The Big Picture of the Bible

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What This Is

The Bible isn't a book. It's around 60 volumes written by 40+ people from all walks of life over a period of 1,000+ years in three languages. There's a consistent story, the Story of Redemption, that runs through them all. It tells us who God is, our purpose, why our world is broken, how Jesus restores our relationship to Him, how God's Spirit works through us, and the hope of eternal life He gives us. God's Word is also alive with His Spirit. Humble yourself, ask Him to speak to you, and read it with an open mind. He will supernaturally tell you it's true.

Note: Numbered links are verses your mouse can hover over. Especially read those about Jesus.

The Story of Redemption

God gave us His Word, or the Bible, to help us understand[1] who He is, who we are, and what He expects of us. God's Word says He spoke[2] the entire universe[3] into existence from nothing[4]. That proved He has unimaginable knowledge and power with limitless reach. He exists apart from our universe, even outside of time itself[5]. He values His holiness[6] and purity above all other traits. A passing glimpse of His holy glory and majesty always dropped strong men to their knees[7] in trembling and awe. His Word says He is also complete: He needs nothing[8]. He created the Universe simply because it pleased Him[9] to do so. God also has sovereign authority over anything He creates. Like a homeowner or a country's ruler, He can expect of or do with His creation whatever He wants[10].

His Word says He created us to love Him for His glory[11], perfect character[12], and goodness[13]. He displayed His glory in what He created: the heavens, the Earth[14], spiritual beings called angels that execute His will[15], the first humans (Adam and Eve)[16], and a paradise for humans to live in[17]. He declared it was all good[18]. More accurate to say He is the source of all good: holding the universe together, keeping our bodies healthy, making the world so pleasing to us (eg good food, beautiful sights)[19], giving us people to share it with, and all the happy moments that follow. His creation would spend eternity with Him enjoying those blessings in the beautiful paradise He made for them. His unchanging character means He keeps every promise[20].

God gave His creations free will to follow or rebel against Him[21]. Rebelling against (i.e. betraying) our God is called sin. Satan, a great angel, led the first rebellion out of selfish pride. He and His followers wanted[22] to be greater than God. They were cast out of heaven to Earth. After Satan tempted them, humans also betrayed God[23] seeking to be like gods themselves. His infinite purity, love, and sovereignty mean we may never understand what this betrayal did to Him. It seems like a child witnessing a murder, a spouse of decades betrayed, and a king spat on by his heir all at once. God was angry. That He's eternal meant that the consequences would be, too.

God is perfectly just: He must punish sin[24]. When humanity sinned, He gave them and the world around them less grace[25]. He also took away our bodies' immortality[26]. Humans would spend their limited lifetimes working hard to survive in a dangerous world. God's final punishment, His full wrath[27], comes after death. His wrath is described as a consuming fire[28]. Those He'd have loved and blessed for eternity who betray Him are thrown into a place described as a lake of fire[29][30]. His gifts of love, joy, peace, and pleasure are withdrawn to leave only burning and "weeping and gnashing of teeth."[31] Instead of repenting (turning from sin), humans' sin only increased with every generation[32] until He regretted[33] making them.

Like His justice, God's mercy is so strong that He wanted none to perish[34]. Before He even created us[35], He already had a Plan ready to redeem all who would turn back to Him. He revealed Himself to the least-significant nation (Israel)[36], set them apart[37] for His Plan, and promised blessings for all who served Him[38]. The Law He gave them[39] required everyone to love Him first, then each other, and to live holy lives (i.e. be righteous)[40]. He defended them from their enemies[41] (often miraculously[42]). He gave them land[43] and riches[44]. He instituted animal sacrifices to remind them all sin is paid for in blood[45]. They still kept turning back to sin[46]. They even worshiped man-made things[47] instead of the creator of all things. His judges[48], kings[49], and prophets[50] couldn't keep them on track either[51]. Like all of us, their sinful nature[52] kept them selfish and rebellious.

Perfect justice and mercy seem like a contradiction. God's prophets promised His solution would achieve both. That man would be born of a virgin woman[53] in Israel's bloodline[54]. He'd absolve us of our sins, bring us back to God[55], and give us eternal life[56][57]. He would do it for all peoples, not just Israel [58][59]. The Word of God also gave them hundreds of prophecies,[60], or details about the future, that the faithful who studied His Word could use to know who their Savior was.

Around 2,000 years ago, He came as promised. God's Spirit supernaturally caused a virgin woman[61] to conceive a child. God took flesh in the form of a Son who was fully God and fully man[62][63][64]. Although God, He limited and humbled Himself to set an example for us. Put in an animal feeder (manger)[65] as an infant, He later grew up to be an unremarkable-looking carpenter[66][67] in a no-name town. He had all the needs, worries, and temptations we do[68][69][70]. He still lived in perfect obedience[71] to God's Law. He responded to God's call for ministry in His thirties[72]. He served[73][74][75][76] those around Him out of selfless love.

In His ministry, He proved who He was by fulfilling all the prophecies[77] and performing miracles[78], including raising the dead[79]. He was rejected[80] by those meant to receive Him. So dedicated was He, that He endured being beaten[81] until He had no flesh on His back[82], mocked/stripped[83], spat on[84], and crucified to death[85]. In crucifixion, a person's lungs are forced into a position where every breath requires them to force the nails further into the nerves of their feet while rubbing a shredded back against the wood. Seconds, minutes, hours... they endure this pain with every breath until physical exhaustion makes them suffocate. Even worse, Jesus had been in strong communion with God before birth[86] and during His life[87]. Taking God's wrath for us, He'd be cut off from God's peace, feel alone[88] for the first time, and feel it while being tortured to death.

At any point, He could've gotten off that cross. Jesus once rebuked an entire storm with His words. Issuing one command[89] as the Son of God would've extinguished His enemies. Knowing God's justice must be satisfied, Jesus willingly stayed on that cross out of love for us. Although crushed[90] by the burden, He obeyed[91] to the point of a death that left His body unrecognizable[92] to those watching. God showed He was pleased with Jesus' sacrifice by raising Him[93] from the dead on the third day. Jesus' perfect obedience and blood earned this for us: He will save anyone who believes in Him, repents, and follows Him. He promises that and tells us how (below).

Before we get to that, making the right choice will have tough consequences. We live in a world whose evil is fueled by a love of sin and Satan's influence. Jesus warned the world will hate[94], persecute[95], jail[96], and/or kill[97] us. We must always choose Him over ourselves, even over our very lives[98]. He'll use our suffering to draw us closer to Him in spirit and character[99][100]. Then, heavily reward[101] it in the next life. A massive number of believers have already been murdered for their faith. Some lost their families right in front of them.

As the end draws near, Jesus said[102] the signs will be massive increase in lies (eg mass media), wars, famines, and earthquakes. His messenger, Paul, wrote[103] that individuals will be more self-centered, arrogant, greedy, abusive, disobedient to parents, and anti-religious. After that at an unknown time[104], Jesus will return to judge everyone for their choices: rewarding His followers for the good they did while following Him[105]; punishing the rest who rejected him and remained in sin[106][107].

Until then, we endure our one life loving God and others until we get where we're going. His Word, His promises, His character, and His power all assure us we'll get there. Jesus is already there making a place[108] for us. We must put our faith in and follow Him. We know our God expects it, deserves it, and is so worth it. We just keep our focus[109] and hope[110] on Him till the end.

The Gospel in a Few Verses

The Word of God says our Father draws us to Him, His Word will speak to our hearts, and we'll know it's different. That's Him at work in us:

We start out knowing He's there just looking at the world around us:

"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Romans 1:20 ESV)

Like the body needs food, our souls hunger and thirst for our Creator's presence in our life. Jesus fills that hole in us:

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst... All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:35,37-40 ESV)

Before, we were too wicked. A perfect judge wouldn't let a criminal walk. God's nature requires Him to be both just and merciful:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-17 ESV)

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous (or holy) person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (enemies of God), Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!" (Romans 5:7-9 NIV)

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

We're forgiven in the sense that Jesus stepped in front of the bullet for us. An innocent, perfect man lived the loving and obedient life we couldn't. Then, He died for us. Then, He conquered death itself. Then, He promised He'd raise us, too. The Word emphasizes it's a gift we couldn't earn with good works:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus also made it clear He's the only one who can save us:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 ESV)

God's Word lays out clearly exactly what we must do:

"Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away." (Acts 3:19)
"If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified (sins paid for), and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)

For as long as we follow, Jesus promises our future is secure:

"...and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28)

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

To prove this, He gives a deposit on His promised inheritance: the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus also said:

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." (John 14:27 NLT)

The Book of Acts said it happened:

"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 13:52)

"The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)

...and that's happened everywhere the Gospel went. Jesus has saved and transformed the lives of nearly a billion people from all places and walks of life.

In each believer, either quickly or gradually, the Spirit begins a transformation process that works from inside out to make us more like Christ, drawing us closer to God. Like with a healthy tree, Jesus says you'll know His people by the good fruit that naturally flows out of their hearts[111]. Galatians 5:22-23 says "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." The more a person or group follows Christ, the more of this fruit we'll see in their lives. Then, eventually Jesus will come back to finish His work and render judgement for the choices we made.

How to Accept Jesus as Lord

Hearing His call, you have to step out on faith to surrender your life to Him. To do that, say to Him (pray) this:

"Dear God, I know that I am an unworthy sinner and there is nothing that I can do to earn your salvation. I believe Jesus is man and God. I believe you sent Him to live the life I didn't, that He died on the cross for my sins, and was raised from the dead three days later. I repent (or turn away from sin) and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. God I ask in Jesus' name that you please save me and give me eternal life with you. Thank you for your forgiveness. Amen (the end)."

You pray that, start living as a believer, and be baptized to publicly demonstrate your faith. The evidence you did this is that the Holy Spirit will change your heart, or begin "sanctifying" you, to make you yearn to be more like Jesus. A need to love God and others more will begin to overflow out of your heart. You will need to spend time with God daily, studying His Word and praying, to grow as a believer. Join a local church that focuses on these things to help you do that. You will probably also face suffering in a world that hates God and righteousness. Endure it to the end since He is worth it.

Get you a study Bible to understand it better. I recommend English Standard Version (ESV). Read the New Testament first, starting in John. On the go, you can use a pocket Bible, online Bible, or Bible app. The other site has tips on fundamentals, esp sharing who Jesus is.

Can We Lose Salvation? What About ex-Christians?

Here's some extra verses for your comfort. Our own works earned us nothing. Our salvation a gift from God. Our sins were put on Jesus on the Cross. His death paid our debt to God. At the moment we believe, God justifies us (saves us), makes us part of his holy people, gives us a new heart, and changes us from inside out. We're born again. Even better, God seals us with a guarantee that we'll make it. Nobody and nothing can separate us from God's love. If your faith is real, Paul says you're already seated in the heavenly places with Christ. :)

After God saves and seals us, we live in obedience to Him. Jesus gave us the same two commandments. His Spirit causes believers to bear the fruit of the Spirit. He rewards good works. Jesus teaches that fake Christians will bear no or bad fruit. James says "faith without works is dead" faith. God will destroy false believers and teachers in the end.

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