Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Promised Redeemer

The Bible, while it contains many different stories that transcend thousands of years, is a book about a single story. All of the great stories of the Bible—Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Daniel and the Lions’ Den—are merely subplots in the Great Story. They are all part of the unfolding drama of redemption.

Like all great stories, the Bible begins with a crisis, moves to a climax, and concludes with resolution. The crisis happens quite early in the story, shortly after creation. Here we find Adam and Eve living in a world that God has proclaimed “very good.” They enjoy perfect intimacy with God and with one another. They also enjoy a world that God has made for them filled with delights. Nothing could be better.

Then, in Genesis 3, the Serpent slithers into Eden. In a single act of cosmic rebellion, Adam and Eve reject God’s blessings, turn their noses up at His provision, and make a grab for divine power by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

That could have been the end of the story. Yet, God is a merciful and gracious God. Rather than immediately giving Adam and Eve the punishment they deserved, He gives them a promise of hope. In Genesis 3:15, God pronounces His judgment on the Serpent, Eve, and Adam for their rebellion. In His curse to the Serpent, He gives hope to humanity. God said to the Serpent:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15).

In this curse, God promises that one day, the Offspring of the woman will rise up and crush the head of the Serpent. The Serpent, of course, is no ordinary snake, but is Satan disguised. So, by crushing the Serpent’s head, the Offspring of the woman will put an end to the tyranny of evil and restore the world to its proper order. The rest of the Bible is the unfolding of this oracle. It is the story of conflict between the Serpent and his offspring and the offspring of the woman. It is also the story of hope and expectation as the faithful look to the day when the Offspring of the woman will come who will crush the Serpent’s head.

So, the conflict that has been raging since the fall is between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of Satan. It is not the story of physical conflict, but of the great spiritual war of which all other wars and conflicts are but faint echoes.

When God speaks of the offspring of the woman and the offspring of Satan, He is distinguishing between the godly descendents of Adam and Eve, who will be influenced by God, and the ungodly descendents, who will be influenced by Satan. This idea is reinforce throughout the rest of Genesis, particularly chapters 4 and 5. In chapter 4, Adam and Eve have two sons—Cain and Abel. Abel follows God. Cain does not. Cain murders Abel. There we see the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman illustrated.

Then Adam and Eve have another son named Seth. In chapter 4, we read the story of Cain’s ungodly line. In chapter 5, we see the account of Adam’s line as it goes through Seth. In these chapters, the writer is contrasting for us the godly line with the ungodly line, the descendents of the serpent through Cain with the descendents of the woman through Seth. In those chapters, you will see that each line creates its own cities and its own cultures.

The book of Revelation explains this further. In Revelation, we have the same image of the Serpent-Dragon and the Woman. In Revelation 12:17, we read, “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

Later in the book of Revelation, we are told explicitly that the dragon is that great serpent of old, which is Satan (Revelation 20:2). So, it is Satan the Serpent who is making war against the offspring of the woman. The offspring of the woman are those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Here we see the theme of the Bible from Beginning to end. In the first three chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-3), we read about: A) Creation, B) Life in Paradise, and C) The Fall, and D) The prophecy of hope. In the last chapters of the Bible (Revelation 20-22), we read: D) the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled, C) the effects of the fall are undone, B) Paradise is restored, and A) the New Creation.

In between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, the Bible tells the story of this conflict and the One who will finally put an end to it by crushing the serpent’s head. So, throughout the story, the hero is the Offspring of the Woman. Essentially, it is His story—the story of Jesus. While it may seem that Jesus does not show up in the story until the New Testament, the truth is that He is the central character on every page.

The rest of this post is an article written by Tim Keller on how to read the Bible. I wanted to post a link to it on the web instead of reproducing it here, but I couldn't find it anywhere else.

How to Read the Bible by Tim Keller

Jesus Teaches Us How to Read the Bible

There are two key places where Jesus teaches us how to interpret the Bible. When Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he discovered that they were in despair because their Messiah had been crucified. He responds, “‘how slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken!’...and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-29) Later he appears to his disciples in the upper room. And we are told “He said to them, ‘this is what I told you while I was still with you; everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45). What do we learn? Jesus blames the confusion of the disciples on their inability to see that all the Old Testament is about him and his salvation. He shows them that “all the Scriptures” point to him and that each part--the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature--are all about him.

Another major place where Jesus teaches this is John 5:31-47. There Jesus says that there are several parties that “testify” to him. The first testimony is from John the Baptist (v.33) who said that he did not come to be the light, but to point beyond himself to the one who is the light (John 1:7-8). Then Jesus says, second, that the Father has given us another testimony to him in the Scriptures (v.39). But he confronts his hearers with how they do not understand the Scriptures as bearing testimony by pointing (as John the Baptist did) beyond themselves to him. He says, for example, they think they follow Moses, but “Moses wrote about me” (v.46). The Law of Moses can only be understood when you see it as pointing beyond itself to Christ.

The Story in the Stories

"There are great stories in the Bible...but it is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story...The Bible has a story line. It traces an unfolding drama. The story follows the history of Israel, but it does not begin there, nor does it contain what you would expect in a national history.... If we forget the story line...we cut the heart out of the Bible. Sunday school stories are then told as tamer versions of the Sunday comics, where Samson substitutes for Superman. David...becomes a Hebrew version of Jack the Giant Killer. No, David is not a brave little boy who isn’t afraid of the big bad giant. He is the Lord’s anointed...God chose David as a king after his own heart in order to prepare the way for David’s great Son, our Deliverer and Champion..."
- E. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery

The Interpretive Principle

The principle is that every part of the Scripture is not understood unless it is seen as pointing beyond itself to Christ. No history, no set of laws, no prophecies, no wisdom literature is ever an end in itself. Like John the Baptist it points beyond itself to Christ.

For example, the moral law testifies to Christ. As we see Paul saying in Galatians 3 and 4 the law does demand that we be perfectly holy. But we are not really listening to the law if we think we can obey it! The law is saying, “you can never fulfill me—you need a savior!” Only if we know we are saved by faith do we have the strength to actually hear how extensive and searching and deep the demands of the law are. If we don’t see them as pointing to our need for salvation-by-grace, we will be in denial and try to whittle down the demands of the law into external behavioral demands that are do-able.

But that is not all. Every part of the Bible points to Christ.

A Schematic View of the Bible through Christ

Jesus fulfills the writings of the prophets (I Peter 1:11).
The Redeemer will be human (Gen.3:15 -the seed of the woman).
The Redeemer will be God (Isaiah 9:6- the Mighty God).
The Redeemer will suffer and be killed (Isaiah 53:6--our iniquity on him).
The Redeemer will rise again (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31).
The Redeemer will be a Jew (Gen.49:10) yet bring in the Gentiles (Gen.12).

Jesus fulfills all the ceremonial law and writings
Jesus is the sacrifice all the sacrifices point to (Hebrews 10).
Jesus is the bread on the altar in the temple (John 6), the light stand in the Holy Place (John8), and the temple itself (John 2), for he is the presence of God with us.
Jesus fulfills all the ceremonial clean laws about foods and ritual purification (Acts 10 and 11).
Jesus fulfills circumcision--it represents how he was cut off from God. Now we are clean in him. (Col.2:10-11).
Jesus is the Passover lamb (I Cor.5:7).

Jesus fulfills all the moral law
Jesus is the one who “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matt.3:15).
Jesus is the one who embodies the law. The law shows us who Jesus is.

Jesus fulfills all the characters of history
Jesus is the better Adam, the one whose obedience is imputed to us (I Cor.15).
Jesus is the better Moses, who mediates a new covenant (Heb.3).
Jesus is a better David, who delivers his people (II Sam.7).
Jesus is a better Job, who truly suffers in innocence and then intercedes for us (Job 42).

Jesus is the better hero than Samson, whose death accomplishes so much good (Judges 16:31). He is the fulfillment of the history of the judges who show that God can save not only by many, or by few, but by one.

Jesus is the judge all the judges point to (since he really administers justice), the prophet all the prophets point to (since he really shows us the truth), the priests all the priests point to (since he really brings us to God), and the King of kings.

All the failures and successes of the great characters, in one way or other point us to Christ. Jesus is the true “Teacher” (Ecclesiastes) who may lead us through despair to help us find God. He is the true “Isaac” who is the son of the laughter of grace who was offered up for us all. He is the true Jacob, who wrestled with God and took the blow of justice we deserved so we like Jacob only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up. He is the true Joshua who is the general of the Lord’s army. He is the true Job--the only innocent sufferer. He is the true Joseph, who at the right hand of the king forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them. He is the true Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert. He is the true Jonah who went into the belly of the earth and died so his people could be saved.

Jesus fulfills the history of Israel
Jesus is the one through whom all things are created. (John 1)
Jesus is the true Moses who leads a true exodus for his people through his death (Luke 9:31). Jesus goes through 40 days in the wilderness as Israel goes through 40 years in the wilderness.
Jesus is very literally the true Israel, the Seed (Gal.3:16-17). He is the only one who is faithful to the covenant. He is a remnant of one. He fulfills all the obligations of the covenant, and earns the blessings of the covenant for all who believe. When Hosea talks about the exodus of Israel from Egypt, he says, “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Hos.11:1). Hosea calls all of Israel “my son”. But Matthew quotes this verse referring to Jesus (Matt.2:15) because Jesus is the true Israel. As we have seen above, just as Israel was in bondage in Egypt but was saved by the mighty redemptive actions of God in history, so Jesus leads the new people of God out of bondage to sin through the mighty redemptive actions of God in history (his death and resurrection).

In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision. This provision is pointed to at every place in the Old Testament. We see it in the clothes God makes Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system, to the innumerable references to a Messiah, a suffering servant, and so on. Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is the gospel--Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

The Personal Principle

Not only must we read the Bible Christocentrically to understand its meaning, we must read it Christocentrically in order to grow from it personally. There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never be able to fight giants in life. Unless I see that Jesus makes the big sacrifices for me, I will never be able to make the normal sacrifices of life. Unless I can see him forgiving me on the cross, I won’t be able to forgive others. Unless I see him as forgiving me for falling asleep on him (Matt.27:45) I won’t be able to stay awake for him. As a model, Jesus and the rest of the Bible is a crushing, terrible burden. So reading “Christocentrically” is not just a trick of interpretation, but the key to new life.


Every part of the Bible about the historical unfolding revelation and accomplishment of the gospel salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible is not a collection of “Aesop’s Fables”; it is not a book of virtues. Paul shows in Galatians 3 that there is a complete unity in the Bible. There is a story within all the Bible stories. God is redeeming a people for himself by grace in the face of human rebellion and human desire for a religion of good works.

This section was taken from a D. Min. course at RTS Orlando, taught by Dr. Timothy Keller and Dr. Edmund Clowney.

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