This is simply a quick read to get hold of the Bible story!
The first eleven chapters of the Bible cover the origins of the universe, the world and the human race. The wonderful account of the creation of mankind is followed by the tragic entry of sin into humanity through Adam and Eve. The spread of wickedness was such that God found it necessary to bring judgment by a flood and by confusion of languages
God made a covenant with Abraham promising various things about his descendants: they would become a large nation who would possess the land of Israel — they would have a special relationship with God who would bless them — and they would be a blessing to the other nations of the world particularly through one descendant. Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, changed his name to Israel and his sons gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel. These developed into a nation over 400 years in Egypt (around 1700 - 1300 BC) where they became slaves.
Under Moses the Israelites escaped miraculously from Egypt. God appeared dramatically to Moses and gave him the 10 commandments and many other laws and instructions about worship and sacrifice. After 40 years wandering in the desert, Joshua led the people into the promised land where they settled.
After a period of rule by judges, Samuel appointed Saul as the first king of Israel. David succeeded him and established the kingdom of Israel and Jerusalem as the capital city. God made a covenant with David that his kingdom would last for ever. David’s son, Solomon, built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem but after his death the kingdom was divided into the northern kingdom of ‘Israel’ (10 tribes) with its capital in Samaria and the southern kingdom of ‘Judah’ (2 tribes) which retained Jerusalem as its capital.
Following a succession of bad kings, the northern kingdom of Israel was defeated by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the ten tribes were deported and lost. The southern kingdom of Judah had some good kings and lasted longer but eventually fell to the Babylonians in 587 BC. A large proportion of the population (including Ezekiel and Daniel) was deported to Babylon for 70 years in exile.
After the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians, the Jews (from the word Judah) gradually returned to the land of Israel and restored their national life. They rebuilt a smaller version of the temple, repaired the walls of Jerusalem and reinstated the law of Moses under Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and Ezra. They continued to be dominated by larger foreign powers (Greece, Egypt and Syria) until the Roman Empire enveloped the land of Israel around 63 BC.
The events of the New Testament take place in the first 70 years AD. The land of Israel was under Roman rule and Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor at one stage. Rule was also delegated to a Jewish family, the Herods, who supervised the building of a massive temple in Jerusalem. The main religious leaders were the priests, pharisees, sadducees and scribes. The Jews were looking for a Messiah-king who would rescue them from foreign rulers and establish a universal and everlasting kingdom modelled on the great days of the kingdom of David.
Jesus’ mother, Mary from Nazareth, became pregnant supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. At the time of his birth there was a census and Mary and Joseph were at their home town of Bethlehem to be registered (Jesus was a descendant of King David who also came from Bethlehem about 1000 years before). Apart from a brief incident at 12 years old, we know little about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life — he probably worked with his father, Joseph, as a carpenter and had some form of education.
At about 30 years old, Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and was tempted during a long fast in the desert. Then began two or three years of travelling, preaching and healing around the land of Israel. His message was radical — he preached about a kingdom but it was not a political kingdom, it was the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom not of this world. He concentrated on caring for needy individuals, healing and restoring dignity. He cut through the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and exposed their inconsistencies. He demonstrated his spiritual authority by casting demons out of people and performing miracles. He claimed to be the Son of God, to be one with God, and that faith in him was the only way for us to know God and have eternal life. He appointed 12 apostles to help him with his task who, with 70 others, also travelled around preaching and healing.
His radical message greatly irritated the religious leaders who eventually arrested him and tried him with false witnesses. The Roman governor unwillingly agreed to have Jesus immediately executed by crucifixion. Jesus’ body was placed in a friend’s tomb. After 3 days the body disappeared and Jesus appeared in a resurrected form to his disciples over a few weeks before ascending into the sky before their eyes.
As a sequel to the gospels, the book of Acts describes the events after Jesus had gone, beginning with the arrival of the Holy Spirit to his waiting disciples. The believers continued the work of Jesus — the gospel was preached and many believed, people were healed and demons cast out by the power of God through the ministry of the apostles and others. A community of Christians developed which reflected the principles of love and living which Jesus taught.
The second part of the book of Acts relates the exploits of Paul who was an educated Jew from Tarsus who at first was vigorously persecuting Christians. After a dramatic conversion he became a strong defender of the Christian gospel with a particular mission to make the good news known to the Gentiles. He embarked upon a number of dangerous expeditions to preach the gospel from Israel to Greece. His stance offended the Jewish religious leaders and he was arrested in Jerusalem and eventually taken to Rome. There are several of Paul’s letters preserved in the Bible — some are written to churches, others to individuals. There are also some letters by James (the brother of Jesus), Peter, John and Jude.
The Bible finishes with this prophecy given by John the apostle. It starts with a message of warning and encouragement to seven churches. It then goes on to describe the events leading up to the second coming of Christ and the final judgment. The language is poetic and graphic and portrays the clear victorious establishment of the eternal kingdom of God and the defeat of evil.
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