We – the group of people I serve Jesus with – have been working on some interesting ideas lately and road testing them to see if they work out. One of those has to do with what it means to say that something is ‘Biblical.’ Over the years lots of people have justified all manner of horrible enterprises on the basis that they were being Biblical. You get a few verses that you can invest with your own meaning and use for your own purpose and, bingo. You have a powerful tool for intimidating some and influencing others. Most of the division that exists in the church – 40,000 denominations plus worldwide – are based on a set of distinctions that are supposedly Biblical. Theological systems are the same. They presume that God did a poor job with the Bible and needs a bunch of professional specialists to tell everyone else what it REALLY means. Wow.
So here is an effort to address this issue. It is based on the idea that when God decided to reveal himself and his intentions to people he chose to record those matters as a set of stories that make up the BIG STORY. Scot McKnight likes to think of it as a Wiki site and a bunch of wiki pages that contribute to the site and tell different parts of the story but, in the end, they all contribute to a BIG STORY.
Well. Here is my attempt to put the story revealed between Genesis Chapter One and Revelation Chapter Twenty Two. I think it is best to approach the Bible as a story. It is not an imagined story. It is an interpretation of historical events and by discovering how they weave together. It is the story of Jesus and therefore the story of a loving God seeking to fulfill good purposes for good people and a good world.
So here goes…………………
ADAM AND EVE
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
When God created the universe he created men and women as his image bearers, presence carriers and purpose fulfillers in the earth. Adam and Eve were singularly created in the image of God and were the only creatures capable of enjoying close spiritual relationship with him. They were given authority to fulfill the purposes of God for the earth and their relationship of oneness with each other was intended to model the unity of the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit. They were deceived through an encounter with Satan and chose to act apart from their relationship with God and contrary to his calling. By doing this they devalued the image, lost intimacy and therefore the authority to fulfill his purpose. Adam and Eve’s descendants multiplied and extended this condition and became more and more committed to thinking and acting corruptly until a point where they were incapable of good.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
NOAH AND HIS FAMILY
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord ……… Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”
Unlike the others of his generation, Noah acknowledged God and modeled his life on God’s character. When God spoke to him, Noah heard, believed and embraced what was said. Together with his family he fulfilled God’s redemptive purpose. They built the ark, gathered animals and spent more than a hundred years calling people back to the ways of the Creator. After surviving the flood they began to re-established God’s loving purpose in the earth.
As the generations passed, however, fewer people shared this calling. Instead they began to build communities and cities based on their own wisdom and their own purposes. Finally they forged a powerful unity, independent of God and opposed to him. The tower of Babel was the symbol of this climactic failure and the dispersion of the nations was its consequence.
“And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” 
ABRAHAM AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
When Abraham left his kinship group in Haran and moved his family to Canaan, it was to embrace both the blessing and responsibility of serving God. God’s purposes for the earth were going to be represented by a nation/community that God would build through Abraham’s descendants. After God liberated the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the law of Moses gave them the insights that would see God’s image restored and the tabernacle, cloud and pillar of fire enabled them to honour and follow his presence. The land of Canaan was to be an operations base to take this same blessing to all the peoples of the earth.
Instead of becoming a community that looked and sounded like God, they kept copying the ways of the nations around them. Instead of offering God’s blessing to the nations, they became an exclusive club for one nation. One of the saddest consequences of this failure was when they rejected God as their king and asked Samuel to appoint a human king. 
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 
DAVID AND THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
“But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
When God agreed to appoint a human king for Israel it was a case of redemptive love taking another risk. Even though many of the kings dismally failed to honour and serve God, King David became the prophetic foreshadowing of the promised Messiah/king. David was selected by God because even though he was working as a shepherd, he was doing it as “a man after God’s own heart.” Despite his well known imperfections God promised that the real king would be a ‘Son of David.’
In spite of this high and lofty calling, David, his son Solomon and those who followed them, transgressed the principles God had revealed about godly leadership. They began a process of compromise that saw the kingdom of Israel being torn apart by internal division and external oppression. The glimpses of glory faded and the following three hundred years tell the horrible story of corruption, betrayal and shame. During these days God raised up prophetic messengers who tirelessly and graciously warned the people of the consequences of foresaking God. Sadly they were consistently rejected and their warnings unheeded. The honour and presence of God was shunned, the image of God on earth was marred and his purposes resisted. Ten of the twelve tribes were wiped out and the remaining two were exiled in Babylon. Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed. Even though God brought about a profound miraculous deliverance seventy years later, only a small percentage were willing to return and rebuild the city and temple. The systemic failures that had plagued them from the beginning continued. No word was spoken from heaven and there was no divine intervention for four hundred years. The powerful prophetic images and promises of a new day and of restoration were tied to the coming of the promised Messiah/king. The people waited in the long night of divine silence as they struggled to hang on to their very existence.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “
After four hundred years of silent suspense the promised Messiah was born. Jesus of Nazareth was the faithful image bearer of God. From the time of his birth in Bethlehem and while he was growing up in obscurity in the home in Nazareth he represented the image, carried the presence and embraced the purposes of his Father. From the beginning of his public ministry he carried a single message: the kingdom of God had arrived and the kingdom of darkness was going to lose its power.
Jesus of Nazareth was the ultimate exposition of the law of Moses and the fulfillment of every prophetic testimony of the coming Messiah. He challenged the religious structures that had buried the relational nature of the covenant through its traditions. The message he proclaimed was of a new kingdom, the kingdom of God. As he lived, spoke and ministered to people, the kingdom of God advanced. As foretold in Old Testament prophecy he embraced the purpose of his Father as he faced unjust torture and death in Jerusalem. His death on the cross forever broke Satan’s power to lock people in cycles of destruction and separate them from God. His resurrection heralded the promise of God to make everything new. When the Holy Spirit began to be poured out on “all people” on the Day of Pentecost, Jews, Gentile, males or females, young and old were supernaturally empowered. The image of God could be restored, the presence of God could be known and the purposes of God could be fulfilled. New Jesus-looking communities could be formed that transcended all forms of human distinction as testimony to Jesus and the kingdom of God and therefore complete the task of carrying the message to every part of the earth.
Adam, Noah, Abraham and the people of Israel had failed to fulfill the commission they were given. Jesus succeeded. When his followers obeyed his words and the church was created by the power of the Holy Spirit it emerged as the corporate expression of the new covenant. They began to carry the presence, declare the image and fulfill the purposes of God in the earth. It was by no means perfect, but because the new covenant was designed to operate through grace and relationship, God was able to do amazing works through committed, even though imperfect, people.
THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
The message and ministry of the kingdom of God has been described as the future happening in the present. It is heaven happening on earth. Every aspect of personal and collective spirituality is designed to foreshadow the consummation of the plan of God for the heavens and the earth. This consummation is described in various places throughout the New Testament books but portrayed most profoundly in the last chapters of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. When this age is complete Jesus the Messiah/King will come and establish an eternal heaven and earth and the people who bear his image, carry his presence and fulfill his purposes will see the consummation or final expression of what began in Eden, was lost by Israel, restored in Jesus and being completed by his followers. It is the work of bringing everything back under the rule of his Son, Jesus Christ. The rule of King Jesus will be the fulfillment or completion of what every follower and every collection of followers will experience and accomplish in some measure. The kingdom comes where the will of God is done on earth as it is being done in heaven. Revelation 21 begins to describe that fulfillment in terms of God dwelling as God in the midst people who had been fully made new in a world where everything has been made new.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” 
QUESTIONS RAISED BY THIS STORY
- According to this story, what has been and remains the desire of God for people?
- If Jesus is the true and faithful Son of God, what does it mean for us to be true and faithful?
- What is it about the Person, the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus that resolved the unresolved issues for the plan of God?
- What was it that defined the people as the “people of God” in former times and who are the “people of God” in any place at any time?
- What defines success and failure for the people of God according to this story?
 Genesis 1:26-28
 Genesis 6:5
 Genesis 1-6
 Genesis 6-12; 2 Peter 2:5; Acts 17:26,27
 Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis – First Samuel 8
 First Samuel 8:4-9
 First Samuel 8:19-21
 Acts 13:21
 Deuteronomy 17 spells out what a king looks like when he represents the real King of Israel rather than one who works the same way as the kings of neighbouring people. Here is a summary: 1) he must be chosen by God; 2) he must be a native Israelite; 3) he is not to accumulate many horses; 4) he is not to have dealings with Egypt, their former slave masters; 5) he is not to acquire many wives; 6) he is not to accumulate excessive silver and gold; 7) he is to become familiar with and live by the laws of Moses; 8) he is not to consider himself better than his fellow Israelites.
 First Samuel to Malachi
 Jeremiah 31:31-34
 Mark 1:14,15
 The four gospels provide the account of the revelation of Jesus; the Acts and Letters tell stories of the emergence of a new kind of community of God’s people.
 Matthew 6:9-14
 Revelation, especially Chapters 21,22
 Revelation 21:1-5