In our last post we asked the question: "what is the Bible all about?" We could say that today's post is beginning to consider: "how does one go about studying the Bible?" What I will lay out below is an approach to Bible study that takes into consideration major Biblical themes. I call this approach a "bird's-eye view of the Bible".
God's progressive revelation of Himself through the Bible
Journeying through the big collection of books that we find in the Bible exposes us to God’s process of revelation. Have you ever noticed how flowers or trees will slowly bud and show their colors in the Spring? The processes of Spring-time gradually unfold over a period of days and weeks. God did not reveal all that He had to say about Himself all at once. Instead, God delivered His truth to various people by relating to them by way of “covenants” (covenant means “a binding promises”) (Hebrews 1:1-2). God also desired and still desires people to respond to Him.
Considering major themes of the Bible
As we explore the great themes of the Bible, we will see that God used different “ages” of history to prompt human beings to respond to Him in faith. Some Bible teachers have pointed out how God runs His world like we do a house. There are "rules of the house" that govern relationships, how the house is maintained and settings that enable the formation of relationships. Such an organized system of running our world is God's providential exercise of His will through what we call an "economy" or "dispensational arrangement". Although mankind would rather ignore God, God is ever making Himself generally known by way of creation and the conscience and specifically revealed through Christ and the scriptures. God is by nature a relational God. If we keep in mind that God relates to us by “binding promises” (covenants) and uses different periods of time or "dispensational arrangements" to prompt us to respond in faith, we will have a clearer idea of the God of the Bible.
For anyone who has never read through the Bible or explored it from cover-to-cover, the size of the Bible can overwhelm first-time readers. On average, the English text of the Old and New Testaments contain over 774,000 words throughout the 66 books. In all, the 66 books comprising our Bibles contain 1189 chapters and would require over 72 hours to read in one sitting. To more realistically approach an overview of the Bible, we are opting for tracing it's message by way of themes. To keep things as simple as possible, we will look at ten themes in the Old Testament and ten in the New Testament. The themes I'm thinking of are listed below:
Major Old Testament themes:
7. God’s Kingdom
8. Divided kingdoms
Major New Testament themes:
8. New Covenant
9. Second coming
The anchoring theme of the Bible is the cross and resurrection of Jesus
As I’ll explain more below, the cross of Jesus will function as the “anchoring theme” of any study of the Bible. The central anchor to all the themes will be the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. If we were to view the central theme of scripture as centered about "the cross and resurrection of Jesus", anything prior to the crucifixion would have the label: "pre-cross". Anything that would follow would have the label: "post-cross".
We can think of this central theme like the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. Geologists call this feature by another name, "The Great Divide", due to how much it influences the flow of water on the continent to either the Pacific Ocean or towards the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. The Lord Jesus Christ and His accomplished work is that "Great Divide" of our Old and New Testament scriptures.
When Jesus arrived, He fulfilled over 100 scriptures in the Old Testament. The whole point of the Gospels, Acts, New Testament letters and the book of Revelation is to unpack the Lord Jesus Christ, His finished work on the cross, His resurrection and what He is doing currently in Heaven. This is the reason why "the cross" is considered the "theme-of-themes" in this "bird's-eye overview of the Bible".
Today's post aimed to lay out a method of studying the Bible by way of themes. The goal of such a study would be to embrace the entirety of scripture across all its major themes as revealed in the 66 books. We saw that Jesus' cross and resurrection is the central, anchoring theme, hooking together ten Old Testament themes and ten New Testament themes we identified today. In short:
1. The cross represents the central
character of the Bible - Jesus Christ.
2. The message of the Bible is about
God's plan of salvation.
3. The goal of Biblical revelation is to
reveal the glory of God.
In the next post, we will consider that first major theme of our "bird's-eye view of the Bible": "Creation".
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