A Seven Thousand Year Story
To put it as simply as possible: God has created a world where humans can choose their own way. In this way, humans are like God, having self direction. Our choice is to either follow God or follow ourselves. Faithful followers are purified by grace and the faithless are left to their own devices. In the end, only the faithful will be resurrected from death and rewarded with eternal life in God’s kingdom on earth. The immortal humans will join God in future manifestations of his creative power that will be unimaginably interesting. People who choose to ignore God live their brief lives however they wish and when they fall into the sleep of death, they never think or feel anything again; they are gone.
Contrary to popular thinking, God’s plan does not involve eternal torments for dead sinners. God’s plan does not include playing harps in the clouds, either. These visions of “life” after death are derived from ancient myths and are not supported by the Bible. The true story of God’s plan is more interesting and believable than such cartoonish exaggerations. The faithful experience eternity with God and join him in his creative endeavors. The people who do not believe just live as they wish and then simply cease to exist after they die.
God’s seven thousand year plan for the earth has not changed since the beginning of the story. From the Garden of Eden to the Revelation of John, the Bible recounts a multi-millenia long internal struggle as humanity seeks to choose righteousness over worldliness, God’s way over our way, the Spirit over the flesh.
Echoes of this struggle recur throughout the stories in the Bible, often foreshadowing the arrival of the Messiah, who would triumph over the flesh, provide the way to salvation, and set the ultimate example of righteousness. The themes of humbling the proud, saving the downtrodden, and freeing those in slavery reverberate through the story as God repeatedly shows his longsuffering mercy towards weak and rebellious humans who often fall short of their calling and miss the mark. At every turn, God’s grace is evident. The ultimate solution to sinfulness and death is a gift of God: the gift of forgiveness. God offers this gift of grace to anyone who will turn away from their selfish ways and follow the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
The Main Characters
Melchizedek, King of Salem
After a great flood, the descendants of Noah dispersed throughout the earth. Someone, possibly Shem, although the details are not well established, lead a religion worshipping the Creator. This was a monotheistic religion, unlike the idolatrous worship of other ancient peoples. The king of Salem, the priest of this order, was named Melchizedek. Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, gave gifts to Melchizedek at Salem after he won a battle in the region (Genesis 14). When he met with Abraham, he brought out bread and wine to share with him, similar to the memorial service instituted by Jesus at the last supper (Matthew 26:26). Although little is known about the order of Melchizedek, the significance of his priesthood is explained in the New Testament. Jesus is called “a priest after the order of Melchizedek” in Hebrews 5:10 and Psalms 110:4.
The Faithful Patriarchs
Abraham was the father of the faithful (Genesis 22:18). His great faith shown by leaving his family, traveling to a land that he had never seen, and willingness to sacrifice his only son was rewarded by God with a promise to inherit the land with his descendants forever. This reward was not just for his descendants to enjoy generation after generation, but included the promise of Abraham enjoying the land forever (Genesis 13:15). This means that the crucial part of the promise was not just the land, but the gift of immortal life after death. The hope of Israel was to live forever in a peaceful kingdom on earth. The promises that God made have not been nullified or altered in any way since they were first spoken, but they have not yet been fulfilled. The patriarchs died in faith “not having received what was promised” (Hebrews 11:13). They are still waiting in the sleep of death for the resurrection and the fulfillment of the promises.
The Chosen People
The descendants of Abraham grew into a great nation while in Egypt and were enslaved. God delivered them from Egypt with miracles and their faith was collectively tried through many troubles as they journeyed back to the promised land. They conquered and settled the land and through many generations faced more temptations, wars, and trials and witnessed numerous losses and victories which are recounted in their ancient writings for our benefit. Although conquered and dispersed throughout the world for centuries, their descendants retained their national identity and religious traditions right into modern times. Despite awful prejudice, hatred, and unspeakable acts of violence against them, they flourish today in the land of Israel and around the world in a startlingly clear testimony to the faith of their forefathers. They were chosen by God and will always remain His chosen people — nothing can ever take that from them (Romans 11:1-2).
Throughout the history of the chosen people, God saw fit to speak through human and angelic messengers. He also chose to have human writers record His thoughts about the events. These men wrote the texts that eventually were compiled into the Bible. Because their writing was guided by God, the Bible contains a consistent message from the first book to the last even though some books were written thousands of years apart. Sometimes the writers recounted actual events and other times they wrote in poetry, metaphor, and analogy. Every story and type of text is useful for learning about God and righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Every word of the Bible was written for our benefit.
Jesus was a real person and the son of God. He was conceived by a miracle, but was born of a woman under the law of sin and death (Galations 4:4). This means that he was a mortal man, capable of sinning, and tempted in all ways like we are tempted (Hebrews 4:15). He never succumbed to any temptations though. God gave him power (Matthew 28:18) to perform miracles. In being God’s son, he was a perfect manifestation of God on earth, but he was not the same person as God (John 17:22). God and Jesus were (and are still) united in will and purpose, but it is a confusing mistake to think that they were the same person. God cannot sin and cannot die. As a human, Jesus could do both. It is clear from the accounts of his life that Jesus prayed to God and relied on God for strength and guidance. If Jesus were God, his prayers would be ridiculous displays of him talking to himself. God loved the world so much that He gave his only son, that whoever believed in him would not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus really died and was resurrected by his heavenly Father after three days in a tomb. He is now immortal and waiting in heaven for the time when God will send him back to the earth to establish his kingdom on earth. Although Jesus was not widely accepted as the Messiah by the Jews, he is a direct fulfillment the promises that God made to their patriarchs. We learn from the teachings of Jesus and the lives of the patriarchs how to live our lives. Those of us who are not genetic descendants of Abraham have the chance to be adopted as heirs to the promises (Galatians 3:29).
You are a part of God’s great plan for the earth. He created you, helped you grow, and nurtured your desire to search for Him among all of the conflicting stories of the world’s religions. He loves you and wants to spend forever with you and your family. Everyone is offered the gift of forgiveness by God’s grace, but not because we ever did anything to make ourselves worthy or admirable (Romans 3:21-26). If you repent of your selfish ways and turn to God with a desire to learn from Him, you can become a part of his Chosen people– God will adopt you through baptism. You can become an heir of the promises made to the patriarchs of Israel (Galatians 3:29). You can become a disciple of Jesus and meet him face to face on that great day when he returns to the earth to establish his kingdom (Acts 17:31). As an immortal person, you can contribute to the education of the the remaining mortals on the earth and provide leadership (Revelation 5:9-10) in restoring the earth to its original glory. There is no higher calling than this; won’t you accept it and take your place among the believers?