By Melissa McLaughlin
A View From Above
Sometimes you just need a walk in the woods. The tall trees with deep-rooted strength and leaves that whisper in the wind. The earthy smell of life in the rich soil. The woodland critters that scamper about. The sound of stillness in the woods, a welcome retreat.
There is one hiking trail we have frequented that affords a sacred place where the trail leads to the top of a mountain. At this coveted spot, hikers can pause and gaze out through the trees over the vast land below. Miles and miles of God’s creation as far as the eye can see.
When we view the earth from high above, we get a better sense of God’s grandeur and glory. We see the hills that roll along, seemingly forever. Tiny country roads wind through the valleys. The farmer’s green crops sing of their harvest. When standing at the top of a mountain, we get a bigger perspective of life and even our problems seem to take their rightful lesser place in our minds.
God’s Big Story – The Main Message of the Bible
As we step back and view the Bible with a wide lens, it is clear the Bible contains one overarching theme, one big story, one main message. That message is Jesus. Over the past few weeks, I have been pondering, studying and writing about God’s story, His-story, and how we fit into God’s grand plan of redemption. How He rescues us from this world of strife through Jesus Christ.
The main message of the Bible is that God sent Jesus to restore, redeem and re-create all that is fallen and broken. The Old Testament points ahead to Christ. The New Testament points back, revealing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old and then looks forward to the final pages of God’s glorious narrative, moving from creation to re-creation through our Savior, Jesus.
There are countless books written on the topic of Jesus as the unifying theme in the Bible. Many scholarly resources provide in-depth details on the subject. My goal here is to provide an overview of Jesus as a golden thread woven throughout the Bible, from beginning to end.
In the article How Do We Enter God’s Rest we considered how God created us, from the beginning, to rest with Him in the Garden of Eden. When we rest in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, our sins are forgiven, salvation is assured and our lives culminate in the soul-rest of all eternity.
To Bear the Image of the Man of Heaven reminded us that mankind was made of the dust of the earth, in the image of God, as recorded in the book of Genesis. Yet in order to pay our sin-debt, Jesus’ image was marred on the cross so He could redeem us. Graciously, even now believers are being made more and more in the image of Christ, the Man of heaven.
In the devotional titled, God’s Eternal Garden, we marveled at the beautiful paradise God prepared to share with mankind in the Garden of Eden. We grimaced at Jesus enduring agonizing pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He faced the impending torment of the cross for our sins. This sacrifice brought our soul-healing that someday we may enjoy the eternal Garden of heaven described in Revelation.
Through Jesus, God takes us…
- From rest to rest
- From image to image
- From garden to garden
Next we will consider God’s main message in the Bible from another vantage point.
How God takes us…
- From creation to new creation through Jesus Christ.
God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, commissioned His wondrous plan in Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
At the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, after He designed and set all of matter into motion, God declared that His creation was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
We picture the paradise of God’s handiwork as we envision the Garden of Eden, where God walked in sweet, unhindered communion with Adam and Eve. Here Adam and Eve flourished in total trust, care and harmony with God, with one another and with all of creation.
In Graeme Goldsworthy’s book, Gospel and Kingdom, God’s kingdom is described as:
- God’s people,
- in God’s place,
- under God’s rule,
- receiving God’s blessing.
Here in the Garden of Eden, we see a picture of God’s kingdom enjoying perfect peace and blessing. God, as the Creator of all things, is the rightful Ruler over all. And He is a good God.
So what went wrong?
The fall of mankind marked its descent as Satan entered the scene, taking the form of a serpent. Satan, the father of lies and master of deception, employed his typical battle tactics.
In the same manner of today:
- Satan twisted God’s Word, “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1)
- Satan cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word, “You surely will not die.” (Genesis 3:4)
- Satan discredited the character of God, “He knows you will become like Him” as if God was withholding a blessing from Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:5)
Eve, and then Adam, listened to and acted on Satan’s words over God’s Words. They chose to disobey and rebel against God’s one rule and simple boundary set forth in the Garden of Eden.
This rebellion and sin brought death. God is the Creator of life and so to rebel against Him brings death. Death of their close relationship with God, for they were cast out of the Garden of Eden. Death of their trusting relationship with one another, for now men and women would try to rule over one another in ungodly ways. Death of their caretaking role in the earth, for now they would eat only after great toil and hardship in the soil.
Their physical death would soon come, as well, for God guarded the Tree of Life. Now they could never partake and experience life eternal.
Yet this was God’s mercy. For who would want to live forever in this world of sin?
Remarkably, even in this moment of great loss and tremendous brokenness, God spoke of a promised Redeemer. A Serpent-Slayer. A Hero. A Savior. A Redeemer. A King. An offspring of Eve, a human being. In God’s own irony, from among those deceived by Satan at the beginning, will come One, who will crush Satan’s head. (Genesis 3:14-15)
Stunningly, right there in the shattered ruins of a once-lovely and radiant creation, God speaks of a plan for a new creation. How beautiful is the heart of God.
Saved By Grace Through Faith
God’s plan of redemption moved forward as He called out Abraham. God told Abraham He would bless all peoples of the earth, through Abraham’s descendants, a people set apart as God’s own people. (Genesis 12:1-3) Why was Abraham chosen? Not by Abraham’s merit, but by God’s grace.
When God told Abraham that He would bless him with descendants as numerous as the stars, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)
God has always saved by grace. Further, we are made righteous through our belief in God and His Word. This was made clear from the beginning. Beginning with Abraham. Saved by grace. Through faith. Pointing ahead to Christ.
Salvation by Substitution
In the book of Exodus, we find God’s people, the descendants of Abraham, now called Israelites, enslaved by the Egyptians. Pharaoh attempted to annihilate the Israelites by killing their newborn sons. Yet God spared Moses.
Through Moses, God displayed His power to Pharaoh and requested the Israelites be released. Pharaoh only increased the cruelty and hostility toward the enslaved Israelites. In a final warning, God declared the firstborn sons in the land would be killed. However, God directed the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and cover their doorposts with its blood. Wherever blood marked the houses of faith, death passed over and the people were saved. Saved by grace. Through faith in God and His Word. (Exodus 12)
It was at this time that God first introduced the concept of salvation by substitution. Some Biblical scholars refer to this as substitutionary atonement. A lamb was sacrificed in place of the people and through this substitute, they were saved. Pointing ahead to Christ.
In one final triumphant miracle, Moses led God’s people out of their bondage in Egypt as God parted the Red Sea. Incredibly, God’s people walked toward the promised land on dry ground. In this act, God also demonstrated salvation as victory over evil. Just as one day, Jesus’ sacrifice would both pay for our sins and defeat Satan. A double portion. Pointing ahead to Christ.
Understanding God’s Law
After God rescued His people from slavery, God provided the Israelites with His laws of righteousness. These laws helped His people understand God’s truth, holiness, goodness, righteousness and justice. God is perfect and His ways are perfect.
It is important to note here, God’s promises and the righteousness God imparted to Abraham came before the law. Additionally, God provided salvation from slavery for His people before the law.
The law was not intended to save. The law provided a better understanding of God’s holiness, purity and perfection. The law acts as a mirror so we see can see our sin for what it is. The law also gives us a better view of the wide chasm between our sinful selves and our Holy God.
In short, the law reveals God’s standards, exposes our sin and spotlights our need for a Savior.
God’s Dwelling Place
In the book of Deuteronomy, God expressed His desire to dwell with His people and guided them in the construction of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle illustrated His beauty, purity and holiness. Each part of this special place of worship, once again pointed ahead to Christ.
And yet, how could a holy God dwell among a sinful people? God who is holy and perfect, cannot allow impurity and evil in His presence or He would cease to be good. He would compromise His integrity.
Therefore, the next step in God’s plan of redemption was teaching His people about sacrifice. Sacrifice for sin.
A Perfect Sacrifice for Sin
In Leviticus we learn more about sacrifices required to atone for sin. God desires to dwell with His people, but equally important, we need God. We need His provision, His care, His mercy, His forgiveness, His help, His love. He is our Creator and we were designed by God to know Him, love Him, worship Him and be close to Him. Plain and simple… we need God.
So God instituted a system of sacrifices for His people to be made right before Him. Regular sacrifices were made for the cleansing of sin. But not just any sacrifice. The sacrificial animals had to be perfect.
However, the sacrifices of an animal would never be enough to remove sin completely. For human sin to be eradicated, ultimately a human had to pay the price. But not just any human. Only a perfect, sinless, spotless human. Once again, this system of sacrifice pointed to Christ.
The Savior Has Come – Creation Restored
Finally, when Jesus arrived on the scene, all was fulfilled. The holiness, righteousness, justice, truth, purity and perfection of God was lived out, in the flesh. Every law of God was upheld.
Then Jesus laid down His life, a human sacrifice, a perfect, spotless Lamb slain to pay for the sins of all mankind. Found only in Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus is the….
- Perfect sacrifice for sins
- Salvation by substitution
In Christ we are….
- Saved by grace
- Through faith
God has done it all. From the beginning, where creation was formed in all its glory. Through the sin that separated us from our Loving Creator. To the unimaginable, immeasurable price paid to redeem mankind. What still awaits is the final re-creation that Jesus will bring forth in the new heaven and the new earth. (Revelation 21:1-5)
It’s all God’s grace received through faith. We need only believe in the righteousness Jesus has won for us through his life, death and resurrection. Adding to this unending blessing of salvation in Christ, we celebrate even more for He arose from the grave, ascended into heaven and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell the hearts of all who confess Him as Savior and Lord.
Only after being filled with His Spirit and anchored in His Word are we given divine power to overcome sin and grow in the holiness of God. Now we seek to live out God’s laws of goodness and righteousness, not in order to earn our salvation but out of gratitude to our Savior, who did.
The Main Message of the Bible
From Creation to New Creation through Jesus Christ
How does this moment in time fit into God’s big redemption story?
By God’s grace, He has called us His own and taught us:
- Who He is, through creation, His Word, His Son and His Spirit
- His laws of truth, goodness, righteousness and justice
- How sin separates us from Him, a Holy God
- Because God is the source of life, to rebel against Him brings death
- A pure and perfect blood sacrifice is needed to pay the penalty for sin
- A substitute sacrifice may take our place
- Jesus is our Savior
Incredibly, God sent His own Son to carry out His laws of righteousness and then sacrifice Himself once and for all, for every flawed and imperfect person who will believe in Him.
We are saved, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Just as the entire Bible pointed ahead to the coming of Jesus Christ, fulfilling God’s magnificent rescue operation, so we can be assured, every single prophecy of Jesus’ second coming will be fulfilled.
God’s grand plan of creation to new creation is coming to pass.
Our Savior, the Serpent-Slayer, the sacrificial Lamb, the King – He has come and He is coming again. He will complete the final chapter in this story of all stories. Evil will be stamped out. Forever. Those who are found in Christ will thrive once more in God’s kingdom as God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s leadership and rule, enjoying His blessings forever.
Sounds like a heavenly vision. And what a view it is!
Take heart, my friends! God’s not finished yet. Jesus is the main message of the Bible. He is and He will take us from creation to new creation. We are headed home!
For a more in-depth study of Jesus as the unifying theme and main message of the Bible, check out God’s Big Picture By Vaughn Roberts.
For a ten minute video about Jesus as our Savior, check out this message by Max Lucado, Why All Roads Can’t Lead to Heaven.