Monday, August 17, 2009

The Story of the Bible

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.

All of the numerous stories of the Bible are really just subplots in this grand narrative. The whole Bible is the story of this conflict and the promised child of the woman who will deliver us from evil once and for all.

The Serpent is bent on destroying the people of God. He will use any and all means at his disposal. He is hell-bent on stopping this promised Head-Crusher from coming. First, he will try to destroy the people of God through murderous plots. If that doesn’t work, he will try to get them to abandon their faith through three means: persecution, heresy and false teaching, and tempting them with the pleasures of sin.

Let me take you on a quick tour of the whole Bible and you will see this. In chapter 4, Adam and Eve have two sons—Cain and Abel. Abel follows God. Cain does not. Cain murders Abel. Why? Brotherly jealousy? That certainly comes into play, but there is more. The Serpent is trying to destroy the offspring of the woman.

Skip to the book of Exodus. The story opens with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, trying to kill all the Hebrew babies. Why? Is it really just an issue of population control and political expediency? No. No, it is the Serpent making war against the seed of the woman. Because, in Genesis 12, God promised that the Redeemer would be a child of Abraham. The Serpent knows that, if he destroys the Hebrews, then he will stop the prophecy from coming true.

Skip on down to 1 Samuel. We see the Serpent at work again. King Saul becomes a tormented man, literally goes crazy, and multiple occasions tries to kill David,. Why? Because as we see later, God promises that David will be king and that someone from his family will sit on the throne forever. He will rule and make everything right. This tells us that the Offspring of the woman who will crush the Serpent’s head will come from David.

Move on to the book of Esther. Why does Haman escalate a personal slight to the point of genocide? He is not acting on his own. Unbeknownst to him, he is part of Satan’s conspiracy to wipe out the Jews. If Satan can wipe out the Jews, then Jesus could not be born.
Skip to the New Testament. When Jesus is born, why does King Herod try to kill all the baby boys around Bethlehem? He is a dying old tyrant. He won’t even be alive when these children are grown. The Serpent is at work in Herod making war against the Offspring of the woman.
Then, in John 13, we read that the Devil prompted Judas to betray Jesus. Why? Because he thinks if he can kill Jesus, then Jesus won’t be able to crush his head. Yet, ironically, it was on the cross that Jesus sealed the Serpent’s defeat. By dying on the cross Jesus took the curse of sin upon Himself, Jesus took the curse of death that Adam, Eve, and all of us have earned, and paid the penalty in full.

However, even though Satan now knows that he has lost the battle, does he quit? No. Look again at Revelation 12:17: "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."

He can’t get the seed of the woman, he can’t get Jesus. So, what does he do? He makes war against her children. This is the conflict we see in the New Testament and even today. Satan is seeking to devour the offspring of the woman--those who hold to the testimony of Jesus—that is all who have put their faith in Christ.

Satan employs the same strategy to destroy us that he has been using throughout the ages. He will seek to destroy you through persecution. He will bring suffering into your life so that you will abandon God. He will seek to destroy the people of God through false teaching. He wants you to be biblically ignorant so that you can be easily led astray. He will seek to destroy you through the pleasures of sin. He will entice you with sin so that it looks more attractive to you than the love of God.

Why do you think the Communist tried to snuff out Christianity in the Soviet Union? Why are our brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted in places like China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and numerous other countries? Why do we have people publishing heretical books, even being sold in our Christian bookstores that lead you away from the faith? Why do you think the temptations of the internet, comfort, and other idolatries are encroaching on you? The Serpent is at work.

The whole Bible is the story of this great battle of the ages. The battle continues to this day. Yet, while the fighting continues, the battle has already been won. The battle is the Lord’s. Just as Genesis 3:15 promised, a Son was born to the Woman. 2000 years ago, He crushed the Serpent’s head by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead. One day, just as God has promised, He will cast the Serpent into the Lake of Fire.

Just as the Bible is the story of the conflict, it is also the story of the Promised Redeemer. It begins with the promise of a Son born to Eve. Later, we discover that he will be a son of Abraham. Later on, we find out that he will sit on David’s throne. As the Bible unfolds, the mystery of redemption becomes clearer and clearer. . . and it all points to Jesus.

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