I first became a Christian, I was very confused about the Bible. There are so many books, and I thought that reading and knowing God’s word is like trying to recall short stories, and remembering a moral/good lesson for living life. Most of the time it was about trusting God more and or not doing this or that. Then, I heard some people say that all Scripture speaks about Jesus Christ. I was a little skeptical, and thought that different people could have different ways in which they like to read their Bibles. But over time, It became more and more apparent to me that that is true. My eyes started to open on why the bible is really one large story, when I started studying Genesis. And Genesis is a good place for us to begin too to start.

 

Framework for the Whole Bible

But before heading into Genesis, we need to have a framework or a lens, through which we can look at the entire bible. This is the Kingdom Framework by Vaughan Roberts, taken from his book “God’s Big Picture”. The entire Bible can be looked at under different Kingdom themes, and at each stage, we can look at:

1.     God’s People
2.    God’s Place
3.    God’s Rule/Blessing

This Kingdom Framework can be used to group books in the Bible, and helps us understand the main storyline of the Bible. There are 7 divisions, and each division tells us something about the kingdom of God in terms of His people, place and rule:

 

Reading the Old Testament

There's so much that can be said about each section, so hover over the image, to read more! We'll begin with the Old Testament books:  

God the Creator existed as a Trinity from the beginning, and He alone is eternal. Everything else is created. God describes His creation as good countless times in the first chapter, even calling it “very good” in Gen 1:31. Human beings are different from the rest of creation as they are made in the image of God. Humans are the “pinnacle” of God’s creation, with God graciously giving humans dominion over the rest of creation.    This was a time of perfect relationships, between God and humans, man and woman and human and creation. God places Man in a beautiful garden and created woman to be his helper and companion and there was only only one prohibition (Gen 2:17). Man was to lead, and the woman who is a helper, does not resist his authority (Gen 2:25). Both worked in harmony with no abuse of creation (Genesis 2:15)    Therefore, we see in the Garden of Eden a pattern of the Kingdom of God, God’s people living in God’s place, under God’s rule

God the Creator existed as a Trinity from the beginning, and He alone is eternal. Everything else is created. God describes His creation as good countless times in the first chapter, even calling it “very good” in Gen 1:31. Human beings are different from the rest of creation as they are made in the image of God. Humans are the “pinnacle” of God’s creation, with God graciously giving humans dominion over the rest of creation.

This was a time of perfect relationships, between God and humans, man and woman and human and creation. God places Man in a beautiful garden and created woman to be his helper and companion and there was only only one prohibition (Gen 2:17). Man was to lead, and the woman who is a helper, does not resist his authority (Gen 2:25). Both worked in harmony with no abuse of creation (Genesis 2:15)

Therefore, we see in the Garden of Eden a pattern of the Kingdom of God, God’s people living in God’s place, under God’s rule

However, this pattern is broken in Gen 3. Eve eats the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, gave some to Adam who ate too. After being tempted by a snake (identified to be Satan in Revelation 12:9). Why is eating this fruit so wrong? It is an act of disobedience to what God says. It is a rebellion to God’s rule. Their sin is that of law-making, not just law breaking.   As a result, relationships that were once perfect are now broken.    Human beings turn away from God in rebellion and he turns away from them in judgment. God still comes looking for them (Gen 3:9), but they are afraid and they hide from him.   The once perfect trust and intimacy between man and woman is gone. They are now ashamed of their nakedness and proceed to cover it (Gen 3:7). As a result of their sin, God pronounces judgment and curses (Gen 3:16).   Man will also struggle to control creation (Genesis 3:17-18).   Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and a guard is placed to prevent them from returning to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).    The chapters that follow reveal an increasing corruption and wickedness among the peoples of the earth. Gen 4 records for us the first murder of Abel by Cain. The genealogy in Gen 5 is a long record that reminds humans of their own mortality. God pronounces judgment in the flood (Gen 6-9). The Tower of Babel marked the “low point” when man collectively attempt to reach God through their own devices (Gen 11).

However, this pattern is broken in Gen 3. Eve eats the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, gave some to Adam who ate too. After being tempted by a snake (identified to be Satan in Revelation 12:9). Why is eating this fruit so wrong? It is an act of disobedience to what God says. It is a rebellion to God’s rule. Their sin is that of law-making, not just law breaking. As a result, relationships that were once perfect are now broken.

Human beings turn away from God in rebellion and he turns away from them in judgment. God still comes looking for them (Gen 3:9), but they are afraid and they hide from him. The once perfect trust and intimacy between man and woman is gone. They are now ashamed of their nakedness and proceed to cover it (Gen 3:7). As a result of their sin, God pronounces judgment and curses (Gen 3:16). Man will also struggle to control creation (Genesis 3:17-18). Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and a guard is placed to prevent them from returning to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).

The chapters that follow reveal an increasing corruption and wickedness among the peoples of the earth. Gen 4 records for us the first murder of Abel by Cain. The genealogy in Gen 5 is a long record that reminds humans of their own mortality. God pronounces judgment in the flood (Gen 6-9). The Tower of Babel marked the “low point” when man collectively attempt to reach God through their own devices (Gen 11).

Despite the brokenness as a result of sin and the curses, God was gracious to provide a hint of his plan of salvation. In Gen 3:15, we are told of the “serpent crusher”, the offspring of the woman who will “bruise” the serpent’s head. In Gen 12:1-3, this plan unfolds a bit more, when God calls Abraham and makes a covenant with him (Gen 12:1-3). There are three key elements of the Covenant to Abraham -- people (Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation), land (c.f. Gen 17:8), blessing (c.f. Gen 12:3). The covenant with Abraham is a promise of the kingdom of God: it is a promise to reverse the effects of the fall. 

Despite the brokenness as a result of sin and the curses, God was gracious to provide a hint of his plan of salvation. In Gen 3:15, we are told of the “serpent crusher”, the offspring of the woman who will “bruise” the serpent’s head. In Gen 12:1-3, this plan unfolds a bit more, when God calls Abraham and makes a covenant with him (Gen 12:1-3). There are three key elements of the Covenant to Abraham -- people (Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation), land (c.f. Gen 17:8), blessing (c.f. Gen 12:3). The covenant with Abraham is a promise of the kingdom of God: it is a promise to reverse the effects of the fall. 

From Genesis to 2 Chronicles, the books unpack God’s God’s covenant to Abraham. From Gen 12 to Exo 18, God’s people begin from Abraham and Sarah, and their promised on Isaac, who arrives after a long wait. From there, the family develops into a small group of 70 people by the end of Exodus, the family of Jacob, who has 12 sons. Jacob’s family moves to Egypt and settles there, but God’s people eventually becomes slaves for about 400 years. hears their groaning and remembers the covenant (Exo 2:23-25), and reveals Himself to Moses. God sends 10 terrible plagues to Egypt, and the tenth/final plague which is the Passover, eventually breaks down Pharaoh’s resistance to allow Israel to leave.     God gives the Israelites His Law on Mount Sinai (Exo 20), where their obedience to the law is not an attempt to earn salvation, but is a response of their salvation from slavery in Egypt. God’s presence was with His people, as He dwelt in their midst in the Tabernacle. Leviticus shows how a holy God could live among His people -- only through the sacrificial system, and as they too, learnt to be holy (Lev 17:11, Heb 9:22).    In the books of Numbers to Joshua, the Israelites are still people without any land. Thus, these books describe for us how the people of God going to the land God had promised and prepared. But it wasn’t without problems. Numbers record the disobedience of the people, and the subsequent delay in their journey to 40 years. Deuteronomy takes us to the brink of the Promised Land. Moses speaks to the people one final time before he dies and He retells the teaching and events of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Joshua succeeds Moses and under him Israel enters Canaan, the Promised Land (Jos 21:43-45). By the end of the book, Israel conquers the land and divided it among the 12 tribes.    In the book of Judges, the nation lived under a cycle of sin and grace. God gave Israel 12 judges. The elders of Israel approach Samuel to appoint a king, but they are asking for a king other than God, rather than asking for a king under God. 1 Samuel records the events under Saul, the king that God gives them, but he disobeys God as a result is rejected by God (1 Sam 15:23). David succeeds Saul, and in him, Israel has a king “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). However, David is still not the Serpent-crusher of Gen 3:15.    1 Kings 1-1 records for us the golden age of Solomon, who succeeds David as king and rules wisely. The temple is built, symbolizing the dwelling place of God. This is the pinnacle of the old testament (1 Kings 8:56). God’s people were in God’s place, under God’s rule.     But it does not last as Solomon marries foreign wives and begins to worship their gods (1 Kings 11). When Solomon dies, civil war breaks out and the kingdom begins to disintegrate. 1 Kings 12 to 2 Kings 25 record for us the breaking up of the kingdom into 2, and the eventual exile of the nation.  1 & 2 Chronicles focus primarily on the history of Judah. Thus, this section shows us how God’s promise of the kingdom is partially fulfilled in the history of Israel


From Genesis to 2 Chronicles, the books unpack God’s God’s covenant to Abraham. From Gen 12 to Exo 18, God’s people begin from Abraham and Sarah, and their promised on Isaac, who arrives after a long wait. From there, the family develops into a small group of 70 people by the end of Exodus, the family of Jacob, who has 12 sons. Jacob’s family moves to Egypt and settles there, but God’s people eventually becomes slaves for about 400 years. hears their groaning and remembers the covenant (Exo 2:23-25), and reveals Himself to Moses. God sends 10 terrible plagues to Egypt, and the tenth/final plague which is the Passover, eventually breaks down Pharaoh’s resistance to allow Israel to leave. 

God gives the Israelites His Law on Mount Sinai (Exo 20), where their obedience to the law is not an attempt to earn salvation, but is a response of their salvation from slavery in Egypt. God’s presence was with His people, as He dwelt in their midst in the Tabernacle. Leviticus shows how a holy God could live among His people -- only through the sacrificial system, and as they too, learnt to be holy (Lev 17:11, Heb 9:22).

In the books of Numbers to Joshua, the Israelites are still people without any land. Thus, these books describe for us how the people of God going to the land God had promised and prepared. But it wasn’t without problems. Numbers record the disobedience of the people, and the subsequent delay in their journey to 40 years. Deuteronomy takes us to the brink of the Promised Land. Moses speaks to the people one final time before he dies and He retells the teaching and events of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Joshua succeeds Moses and under him Israel enters Canaan, the Promised Land (Jos 21:43-45). By the end of the book, Israel conquers the land and divided it among the 12 tribes.

In the book of Judges, the nation lived under a cycle of sin and grace. God gave Israel 12 judges. The elders of Israel approach Samuel to appoint a king, but they are asking for a king other than God, rather than asking for a king under God. 1 Samuel records the events under Saul, the king that God gives them, but he disobeys God as a result is rejected by God (1 Sam 15:23). David succeeds Saul, and in him, Israel has a king “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). However, David is still not the Serpent-crusher of Gen 3:15.

1 Kings 1-1 records for us the golden age of Solomon, who succeeds David as king and rules wisely. The temple is built, symbolizing the dwelling place of God. This is the pinnacle of the old testament (1 Kings 8:56). God’s people were in God’s place, under God’s rule. But it does not last as Solomon marries foreign wives and begins to worship their gods (1 Kings 11). When Solomon dies, civil war breaks out and the kingdom begins to disintegrate. 1 Kings 12 to 2 Kings 25 record for us the breaking up of the kingdom into 2, and the eventual exile of the nation.  1 & 2 Chronicles focus primarily on the history of Judah. Thus, this section shows us how God’s promise of the kingdom is partially fulfilled in the history of Israel

The prophets are God’s mouthpieces and were responsible for proclaiming His word to others (2 Peter 2:11). Moses was the definitive prophet, through whom God revealed his law at Sinai  , but   the role of the of the prophets who succeeded Moses was to enforce the covenant, urging the people to obey it and reminding them of the blessings that follow obedience and the curses that followed disobedience.     The 17 Prophetic books in the Bible are broken into Major (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and Minor (the rest) based on length. The 2 dominant themes in these books are judgement and hope. There are long sections in prophetic books exposing the people’s sin and announcing God’s judgement against it. Tucked into between these passages are also glimpses of hope. The prophets speak of how God is faithful to His promise to Abraham(Genesis 12:1-3). The prophets spoke of the future of Israel, about how there will be a new exodus, new covenant, new nation, new Jerusalem, new temple, new king, and even a new creation.     In these books, the prophets repeatedly speak about the remnant. God preserves a remnant of his people and does not destroy them completely (Isaiah 10:20-21). God also promises a new exodus, where He will restore them the land that he gave their forefathers (Jeremiah 16:14-15). A Servant will be used by God to rescue this remnant of Israel (Isaiah 53:5-6), but the nations will also be included in God’s plans (Isaiah 49:6). 

The prophets are God’s mouthpieces and were responsible for proclaiming His word to others (2 Peter 2:11). Moses was the definitive prophet, through whom God revealed his law at Sinai, but the role of the of the prophets who succeeded Moses was to enforce the covenant, urging the people to obey it and reminding them of the blessings that follow obedience and the curses that followed disobedience.

The 17 Prophetic books in the Bible are broken into Major (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and Minor (the rest) based on length. The 2 dominant themes in these books are judgement and hope. There are long sections in prophetic books exposing the people’s sin and announcing God’s judgement against it. Tucked into between these passages are also glimpses of hope. The prophets speak of how God is faithful to His promise to Abraham(Genesis 12:1-3). The prophets spoke of the future of Israel, about how there will be a new exodus, new covenant, new nation, new Jerusalem, new temple, new king, and even a new creation.

In these books, the prophets repeatedly speak about the remnant. God preserves a remnant of his people and does not destroy them completely (Isaiah 10:20-21). God also promises a new exodus, where He will restore them the land that he gave their forefathers (Jeremiah 16:14-15). A Servant will be used by God to rescue this remnant of Israel (Isaiah 53:5-6), but the nations will also be included in God’s plans (Isaiah 49:6). 

The Wisdom books -- Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon -- were written in the history of Israel too. But these books focuses on existential questions about God, humanity, Creation, and the nature of evil and suffering.

 

Reading the New Testament

The remaining books of the New Testament can be further broken down into: 

The new testament starts with Matthew which gives us a genealogy, which is not very exciting unless you remember God’s promises in the Old Testament. The writer sought to show how Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 and all of God’s promises (2 Cor 1:20) -- He is God’s people, God’s place, and God’s rule.     Jesus is the true Adam: a sinless man, the only human being who perfectly obeys God. Where Adam and Israel fails, Christ succeeds. He is what the people of God were meant to be. Jesus is the true tabernacle (Jesus “tabernacled, c.f. John 1:14) and the true temple for through Him, the people of God meet with God (John 2:21). Jesus introduces the new covenant: he has come to not abolish the law but fulfil it (Matt 5:17). Jesus is the new king. He is God’s king, a descendant of David and his victory is won on the cross.

The new testament starts with Matthew which gives us a genealogy, which is not very exciting unless you remember God’s promises in the Old Testament. The writer sought to show how Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 and all of God’s promises (2 Cor 1:20) -- He is God’s people, God’s place, and God’s rule.

Jesus is the true Adam: a sinless man, the only human being who perfectly obeys God. Where Adam and Israel fails, Christ succeeds. He is what the people of God were meant to be. Jesus is the true tabernacle (Jesus “tabernacled, c.f. John 1:14) and the true temple for through Him, the people of God meet with God (John 2:21). Jesus introduces the new covenant: he has come to not abolish the law but fulfil it (Matt 5:17). Jesus is the new king. He is God’s king, a descendant of David and his victory is won on the cross.

Jesus has often told his disciples how he would leave the earth return after a delay (Matt 24:36-25:46) and the Bible calls the time between the first and second comings of Christ the last days (2 Tim 3:1, James 5:3). This is the period in which the NT letters were written and in which we live today.    The Spirit was given in Acts for a specific purpose to help spread the gospel about Christ throughout the world. The book of Acts tells the story of how the gospel begins to spread: from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, thereby fulfilling Jesus’s words (Acts 1:8). The new Israel is the Church, all those who trust in Christ (1 Pet 2:9, Rom 2:28-29). His temple is not a holy building but a holy people (1 Cor   6:19-20). The Spirit helps us to live in obedience and holiness (Rom 7:6). 

Jesus has often told his disciples how he would leave the earth return after a delay (Matt 24:36-25:46) and the Bible calls the time between the first and second comings of Christ the last days (2 Tim 3:1, James 5:3). This is the period in which the NT letters were written and in which we live today.

The Spirit was given in Acts for a specific purpose to help spread the gospel about Christ throughout the world. The book of Acts tells the story of how the gospel begins to spread: from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, thereby fulfilling Jesus’s words (Acts 1:8). The new Israel is the Church, all those who trust in Christ (1 Pet 2:9, Rom 2:28-29). His temple is not a holy building but a holy people (1 Cor 6:19-20). The Spirit helps us to live in obedience and holiness (Rom 7:6). 

Jesus will again come to complete God’s eternal plan of salvation, he will introduce the perfected kingdom. Revelation ultimately shows how Jesus reigns as a victorious, divine King of the universe (Rev 5:6). Rev 17-20 uses picture language to describe how God will destroy the power of evil decisively at the end of time. A new creation will be ushered in, where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev 21:4). There, every nation, tribe, people and language will be under the rule of the King  (7:4-9) and God can finally dwell with man. There will be no distance between God and man, the return to a perfect relationship with God. The New Testament ends, as the OT does, looking forward to the final fulfilment of God’s promises when Jesus comes a second time (Rev 22:20-21).      

Jesus will again come to complete God’s eternal plan of salvation, he will introduce the perfected kingdom. Revelation ultimately shows how Jesus reigns as a victorious, divine King of the universe (Rev 5:6). Rev 17-20 uses picture language to describe how God will destroy the power of evil decisively at the end of time. A new creation will be ushered in, where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev 21:4). There, every nation, tribe, people and language will be under the rule of the King  (7:4-9) and God can finally dwell with man. There will be no distance between God and man, the return to a perfect relationship with God. The New Testament ends, as the OT does, looking forward to the final fulfilment of God’s promises when Jesus comes a second time (Rev 22:20-21).      

From Genesis to Revelation, from the first page to the last, there is one storyline running through the pages of Scripture. And the story of the Bible is the story of our lives too, because we find our place in the larger work and purpose of God as He has revealed in His Word. 

 

Reflection Questions

  • Praise God for His grace in revealing these through His Word, and His wisdom that has been displayed through all human history.
  • What struggles do you have towards Bible reading? How does knowing the storyline help you? 
  • How does the larger story of the Bible change the way you look at your life? Ask God for help to see your life as part of His larger purposes.