This is the basic story found in the Bible
God, in all eternity past, in all his self-sufficient glory, unprompted by anything, decided to create a universe. In six literal 24 hour days, out of absolutely nothing, God the Father, Son and Spirit spoke and the heavens and earth, creatures, plants and came into existence. The crown of God’s creation, mankind, was specially formed by God on the sixth day from the dust of the earth and into his nostrils was breathed the breath of life. Man was placed in a beautiful garden full of literally everything he needed, commanded to be fruitful and multiply with his suitable helpmate, woman, and also warned not to eat of the fruit from one tree.
But then, an enemy, a deceiver, one craftier than all other bests of the field, the serpent – beguiled the woman. She ate of the forbidden fruit and gave also to her husband and he ate. Everything then went from very good to a crumbling, falling and doomed very bad.
Sin entered, and God’s crown of creation, man, had fallen. Curses, pain, death, difficulty, war, murder, strife and ultimately – separation from God ensued. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden; their firstborn son killed their second born son. Cain went off to a faraway land and built his own city. Adam and Eve had another son, Seth and more children beyond him.
However, within all of this turbulent, bitter, sad and gloomy chaos called the fall, a promise was made by God. While issuing specific punishment to the serpent, God said he would one day send forth someone from the woman’s seed. This one would have his heel bruised by the serpent but this one would also crush the serpent’s head. In the darkness and ensuing death as a result of man’s sin, a glimmering light of hope was born!
Man multiplied on the face of the earth. Abel’s line cut short, Cain in a far off land, only Seth’s line kept faithfully calling on the name of the Lord, the God of their father Adam. As man multiplied though, he grew more and more evil. So evil in fact that God decided he must be destroyed. God announced he would flood the entire earth and by His grace, save only one man and his family – Noah. Noah built an enormous ark, was rescued along with two of every kind of animal, from the destroying flood waters and emerged from God’s wrathful deluge safe on the mountains of Ararat. After Noah was off the ark, his three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their wives began repopulating the earth.
It did not take long before man proved that God could remove man from the earth, but even a flood would not remove sin from man’s heart. Mankind united again to build a tower to their own glory – that would reach to the heavens. Angered once more, God came down and destroyed the tower and confounded man’s language so that they would scatter and form separate nations over the whole face of the earth.
It was from this spread out human race that God chose one man in a city called Ur, named Abram, to continue unpacking the promise he had made back in the garden – to send a serpent head crushing redeemer.
So God called Abram out of Ur, to leave everything behind and go to a place God would show him. Abraham landed in a place called Canaan, modern day Palestine or Israel with his wife Sarah, nephew Lot, his servants and all he possessed. God promised to bless all nations through Abram. One problem – Abram had no son. God made a covenant with him still, change his and his wife’s name and prospered him. Abram tried to fulfill the promise himself and slept with his wife’s maidservant, Hagar (creating the Ishmaelites who became the Arabic people). God kept his promise and gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their ripe old age. They named the child Isaac and God made the same covenant and promises to him.
Isaac grew and was married to Rebekah. They had twin boys. The firstborn was Esau and the second was Jacob. Esau lived ungodly, forsook his birthright to the promises and was deceived by Jacob. Jacob received his father Isaac’s blessing but then had to flee from his Brother Esau’s wrath and went to his uncle Labaan’s house. There Jacob met Rachel, whom he lived. He agreed to work for Rachel’s father Labaan for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. After the seven years though, the deceiver had been deceived and Labaan gave his other daughter Leah to Jacob. Jacob worked gladly for seven more years and received Rachel. He fled with his two wives, their maidservants and his growing family and headed back toward Canaan. By God’s grace he reconciled with his once hostile brother Esau and Jacob settled in the land of his forefathers with his now 12 sons and one daughter. One of Jacob’s son’s, Joseph, began to have dreams that seem to imply he would one day be a great ruler. This angered his brothers who tricked their father into thinking Joseph had been killed by an animal while they actually sold him to slave trading Ishmaelites who took him to Pagan Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph was purchased by a high-ranking Egyptian named Potiphar to manage his home. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and when he refused, accused him of attacking her. Joseph was thrown into prison. He ruled over the prison and years later, when Pharaoh was troubled by dreams, Joseph was summoned to interpret for Pharaoh. He interpreted so well, Pharaoh elevated him to rule over all of Egypt. There was a devastating famine in most of the Middle East, and Joseph being wise, was put in charge to manage the storage and distribution of grain to both Egyptians and the surrounding nations wanting aide. Jacob sent his 11 sons to Egypt to buy grain and Joseph, after testing them, revealed himself to them. Joseph, still loved by the current Pharaoh was allowed to move his entire family to Egypt and to Goshen to be shepherds. Israel (Jacob’s new name) grew to a nation of millions while in Egypt for about 400 years.
Over this time, there arose a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph or his family, so he enslaved the Israelites and treated them cruelly. After years of bondage, God raised up a man named Moses, under the very nose of Pharaoh himself, sent him away to Midian, and then back to Egypt to command Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. After Pharaoh’s heart proved hardened, God sent ten plagues to punish Egypt and free then Israelites. They crossed the Red Sea and dropped down to Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula. They stayed there while God gave the freed slaves his law and the instructions to build the mobile worship center called the Tabernacle. They moved out from Sinai, toward the Promised Land but when they came to the border of Canaan, 12 spies were sent out to check out the land. Even armed with the promise of God – they doubted God’s ability to give them the land and spread fear among the people. God disciplined His people by making them wander for 40 years in the desert.
After the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites came up to the East side of the Jordan River poised to head west into the land flowing with milk and honey. Their leader for all those years, Moses preached to them reminding them of all the covenant blessings and curses before he died; only seeing the land from a distance.
The new leader, Joshua lead the Jewish nation across the Jordan river on dry ground and began to make holy war on the peoples living in Canaan, as God’s judgment against these wicked people. Once established in the land, the tribes each were assigned their sections and territories and began to settle in. In those days Israel had no human king and each man did what was right in his own eyes. Over time Israel began to cry out to their prophet Samuel, for a king to rule over them like the neighbor nations had around them.
Saddened and reluctant, under God’s direction, Samuel anointed Saul as the first human king of Israel. Saul’s heart was proud and God removed as king. He rose up a shepherd boy named David to rule his people. David ruled well but fell into sin with Bathsheba. David’s house was thrown into turmoil because of his sin. His son Solomon took the throne in his place and expanded Israel to her highest place, with largest borders. His son Rehoboam was a young and foolish king and listened to the counsel of the young men thereby splitting the kingdom of Israel into two. A false king rose up named Jeroboam and led ten tribes in the North while Rehoboam led the remaining two in the South. King after king succeeded in both the northern and Southern kingdoms and they got worse and worse as they went down the line. God sent prophet after prophet to both these kings and the nation to warn them of impending judgment and destruction if they didn’t repent. The nation, its leaders and its religious shepherds refused to listen and God sent the Assyrians who attacked the Northern kingdom and took them off into exile. A few hundred years later, King Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and deported the Southern kingdom into Babylonian exile.
Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego and Esther all shined as faithful servants even amidst captivity in these foreign lands and after 70 years in captivity, King Artaxerxes allowed the Jews to return to their homeland, rebuild the city of Jerusalem and most importantly, rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. God sent prophets to them during the rebuilding and after they were settled back into the land.
At that time, the Lord fell silent and he sent no prophets for 400 years. The political and religious landscape changed over these years as Greece came to power, Hellenized the world under its influence and then fell to Rome’s military machine. It was this now Greco-Roman world that one prophet, sent by God as a forerunner to the promised redeemer, broke the long silence by proclaiming, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John the Baptist took Palestine by storm, baptizing the repentant to prepare the way for the one promised from the garden all those years ago.
Jesus Christ came, in the fullness of time, born of a virgin into the humble household of a carpenter. He grew to be a man, chose 12 disciples to be with and teach and launched a public teaching, preaching and miracle working ministry at about age 30. While he ministered he told his disciples that his mission ultimately aimed him toward Jerusalem where e would be betrayed by one of them, handed over to the religious leaders and authorities of his day, be cruelly treated and then killed on a Roman cross. But, he also promised to rise from the death, victorious. The disciples didn’t understand and fled in fear that night the angry mob came to take Jesus away. Everything happened exactly as he said it would and that fateful day, on a Roman cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”, and breathed his last.
But three days later, just as promised and predicated, Jesus got up and walked out of his tomb, appeared to hundreds for about 40 days and told his followers to spread the word about him, his teaching, his death for sin and his death conquering resurrection. He then ascended into heaven, promising to return as King and Judge one day.
His disciples, after being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit spread his message throughout Jerusalem, Samaria and to the end s of the earth. This new institution, called the church, was predominately Jewish but grew to add non-Jewish, or Gentile followers as well. First through Peter, then mostly through a converted Jew named Paul, the apostles preached and planted churches all around the Mediterranean region. They often wrote follow up letters to these churches to teach them, encourage them and warn them about false doctrine. The last of the disciples to live, the apostle John, wrote a final apocalyptic letter describing Jesus Christ’s final return, triumph and ultimate consummation of his kingdom in brining final judgment and full restoration of all things. We now wait for that glorious day when our coming King will return to take his followers home, right every wrong and make all things very good, once again.