Bible Overview by Billie Jean Hepp
My Overview of the Bible
The older I get and the more I read and study the Bible, the more convinced I become that God’s plan is very complete and not nearly so complicated as some “theologians” try to make it.
From the very beginning He evidently wanted to create a beautiful world to be ruled and cared for by beings made in His own likeness, with whom He could communicate and have fellowship. Soon after Adam and Eve were created, we see God coming down and walking in the garden with them and communing with them. Then came the fall and that fellowship was broken by sin. The Devil seemed to have won. But did he really? At the end of the Bible in the Book of the Revelation, we see God making a new earth that is “covered with righteousness as the waters cover the sea.” And we read:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.…And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
We will have come full circle. At that point regeneration will have begun and God is again coming to earth to be with His created beings.
Everything between Genesis and Revelation is the story of how He went about accomplishing His goal. It’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees, to get bogged down in details and stories that may not seem to have anything to do with a plan. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, and unless we have the big picture we can get lost and not be able to put the pieces in place. Also, it may seem that God is taking an inordinate amount of time to accomplish His will.
Soon after the creation and fall we read about Abraham and God’s covenant and promises to him and his descendants. Because Abraham believed God, he was accepted by God and his faith was counted for righteousness. Righteousness, justification, and a right relationship with God have always come as the result of faith and not works. Works follow and are the evidence of a genuine faith. Our works “justify” or prove that our faith is valid. We are not Christians because of our good works; we do good works because we are Christians. And if there are no “good works,” it only proves that our faith is not genuine. In the New Testament we read that we (believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews) are called the children of Abraham. Therefore, what was promised to him and his descendants is ours as well. And what was promised to him? Among other things a land, the Promised Land. That will be the land in the new earth. He was also promised that he and his descendants would be a blessing to the whole world. One of those descendants was Jesus the Messiah, who certainly has been and forever will be a blessing to all who trust Him. Throughout the Old Testament we read about a future, glorious kingdom on earth, over which a descendant of Abraham and David will reign forever. That descendant is the Lord Jesus Christ (Messiah).
The gospel (good news) is not just that now I can go to heaven when I die, but that everything mankind lost in the fall will be restored (paradise regained). The One who will restore it is the Christ, the One anointed to rule and reign (which is the meaning of His title Christ). We Christians, believers in this Ruler, will share in His reign. Since it will be a real, material, earthly kingdom, we will need to have resurrected bodies to live in it and enjoy it. When God created mankind in the beginning, He put him in a beautiful garden with the charge to care for it and “have dominion.” At the end of the Bible we see that beautiful plan come to fulfillment in the eternal kingdom. Just because Jesus said that the kingdom was at hand or near does not mean it had arrived. It was at hand and near in the person of the Messiah. While waiting for that kingdom, we read that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. The wait seems long, but in the economy of eternity I guess it’s nothing. He is waiting just as David, who had been anointed to be king, had to wait until his enemy King Saul was out of the picture. Then David assumed the throne.
Meanwhile the Devil, who is called “the prince of the air,” is having a heyday; and we all suffer the consequences of the fall. Some have a problem with why God allows good people to suffer. We must remember that we are living in a cursed, fallen world and that the new age or renewal of all things (the kingdom) has not begun. And suffering clearly shows the awfulness of sin and the great need for a Redeemer. Like children we ask, “Are we there yet?” “No, children, we are not there yet.” As beautiful as this world is, just imagine what it would be like without the effects of sin. That can help you understand what the new world, the new creation, the restoration of all things will be like.
So why all the stories of the Israelites, the kings, the wars, the failures in between? Well, God intended for the Israelites (the Jewish people) to show to the rest of the world what He is like in holiness, justice, and mercy. In a word, they were to be missionaries to the rest of the world. But to their shame, they thought He chose them because they were better than anyone else. Instead of accomplishing what God intended for them to do, they became proud and disobedient and had to be punished over and over again. Finally, God set that nation aside (like a train on a siding) and began dealing with the rest of the world, the Gentiles. That’s why this age is called “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).
Will the Jews ever regain their place of favor? Yes, when they recognize that the Jesus they crucified was and is the Messiah they were waiting for. They failed to recognize Him because He didn’t fit their picture of a ruler and deliverer and because they saw no need for a perfect sacrifice for the sin they refused to acknowledge. They failed to understand that fallen humanity has to be redeemed in order to enter into the eternal, earthly kingdom promised throughout the Old Testament. They did not know that the Messiah had to come twice. The Old Testament prophets failed to see this as well. The first time He came to redeem; the next time He comes it will be to reign. First the cross and then the crown. That is true for us as well. We are called upon to take up a cross in this life, but we will rule and reign with Him in the everlasting kingdom.
When Jesus the Christ (Messiah) died as the perfect sacrificial lamb to pay the price for sin, the wall separating the Jews and Gentiles was broken down. By His perfect life and death He fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the Old Testament law. Now that system of law has been done away with. It was never intended to be the way to attain righteousness in God’s sight, but served as a way to protect the Israelites from the corrupt, pagan nations around them. And it revealed the holiness of God. It also was meant to show them that they could not keep all the law as God required. Justification and righteousness is not earned by good works but is a gift and work of God through the Holy Spirit because of faith on our part. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).
Not by works of righteousness which I have done,
but through grace He set me free.
I could not by merit open redemption’s door;
salvation was His own free gift to me.
Free for me, but it cost Jesus a lot. Belief in God is good, but believing in who Jesus is and what He did is also necessary.
So what is the Christian’s goal, his hope? It is called by several names: the crown of life, eternal life, the kingdom, the restoration or renewal of all things, the hope of righteousness (not hope in the sense that it is questionable, but hope in the sense of what we are waiting for). And how can this be gained? By the new birth, which takes place when one recognizes that this man Jesus is the Messiah. He proved when He came the first time that He can reverse the curse, control nature, heal all kinds of diseases. By His miracles He showed who He is—the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah, the God-Man who is worthy to reign forever. It is just as important to believe who Jesus is as to believe what He did on the cross. Without that sacrifice to pay for sin, He would have to be all alone in the coming kingdom. In John’s Gospel we read, “Many other signs [miracles] Jesus did, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that by believing you might have life in His name.” He is Lord, He is Redeemer, He is the son of David who will inherit the throne of the eternal earthly kingdom. And my trust is in Him.
Meanwhile, we live in a fallen world that suffers the consequences of the fall. Death and all its “relatives” are the result of sin. To expect that the Lord will deliver us from all illnesses, all misfortunes, all accidents in this life is to try to bring the eternal future into the present. Thank God for the sure hope of the resurrection and all that entails. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19).
So, in a nutshell, my philosophy of life is this:
My Creator-God is sovereign, loving, has a plan for His creation and will carry out that plan to completion. My responsibility is to align myself with that divine plan. In doing so, I will find meaning, contentment, and ultimate victory—and in the end eternal life in the Kingdom. He told us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.”
The Bible is His revelation to us of that plan and how we can be part of that plan.
There is nothing else in life that even approaches that plan in importance. Indeed, everything else in my life had better be properly related to that truth, or it will all come to nothing.
What a satisfying “neat” and “simple” philosophy—simple in its purity but often difficult to practice in the nitty-gritty of this fallen world!
Wouldn’t it be devastating to spend time and effort and money to get an education, to work diligently and sacrificially to help others, only to find at the end of your life that it had result. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Emptiness, how sad!