Page 1



GOD’S Story

sample A Resource for Teaching the Bible as a Unified Whole

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Publishing Information Publication date 2013 Publishers

Robert Johnston and National Institute for Christian Education


Robert Johnston



Dedications To my father, the late Rev Jack Johnston, who faithfully taught and honoured the Bible throughout his life and consistently modelled Biblical insights to his family and congregations.

sample To a childhood and young adult mentor, Mr Owen Shelley, who gave most of his adult life to teaching the Bible creatively and inspiring young people in their faith. To my school headmaster and Divinity teacher, the late Cannon Mel Newth, who modelled wonderful ways of charting and creating systems for capturing and recalling the truths of the Bible for the purposes of teaching young minds to see that the Word of God is indeed ‘sharper than any two edged sword’.

To my university supervisor, Dr Bill Andersen, who modelled integrity of thought and reason in pursuing a Christian understanding for dealing with deep and complex philosophical questions. To my loving wife Jan, whose faith, affirmation and love over nearly 50 years have been a source of great strength and encouragement.

I thank God for the many wonderful Christian friends and paradigms that he has caused to cross my path and encourage me in my faith. Thanks to: My colleagues at CEN – Ken Dickens, Chris Parker, Geoff Beech for suggestions and feedback on the content and layout of the chart Gary Bennetts – for a theological critique of the content of the User’s Guide Coco Parker – for proof reading the User’s Guide Tanya Vander Schoor – for loads of patience and great ideas about design and layout Warren Hole – for advice about the packaging and presentation of the resource

Contents Getting Started


Five Uses of the God’s Story Floor/Wall Chart


Using the Story Line


Using Vertical Slices from the Story Line


Using the Big Themes of the Chart


Using the Overview of the Chart


Using the Chart for Presentations and Talks



God’s Story Users’ Guide


Getting Started The Bible is like a collection of small libraries. While it is not a single story book that starts at Genesis and ends at Revelation, it contains one single profound story – “God’s Story” – the story of God as it has unfolded so far, as it will unfold in the future. The Old Testament consists of 39 books (documents) arranged in 5 libraries.

The New Testament consists of 27 books (documents) arranged in 5 libraries.

1. The law (5 books)

1. Gospel accounts (4 books)

2. History (12 books)

2. History (1 book)

3. Poetry (5 books)

3. Paul’s letters (13 books)

4. Major Prophets (5 books)

4. Other letters (8 books)

5. Minor Prophets (12 books)

5. Apocalypse (1 book)

sample So, the Bible is not sequential and it is not all written as a chapter by chapter story. But the careful reader will find that the different types of literature overlap and fill out the detail of a single, powerful story – the story of God’s activity over time.

This user guide is designed to be a companion for use with the “God’s Story” wall or floor chart. The purpose of this chart is to map out the story on parallel lines that contain different types of information. 1. A time line (not in equal intervals) 2. A line of recognisable biblical characters (green) (and some non-biblical people as well) 3. A line showing the sequencing of the 66 books in approximate order of date written (red) 4. A line showing the sequence of major events (blue)


God’s Story Users’ Guide

5. A line showing the unifying and harmonizing themes that give the Bible its incredible power and significance (white). These big ideas or themes are intentionally colour-coded to show the unifying connections across the whole story (eg. Creation – New Creation)

At the far left of the chart, the greyness signifies the void or nothingness that preceded the beginning of time and matter. It was in this void that the eternal God existed and out of which He spoke both time and matter into existence.

For a short time, there was perfection between God and His creation (signified by gold). It is in this gold band, that the created order and the intimate relationship between God and man was initiated by God - a relationship in which there was no sin, no shame and no death.

But there is a sharp contrast between the clear gold of this bar and the rest of the chart. The act of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and determination to assert their will and to usurp the perfection of God’s divine knowledge and purpose drew out God’s necessary judgement against sin. The ‘curse’ that God announced on them cast them out of the perfection of Eden and into the binary world (after Mark Strom) of right and wrong, good and evil, inclusion and exclusion, love and hate, kindness and cruelty, generosity and greed, etc. From now on, humankind would live in the messiness, brokenness, shame, dirt, ugliness and tragedy of their own making and choosing. That would become the tapestry of futility and powerlessness into which God would weave His wonderful plan to rescue, redeem, restore and reconcile not only His image bearers (humankind) but the physical universe as well. More of that later!

sample At the end (right) of the chart is a vertical line indicating a time when history as we have known it on the tapestry of brokenness will end; when Jesus will come again to complete His rescue plan. The story will continue, yet without the tapestry of messiness – a new heaven, a new earth, a new story. This is the gold band of the ‘new creation’ that bookends the chart. As the chart starts with the opening words of scripture: “In the beginning, God……” (Genesis 1:1) so it finishes with words from the last page of scripture: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

The surface of the chart cannot be written on without leaving a residue, but you can use adhesive plastic labels or flags to add content to the chart for specific applications . By using such labels you can use the chart in endless different ways to locate your teaching, illustrate your applications, draw connections and help listeners to deepen their understanding of this, the most profound story ever conceived or written – “God’s Story”.

So there’s the starter for your use of the “God’s Story” chart. I hope you will enjoy your journey of discovery as you use the chart and as you become an increasingly informed reader of God’s Word. God’s Story Users’ Guide


Five Uses of the God’s Story Floor/Wall Chart

sample 1. Using the Story Line 2. Using vertical slices 3. Big themes


God’s Story Users’ Guide

You can follow the story line (blue) from left to right using the books or parts of the books of the Bible that cover the story line.

You can take vertical slices to explore a deeper understanding of specific episodes and their spiritual significance within the whole story.

You can examine the unifying big themes on the horizontal (white) bar that build the sense of hope and assurance that comes from an understanding of the interlocking truths of the Bible.

The “God’s Story” chart can be used in at least 5 different ways to explore and explain the meaning and overall message of the Bible.

sample 4. Using the overview 5. Using the chart for talks

You can select highlights to give a brief overview of the whole story or to illustrate a particular theme you wish to explore. (eg. ‘Reconciliation’, ‘Impact of sin’, etc).

You can take a New Testament passage (eg Revelation 4-5) and discover its meaning and significance emerging from the early pages of the Old Testament through to the New Testament fulfilment of God’s plan and its focus on the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Using the Story Line

sample The story line (blue) is ideally used in conjunction with the big themes (white) line.

While the story line contains the sequence of events that comprise the core elements of the story, without the use of the big themes (white) they may remain just stories and the full impact and significance of those stories may become lost or the purposes of God become diluted in the detail of the story. The segments that follow will illustrate the point.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

A:“In the beginning, God ……” Out of the void, God, takes initiative: • Unfathomably, incomprehensibly great • Like no other • By an act of His good intention • God speaks into existence (by His word, out of nothing) • Something that, of its very essence, is good • He reveals Himself to be singular (a God) yet plural (“let us”) • He reveals something of His essence, His nature, His character - awesome, transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, pre-existent, loving, gracious, generous.

B: The creation He speaks into existence • Out of nothing (no matter) and out of His timelessness • A kaleidoscope of matter and life in a framework of time and energy His creation has a moral dimension – it is not only good in terms of its ability to function as intended, it comes with obligations consistent with the good God who brought them into being .

sample The pinnacle of His creation work – humankind – is naked yet without shame His ultimate creation bears His likeness, yet is not His equal. Humankind:

• has capacity to commune with Him

• bears a moral character that, at least to some degree, in a creaturely way, reflects or “images” God’s own character – good/pure

• is wired to function perfectly – the character of God seems to mirror the personal moral standards by which God has called us to live in relationships and in community. Humankind is created: • for intimacy • to reproduce • to discover • to create • to use/have dominion/subdue • to work • to sustain • to communicate/speak/comprehend • to obey • to act with intent • to choose • to commune with God (in worship, wonder and honour). (See Psalm 8)

God’s Story Users’ Guide


C: Eden – Adam – The fall Though the Bible says nothing specific about it, it would seem quite reasonable to speculate a little that Adam was created with only one moral reference - i.e. only knowing perfection, good, right, love, kindness, generosity, etc. In fact, he may well have not been aware of these categories, because there were no binary opposites to make him conscious of them. It was the greatness and purity and perfection of God that would have been his whole consuming reference point. There was no choice with one exception: “of this tree, you must not eat the fruit” (Genesis 2: 16-17). Why? Eden was a tangible expression of the greatness, goodness, purity and providence of God – it was “good”. But, for Adam, it was assigned for him to be image bearer of an almighty, holy, personal God. Eden was not just there as a statement of God’s creative genius, but for Adam’s enjoyment, for his use, for his control.

would bring pleasure to God and this was “very good”. To bear the image of God was a huge honour, a rich intimacy (communion) with the holy God, an office that also bore serious obligations. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the very existence of a capacity to choose, would bring Adam undone. To know that which was hitherto unknown was too great a temptation and despite the clear warning from God – “if you eat… will die” (Genesis 2:17) – Eve and then Adam fell victim to the temptation – ‘the Fall’. A holy, pure, great God will not be holy, pure and great if he is capricious, volatile and mischievous. So, for their choice, Adam and Eve would discover the consequences of forsaking their obligations – judgement, death, pain, sadness. Though difficult for us to fully reconcile, these phenomena were not of God’s making (though perhaps of his foreknowledge), but of man’s choosing. Adam, and by virtue of this choice, all humankind, would now encounter the terror of ‘the curse’. This curse would now be the tapestry of tragedy and treachery onto which God would act out the divine drama of redemption, restoration and reconciliation.

sample And so, to Eden’s goodness Adam was added - one who

This background tapestry would demonstrate in episode after episode that people could not redeem themselves. Even the best would know their own fallenness intimately and discover their desperate need of a rescue plan.

D: Sin – Shame – Curse God had created Adam and Eve without shame – no binary opposite. He had created them for ‘life’ but had warned them of ‘death’. (“if you eat … you will die!”)

With ‘the fall’ came an awareness and experience of binary opposites. Innocence now had an opposite - shame. Good had an opposite – evil. Beauty had an opposite – ugliness. They didn’t have to be told. The burden of the binary was now a fixture in their existence. That is the nature of ‘the curse’. Humankind was made for obedience, but chose disobedience and the binary world lay on the other side of


God’s Story Users’ Guide

that disobedience. There was now no hiding from God: • He found them, spoke to them and announced to them the expulsion from Eden (but not their extinction) • He declared to them the terms of the curse: • pain • toil • enmity • death • He declared that the future would be tough; the binary world would be a mere shadow of Eden • They would know something of the joys of living, but with the shadow of sin and death hanging over them • They would discover the significance of the words that Paul would eventually pen about life under ‘the curse’ compared to life as it was first intended to be.- “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

E: Eden – Noah The tragedy of the fall and the curse would all too rapidly become the pattern of human experience. Episode after episode would be punctuated with jealousy, murder, greed, deceit, ambition, idolatry, sexual extremes or infanticide. The list goes on – generation

after generation “did evil in the sight of God”. And into this brokenness, God asserted his grace. God initiated, into a climate of total unworthiness and a culture of degradation and godlessness, a pattern that was going to build to an ultimate climax in history – the first ‘covenant’ – God promising rescue and restoration. God calls one faithful man and gives him the promise; he calls for an act of extreme faith (after Michael Bennett) and then provides a sign and tells him to warn those around. The covenant with Noah anticipates a future in which God’s purpose would prevail over the tapestry of tragedy in a transformation of triumph.

F: Covenants ‘Covenant’ is about God taking the initiative to establish an unchanging guarantee for people of faith to receive blessings and promised redemption in return for them committing themselves to obedience to obligations laid down by God. However, ‘covenants’ are not about legalistic compliance but, rather, an attitude of the heart. “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise, O Lord” (Psalm 51:17) ‘Covenants’ are a thread of promise and the anticipation that God has a redemptive plan in place for his people.

• The fourth ‘covenant’ is with David (2 Samuel 7: 1-17) “Now I will make your name great… I will provide a place for my people Israel… I will give you rest from all your enemies… I will raise up your offspring to succeed you… I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… your kingdom will endure forever before me…”

sample • The first mention of ‘covenant’ is with Noah. (Genesis 9: 1-17) – “I now establish my covenant with you – never again to destroy the earth by flood”

• The second ‘covenant’ is with Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) – “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you…… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.

• The third ‘covenant’ is with Israel (Exodus 24: 1-12) “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words”. (See also Deuteronomy 28-29)

• The fifth ‘covenant’ is the New Covenant in Jesus to the whole world - the universal covenant. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20) “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-11) “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-20) The pattern that was established in the first ‘covenant’ is present throughout the unfolding plan of God – a chosen representative; a promise; obedience; a sign and sacrifice.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


G: The formation of Israel – A chosen nation The Story of God is marked by his initiative. From the very moment of the fall, it is clear that God knew that the enemy – Satan – would be crushed (Genesis 3:15). How does he know? Because he is God! He has a plan! That plan would be his and his only. He would initiate. He would choose. God chooses by his goodness, kindness, mercy and generosity. So, from the ‘covenants’ of Genesis, God develops his plan in Exodus. • He chooses a people – the children of Israel – to be the vehicle of his unfolding truth for his people.

• He forms them into a nation in embryo while in slavery in Egypt. • He makes them a nation in ‘the Promised Land’ and makes them a beacon to the surrounding world. • He makes this nation an object lesson within his grand story of redemption and, through them, he prepares for and points to the primary focus of his story – Jesus. Jesus comes out of this nation – of the seed of Abraham, of the line of Judah, of the kingly line of David – appearing at God’s perfect timing – to reveal God’s sovereign purpose. Israel has fulfilled its covenant role of being the vehicle of God’s unfolding plan. Every step in God’s choosing is secure in his ultimate plan of redemption. Nothing in the background noise of disobedience, treachery, torment, brokenness, deceit and tragedy can or will thwart what God ordains – chooses – predestines. Why? Because he is God! “Ah, sovereign Lord……..nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

sample H: Exodus – Promised land – Judges

The consolidation of the emerging nation of Israel while in slavery in Egypt and through the testing of the Exodus from Egypt was not without its challenges. That which started with their faith and obedience on the night of the ‘Passover’ meal, very rapidly descended beyond doubts to resentments, complaints and outright rebellion and idolatry. Within months of God’s ‘Passover’ promise being fulfilled to the letter and the waters of the Red Sea being parted to rescue them from the army of Pharaoh that pursued them, they were wanting to go back into slavery; they were making a golden calf to worship; they were in a rebellion against Moses; and they were adding daily to the tapestry of tragedy and treachery against God’s gracious provisions for them. For forty years they wandered in the desert because of their rebellion and they experienced God’s judgement on them. A pattern of sin, warning, judgement and restoration is now becoming evident within God’s plan. The God of grace would be faithful to his covenant promises despite the sin and rebellion that his chosen ones kept committing against him. Not only was the descent into sin relentlessly present in the story, but God’s raising of faithful, prophetic figures to warn and challenge his people was equally relentless. Sadly, the torment of judgement would have to follow countless incidents of the failure of his people to heed his warnings. They would have to know suffering before they would once again discover the covenant promises and take them seriously. But the overwhelming, consistent expression of God’s grace was this: time after time he would enter into their brokenness, despair and suffering and restore, release, redeem or reconcile them to himself. So the judgement of forty years of wandering in the wilderness was followed by the restoration - a safe entry across the Jordan into the ‘Promised Land’ and the remarkable defeat of the city of Jericho - with others to follow. They were given a geographical identity in a land of plenty promised to them in the days of Abraham. But, what follows their long-awaited entry into the ‘Promised Land’ cements the patterns of their past. Israel “does evil in the sight of the Lord”. God raises up prophet-like figures - judges - to lead and warn them and draw them back to God where they are restored. But, tragically, they will do evil again and suffer again at the hands of surrounding enemies only for another judge to rise up and lead them back to God.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

I: A nation fails Despite the nation of Israel having experienced God’s blessings and despite his promises being entrenched in their culture: • through prophets being raised up before them • through the mediating work of the priests • through his relational grace constantly before them in the persons of the kings, Israel were the classic expression of the turbulence of life outside Eden – a life in the binary world that followed the curse. They were incapable of living up to the standing that God had given them as his chosen nation. Their failure is not a surprise given that they are the seed of Adam, but God would use even their repeated failure as a nation to reveal more of his purposes. • First, his call for Israel to live by the covenant obligations, just as with his call to Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, came with consequences for disobedience.

• Second, God’s warnings to Israel by his chosen prophets would be a powerful reminder that God is faithful and consistent with his purposes. • Third, God is constantly restoring his people and renewing his covenant blessings on them. Even after they were taken into captivity, the temple destroyed, the Davidic line of kings broken: had God abandoned his covenant with them? No! The nation returned to Jerusalem; the temple was rebuilt, and though the ‘kingdom’ was never restored, the King of Kings of the line of David would usher in an eternal kingdom for his faithful people – the new Israel.

sample J: Kingdom – Divided kingdom

For 400 years, Israel continued to weave their tapestry of tragedy and treachery on which God continued to lay down the pattern of his redemptive plan. He simply would not let them go. But, not content to be redeemed/restored/rescued, they complained to Samuel, the last of the prophet-judges, that they wanted a king like the other nations around them, one who would lead them in battle and win victory against them.

Through Samuel, God reasoned with them that a king like this was not what he wanted for them. God had foreshadowed this moment in their history while they were still in the wilderness. He wanted them to have a king, but one who would be humble; one who would “revere the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:1920). God granted them their desire to have their king but, in doing so, he exposed their motives and warned them of the disastrous consequences of pursuing those motives. They barely survived their first king, Saul, but God had in mind a model king from whom the Messiah king would be descended. There followed the great King David who was, in so many ways, the model God-fearing King. But as good as David was, he was a child of the ‘curse’. Like all the ‘chosen ones’ of God’s purposes in the past, David demonstrated that, if Adam had not sinned, he would have. And Solomon was the same. Though well-credentialed as a God-fearing king at the start, his career descended into tragedy, treachery and sordid episodes one upon the other. By the end of his reign, the chosen nation/kingdom was headed for division and a sad descent towards disaster.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


K:Divided kingdom – Exile – Return The kingdom divided into two – Jeroboam (Solomon’s general) in the North with ten tribes and Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) in the South with two tribes. There began a period of 300 years where none of the northern kings honoured God and barely one third of the southern kings. It was in this time that the warnings of the great prophets were given to the kings and the people of both kingdoms. But, time and time again the kings “did evil in the sight of the Lord” and God once again brought judgement on them through various captivities, Assyria, Babylon, Persia. Once again, as Adam and Eve had been expelled from the Garden of Eden, so Israel was expelled from the land of promise. Sin leads to judgement and, at certain critical

points in “God’s Story”, to exile. This humiliation of losing the land of promise was enough to stir a remnant to return - both to Israel and to the Lord, to rebuild the holy city – Jerusalem – but also the temple – the symbol of the presence of God.

L: Prophecy – Messiah – The centre point of history All of these strands, themes and motifs have one purpose, one focus and a perfect time in history – the birth of Jesus through whom God would bring reconciliation. Through the whole of the Old Testament, various people had been called to a prophetic ministry to the people of Israel. - a ministry to remind them of the promises and faithfulness of God, the requirements of the covenants and the need for their own response of faithfulness to him. In the cross-hairs of God’s ultimate purpose was one thing – the culmination of His plan – the coming of the one through whom “all the nations on earth would be blessed”.

sample The prophets of the Old Testament punctuated the story with reminders of God’s intention to send a Messiah – one who would save his people. Ask any Jew of Jesus’ time and they would need no convincing of the fact that God would send a Messiah. The prophets had sketched out much of the canvas of the coming ministry of Jesus over hundreds even a thousand years before. Though some elements of the canvas were sketched very early in the emerging picture-story, the momentum of messianic prophecies built steadily during and after the dividing of the kingdom of Israel. Throughout his plan, God had provided in the ‘Passover’ promise (Exodus 12:48-51) for the ‘covenant’ to be accessed by those who were not of the line of Abraham, the tribe of Israel, the line of Judah, and the house of David. That pattern of the covenant would have been very familiar to the Jews of Jesus’ time, but the impact of this new covenant would be stunning. It would entail the ultimate sacri#ce that would deal with the consequences of sin forever for all who would turn in faith to trust in and rely upon the sacri#ce that Jesus took upon himself. But this sacri#ce would be followed by a stunning promise and guarantee – the forever seal of the resurrection.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

M: Prophecies that foreshadowed details of the coming Messiah Throughout the Old Testament, there are many references that point to unmistakable details of the coming Messiah. These references confirm again and again that the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, was according to plan: 1 He would be of the line of Abraham – Genesis 18:18 (Genesis 12:3) 2. ...of the tribe of Judah – Gen 49:10 (Matthew 1:1, Luke 3:33, Luke 3:34) 3 ...the heir of the throne of David – Isaiah 9:7 (Isaiah 11: 1-5, 2 Samuel 13, Matthew 1:1) 4 He would be born in Bethlehem – Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7) 5 ...of a virgin – Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:26-35) 6 ...followed by a massacre of infants – Jeremiah 31:15 (Matthew 2:16-18) 7 ...and a flight into Egypt – Hosea 11:1 (Matthew 2: 14 –15)

21 He would be mocked and humiliated – Psalm 22: 6-8 (Matthew 27:39–44, Mark 15: 29–32) 22 He would be offered gall and vinegar – Psalm 69:21(John 9:29) 23 He would have prophetic words thrown at him – Psalm 22:8 (Matthew 27:43) 24 He would pray for his enemies – Psalm 109:4 (Luke 25:34) 25 His side would be pierced – Zechariah 12:10 (John 19:34) 26 Soldiers would cast lots for his coat – Psalm 22:18 (Mark 15:24, John 19:33) 27 Yet not a bone of his body would be broken – Psalm 34:20 (John 19:33) 28 He would be buried with the rich – Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 25: 57-60) 29 He would not remain dead – Psalm 16:10 (Luke 24:36-48, Matthew 28:9)

sample 8 His ministry would be in Galilee – Isaiah 9: 1-2 (Matthew 4: 12-16)

30 He would ascend on high – Psalm 68:18 (Luke 24:50-51, Acts 1:9)

9 ...and be in the style of a prophet – Deuteronomy 18:15 (John 6:14, John 1:45)

There are two streams of prophecy:

10 ...endowed with wisdom – Isaiah 11:2 (Luke 2:52, Luke 4:18)

• One that anticipates a suffering servant.

11 He would be rejected by the Jews – Isaiah 53:3 (John 1:11, 5:43, Luke 4:29)

• One that anticipates a kingly Messiah

The paradox of these two strands is intentional and is best summarized by Paul in his letter to Philippi (Philippians 2:5-11).

12 He would make a triumphal entry to Jerusalem on an ass – Zechariah 9:9 (Matthew 21:1-11, John 12:13-14)


13 He would be betrayed by a friend – Psalm 41:9 (Matthew 14:10, Mark 14: 43-45)


14 He would be sold for 30 pieces of silver – Zechariah 11:12 (Matthew 26:15, 27: 3-10)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.


15 He would be falsely accused – Psalm 27:12 (Matthew 26:60-61) 16 He would be silent when accused – Isaiah 53:7 (Matthew 26: 62-63, 27: 12-14) 17 He would be whipped and spat upon – Isaiah 50:6 (John 19:1-3, Mark 14:65, Mark 15:17) 18 He would suffer on behalf of others – Isaiah 53:4-5 (Matthew 8:16-17) 19 He would be crucified with sinners – Isaiah 53:12 (Matthew 27:38) 20 He would have his hands and feet pierced – Psalm 22:16 (John 20: 25-27)

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!


Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,


that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,


and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


God’s Story Users’ Guide


N: Jesus At God’s perfect timing the strands of the Old Testament come together in the short yet pivotal life and ministry of Jesus. It was indeed, perfect timing. Galatians 4:4 suggests this and history confirms it: • Politically, the Roman Empire had brought universal peace and stability. It established a context that prepared the known world for the spread of the gospel of Jesus. Road transport was now a major advantage too. • Linguistically, the common trading language of Greek provided a vehicle for the gospel of Jesus to be easily passed on from one place to another. • Economically, the Romans taxed the people heavily and created a heightened sense of need and poverty that would make them more open to hear the gospel of Jesus. • Spiritually, Judaism had lost its way and the Roman gods were unconvincing to the people, especially when the power-drunk emperors declared themselves to be gods.

- had foreknowledge – Luke 19:41-44 - had power over death – the resurrection – Mark 5:21-43 - had authority to forgive sin – Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:68 His purpose in coming from heaven to earth is made clear throughout the gospels. • The key message of the “kingdom of God” is that God, as ruler (king), directly breaks into the broken world to deal with sin and bring release – to buy back that which was lost; to redeem his beloved people • The “kingdom of God” was a gift from the Father – (Luke 12:32) • The “kingdom of God” was pronounced in the power of the spirit. (Luke 3:22; 4:1; 14)

sample • Historically, Jewish nationalism was at its peak and at the centre of that was the expectation of a Messiah – a king like David of old. In his earthly existence, Jesus was fully God and fully human. • In his humanness he experienced: - hunger - Luke 4:2, Matthew 4:2 - grief – John 11:33-36

- anguish – Matthew 26:37-39

- temptation – Matthew 4:1-10

- pain - Luke 22:63-64, Hebrews 12:1-2 - death – John 19:30

• In his divinity he: - pre-existed the creation – John 1:1, 8:58, 17:5, 24

• The “kingdom of God” was established through the ministry of Jesus.

• The “kingdom of God” involved a new people, a new covenant around their humble servant-hearted following of Jesus. • The “kingdom of God” was sealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

• The “kingdom of God” secured for Jesus’ followers an eternity in the presence of God.

So, the centrepiece of the life of Jesus was his redeeming work that has been transformational in the now and will last for eternity in the new creation. For “in Jesus we have redemption………..of which I Paul am a messenger” (Colossians 1:14-23)

- had control over nature – Matthew 8:25-27

O: Ascension – Holy Spirit – Church – Gospel spreads The primary focus of the plan that God had woven onto the human tapestry of tragedy and treachery had come in the person and work of Jesus. The great historic themes of his plan as played out in the Old Testament had all come into sharp focus again in the few short years of Jesus’ ministry. But that was not the end. By God’s grace, there was an extension of time for the nations of the earth to hear and respond to the gospel of Christ. For Jesus, his earthly ministry was complete. Satan had been defeated. Death had been defeated and the power of sin had been defeated. His ascension into heaven to “prepare a place for” his followers ushered in the era of the Holy Spirit. His Spirit would be the means by which humankind would continue to come under the conviction of sin and come to the realisation of their need for the covering of the completed work of Jesus. 14

God’s Story Users’ Guide

The powerful coming of the Spirit became a fan-forced fulfilment of the promise to Abraham – the church grew and the gospel spread. “All the nations on earth” are now blessed by the message of the gospel. Nevertheless, there is still sin; there is still pain; there is still suffering; there is still tragedy. There is a sense in which the full delivery of this gospel was both now and not yet. The Kingdom of God was established but not yet consummated. The honoured role of the believer was to share in bringing about the present continuous formation of the Kingdom of God (as in the ministry of reconciliation of 2 Corinthians 5). Yet, there is still an expectation of an ultimate exclamation mark on the whole plan – the last trumpet and the grand finale of Revelations 4 and 5 when tragedy and pain would be no more!

P: Gospel spreads – Second coming As the New Testament draws to a close, the promise of the ‘new covenant’ is still fresh in the ears of the blessed, chosen ones (1 Peter 2:9-10) that have come under the sound of the gospel. The ‘new covenant’ based on Jesus’ perfect sacrifice looks forward to a ‘new creation’. And so we wait in confidence for the final expression of reconciliation for which Jesus has done the preparation – his second coming. There is great speculation about what this will be like, but there is really only one criterion that should concern us. Let God’s timing be his alone and let us get on with living faithfully in readiness for his final act in the story. (Romans 8: 18-25). We are called to “wait with eager expectation for the plans of God to be revealed………in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-25). (Hebrews 9:28). The second coming of Jesus will complete the salvation journey of the faithful who have been waiting (Hebrews 9:28). Our lot is like that of a farmer waiting for his crop to be ready for harvest. We must “be patient and stand firm” (James 5:7).

sample Q: A new heaven and a new earth Though the details are minimal, it is clear that the judgement of the earth will take place (2 Peter 3:13) and only the righteous will dwell in the presence of God (Revelation 21). The messiness and brokenness of the fall will be gone – no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:3-5). Everything will be made new (v5) and God will dwell with the righteous (v3). And so the Story ends where it began with God ruling in his new creation and the faithful of all times living in worshipful obedience before him (Revelation 5).

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Using Vertical Slices from the Story Line

sample This use of the chart is intended for more in-depth studies. It intentionally links key events and people with the relevant books of the Bible and the ‘big themes’ that are the core focus of those events. The examples that follow are just a few of a great number that could be developed as Bible Study series or courses.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

A: The Fall – Judgement – Curse – Death Though history is embedded in the Bible, the Bible is not, at its core, a history book and we simply do not know the time line for the early part of God’s story. However, we do know that Jesus took the early parts of Genesis at face value and as a statement of fact - that God created the universe as we know it and that he did this by his word. In doing this, he showed his greatness, his authority and his power over all things. As an omnipotent God, it was his divine right to set the conditions by which humans should live within his creation. At this time of utter perfection, purity, intimacy and integrity, the first image bearers of God – Adam and Eve – knew only good and right and the absence of shame (Genesis 2:25). But God had identified a boundary – a boundary that was important to the relationship between the image bearers and himself (Genesis 2:17). He created them for his pleasure and this required their willing worship, honour and obedience. For worship and obedience to be meaningful, God set in place the only indication of the existence of an opposite of those perfect moral standards of Eden - the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:15-17). God required their willing engagement with his perfect, generous, loving, gracious creation and with Him. The very existence of an unknown moral dimension was and still is a powerful and almost irresistible temptation for humankind (Genesis 3:6). We have an insatiable desire for control. For Eve, it was irresistible and by her act of disobedience the perfection of Eden was forever broken (Genesis 3:7-8).

sample A truly good God will always be consistent with his perfect character. To be volatile, fickle or capricious is not an option for a great, all-knowing, loving God. And it was against this perfect character that God had to be true to the warning that he had announced concerning the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. (Genesis 2:17) So, with the fall came a necessary judgement and that judgement was immediate (Genesis 3:14ff and Genesis 3:17ff). The judgement was God’s necessary response to Adam and Eve’s willing disobedience. He named the broken bond of intimacy (Genesis 3:15) and therefore had to name the consequence (Genesis 3:23) – the curse of being dismissed from Eden and the curse of pain (Genesis 3:16) and toil (Genesis 3:19) and death (Genesis 3:19) outside the garden. From this point on, humans would live in a tapestry of messiness, brokenness, tragedy and treachery. They would now live in a binary world where good is known in contrast to evil, life is known in contrast to death, and truth is known in contrast to falsehood. Nevertheless, they were not merely victims of Adam’s sin. They were every bit the perpetrators as we are also perpetrators. We must remember that, throughout the history that forms this tapestry, humans are personally responsible for their sin and cannot deflect it to their heritage, their environment or their culture. (Romans 3) This is the tapestry on which God would weave his own perfect plan of grace and love that would see the helplessness of life outside of Eden redeemed and the perfection of Eden restored. The perfection of the ‘creation’ broken by sin, would, at the end of God’s plan, be replaced by a ‘new creation’ (Galatians 6:15). The ‘first Adam’ would be superseded by the perfect ‘second Adam’, Jesus (1Corinthians 15:45).

God’s Story Users’ Guide


B: King and Kingdom The development of Israel as a Kingdom goes all the way back to Abram (Genesis 12) when God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and promised to make out of him a great nation (Genesis 12:2-3). Sometime later God appeared to him in a dream and promised him “this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). Abram (later Abraham) believed God and God honoured his promise through many generations over several hundreds of years. Through Isaac and then Jacob God kept the promise alive by a very slender thread of sometimes ugly inheritance struggles. But Jacob had 12 sons and it was those 12 sons who really became the fathers of a large number of people who took up residence in Egypt after a severe famine (Genesis 50:14).

After 40 years in the Wilderness of Zin, God allowed the ‘Children of Israel’ to take the land that he had promised to Abraham – Canaan. Under the leadership of Joshua, they crossed the River Jordan and took possession of the land and thereby became ‘a nation’ of tribes (Joshua 1-5). It was a somewhat tenuous existence and. As a nation, they became distracted by the pagan peoples around them. God dealt with their faithlessness by allowing oppression and then raising up a succession of ‘judges’ (prophetic leaders) to refocus their trust in the God of promise who had given them the land. Over yet another 400 years, this tenuous hold on the land of promise continued. Eventually, the people rose up and asked of the last ‘judge’, Samuel, that they be allowed to have “a king like the nations around them” who would lead them into battle against their adversaries. That brings us to this slice of God’s Story. Their demand for “a king like the nations around” was not in God’s will,though he had foreshadowed a king who would ‘revere the Lord his God’ (Deuteronomy 17:19-2). Through Samuel, he warned them against seeking a king of this nature (1 Samuel 8) because it was indicative of yet another rejection of God’s rule over them. Through Samuel, God gave the Israelites very speci#c warnings of what would $ow from their demands (1 Samuel 8:1118). Nevertheless, God allowed them their demands and provided for them a king – Saul, son of Kish (1 Samuel 9:1 to 10:27).

sample Over a period of 400 years, they become a people – the Hebrews or Children of Israel. They were very numerous (Exodus 1:7) and a threat to a new king (Exodus 1:8) and so they were forced into slavery (Exodus 1:11-14). But through extraordinary circumstances, God raised up Moses and placed him in a position of privilege that enabled him to become a leader (Exodus 2). Through Moses, God developed his plan to take his initial promise to Abraham and turn it into an extraordinary reality. Though reluctant (Exodus 3), Moses eventually found himself leading the ‘Children of Israel’ out from under the cruel slavery of the Pharaoh and into the desert of Sinai (Exodus 19). Through much turmoil, resentment, resistance and disobedience, God formed these people into a nation-inwaiting by giving them ‘the law’ and establishing a focal point for their worship – ‘the tabernacle’. All this prepared for them an identity as God’s chosen people.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

God seems to act against his own purpose here, but the issue was not about a king per se. Neither was the issue the kingdom. The issue was their godless motivation; their faithlessness and their intent to have a king who would lead them to war against others (1 Samuel 8:20). However, to make it clear to them that God was their true sovereign Lord, he gave Samuel a prophetic overview of what this sort of a king would be like and told him to “warn them solemnly” (1 Samuel 8:11-18). Ultimately, as Saul’s kingship spiralled out of control towards its end, God grieved that he had made Saul king at all (1 Samuel 15:35). But this should not be misunderstood. God had not made a mistake (1 Samuel 15:29). In fact, it seems that God used this pathetic foundation of the kingdom to segue into the powerful development of the motif of ‘king and kingdom’. At the end of the disastrous object lesson of the kingdom under Saul, God already had in mind a remarkable and highly significant alternative – David (1 Samuel 16). He was, in fact, anointed to the role while still a boy; while Saul was in the prime of his reign; despite the fact that Saul had a son and heir. He caused David to learn on the job as he observed the role of king and played the harp in Saul’s court (1 Samuel 16:14-23). He built a kingly reputation as a young soldier (1 Samuel 17) and gained a highly respected reputation amongst the people (1 Samuel 18:7). All this was to prepare David to be an ideal (though certainly not perfect) king who would be a constant reminder to the people of what a king should be like. So, following the suicide of Saul and the death of Jonathan

in battle, David was anointed king over Judah (2 Samuel 2) and, in time, over Israel (2 Samuel 5). He conquered the Jebusites at Jerusalem and established himself there and called it “the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:9). There he became more and more powerful “because the Lord God almighty was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10). He brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) and celebrated in ecstasy. The ultimate fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham had come to pass – a people in their own land as a nation and now a kingdom pleasing to God. Under David’s reign, Israel was constantly pointed to God. With all his failings, David never lost his awareness of the presence and blessing of God on his people and his kingdom. His kingdom – the Kingdom of Israel – was never bigger than under David. It enjoyed peace (2 Samuel 7:1) and prosperity and the people had a foretaste of God’s bigger purpose. This was the golden age of Israel. Through the prophet Nathan, God made a solemn promise to David concerning the future: “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:11-16)

of Israel was destined to be temporary. God’s warning through Samuel became a tragic reality (1&2 Kings). • So the golden age of Israel lasted just one generation. First it faltered under Solomon (1 Kings 11:7-13). Then it divided into two – Judah and Israel – (1 Kings 11:26 to 12:24) according to the will of God. Both kingdoms experienced Godless leadership – particularly Israel – and God ultimately hardened the hearts of foreign kings to conquer them both and take them into captivity. • The land of promise was far away; their nationhood was in tatters; they no longer had a king and they were back in servitude (2 Chronicles 36:11-21). They remained in servitude for over 50 years and pined after their promised land (Psalm 137:1). • Notwithstanding God’s necessary judgement on their faithlessness, the thread of God’s promises to Abraham and David remained alive. First he allowed them to return to the Promised Land, to a broken down Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (2 Chronicles 36:2223). They had no king, but they were led by Zerubbabel – of the line of Judah (1 Chronicles 3:17-24) – from whom both of Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, were descendants (Matthew 1). Israel was led under a ‘theocracy’ for the next 500 years.

sample • God’s purpose in permitting the anointing of a king and the establishment of an ideal kingdom is made clear in this covenant with David. He is the line from which Jesus will come; he is a type of the King of Kings who will rule forever; his kingdom is ‘a type’ of God’s Kingdom that will have no end. • This very significant theme in the Old Testament is clearly prophetic. The path to kingship for God’s true King (Messiah Jesus) would, like David’s path to kingship, involve suffering – hence the concept of a suffering Messiah.

• So, according to promise, Jesus, King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:12-16), came to rule, but not in an earthly or military sense. The physical threads of ‘King’ and ‘Kingdom’ are drawn together once again in Jerusalem, the City of David. Jesus taught and proclaimed the ‘Kingdom of God’ (Mark 4:11, 4:26ff, 10:14ff, 12:28ff) throughout his ministry. He claimed the title of ‘King’ before Pilate (John 18:37). He ascended into heaven to sit on his throne from where he will ultimately judge and rule forever (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – according to his promises to Abraham and David. Ultimately, the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ would be the inheritance of all believers and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) would be the forever climax of God’s promises to Abraham (a promised land) and David (a forever kingdom).

• Sadly, neither the kings who followed David, nor the people they led were to maintain the model set by David. Time after time we read that they “did evil in the sight of God” (1 Kings 11:6). God announced his judgement on their treachery. The earthly kingdom

God’s Story Users’ Guide


C: The family tree Matthew Chapter 1 may seem, on the surface, to be just a list of names and ancestry, but it is, in fact, a list that embodies a story of incredible purpose. It takes the reader back to Abraham to whom God made the promise that, through him, all the nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12). It then takes us through names that remind us of the tapestry of tragedy and treachery on which God wove his promises and kept his plan alive. There’s Judah (Genesis 37:26-27) who sold his brother Joseph into slavery and tormented his father with decades of deception (Genesis 37:3135). There’s Tamar who prostituted herself to bear Judah a son, Perez (Genesis 38). There’s Rahab, the harlot, who gives Salmon a son called Boaz, who marries a foreigner – Ruth – who chose to follow the God of her motherin-law – Naomi – who gives birth to Obed, father of Jesse who was the father of David (Ruth 4:18-22). Wow!

sample There’s David who, though favoured by God, was an adulterer and a murderer (2 Samuel 11). Then there were numerous kings of Judah who were rotten to the core (2 Chronicles 12:14, 21:4-6, 22:1-4, 33:1-9, 36:2-5, 36:9-10, 36:11-14) .

Even after Judah is sent into captivity as a punishment for their sin and rebellion, God raises up Zerubbabel (Ezra 1- 2) of the line of Judah to lead the people back to Jerusalem to start all over again. Despite this litany of lawlessness and treachery, God, by his grace, chose to keep faith with his plan. At times, the plan held together by a fine thread (Genesis 38, 1 Samuel 31, Ezra) but, in the end, it comes to an ultimate focal point in the Christ child, Jesus – a direct descendant of Abraham, Judah and David, who would, by his coming as a babe and by being faithful to his calling to a foreordained death for the sins of many, bring salvation to all the nations on earth (John 1:12).


God’s Story Users’ Guide

D:The last supper – Jesus – The perfect sacrifice At God’s perfect timing, around 5BC, Jesus is born of a virgin in Bethlehem (Matthew 1, Luke 2). Conceived by the Holy Spirit of God (Luke 1), he came according to plan, a plan foretold by many prophets over many, many years (Isaiah 7:14). He was fully human, yet fully God – Messiah – The anointed one (John 1). His short life of about 35 years was remarkable enough – speaking with authority as a child (Luke 2:41ff); knowing his mission as a child (Luke 2:49); declaring his status as “one with the Father” (John 10:22-30); predicting his death and resurrection (John 12:20ff); demonstrating his authority to claim divinity by his many miracles (Luke 5:17-26); showing his authority over nature and death itself (Luke 7:11-17); declaring his salvation purpose (John 3:10-21, 10:7-10) and his destiny to judge at the end of history (John 5:19-30). The big themes of the Old Testament came to an emphatic focal point in Jesus and the events surrounding his death. It begins in the preceding weeks with Jesus’ frequent predictions of his death (John 12-13). A week before he is welcomed into Jerusalem as a hero – a king – a source of salvation from “the enemy” (John 12:12ff). Within 5 short days, all that would be upturned and Jesus would face a wretched death.

sample On the Thursday night, it was ‘passover’ (Matthew 26:17ff), the night that Jewish people held a feast to remember the night they sacrificed an unblemished lamb, a faultless sacrifice. With unyeasted bread, (a symbol of their hasty departure from Egypt) and bitter herbs (a symbol of the bitter years of slavery in Egypt), they rapidly ate the meal and painted the blood of the lamb around the frames of their doors as a protection against God’s judgement over the firstborn males of Egypt. Jesus gathered his disciples together for their passover feast (Luke 22:7ff), but it had an important twist. Jesus again predicted his death (Luke 22:15-16) and, this time, used the unyeasted bread and wine as symbols of his own impending sacrifice (Luke 22:19-22).This was to be ‘the perfect sacrifice’ and the final sacrifice that needed to be made for sin (Hebrews 10:14). The previous covenants of the Old Testament were now surpassed by a “new covenant in (Jesus’) blood” (Luke 22:20).

No longer are the Old Testament rituals needed. Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice is complete; the veil of the temple is split from top to bottom as a sign that Jesus’ death had dealt with sin once and for all (Mark 15:37-38). Instead of the physical temple in Jerusalem being a symbol of the presence of God, the hearts of all those who trust in the completed work of Jesus are collectively and personally “the temple of the living God.”(Romans 12:1) (2 Corinthians 6:16) It is for these reasons that Jesus’ mission is the centrepiece of human history – God, in Christ, reconciling all things to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Using the Big Themes of the Chart

sample The big themes are perhaps the most significant tools of the chart because they identify the unifying motifs/themes of “God’s Story” as it unfolded. These recurring or related themes (shown by means of colour-coded arrows in the white bar along the bottom of the chart) demonstrate the overall message that “God’s Story” is “according to plan” (after Graeme Goldsworthy). There are 19 big themes with 19 different colours used to link these themes together across the chart. Presenters, using the notes that follow, will first identify the unifying Biblical theme they wish to explore. Next to the heading for that theme, you will find the colour of the theme pointers identified in brackets. This will help you to find the relevant pointers along the white (bottom) bar of the chart. For example: Covenant – New covenant in Jesus – Universal covenant (light green)


God’s Story Users’ Guide

sample The big themes identified on the chart are as follows: A. Trinity (light blue) B. Creation - New creation (dark green) C. First Adam – Second Adam (light grey) D. Life – Eternal life (deep gold) E. Sin – Curse – Death – Judgement - Exile– Hell (black) F. Covenant – New covenant – Universal covenant (light green) G. Sacrifice – Perfect sacrifice – Living sacrifice (bright red) H. Chosen ones – Chosen leader – Chosen nation – Chosen king – God’s elect (deep purple) I. Covenant community – Church (bright orange) J. Passover meal – Last supper – Remembrance meal (rust) K. Sacrificial lamb – Passover lamb – Jesus, Lamb of God (mid blue)

L. Tabernacle – Holy of holies – First temple – Second temple – Veil of temple split – Temple of the living God (light brown) M. The Law – A new commandment – Law of the Spirit of Christ – Law and grace (dark blue) N. Promised land – Kingdom of Israel - Kingdom of God – Kingdom of heaven (lime green) O. Prophet – Priest – King – Jesus – Prophet, priest and king (light pink) P. Reconciliation (mid green) Q. Jesus’ first coming – Jesus’ second coming (dark pink) R. Satan – Satan defeated – Satan bound (dark grey) S. New heaven and new earth (aqua) These unifying themes are outlined below to assist you as you use the chart to draw the threads of “God’s Story” together.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


A: Trinity (light blue) • Genesis 1: 26 “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. The writer of Genesis clearly uses the plural for “God”, a use that will be borne out by the testimony of the New Testament.

• John 14:16 – Anticipates the Counsellor coming as the Spirit of Truth.

• Matthew 3:16-17 – The baptism of Jesus involves the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

• Ephesians 2:18, Colossians 2:9, 2 Corinthians 13:14 – Paul confirms the truth of the Trinity in all of these verses.

• Matthew 28:19 – Jesus’ instruction to spread the gospel includes baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. • John:1:1 – Identifies Jesus being there in the creation as God

• John 15:26 – Jesus clearly links all three persons of the Godhead.

• 1 Peter 1:2 – Peter chimes in to affirm the trinitarian nature of the Godhead • Revelation 5 – The presence of the Father, Son and Spirit at the end of time

• John:10:30 – Jesus declares that he is one with the Father.

B: Creation – New creation (dark green) • Genesis 1 records the creation of the physical universe by God’s word and his perfect will. He creates life and climaxes it with the creation of his image-bearers – humankind (Creation). It was a pure existence without evil and with perfect communion with God – there was no shame.

• Revelation 21:1 proclaims the coming of a “new heaven and a new earth” where perfection will be restored. (New Creation)

sample • 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul links these bookends by reminding Christ’s followers that they don’t have to wait for the end. They have already been declared to be “a new creation”, because of the completed work of Jesus in reconciling them to himself.

C: First Adam – Second Adam (light grey)

• Genesis 2:20 Adam = ‘the man’ (Hebrew) = the first ‘image-bearer’ of God = ‘the natural’ = ‘living being’ from the dust of the earth.

• 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-49 Jesus is the last Adam = ‘the spiritual’ = ‘a life giving spirit’ from heaven. Just as we bear “the likeness of earthly man” we will bear “the likeness of the man from heaven”.

D: Life – Eternal life (deep gold) The perfection of the Garden of Eden is synonymous with ‘life’. Adam and Eve were “naked and not ashamed” in their perfect relationship with God. The “tree of life” in the middle of the garden from which they were allowed to eat is indicative of the reality that was Eden – there was no hint of death – only God’s intention for his image-bearers to experience life. (Genesis 2:9) • After Adam and Eve’s descent into sin, God’s plan to reverse the effects of sin focuses once again on life. First, it is important that Jesus breaks the reality and the power of physical death. But more important is the defeat of Satan and the defeat of spiritual death (separation from God) – the penalty for sin.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

• Deuteronomy 30:15-20 presents the juxtaposition of life and death. In John 5: 24-26 Jesus prophesies that those in Christ (believers) will rise to be with Christ and will themselves be alive from the dead (Romans 3:13) • In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul anticipates the ‘new creation’, the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21:1, in which “eternal life” - a physical/ spiritual eternity with God in the ‘new creation’ - is the final reversal of the penalty for Adam’s sin. God’s creation plan for life is finally sealed in the ‘new creation’ as a consequence of the resurrection of Jesus. (See 1 Corinthians 15: 45-49)

E: Sin - Curse – Death – Judgement – Exile – Hell (black) The descent of Adam and Eve into sin came with a promised yet terrible consequence. God had made the knowledge of evil a no-go zone and had warned that such a step on Adam and Eve’s part would bring the consequence of ‘the curse’ (Genesis 2:17). The essence of that curse was ‘death’. This death was not only a physical removal from the presence of God, but Adam’s shame also had a spiritual dimension. From the very start of the ‘curse’, human beings entered the binary world of dark and light, pain and well-being, good and evil and inclusion and exclusion. From that point on, humankind would walk the road of messiness, brokenness, pain and treachery. Throughout the journey outside Eden, humankind would repeat the disobedience and rebellion of Adam – over and over again, in a myriad of perverse ways. The judgement

of ‘the curse’ and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden would be symbolically and actually repeated in the exiles of Israel and Judah. God gave mankind a way out of the pain of disobedience and the brokenness of rebellion (John 3:16, Romans 6:23), but the consequence of rejecting God’s way out has a final and terrible consequence. Like the first ‘curse’, the consequence for those who reject Christ is permanent, devastating, inescapable, irreversible separation from God – the ultimate exile. This is the meaning of ‘hell’ – the ultimate ‘curse’ for those who turn their backs on God. (Matthew 10:28, Mark 9:43, Ephesians 2:1, Col 2:13, John 5:24). Sin pays its final dividend – eternal destruction - “shut out from the presence of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).

F: Covenant – New covenant – Universal covenant (light green)

sample Holding God’s plan together over centuries to sustain the hope and trust of his ‘chosen people’ was done by means of a series of ‘covenants’. A ‘covenant’ is a form of agreement – a binding agreement. But this agreement was somewhat one-sided – God’s promises and God’s conditions. It was made by God and was permanent but the promises were only available to those who trusted in God’s faithfulness. • Genesis 6:18 Covenant with Noah

• Genesis 12: 1-3 Covenant with Abraham

• Exodus 24:1-12 Covenant with Israel (Exodus 6:7-8, Exodus 19:3-6) • 2 Samuel 7:1-17 Covenant with David

• Luke 22:20 New covenant in Jesus’ blood • Acts 1:7-8 Final covenant promise

The covenants were, in most cases, confirmed by a sacrifce and accompanied by a sign (a reminder).





Genesis 8:20

Rainbow Genesis 9:13


Genesis 12:7

Circumcision Genesis 17:9-14


Genesis 24:5

Ark of the Covenant


2 Samuel 6:17


Luke 22:14-23

Fellowship meal/Baptism


John 3:16

Spiritual gifts

The ‘new covenant’ spelled the end of the privileged role that Israel had fulfilled under the old covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). Jesus replaced the old covenant roles of priest, prophet and king. The role of the temple was terminated when, at the moment of darkness, as Jesus died, the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom, giving direct access for the believer and repentant sinner alike to the presence of God (Hebrews 8).

But the ‘new covenant’ was also to be a global or ‘universal covenant’. No longer was the ‘covenant’ between God and the ‘chosen nation’ of Israel to be exclusive. It was now open to the non-Jewish world – to all who would believe in Jesus (Romans 1:5-6, Romans 1:16, Romans 9, Romans 10:12, Hebrews 11:40).

God’s Story Users’ Guide


G: Sacrifice - Perfect sacrifice - Living sacrifice (bright red) The most profound motif of the Old Testament is ‘sacrifice’. Yet it is far more than a mere motif. Sacrifice is present from the very early chapters of Genesis with Cain and Abel and it continues unbroken until the ‘perfect sacrifice’ in Jesus – “the lamb of God” (1 John 1:29, Revelation 5:6). Why sacrifice? It was ‘life’. The animal being sacrificed was personally owned and greatly valued. It was willingly given up. The animal was identified with by the giver. It was offered with penitence and trust in God. But the fact that it had to be repeated over and over again confirms that it was not effective in itself to deal with sin. So why have it? Why do it? Sacrifice is practiced by the key characters in God’s Story right from the start; Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Judah. It is a core direction from God to Moses in the Levitical law (Leviticus). It is core to the history of Israel and Judah from the time of the judges to the time of Jesus. It is a symbol that points to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. But it is not only a symbol. The life of the sacrificial animal was in its blood and it was in the actual shedding of its blood (the giving up

of life) that there was atonement for God’s people. There was an unmistakeable intention in the Old Testament phase of this unfolding plan that “sacrifice” would become the centrepiece of God’s special story of atonement and redemption. • Abel

Genesis 4:4

• Noah

Genesis 8:20

• Abraham

Genesis 12:7, Genesis 22

• Jacob

Genesis 31:54, Genesis 46:1

• Moses

Exodus 3:18, Exodus 5:13, Exodus 20

• Israel

Leviticus – Deuteronomy

(See also ‘Sacrificial Lamb’) Having been obedient even to the point of death, Jesus’ sacrifice of his life brought together a whole cluster of themes that was expressed in the ultimate theme of God’s plan – redemption – the perfect expression of God’s love, a love that should draw from us the desire to present our bodies as ‘a living sacrifice’ to him. (Romans 12:1-2)

sample H: Chosen ones – Chosen leader – Chosen nation – Chosen king – God’s elect (deep purple)

Throughout the whole of God’s story is the theme of God taking the initiative to choose those on whom he shows favour. From Noah through Abram, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel and David, it is God who initiates. In other ways too, God also initiates when he hardens the hearts of the pharaoh and the king of Assyria.

God is sovereign and his perfect knowledge and will are inseparable within his eternal nature. It is therefore not surprising that in his ‘new covenant’, God continues to take initiative in choosing his elect. (Mark 13:20-27, 2 Peter 1:10)

I: Covenant community – Church (bright orange)


I: Covenant community – Church (bright orange) One key feature of the ‘chosen nation’ of Israel was that they were formed into a tight-knit community under the ‘covenant’. Initially at Sinai and later at Jerusalem, the Tabernacle and then the Temple became the focus of the life of this ‘covenant community’.

The fact that he owns it as his church is significant enough, but then he adds to that the implication that this gathering will be one of unity - the absence of conflict.

But when the veil of the temple had been split, what was going to replace the communal identity that Israel had been given to encourage their faith? Though the temple and sacrifices and priestly mediation were surpassed, fulfilled and eclipsed in Jesus and, though the ritual formalities of worship were no longer required, God still had in mind the power of a community identity to carry forward the message of the gospel – “the new covenant in my blood” as Jesus described it. That ‘community’ was to be the ‘church’. Jesus only mentions it twice in the gospels, but with very clear ownership and intention:

Matthew 16:18 – “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”.

Matthew 18:17 – “If the person refuses to listen to (the witnesses), tell it to the church”.

God’s Story Users’ Guide

During the Last Supper, Jesus informs his disciples that there is more to come, but the next stage will be under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. John 16:5-16 (esp 12 and 13) Jesus indicates that the Holy Spirit will reveal the significance of Jesus’ ministry and will reveal “what is yet to come”.

The events of the day of Pentecost mark the beginning of this era in which the church (the gathering) would be far more than a mere casual social entity. It would be a gathering of God’s ‘covenant people’ in fellowship with himself by his Spirit and his Word as promised in Isaiah 59:21. It would be the “body of Christ” together in supernatural kinship by the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus at its centre. •

Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. Wherever the Holy Spirit unites people to Jesus and to each other, that is ‘the church’.

While we don’t know the specific directions Paul received concerning the church when he was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was certainly instructed on the subject by Jesus. This is made clear in Galatians 1:11-12. Paul then went about establishing churches wherever he went to teach the truth about Jesus.

throughout the earth. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has inspired, through the ‘church’, the truth concerning Jesus. Though the ‘church’ has not been perfect, neither was ‘Israel’. Yet God has protected his truth through all the failures and corruptions of the church and he will keep his ‘church’ until he returns.

It is the ‘church’, like ‘Israel’ in the Old Testament, by which the ‘new covenant’ has been proclaimed and spread

J: Passover meal – Last supper – Remembrance meal (rust) A powerful image of God’s redeeming plan was captured in the ‘passover meal’ that God instituted on the night before the children of Israel departed Egypt on the exodus towards the promised land. A simple meal with profound imagery became the pattern for Jesus’ ‘last supper’ (Luke 22:7-20) with his disciples and the ‘commemorative meal’ (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) that he instituted for the church to celebrate.

A spotless lamb (shed blood that saves from judgement) and unleavened bread (symbolic of the absence of evil) for the first ‘passover meal’ (Exodus 12) are replaced with wine (symbolic of the shed blood of Jesus) and bread (symbolic of the body (life) of Jesus given up for us). They become the ‘meal of remembrance’ for the church – the ‘new Israel’ (1 Corinthians 11).

sample K: Sacrificial lamb – Passover lamb – Jesus, Lamb of God (mid blue)

As the practice of sacrifice became formalised in Exodus 12, it is significant to note that the focus was on a young, perfect, male lamb for the sacrifice. The concept of a substitute death is significant enough, but the focus on a ‘lamb’ is also important – young is symbolic of innocence, perfect/spotless is symbolic of sinlessness, male is also significant when looking ahead to Jesus. The annual celebration of the ‘passover’ feast amongst the Jewish people kept in clear focus the significance of the substitutionary death of a lamb for personal sin (atonement) until the night before Jesus’ death.

It must be remembered that, at the start of his ministry – at his baptism – John the Baptist announced Jesus with the words “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1: 29, 36). This prophetic announcement is reflected in Jesus’ words at the last supper (Matthew 26:28) and is prominent in John’s vision in Revelation 5:6-12 of the end of time. The ‘Lamb of God’ is therefore a centrepiece of the sacrifice motif that holds the whole story of God together.

L: Tabernacle (Holy of Holies) – First temple – Second temple – Herod’s temple – Veil of temple split – Temple of the living God (light brown) Another key theme of “God’s Story” is ‘tabernacle’ or ‘temple’ and particularly one part of the temple – the ‘holy of holies’ – the symbol of the presence of God. It first emerges in “God’s Story” during the exodus (Exodus 25). God has already formed his people into a large group with a distinctive identity – ‘the children of Israel’ (descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). He now prepares them as a people with the unmistakable protection of the presence of God and the unmistakable mission of being the instrument of his purposes. The presence of God with them is signified by the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that hovers over the ‘holy of holies’ (Exodus 26). But the ‘holy of holies’ is not just a symbol. It is a reality too – a place where no one dare go except the high priest once a year. It is a place where ‘the

ark of the covenant’ is kept, a place where the high priest goes to make atonement for the sins of God’s chosen people. Anyone else daring to go into this holy place or touch the ‘ark’ will not survive. Such is the awesome power of the presence of God (Leviticus 16) . When Israel crosses the Jordan River and becomes a ‘nation’ the ‘ark of the covenant’ is still central to their identity. When they are granted their own king, the time came for a permanent structure – a ‘temple’ to replace the ‘tabernacle’. While it is King David’s dream, it is King Solomon who, under God’s direction, completes it (1 Kings 5-9). But, as beautiful as Solomon’s temple was, it was just material and this ‘first temple’ was destroyed by the Babylonians when they took Judah into captivity. When they returned 75 years later, a sign of their

God’s Story Users’ Guide


renewed commitment to God was the building of the ‘second temple’ which remained almost until Jesus’ time (Ezra 6) . By around 20BC the second temple was in an advanced state of decay and the proud descendants of ‘the return’ wanted the symbol of their identity as a nation restored. Of all people, it was the wicked Herod Antipas who took on the task of building this magnificent edifice. It took about 80 years to complete and the full building was only partly complete at the time of Jesus’ prediction of his death (John 2:20). As significant as this temple was to the faithful Jews it was no substitute for the real presence of God in the hearts

of believers. And so it was, that at the moment of Jesus’ death – when he took the penalty for the sins of the whole world – the veil into the ‘holy of holies’ was split from top to bottom (Luke 23: 45). No longer was God’s presence to be identified with a space in a building. No longer was God going to be perceived as inaccessible. The believer and repentant sinner alike could now approach the mercy seat of God personally and directly and know the presence of God in his/her life. As Jesus says: “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). And so, as a consequence of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our bodies are now the ‘temple of the living God’ – the place where God dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

M: The law – A new commandment – Law of the Spirit of Christ – Law and grace (dark blue) Another important piece of “God’s Story” is ‘law’ – intended to embody both truth and knowledge (Romans 2:20). The law is intended to point us to our sin. Obedience to the law was never intended to win favour in God’s eyes. That was Cain’s mistake. He failed to recognise that it was the attitude of the heart that was the essence of obedience to the law. It was the contrite heart rather than legalistic compliance that God required. So the law of the exodus (Exodus 20-21) was intended to point a nationin-waiting to the truth that they would need to embrace if they were going to enjoy the blessing of God. It was a matter of the heart, not of slavish, mechanical obedience.

when he taught about the law in Matthew 5:17. It was summarized in John’s words as a “new commandment” – a commandment of the heart (John 13:34). So the Old Testament law that pointed to ‘sin’ and ‘death’ has now been replaced by “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that sets the believer free to live accordingly to what the Spirit desires (Romans 8).

sample So, for the person who is in Christ, they are no longer “under the law” but “under grace”. The unmerited favour of God towards the Christian eclipses ‘the law’ in drawing the believer to obedience and faithfulness (Romans 6:14).

That was what Jesus taught when he identified the greatest commandment (Matthew 22: 36-40) and

N: Promised land – Kingdom of Israel – Kingdom of God – Kingdom of heaven (lime green) For a nation to secure its identity, it needed a geographical location to call home. God recognised this need in giving Israel a land they could call their own. This is often referred to as ‘the promised land’ (Genesis 50:24, Exodus 3:17, Exodus 32:13). God gave Israel a land of plenty as part of his evolving promise to bless them (Numbers 11:12, Deuteronomy 31:20). Initially, they were without a king but, desiring a king who would lead them to victory in battle, they petitioned the Lord, through Samuel, to have a king ‘like other nations’ (1 Samuel 8). Though God warned them that it was not his will for them to have a king like that and that it would come with many disappointments and regrets, nevertheless, under the leadership of the last of the ‘Judges’, Samuel, God granted them their petition and they got a king


God’s Story Users’ Guide

(1 Samuel 10:9ff). Israel was now ‘a kingdom’ and God would use the symbolism of this ‘kingdom’ in the context of His ‘new covenant’ in Jesus. With the coming of Jesus, Israel again had a King (Matthew 2:2) who would claim the title for himself (John 18:37) and become known as the “King of Kings” (1 Timothy 6:12-16, Revelation 17:14). His destiny would be to reign over the ‘Kingdom of God’ – over all those who would put their trust in Him. This was not a kingdom in an earthly sense (as the Jews were hoping for), but in a spiritual sense. After Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven to sit at his Father’s right hand from where he would sit in judgement over the living and the dead. In this sense, he would be the ruler of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2 Timothy 4:18).

O: Prophet – Priest – King – Jesus - Prophet, Priest and King (light pink) There are three significant offices or spiritually loaded roles that feature in the Old Testament. The first office to appear was that of ‘prophet’ – one who speaks the truth of God to people with both a predictive and a declarative (forth-telling) purpose; one who is inspired by, chosen by, authorized by God (eg Jeremiah 20:7ff, Deuteronomy 18:18). The prophets of the Old Testament included people such as Noah, Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10), Joshua, the Judges (notably Samuel), Nathan and many others apart from those we know from the books that are named after them. And, of course, John the Baptist was also a prophet of the New Testament.

by God and anointed by the high priest for the purpose of ruling the people. Some of the more notable and/or notorious kings included Saul, David, Solomon, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoabaz, Jeboiakin, Jeboiachin and Zedekiah.

The second of these roles to appear was that of ‘priest’ – one who approaches God on behalf of human beings; one who speaks to God on their behalf; who makes sacrifices or sin offerings on their behalf to atone for their sins; who enters the most holy place of the temple on their behalf. The priests of the Old Testament were from the tribe of Levi and some would double as prophets as well as priests. Some of the more notable priests included Aaron, Eleazar, Eli, Zadok, Abiathar, Hilkiar, Eliashib, Joshua son of Jebozadak and of course Caiaphas who presided over one of the trials of Jesus.

• As prophet, Jesus speaks the truth from God to humans. As one who declares himself to be “the truth” (John 14:6), he is the perfect prophet – and he knew it (Mark 13:57). He fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-3.

These offices remained in place in Jewish life until the time of Jesus and it is in Jesus that they all come together in an intentional culmination. Jesus is the one who exemplifies all three offices – prophet, priest and king. The Old Testament prophecies point to one who will assume each of these offices in an eternal sense.

• As priest, Jesus is both the one who offers the sacrifice, but also the sacrifice himself. He intercedes and mediates with God on our behalf to deal with our sin (1 Timothy 2:5).

sample The third of these roles to appear was that of ‘king’ – one who rules the people on behalf of God; one appointed

• As king, Jesus rules for God (Isaiah 2:6, Isaiah 9:6-7, 11: 1-9). This is borne out by John (John 18:37, 18:36), but it is primarily an office that will come to ultimate expression when he returns to rule eternally (Revelation 17:14).

P: Reconciliation (mid green)

While grace was the great seal of the ‘new covenant’, the great effect of the ‘new covenant’ was reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). The basis for overturning the brokenness of the fall had been established. Not only did Jesus’ death reconcile the faithful to himself but it laid the foundation for the reconciliation of “all things” to himself (Colossians 1:15-20). God is, in Christ’s completed

work, laying down the blueprint for ‘the new creation’ by “reconciling to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20). This profound truth liberated his people to live with assurance, confidence and hope in the eternal promises of Jesus. That blessing still applies to this day.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Q: Jesus’ first coming – Jesus’ second coming (dark pink) Jesus – fully God and fully human stands at the centre of history and the centre of “God’s Story”. All the themes of the Old Testament point to Jesus as the centrepiece of God’s plan to reverse the effect of Adam’s sin. Jesus’ first appearance (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:26) is culminated in his redemptive death and his death-conquering resurrection. It is the twin event by which God effected the reconciliation of “all things” to himself (Colossians 1:20).

And so we wait in confidence for the final expression of reconciliation for which Jesus has done the preparation – his ‘second coming’.

His ascension into heaven to “prepare a place” (John 14:14) for those who trust in, cling to and rely on his completed work heralded his final promise that he would come again – the centrepiece of the final act in God’s plan (John 13: 32-36, John 14: 18-31).

We are called to “wait with eager expectation for the plans of God to be revealed………in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:18ff) (Hebrews 9:28).

Jesus’ second coming will be the final act of God’s plan. When he comes again, all the themes of both Old Testament and New Testament will come together in the ultimate event in which the work that Jesus first came to seal will reach its climax, the restoration of the creation – ‘the new creation’ – in which Jesus will rule as the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14).

The second coming of Jesus will complete the salvation journey of the faithful who have been waiting (Hebrews 9:28) (James 5:7).

There is great speculation about what this will be like, but there is really only one criterion that should concern us here and now. Let God’s timing be his alone and let us live in faithfulness and readiness for this final act in His story (Romans 8:18ff).

sample R: Satan – Satan defeated – Satan bound (dark grey)

Satan played a central and destructive role in seeing Adam and Eve expelled from the perfection of Eden. The completeness of God’s good creation however, was not destroyed. Rather, Adam and Eve were deprived of the delights of that perfection because they listened to the deception and the lies of Satan (Genesis 3).

Satan remained active as a deceiver throughout the unfolding plan of God. He was the one who presided over the messiness and brokenness of the background tapestry on which God laid out his plan of redemption. Satan was powerful and, as the chief amongst a host of fallen angels, he had continued to wreak evil across the human race and across time. But, right from the time of the fall, God announced that Satan would be utterly defeated (crushed) (Genesis 3:15) and from that point in the garden of Eden, God’s great

plan has worked towards the end when Satan’s defeat will be complete at the second coming of Jesus. For a time, God permits Satan to retain his evil influence. Nevertheless, this power is constrained by the mighty hand of God. At the cross, the power of Satan was defeated as Jesus took upon himself the penalty for sin – death (Colossians 2:14 – 15). That was Satan’s ultimate weapon.

After the cross, Satan continued as the tempter, usurper and deceiver (2 Corinthians 4:4). But his days are numbered. First he will be expelled from heaven and earth (Revelation 12: 7-12), but ultimately he will be bound and his influence forever gone (Revelation 20:10 and Matthew 25:41). And so, the rest of God’s creation will at last be freed from the corruption and influence of the evil one and the ‘curse’ of the ‘fall’.

S: New heaven and new earth (aqua) Though the details are minimal, it is clear that the judgement of the wicked (2 Peter 3:10) will be followed by ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (2 Peter 3:13), a place where the righteous only will dwell in the presence of God (Revelation 21). The messiness and brokenness of the ‘fall’ will be gone – no more death, mourning, crying or pain. Everything will be made new and God will dwell with the righteous (Revelation 21:3-5).


God’s Story Users’ Guide

And so “God’s Story” ends where it began with God as ruler in his creation and the faithful of all ages living in worshipful obedience before him (Revelation 5).

Using the Overview of the Chart


Creation, Fall, Israel, Redemption, Church, New Creation

The story of God’s plan for his image bearers is marked by 6 milestones. These markers, when linked together in a sequence, act as a useful summary of “God’s Story”.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


The Creation – God speaks into existence a perfect world and universe in which his perfect image bearers would enjoy a perfect relationship with their creator God. Fall – His image bearers, not being content to let God be all knowing, gave in to the temptation of the evil one and more importantly, they disobeyed God’s clear warning- they “fall” from God’s grace. Israel – There, in the Garden of Eden, God already announced that this apparent victory of the evil one was doomed. He foreshadowed a plan to defeat Satan. At the centre of this plan were chosen representatives of his purposes – Noah, Abraham and the nation of Israel. Israel was intended to be the instrument of God’s redemptive message. Though utterly flawed, Israel was the target of all the salvation themes that would culminate in the redeeming work of Jesus.



God’s Story Users’ Guide

Redemption – Jesus brought the purpose of this ‘chosen nation’ to a focal point in his ministry of teaching, modelling - and authority and his death and resurrection. His redemptive death on behalf of all sinners was a centrepiece in His story (history) and it heralded the end of the Old Testament ‘covenant’ and the opening of a global, timeless ‘covenant’ in which all people of all time would be beneficiaries. Church – As Israel was the instrument by which God showed his purpose and revealed his plan, the ‘church’ was the instrument through which he consolidated the ‘new covenant’ and anticipated the stunning climax – the coming of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’. New creation – The second coming of Jesus that will mark the end of the story as we have known it will usher in a time when the faithful of all ages will be united with God in a return to Eden – ‘the new creation’.


God’s Story Users’ Guide


Using the Chart for


and Talks

sample The chart may also be used to bring the cohesion and coherence of Bible teaching into sharp focus. Visually seeing how Biblical ideas are woven through the Scriptures is often a new experience for Christians who have been listening to good sermons for years. The chart may help them to link the many interwoven themes of the scriptures to give its message new power and significance in their lives. The following three presentations have been developed using the chart as an aid. The highlighted words draw attention to entries on the chart to which you can point as you are covering that aspect of your presentation.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

KEY TO HIGHLIGHTING: Biblical events

Blue tapestry background

Biblical people

Big biblical themes

Biblical books

In the beginning God

Study 1 - ‘Awful Stories and a Severe Redemption’ • Start at Eden . • God, in his awesome power and sovereign grace has done it all – by his word, out of nothing. • There is only one moral dimension for Adam and Eve perfection, goodness, intimate fellowship with God, the absence of shame. • But, there is one warning – the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is off limits.

• This is the tapestry of those awful Old Testament stories that have mystified many and caused them to ask: ‘Why are they there?’ (You could use previously prepared large plastic labels to locate each of the following episodes on the chart.) • Cain murdering his brother Abel out of jealousy and resentment ( Genesis 4) • The arrogance of the Tower of Babel ( Genesis 11)

• The consequence of disobedience is death.

• The debauchery of Sodom ( Genesis 19)

• The predictable human response? - What’s death; what’s evil; what is the unknown like?

• Jacob cheating his brother Esau out of his inheritance ( Genesis 27)

• The curiosity is tantalising and Satan seizes the opportunity: Go for it! ‘You will be like God!’ he says.

• Judah selling his brother into slavery and then deceiving his father for decades ( Genesis 37)

• What a temptation! And who wouldn’t want to be like God?

• Tamar prostituting herself intentionally with her father-in-law Judah in order to get pregnant and receive her entitlement ( Genesis 38)

sample • And so, sin enters upon that scene of perfection.

• A perfect, sinless, holy God will not be capricious. He can only be true to his perfect word and his perfect character.

• Moses murdering the Egyptian ( Exodus 2)

• The idolatrous orgy of the children of Israel at the foot of Sinai ( Exodus 32)

• And so his warning becomes the basis of his judgement.

• Aaron’s complicity in this idolatry ( Exodus 32)

• The curse falls upon Adam and Eve and their descendants in the form of ‘the expulsion from Eden’.

• The rape of the Levite’s concubine at Gibeah ( Judges 19)

• Unlike the single moral dimension of Eden, they must now live outside of God’s perfection with the burden of the binary: (Refer to the messiness on the dark background of the chart).

• The involvement of King Saul in witchcraft ( 1 Samuel 28)

• Good vs evil • Right vs wrong • Beautiful vs ugly • Generosity vs greed • Love vs hate

• The treachery of Ehud against Eglon ( Judges 3)

• The lust and adultery of David ( 2 Samuel 11) • The ugly self-serving elimination of Uriah by David ( 2 Samuel 11) • The incest between Amnon and his sister Tamar ( 2 Samuel 13) • The abominable acts of ritual infanticide by some of the kings of Israel / Judah (1 and 2 Kings/Chronicles )

• Inclusion vs exclusion

• So, why are these awful stories there?

• Life vs death

• They are there to bring into sharp relief the serious consequences of the fall, the pervasiveness of sin, and the wicked heart of humankind.

• The contrast could not have been greater between the end of Genesis 2 and the end of Genesis 3: (Refer to the end of the gold bar of Eden and the start of the dark messiness beyond Eden.) • And of course, the story rolls on from there as Genesis 3 takes us from the perfection of Eden to an awful new stage: The tapestry • of tragedy and treachery • of chaos and carnality • of pain and paganism

• They are there as a stark contrast to Eden . • They are there to show up the ugly tapestry on which God would enact his plan of salvation – his divine drama. • Without these extreme stories, the awfulness of sin may well have been sanitised and diminished. • Without them, mere naughtiness and minor indiscretions may not have seemed to need such a severe redemption.

• of mania and murder

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Study 1 - ‘Awful Stories and a Severe Redemption’ continued • (Draw attention to the fact that adulterers and murderers feature prominently in the divine lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1.)

• In John 8:6-8 Jesus says to the self-righteous: “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

• Did God really know what he was doing? Why not just select the good ones and reward them with the honour of being the instruments of God’s divine plan?

• All sin needs a Redeemer (Point to Redemption again).

• Those who might say these things have missed the point: there were no good ones! That’s the whole reason for God’s plan. • The story of redemption is about a deeply broken people needing a profoundly transformational salvation. • Without the awful stories, we have nothing to hope in. A severe redemption for them means a severe redemption for us too! • So, the tapestry of tragedy and treachery that followed the fall was the stage on which God acted out His divine drama in which we get to taste and to see the goodness of God extended to us in his divine act of grace.

• Sin in all its forms is the problem here: not just big sins.

• The whole of creation is broken by sin and needs to be redeemed , restored and reconciled . That’s the core of “God’s Story”. • Awful stories are integral to a robust Biblical/Christian worldview. And that’s the kind of worldview we need to be armed with as ambassadors of the gospel ( 2 Corinthians 5:20). • The tough stories of life – all of them – are important because “God’s Story” takes the ugly and turns them inside out. It takes the broken and restores them. It takes the lost and reconciles them – forever! And that’s the story that must inform and infuse our worldview as we walk the talk of the gospel we have embraced. • ‘So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ( 2 Corinthians 5:16ff)

sample • It’s what makes the Christian gospel so compelling. No matter what the horrors of one’s past, the gospel of Jesus is transformational even for the worst of sinners. • It’s this transformational story that inspires our vision for living – that God was, in Christ, reconciling (point to the cross ) all things to himself. He took the bizarre and the sordid, the dislocated and the broken and tamed them under the hand of his grace.

• Horrid stories turn out to be hugely significant for our understanding, as Christians, of our task in God’s world – the “ministry of reconciliation ” ( 2 Corinthians 5:18). If our framework for thinking and living is not, in part, informed by a serious view of sin and is not robust enough to handle the realities that sin produces, why would others need it or want to embrace it? • The awful stories of the Bible declare that sin is serious enough to require a Redeemer (Point to the word Redemption in the middle of the cross) to “rescue us from the domain of darkness” ( Colossians 1:13). • And just in case we think we can disqualify ourselves from needing this rescue operation because we’re not really that bad, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5 about anger being of the same pedigree as murder; and lust being of the same pedigree as adultery ( Matthew 5:21-27).


God’s Story Users’ Guide

Study 2 - ‘The Pre-Release Screening’ • Start with the dark blue background tapestry of tragedy and treachery , of

• The veil of the temple is torn from top to bottom.

• sadness,

• The holy of holies of the Jewish temple is no longer the symbolic dwelling place of God.

• pain,

• The law is no longer the hard core of the faith.

• brokenness,

• The ritual sacrifice is no longer the central requirement of the faithful.

• self-interest, • chaos and • dysfunction. • Even the chosen and blessed are tarnished by the curse of sin. (Refer to Abraham , Isaac , Jacob , Judah , Moses , Aaron , David ) • This is our tapestry – the tapestry of our mess, our brokenness, our dysfunction, our dirt. • It’s a tapestry that has contaminated the whole of human history, a tapestry to which we have contributed our sin and rebellion. • But, this is the stage on which God has chosen to act out his divine drama of redemption – “God’s Story”. • It’s a story of promises or covenants where God has revealed one particular aspect of his character – his utter faithfulness.

• The priest is no longer the symbolic mediator between God and mankind. • There’s a new covenant that Jesus describes as a “new covenant in my blood”. • His chosen ones are now the “ temple of the living God ”; • The law has been climaxed and surpassed by grace (Refer to the NT arrow Law and Grace ); • The perfect sacrifice has eclipsed and done away with the need for sin offerings; • There is now “one mediator between man and God – the man Christ Jesus”! (Refer to JESUS on the green story line)

sample • It’s a story of incredible cohesion and unity that has been held together with recurring, unmistakably intentional themes that have harmonised and connected and spelt out the over-riding theme that God is in control of this plan.

• It’s a story of hope in which God has never abandoned humanity even though they have repeatedly abandoned him. • From Adam to Armageddon (point to the gold bar at the far right hand end of the chart), we can trace the characters and episodes of the story that have all pointed to one person, one event – Jesus - the promised one of God and the cross . His coming , his death , his resurrection and ascension together constitute the completed work of Christ. • In our present times of rampant secularism and the new atheism, those who identify as followers of this Jesus are increasingly ridiculed for their inadequacy, for the paucity of their minds, for their weakness, for daring to take this Jesus seriously at all.

• But for those of us who have been consumed by this story of grace, mercy and love; who have had their lives turned upside-down by this centre-point of human history, there is no mistaking that it has all been according to plan – God’s redemptive plan (point to redemption in the middle of the cross) to address the awful stories - the consequences of that event that saw mankind expelled from Eden – the fall . • The divine drama is so amazingly harmonized around the events of those final days of Jesus’ earthly life. • A timeless God enters our time and space and he smashes the power of Satan as he breaks the bindings of death that he willingly takes upon himself on account of the sins of the whole world.

• It couldn’t have been scripted more tightly.

• Such amazing unity of purpose from beginning to end, yet written by dozens of authors over a thousand years or more.

• And they ridicule us for relying on a baseless, superstitious, unfounded psychological crutch? • They vilify us for taking Jesus seriously? • The historical Jesus was • compelling in life ;

• compelling in death ;

• compelling in his resurrection and

• compelling in his revelation of the future. • Let’s go there. Revelation 4-5. • It’s the pre-release screening of the end of time (history) as we know it. (Refer to the New Testament arrow Second Coming ) But it’s certainly not the end. • God invites the apostle John to a preview of the end of the story: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (4:1) • He does it in the form of a stupendous vision of the final day. • Let’s take a tour of the set and meet the cast: • a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it (4:2) • surrounding the throne are twenty-four other thrones (4:4) • seated on them are twenty-four elders (4:4) • in front of the throne, seven lamps are blazing (4:5) • these are the seven (sevenfold) spirits of God (4:5) • in front of the throne there is what looks like a sea of glass (4:6) • around the throne are four living creatures (4:6) • (the) first living creature is like a lion, • the second is like an ox,

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Study 2 - ‘The Pre-Release Screening’ continued • the third has a face like a man, • the fourth is like a flying eagle (4:7) • a Lamb, looking as if it has been slain, stands at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (5:6) • the voices of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand …. (encircle) the throne and the living creatures and the elders (5:11) • every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea is there (5:13) • The costuming and special effects would make Cecil B de Milne look like a rank amateur: • the one who sits (on the throne) has the appearance of jasper and ruby (4:3)

your will they were created and have their being.” (4:11) • A mighty angel proclaims in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (5:2) • But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. (5:3) • The tension is too much for John and he weeps. (5:4) • Then one of the elders steps up and says to John, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5:5) • But they’re not in the cast. • But, yes they are. They are one and the same with the Lamb who is now standing at the centre of the throne. (5:6) • (Just hold that thought there for a moment)

• a rainbow that shines like an emerald encircles the throne (4:3)

• He takes the scroll from the right hand of him who sits on the throne. (5:7)

• (the 24 elders) are dressed in white and have crowns of gold on their heads (4:4)

• he four living creatures and the twenty-four elders now fall down before the Lamb. With their harps and their golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (5:8)

sample • from the throne comes flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder (4:5)

• (the four living creatures) are covered with eyes, front and back (4:6)

• the four living creatures have six wings and (are) covered with eyes all around, even under (their) wings (4:8)

• a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals (is in the hands of the one who sits on the throne) (5:1)

• the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes which are the seven (sevenfold) spirit(s) – The Holy Spirit of God sent out into all the earth. (5:6) • (the 24 elders) have a harp each and they are holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (5:8)

• And now it’s time for lights, camera and action: • First, the four living creatures never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty’, who was, and is, and is to come.” (4:8) • Then the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. (4:10) • They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by


God’s Story Users’ Guide

• And they sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (5:10-11)

• Then the angels in a loud voice (tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of them) say “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” (5:12)

• Then all the creatures in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea join in, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (5:13) • And the four living creatures say, “Amen” and the elders fall down in worship. • Did you recognise yourself in the cast? • You were there. Because this is the curtain call of history and if you are a follower of Jesus, you are named in the Lamb’s book of life and you were there in the cast.

Study 2 - ‘The Pre-Release Screening’ continued • Did you recognise the story line? • (4:8) God , the everlasting, is just there in the beginning in his trinitarian nature (4:8, 5:9, 5:6) (Refer back to the grey bar at the very beginning of the chart) • (4:11) He creates all things (Refer back to the gold bar representing Eden in the Old Testament) • (5:5-6) At the centre of the story is “the Lion of Judah ” (Refer back to Judah on the green people line of the Old Testament period), “the Root of David ” (Refer back to David on the green people line of the Old Testament period) who is also “the Lamb looking as if it has been slain”. • We’re back at that suspended thought. What’s this about? • God is doing a retrospective on his plan as it has already unfolded: • Genesis 49:8-10

Judah (the lion cub) (Refer to Judah again) Jesus (the lion) (Refer to Jesus on the green bar of the New Testament period)

• So what application does this have for us post 2000? • If God can take a cad like Judah (who sells Joseph into slavery, lies to his father for years, commits adultery with his daughter-in-law, Tamar), and use him in his purposes, he can certainly take us with our vulnerabilities and secrets and dirt and use us in his purposes too. There’s no excuse. • If God can take a pathetic character like David (lusting after Bathsheba before eventually committing adultery with her and then deceitfully eliminating her husband Uriah as a competitor for Bathsheba’s affections; cowardly breaking his word to Shimei on his death bed), yet using him in his purposes, he can certainly redeem our failings and weaknesses to achieve his purposes in our relationships and our circles of influence. • Remember, our sovereign God speaks and acts into the messiness of the tapestry to bring about the culmination of his divine drama. • Plastered across the past and the present of his redemptive plan are two powerful themes: grace and love

sample • Isaiah 11:1-10

David (the king) (Refer back to David on the green bar of the Old Testament period) - Jesus (the ultimate king of kings) (Refer again to Jesus on the green bar of the New Testament period)

• Isaiah 53

The sacrificial lamb (Refer back to the Passover on the blue bar of the Old Testament period) Jesus (the Lamb of God) (Refer to the Perfect Sacrifice arrow on the white bar under the cross)

• (5:9) The central figure is Jesus (Refer again to Jesus on the green bar of the New Testament period) (‘you were slain’; (Refer to the Passover arrow in the Old Testament) the blood of the ‘ new covenant ’; a ‘ universal covenant ’ for all nations(Refer back to the Covenant arrows in the Old Testament period and the ‘New Covenant’ in the New Testament period))

• Plastered across the future of his redemptive plan is the liberating theme: hope. • God, in his sovereign grace and love has used his skywriter to inscribe hope across the skies of the future to encourage us to remain faithful to his calling on our lives and our ministries. • (Read Romans 5:1-10)

• It is this hope that should flavour our lives, our relationships, our responses to disappointments and challenges and our struggles with self-doubting, failure and opposition as we wait in anticipation for the eventual release of Revelation 4-5. • Our prayer should be that our lives will be flavoured with a hope that inspires our families our neighbours, our work colleagues, our acquaintances to put their trust in Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

• (5:9) the one who is worthy (Refer back to the Priest arrow in the Old Testament and to Jesus – Prophet , Priest , King in the New Testament period) to take the scroll and break its seals to reveal its contents. He is the one who has sealed our citizenship in the Kingdom of God by his sacrificial, redeeming death (Refer to the cross on the blue story Line of the New Testament period). • (5:12) And authority over the future rests with Jesus • (5:13) And “To him who sits on the throne (God) and to the Lamb (Jesus) be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Study 3 - “Jesus Interprets Old Testament Symbols – The Tabernacle and the Temple” (Adapted from presentation by Jill Spence) 1. The Tabernacle (Refer to the Tabernacle arrow on the white bar of the chart) was introduced as the focal point of the community of Israel while they were still a nation-in-waiting in the Wilderness of Zin ( Exodus ) • The instructions for the tabernacle were part of the law that marked out God’s own people – the tabernacle was the defining symbol of the relationship between God and his people. • God commanded the making of the tabernacle and gave Moses the details for its construction and decoration using ‘the pattern’ from Exodus 25:9. • Exodus 25:8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” • (“sanctuary” = holy place, place set apart). Holiness involves being consecrated to the Lord’s service, separated from the commonplace. • Tabernacle means dwelling place – usually in reference to the place where God dwells among his people.

house and my kingdom forever: his throne will be established forever” ( 1 Chronicles 17:11-14). This was also a messianic reference to Jesus . • There are links to Mark 1:11 “You are my son whom I love”; to Luke 1:32-33 “…He will be called the son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end”; and to Hebrews 1:5 “You are my son, today I have become your father.” a. The preparations for the building of the temple ( 1 Chronicles 21-2) • The sight of the temple was Araunah’s threshing floor, in Jerusalem ( 1 Chronicles 21:18). There God instructed David, through an angel, to build an altar and sacrifice to God in order to stop the plague that was wiping out the people – a judgement on David. David purchased the land for the altar. • God met David there, sent fire onto the altar of burnt offering and the plague was halted.

sample • Exodus 29:45-46 – God dwelling among his people so that they would “know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt”.

• God desired to “dwell among them” ( Exodus 29:46). • Exodus 35 – The tent of meeting = the tabernacle and was made with the free will offerings of the people. No one was forced to give.

• God gave individuals gifts as artisans for the creation of beautiful items for the tabernacle. • Leviticus 26:11 “I will put my dwelling place among you…walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people”.

2. The First Old Testament Temple ( 1 Chronicles 17) (Refer to the First Temple arrow on the white bar of the chart) was David’s desire for a fit home for the ark of the covenant. He had built his palace, but the tabernacle, with the altar of burnt offering, was located in Gibeon, and the ark of the covenant was located in a temporary shrine in Jerusalem. (Later the tabernacle was stored in the temple itself). • God’s response to David. “You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in” ( 1 Chronicles 17:4). • The instruction to build the temple must come from God – he was in command ( 1 Chronicles 17:6). • God explained to David through Nathan that, rather than David building a house for God, God had been making a home for his people ( 1 Chronicles 17:9). “I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you” ( 1 Chronicles 17:10b). • It was Solomon who was ordained by God to build the temple: “…one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him…I will set him over my


God’s Story Users’ Guide

( 1 Chronicles 22)

• David began preparations for the temple by organising the cutting of stone, iron for nails, bronze for fittings, cedar logs, etc. “David made extensive preparations (for the temple) before his death.” ( 1 Chronicles 22:5) David gave extensively from his private wealth for the building of the temple.

• David also provided for the temple administration and for worship. • David told Solomon that he was to build the temple – “a house for the Name of the Lord my God” ( 1 Chronicles 22:7). David exhorted Solomon to build the sanctuary of the Lord God so that the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred articles could be brought into the temple.

• He told Solomon that he, David , had shed much blood and was a man of war, unfit therefore to build the Lord’s house. Solomon, in contrast, was to be a man of peace and rest and He was to build a house for the Lord’s Name’. ( 1 Chronicles 22:810) ( 1 Chronicles 28, 29) • David gave Solomon the plans for the Temple, including the decoration, the articles for worship etc. David gave of his own wealth and so did all the leaders of Israel . ( 1 Chronicles 29:9) ( 2 Chronicles 3, 5) • 2 Chronicles 3 - Solomon began to build the temple. There was great detail about its beauty and craftsmanship. • 2 Chronicles 5 – the ark was brought into the temple and placed in the holy of holies with the tabernacle and all its furnishings. There

Study 3 - “Jesus Interprets Old Testament Symbols – The Tabernacle and the Temple” continued was great sacrifice and celebration and the temple was filled with a cloud – the same cloud that had represented the presence of God in the wilderness. • ( 2 Chronicles 6) • Solomon’s prayer ( 2 Chronicles 6:18) – acknowledged before God that “the highest heavens cannot contain you”, much less a dwelling built by men. • He added: “may your eye be open toward this temple day and night, the place of which you said you would put your name there” ( 2 Chronicles 6:20) • He continued: “Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” ( 2 Chronicles 6:21) This statement was to be repeated in specific situations where Israel needed forgiveness. • For the foreigner – when he came to this temple , having heard of God through his marvellous deeds, and prayed to God in the temple, God would hear him so that all the peoples of the earth would know God’s name and fear him ( 2 Chronicles 6:33)

3. The second temple (Refer to the Second Temple arrow on the white bar of the chart) was rebuilt under God’s directions to Ezra and Nehemiah following the return from exile in Persia. • The return from exile occurred under the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia (559 – 530 B.C.) • The building of the second temple started in 536 B.C. • The second temple was a simple, rough structure compared to the first temple ( Ezra 3:12). It was built by decree of Cyrus, under Jeshua (high priest) and Zerubbabel (governor). There was no ark in the holy of holies – it had been destroyed. Instead there was a stone block symbolising the ark. • Eventually this temple was replaced by Herod’s temple. The second temple was not destroyed by any major hostile attack. It just became run down over time and was eventually replaced by Herod’s Temple which began construction in 20BC. The inner structure of Herod’s temple towered 15 storeys high, built on the foundations of the former temples. The inner structure was completed in only 18 months. However, the outer courtyard was not completed until 64AD only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

sample • When Israel in exile prayed for deliverance, they were to look towards this temple, even though they were not anywhere near it. Then God would hear their pleas for mercy and deliver them ( 2 Chronicles 6:38-39). b. The dedication of the temple and the Feast of the Tabernacles ( 2 Chronicles 7)

4. The significance of the temple in God’s plan a. Ezekiel and the temple

• Ezekiel 37 – God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel of a coming time when the messianic David would be King forever. God’s people would live secure in the land under an ‘everlasting covenant’.

• (2 Chronicles 7:15) “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to prayer made in this place. ….. My eyes and my heart will be there perpetually.”

• Ezekiel 37:26 – “I will put my sanctuary among them forever” ( Ezekiel 37:27). “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people.”

• There was a warning to obey God or the temple, now so imposing, would become an object of scorn and ridicule.

• Ezekiel 37:28 – “Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”

( 2 Chronicles 36, 2 Kings 25)

• It is an important idea here that all the nations around them are made aware of God through his dwelling amongst his people.

• In 586 B.C. the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon . The temple was destroyed by fire, the precious metals were transported back to Babylon to be added to the king’s wealth, or for use in the temples of the Babylonian gods. • Judah went into exile in Babylon . Israel had already fallen to Assyria . Farm workers probably remained behind to tend crops. Noble families were taken into captivity.

b. The Psalms and the Temple • “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” ( Psalms 23:6). • David’s assurance of his relationship with God centred on the security of being in God’s dwelling place – not literally, because David was not able to dwell in the tabernacle. He understood it as a symbol for God’s presence. • Psalms 27:4-6 “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple…he will keep me safe in his dwelling, he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle…at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy.”

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Study 3 - “Jesus Interprets Old Testament Symbols – The Tabernacle and the Temple” continued • Psalms 32:7 “You are my hiding place” • Psalms 61:4 “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” • Psalms 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high….” (the word “shelter” is the same as the word for “temple”). So, in the Old Testament, temple/tabernacle is: • A sign and a tool of the covenant ; • God’s idea and design; • A sanctuary, a holy place; • A place set apart for God; • God’s dwelling place (the literal meaning of temple) is with his people; • the focus for worship, sacrifice , repentance and forgiveness, teaching, law -keeping; • A witness to Him among his own people and for the nations; • Built with the freely given gifts of his own people, so they have an investment in its intention and its role;

5. Jesus and the temple in God’s plan • For the Jews, the temple was the heart and centre of Judaism – the place where YHWH dwelt; a place of sacrifice , where sin was forgiven; a place where union between God and his people was endlessly consummated. • The temple was the centre of Israel’s national and political life. Chief priests, under Roman supervision, were in charge of the whole nation. • The temple carried royal overtones. The temple and messiahship went hand in hand. • Herod’s rebuilding of the temple was partly to legitimise his own kingship. • The Pharisees offered an alternative to the temple through study and the practice of the Torah. This was partly as a result of, and in consideration for, the Diaspora (the Jews in captivity) so Jews could practice the presence of God anywhere. • Jesus also offered an alternative to the temple . • The disadvantaged saw the temple in Jesus’ time as standing for corruption and oppression.

sample • A site to contain the ark – the mercy seat/ the law contained within; • The site of the temple is chosen by God;

• It does not contain God, but allows access to God;

• It is linked to the Messiah and the coming kingdom; • It is not to be built by David because of the bloodshed for which he has been responsible;

• It is to be built by Solomon – a ‘man of peace’, even though David was ultimately a much more faithful servant and son of God than Solomon was;

• It works through rituals, patterns, symbols, including the cloud that they knew in the wilderness; • It provides a sense of their history; • It has an emphasis on forgiveness, restoring relationship with God; • Its destruction will be a sign of Israel’s disobedience; • Nations will ridicule the ruined temple and Israel ; • It was destroyed by fire in 586 BC by Babylon ; • It was rebuilt under Zerubbabel 50 years’ later, but not with the same beauty and magnificence of the original; • It was replaced by Herod’s temple, built during Jesus’ lifetime; • It was promised in Ezekiel that God’s dwelling place or ‘sanctuary’ would, in the new age, be with his people forever; • The temple was a testimony to God for all nations; • David understood that the temple was a shelter for him, and he also understood it as a metaphor for God’s presence, protection, beauty and holiness. It is interesting to note that the ‘mercy seat’ and ‘the law’ are both contained within the holy of holies – mercy and justice are inescapably linked – both are identified with the very essence of God’s character.


God’s Story Users’ Guide

• Jesus’ attitude was different – he saw the temple , not as needing reform from corruption, nor led by wrong people. Rather, his focus was eschatological – the time had come for God to judge the entire institution of the temple. (Refer to the Veil of the Temple Split arrow on the white bar of the chart)

• Was Jesus’ death also in some ways a destruction and resurrection of the temple – the heart of Israel? • Israel had rejected their vocation to be the light of the world, the city set on the hill, the people after God’s own heart. They would be judged and so would their temple .

• Jesus acted and spoke as if he was called to be and do what the temple was and did. • He offered forgiveness with no sacrifice or temple involvement at all. • He claimed, by implication, that he was instituting an alternative system. • Jesus ’ temple action of overturning the trader’s tables was a judgement of the temple itself ( Mark 11). • Jesus believed that God was in the process of judging and redeeming his people, as the culmination of Israel’s history. Hence the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom at the moment of Jesus’ death. (Refer again to the Veil of the Temple Split arrow on the white bar of the chart) • This judgement would eventually take the form of the destruction of the temple by Rome. (Refer to the destruction of Jerusalem ) • The old temple would be followed not by a new physical temple , but by the establishment of a messianic community focussed on Jesus himself, replacing temple once and for all. (Refer to Temple of the Living God )

Study 3 - “Jesus Interprets Old Testament Symbols – The Tabernacle and the Temple” continued • Jesus’ words in Mark 11 echo the words of Jeremiah 7. Jeremiah was predicting the destruction of the temple , not its reform. Without the money changers’ sacrifice this could not occur – there would be no animals bought. This prefigured the destruction of the temple itself - God’s judgement on the temple and its people. • God’s kingdom was about to dawn and, with it, a new way of being the people of God. • Jesus taught and acted to reinforce the truth that where he was and where his followers were, Israel’s God was present and active in the same way he normally was in the temple . • “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvellous in our eyes” ( Mark 12:10). Jesus quotes from Psalm 118, a psalm about establishing God’s people in his place – linked to the temple . Jesus is claiming to be the foundation stone, the cornerstone of the temple , the foundation of God’s people, the ruler.

7. The temple motif made clear in Hebrews • Jesus is the High Priest ( Hebrews 8:1-2) who serves in the sanctuary - the true tabernacle , set up by the Lord, not by man. Jesus dwells eternally in the heavenly ‘holy of holies’ , interceding before God for his people. • The temple was made according to God’s design, as a symbol of the holiness of God and for access to him. The ‘new covenant’ , the true High Priest has done away with and “made obsolete” the ‘old covenant’ and its trappings. • “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts…they will all know me…I will remember their sins on more” ( Hebrews 8:10). – This is quoting from Jeremiah 31. • There is no need for the law in the ark – it is in our minds and hearts. (Refer to the Temple of the Living God arrow on the white bar of the chart) • Hebrews talks of Jesus as the High priest , and of his blood as the once-for-all sacrifice that makes us right with God. Jesus is in the presence of God, the ‘holy of holies’ , not to continually offer sacrifice , since this is done once and is complete. He intercedes on behalf of his body, the church , for the world.

sample 6. New Testament application of the temple motif The Temple is Symbolic of…

• The body of Jesus – Matthew 26:61, 27:40; John 2:19 • The indwelling of God – 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16

• His body, the church , is called to be the light, the salt, to draw all nations to him, in the way the temple had been.

• The Church – “…built on the foundation of the prophets…Jesus Christ himself the corner stone…In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord…22 …and in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit” Ephesians 2. – Church is a community in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.

• So…we, the church , are the temple , called to live as a forgiven, redeemed, holy “set apart” people. We do so to glorify God and make his presence known to all nations.

• The Kingdom of Christ – Revelation 11, 14:15, 17

• The temple – the church – is to be the dwelling place of God; a witness to all people of forgiveness available, of justice and mercy, of God’s character including holiness, of peace.

• Of Christ the King sending forth judgement. Revelation 15, 16

• Within our temple God’s people, the church , find forgiveness, worship, sense of identity, teaching, fellowship, celebration and strength for the tasks he has planned for us.

• The temple will grow until it fills the whole earth – where God’s people are. There he is, that is the temple , and all humankind will be drawn to it.

God’s Story Users’ Guide


Other Recommended Resources Bennett, Michael LB – ‘The Bible Explained’ A course consisting of DVDs, Leader’s Manual and Workbook (Published by M&M Bennett,

sample Strom, Mark – ‘Days are Coming – Exploring Biblical Patterns’ (Published by Hodder and Stoughton) Goldsworthy, Graeme – ‘According to Plan’ (Published by IVP/Lancer)

Roberts, Vaughan – ‘God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible’ (Published by IVP) ‘Chronological Guide to the Bible’ (Published by Thomas Nelson)


God’s Story Users’ Guide

the author Bob Johnston was born into a minister’s family and enjoyed many positive experiences in the home, at school, at missions and in church growing a knowledge of the Bible. At school, the headmaster was also his ‘Divinity’ teacher and he inspired Bob to approach the Bible systematically as well as personally. Not long out of school, Bob joined his first Scripture Union Beach Mission team and found yet another context in which the teaching of the Bible was brought to life - another rich experience of growth. In church, school, beach mission and university he found himself in leadership positions and, eventually this led to him taking up teaching as a profession. Here he was again encouraged into leadership and eventually became principal at Wycliffe Christian School where he remained for 27 years. Here, the challenges of applying the scriptures to every nook and cranny of life, learning and leadership became a passion and, with the stimulus of creative and likeminded people around him, opportunities came to develop new resources. ‘God’s Story’ was one of them.

sample Bob is now a lobbyist for Christian schools to the Australian Federal Government and also works to support Christian schools, their boards and principals in a range of operational supports. He is married to Jan and has four adult children and five grandchildren – so far! He is on the leadership team of Springwood Community Church and enjoys opportunities to minister encouragement in whatever ways they present themselves. He is actively interested in politics (but not political parties) and public Christianity, reading, writing and researching. The story behind ‘God’s Story’

This resource started as a Biblical Studies course for Years 9-10 at John Wycliffe Christian School about 1981. It was very well received by students and parents alike. After a number of years it was replaced by a different course and stored in a chest. After a number of comments from people within our church about making sense of the Bible, I retrieved it from the chest and redeveloped it for a church camp. The response was immediate and, for a number of people, the lights went on in terms of their grasp of the unity of the Scriptures. For a while it again ended up in the chest until, once more it was salvaged for a course developed for a group of Christian teachers and leaders. The response was the same. Several people wanted to take photos and reproduce it. Still others wanted NICE to produce it as a resource. And so, with a substantial reworking of the chart and Tanya vander Schoor’s magic on design & layout, a whole package has been developed consisting of the chart and User’s Guide to give potential users some ideas as to how the chart may be used for a number of different purposes and in a number of different contexts. I trust you will find as many rich moments of learning and growing in using it as I have found in developing it. The Word of God is meant to be ‘living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit …. judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb 4:12). My prayer is that this resource will do its work effectively, enabling you to know and use your Bible in effective ways to encourage and teach others, thus enabling them to experience the Bible doing its work in their lives. For feedback and further enquiries, please email

God’s Story Users’ Guide


It has been a privilege to provide feedback on ‘God’s Story’ during its development. This resource provides new ways of looking at the familiar unity of the scriptures in their testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel. At a number of points I found this work genuinely eye-opening. It has very many strengths and is engagingly written. It is nuanced in terms of biblical theology and it charts a good course between being too ‘big picture’ and delivering up too much detail. I warmly commend this work and its use in a number of different settings. Rev Gary Bennetts Anglican Minister Georges Hall NSW

I heartily commend Bob’s work on ‘God’s Story’. Many people who love God’s Word have little understanding that the Bible is a narrative and even less knowledge about the shape of that story. Teachers in Christian schools teach from a biblical foundation and therefore it is essential that they grow their understanding of the big story of the Bible. This resource is a wonderful tool to help teachers do just that. It is also a great resource for churches and other Christian communities in an age of increasing biblical illiteracy. Not only does the resource show graphically the progression of the story over time, it also highlights the characters, themes and contexts within the timeline.

sample Ken Dickens Principal, National Institute of Christian Education CEO, Christian Education National Sydney NSW

At a time when Biblical literacy amongst Christians is barely on the radar, this ‘God’s Story’ resource with its rich visual representation of Biblical truth is a light bulb experience for those who encounter it for the first time. Yet even those with deep Biblical understanding will also appreciate its wellstructured and researched presentation of the profound harmony of the Scriptures. It is an invaluable teaching tool for almost any learning environment either in the school or in the Church. ‘God’s Story’ reveals the powerful unifying threads of the tapestry that is God’s Word. Having been blessed by God’s Story personally during its development and use at a number of conferences, I’m now using it with my own staff and in Church. I can confidently affirm its brilliance as a tool that fills the void when it comes to excellent resources for the teaching of Christian World View. Paul Arundell Principal, Strathalbyn Christian College Geraldton WA


God’s Story Users’ Guide

God's Story USERS' GUIDE  

God's Story is a wonderful resource produced by the National Institute for Christian Education. It is a wall/floor chart to use when teachin...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you