Six Acts of Redemptive History
The Bible probably isn't what you think it is. It is not a collection of disconnected stories about God stitched together into a single book. The Bible is actually a library made up of 66 different books that each tell part of the great big story of God's relentless pursuit to restore the world to its original design and purpose.
This is a method for easily rehearsing and telling that great BIG story in a few short minutes.
Act 1: ↓
God comes down to create a people for himself, bearing his image and likeness, for his glory and for their joy. He places his humans in a special sanctuary garden that he plants, where together God and his people could forever enjoy a perfect and unmediated relationship with one another.
The humans, Adam and Eve, are given authority to rule and reign over creation, to tame the wild and chaotic world that existed outside of the garden, to guard the perfect harmony of life within it, and to fill the land with new image bearers called children.
They are also told by God that they are to enjoy the world and to eat all of its produce. But they are warned to stay away from the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad. If they eat the fruit that it produces, they will die.
Act 2: x
The humans rebelled against God by grasping for what he had withheld from them. Eve was deceived by a serpent and ate the fruit from the tree that God had warned them not to eat. Adam also ate when he was tempted by his wife. Sin, shame, death, and corruption entered the world and the man and his wife were expelled from the sanctuary of the garden and cast into the untamed wilderness.
The world was not left without hope. A promise is given by God that a redeemer would one day come. It would be through the offspring of the woman that the serpent’s head would be crushed and the curse of death would itself be put to death.
Act 3: ↗↓
Abraham is chosen by God. He is promised that it would be through his offspring that the whole world would be blessed. Sarah, who was too old to bear children, miraculously has a child with Abraham. That child, named Isaac, is blessed by Abraham to be a blessing to the nations. Isaac blesses his son Jacob with the same blessing. Jacob has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. God makes a covenant with this nation, a contract. That contract contained a law, if Israel observed it and kept if faithfully their obedience would open them up to receive blessings so great that people from around the world would come to inquire about their wisdom and their God. Israel would be a light to the nations. However, if they failed to keep their end of the bargain they would experience the penalty of their disobedience.
Israel almost gets there. It’s close to heaven on earth. By the time the story reaches the dynasty of King David and his son Solomon, the nations are streaming into Jerusalem to understand the reason for their prosperity. But like Adam before him, David and Solomon sin. And because they sinned they would not crush the serpent’s head and lead Israel back to that garden life. A promise is given however, that a son of David would one day come and sit on his throne forever and lead them well.
The kings were not the only ones who sinned and broke their contract with the Lord. The entire kingdom was guilty. And because they sinned, God cast them out of the Land just as he had cast their father Adam out of the garden before them.
There was a promise that emerged during this time of exile. Another covenant, unlike the former, would be given. One where God’s law would be written upon the hearts of his people. There was also the promise that one day the knowledge of the glory of God would saturate the earth like the waters cover the sea.
Act 4: ✝
The promised son of Eve who will crush the head of the serpent has come. The promised son of Abraham through whom all the world will be blessed is finally here. He is the wisdom of God in flesh living and dwelling among us! His name is Jesus and he is the light of the world.
He is obedient where Adam rebelled. He is an image bearer who perfectly reflects God’s image and likeness, making him the ideal human. He does for Israel what Israel was incapable of doing for themselves, making him the ideal Jew. He is flawlessly obedient, wholly submitted to his Father, and perfectly godly in every way. And he receives all of the blessings due Israel for covenant obedience as a result.
However, because he loves his people, Jesus also takes upon himself all the curses that were promised to Israel for their disobedience in the contract that they made with God. That’s what was happening upon the cross. Jesus died the death that Israel deserved and received the ultimate expulsion from the Land —death.
But that is not all that happened at the cross. God also gives his people everything that Jesus’ perfect obedience had earned. All the blessings that were due him, everything he had earned during his life, are now given as an inheritance to believing Israel.
And as he satisfied the terms of the former covenant he established the new covenant between God and his people that had been promised long ago. God removes hearts of stone from his people that are inscribed with sin and he exchanges them with new hearts of flesh that actually desire obedience.
Act 5: ↗
Jesus sends his followers out just as he was sent by his Father, to teach the nations about the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. He sends his Spirit into them, to dwell within them, to write his teaching upon their hearts and to empower them for the global disciple-making mission that he began during his ministry.
Jesus is the promised son of David who reigns forever as he leads his royal family on a conquest to tame the wild wilderness of this world by doing justice and working righteousness, and by saturating the earth with knowledge of the glory of the Lord by making disciples.
Act 6: ↓
God comes down again to dwell with and among his people forever. Everything that was spoiled by the curse through sin is over. It is gone, forever. Death and sin are killed by God, and life —as it should have been experienced from the beginning— is reestablished by our great king Jesus. Shalom is returned to the world! Heaven and earth become one.
Everything is once again as it ought to be.