5 Pillars of Biblical Theology Timeline- Theological Terms
5 Pillars of Biblical Theology Timeline-Laymans Terms
Does the book of Genesis exhilarate you? Do you find within its chapters a mind-easing peace that silences the buzzing voices of men? Genesis is exactly as it stands––our planet and our kind’s genesis––our beginning. At this very moment men sit in laboratories across the earth spending millions of dollars trying to understand these very origins. Is it not unique that you can open up the Bible and find the very answer they are searching for? The implications of such knowledge leading to such incredible groundbreaking conclusions should exhilarate us, catching our hearts aflame in such wonderful truth! But… it’s not that simple is it? Although Genesis should surprise us with revitalized hope in the Creator, it often has the opposite effect. Is it a lack of faith in the words found there? Do we find it to be incomprehensible? Or do we find it to be too simple of an explanation? The mystery of existence, as simple as it might be, plagues the human frame – tricking many into thinking that they must find a much more complicated formula to solve its problem- while many others can bask in the rays of a simple sun that was formed by the hands of a Being much more capable than the men in white lab coats.
In the first pillar we tackled a good section of Scripture defining the creational nature of the good news in the Bible. Everything we will discuss hereafter is built upon the immoveable foundation of Genesis 1-3 as not only being literal but also God-breathed. Despite skepticism, we must lay this foundation and stand upon it confidently so that our interpretation of Scripture doesn’t waver after Genesis. If we do not establish a plumb line of interpreting Scripture here, would not everything thereafter be ambiguous and open to interpretation instead of being consistently understood at face value? We therefore hold to the literal interpretation of Genesis so that the Bible can make its own sense thereafter. It can be trusted to mean what it says, so to speak.
When approaching Genesis I often find that many Christians have become desensitized and apathetic about the unique Edenic beginning. An accumulation of thousands of pieces of science and literature heralded from the strength and wisdom of men in our modern era has forced the creation account in our Bible to become stigmatized and held in question. In many circles today, it is culturally cool and relevant to be skeptical about the reality of Genesis 1-3. Many modern teachers treat it as creative poetry and beautiful allegory, but not as a true and literal account of the origins of existence. As believers we reject this nonsense and firmly adhere to the story of The Garden of Eden no matter how far fetched it sounds to our so called “modern” minds. The perfect mind of Adam was not created modern––It was created pure. Let that sink in.
Writing off the words of Genesis as creative allegory is a travesty to the God who has gone to such great lengths to tell us how and why we exist. What great betrayal to take His words and make them friendly fantasy! We should consider it the mercy of God that He would explain the very existence we reside within and make it accessible in a book that we can read at any time we desire. If need be, take the time now to stop and repent of self-entitlement and of the idea that we deserve more than this. To have a heart aligned with thankfulness for His precious words and an explanation of existence in Genesis is to give Him deserving honor, and a praiseworthy person will do so.
Faith in the words of the Bible is what separates believers from unbelievers. One believes the words found there, and others distrust them. Our trust and belief in the Bible’s words and the degree we put those words into faith through works, is the foundation of our evaluation on the Day of the Lord. It is by no means a nonchalant matter. Though it is sometimes difficult and darn near foolish to believe this account, considering the endless formulas of information championed by the world today, if we choose to believe God, like Abraham it will be accredited to us as righteousness (cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Let us take up the shield of faith then and extinguish the flaming arrows of man’s arrogant presentations and evaluations of reality. Let us cast down the lofty arguments of what man believes he knows about time as we know it and rather trust God’s account in the Bible with confidence and boldness while maintaining a spirit of love and gentleness.
Friends, it is pertinent that we see the dire need to re-sensitize ourselves to the veracity of the Edenic account. Alas, I can already hear the gasps of my precious liberal brothers, and the hissing of brilliant modern lips. The Facebook engines are gearing up to incite everything they know against the words I’ve just said. Make no mistake friends! It doesn’t take much discernment to evaluate that it is those of us who hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible who are slowly becoming criminalized and made the shortsighted, unsympathetic thinkers with small Neanderthal-like minds, unable to adapt our outdated ways of thinking to the “brilliance” and reasoning of modern science. In this we rejoice, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before us.
The Edenic Account and the Beginning of Sin
If we believe this account to be literal we can turn our attention to the bad news that qualifies God’s reciprocation of good news. As you see in the diagram, the bad news is the red diamond entitled SIN. God’s interaction with man from the garden, to expulsion from Eden, unto final restoration in the second Eden (the New Jerusalem) is the grand story of Scripture and the truly elementary, linear storyline of our Bible. We perceive the Bible as we would any other story. It is linear and it progresses from point A to point B, from beginning to end; it is not cyclical, but rather set upon a distinct course to achieve a certain purpose. This purpose is God’s original intention for Himself, man, and the earth. His purpose will be fulfilled.
In Genesis 2:8 we behold this truth. After God created everything good He “planted a garden towards the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” This beautiful truth resounds in our hearts! God’s creation was so personal to Him that He planted a special garden in the midst of the entire earth and put His prized possession in this garden for the divine purpose of interaction with him.
Then God made the first woman as a suitable partner for Adam, and Eve lived there in blissful paradise together with Adam– naked, unashamed, and without any knowledge of sin. Perfection. Naivety was young and knowledge was pure. Man’s unceasing veracious hunger to know everything and “figure it out” lay lifeless, buried in the confines of a simple confidence and security in their divine Maker. What they needed to know was there… within Him. He was the literal and physical embodiment of everything they knew, experienced, and were fulfilled in. What they didn’t need to know hung from the tree in the center of the garden.
This original interaction was man relating to God as the Sovereign Creator whom he should obey. His obedience was an act of love in relationship to His maker. The interaction also had the unique dynamic of operating in authority over what God had created while being submitted to God’s authority. Man was under the authority of God and in authority over the earth. We read that this was God’s initial command:
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” (Gen. 1:28).
The earth had been entrusted to Adam and Eve to rule over and this was God’s original desire. This authority was given to them as long as they obeyed His original statute.
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,” (Gen. 2:9-17).
This was the epic fullness of man’s reality in the beginning of time as we know it. This was pure original innocence. Adam and Eve lived within the boundaries of a lush green space that the God who had created them planted as the place of encounter. The simplicity of such a scene serves well to inform our biblical theology. What God desires actually never becomes more complicated than this original serene reality.
The solution to re-enter this garden again also never becomes more complicated than this either. We humans must become submitted to His authority in absolute surrender, and at the time of consummation, the end of time as we know it, He will again restore us to this place of authority. The beatitudes are Jesus commentary on this future event and the litmus test for who will reign with Him again. We see this identified specifically in Him saying “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth,” (Mt. 5:5).
Also, Daniel 7 makes plain what happens when Jesus returns,
‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’
Admitting that this is our glorious destiny when Jesus returns sets our hope upon His distinct original purpose. The end-goal is simply God obtaining what He intended in the beginning. We can see that the earth and man are not functioning in the innocent roles of perfection they did in the beginning. Therefore, we are processing the what and why of our current situation that is so gravely different than the picture of Genesis. The removal of our authoritarian role is the subject at hand as we consider the bad news of SIN and its detrimental effects upon God’s original plan.
The garden is where our reality begins and ends. We do not understand what made Adam and Eve partake of that fruit when tempted by the serpent, but we do know if we admit what is in our own hearts daily. It was us taking that fruit there with Adam that fateful day and heartily approving I must add! For any one of us to think we would have chosen differently is simply self-righteousness. We must cordially admit that we are sinners, of the seed of Adam, in desperate need of the second Adam to redeem us from these sinful bodies of death that desire as much fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as we can get.
The Bad and Good News
There is no need here to delve into the details surrounding Eden. When seeking to find answers from God, the reply often comes back “What I’ve given you in the Bible is what I wanted you to know.” In humble faith we must accept this. I’ve often shaken my fist at God in frustration that the Edenic account is only those three chapters instead of fifteen! Again the answer returns the same from the Lord and I realize that the desire in me is most likely based upon the very same desire that drove the first primogenitures (firstborn children) to the fruit of that tree.
The simple point in Eden is that there was a simple display of obedience required by God from humans, “Do not eat of the tree.” A grave disobedience occurred however, and man ate of that tree. What happened next explains the current state of the world. Man was expelled from the garden of perfection. The serpent that tempted Eve was cursed and the earth itself was cursed. Eve and Adam were both disciplined by God in their expulsion from the garden, and the state of the earth from then on would also be a resounding discipline of their disobedience. We behold this truth today in the current grievous state of our world.
The church is often oddly spiritually naïve and hopeful about the world today. It sometimes seems that we feel we are betraying the hope of the Cross and salvation through Jesus blood if we admit things are not getting better. We know our own sinful state, and see the incredibly slow process of sanctification in our wicked hearts, but we somehow perceive that things out there in the world are improving because Jesus died on the Cross two thousand years ago. Friends, the case is actually the opposite. With sober minds we clearly see that everything on this planet is in rebellion against God’s authority, opposed to Him almost completely. The Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus across the earth are the sole representation of a faithful witness of submission to God’s authority. But, even the church at large is near land-sliding into worldly values before our eyes! Yes, Jesus died on the Cross and things will get better when He comes again to make things right! But, right now, things are bad and only getting worse. It doesn’t do Jesus injustice to say this––it’s actually His biblical plan. Think: earthquakes, hurricanes, wicked kings, human-trafficking, poor people, orphans, molestation, family violence, animals eating animals, people murdering people. Good things do not off-set the bad as some seem to think. Let’s keep it simple – things are messed up. Things are not improving. In this current time we are plainly witnessing the result of God’s discipline upon Adam and Eve and the earth for eating the fruit. We are beholding the bad news in its near climax.
Yet, in the wake of such intensely bad news came the dazzling promise of good news. Speaking to the serpent God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The literal rendering of the Hebrew is that One will crush the serpent’s head, while the serpent merely bruises this One’s heel.
This is often called the Messianic Promise, or Messianic Expectation––the promise that a Messiah will deliver man from the serpent and from the effects the first event of sin had caused to fall upon them and the earth. This radiant promise came as very good news. In the eye of the hurricane there is peace, and we can live in the peace of this promise while the storm swirls about us. Our ship should remain anchored there within this simple hope.
Most of us remember the first “big sin” we committed. I remember the day, the sunlight in the room, and the feeling in my stomach as it turned over. Imagine you were Adam or Eve, the first man and woman––the first sinners. You eat the fruit and suddenly the nudity that has always been normal and pure turns into shameful nakedness. The realization would be as the sun darkening in a moment. For the first time in your perfect life you feel troubled. In that instant you are lucidly aware that everything is completely different than just a few minutes before. The shades have been drawn, whereas moments before the sunlight illumined everything. Your surroundings are suddenly horribly wrong. You panic as the first experience of fear in the unfamiliarity settles in. You don’t know what you are feeling, but it is terror. Then you hear Him coming… there is a sudden impulse to hide yourself. You crouch down behind a bush to hide for the first time from the Divine One you have confidently stood face to face with, worshipped, loved, and obeyed from your first day until now. Your teeth still dripping with guilt from the blood of the fruit, you pull your lips tight and experience your first wince as emotional pain engulfs the decision you cannot take back. Your vision blurs as something warm and wet comes pouring out of your eyes. You try to make them stop but your first tears keep coming. The Divine One you have confidently stood face to face with, worshiped, loved, and obeyed, is now a person you are afraid of. You want to run out from behind the bush and embrace Him as usual, but you know that you can’t. He is calling your name, “Adam! Where are you?” What was once a sweet melody to your ears now hurts them. His tone is gentle, yet firm, and in it the accusation is clear. You answer Him… you know that He knows. “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree of which I told you not to eat?” On all fours your tears begin soaking the ground in the dirt you were formed from and you can’t look up at Him. You know for the first time that you are guilty and there is nothing you can do to change that.
Imagine the insurmountable grief Adam experienced in those first moments of guilt. I wonder at the look in Adam’s puffy red eyes as the all-knowing Lord of glory peers into them. I also wonder at the look in the Lord of Glory’s eyes. I imagine they were just as red and puffy. He’s the Alpha and the Omega, declaring the end from the beginning, so He knew this would happen––but that does not mean it has no effect on Him. His beloved first creation has rebelled against Him! If He delighted in Adam’s original state, calling it good, He was grieved at his fallen state, knowing it was now bad, in need of redemption that would come at the cost of His own life. We can’t be deluded into thinking that God didn’t possess the foreknowledge of Adam’s sin. We must believe that in order to accomplish the fullness of what God desired in the beginning, this was the wisest way to achieve His ultimate plan. We behold this proclamation of truth in Revelation after all is said and done,
“Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!,” (Rev. 15:3).
He will be praised for His plan, and every person will admit with glorious revelation that what He did was flawless, brilliant, and without error.
In the midst of the atrocious event, God explains that His love must now be manifest in discipline. He addresses the serpent in a very different manner, asking him no questions, nor calling his name, but by simply cursing him to his belly. Then God being rich in mercy gives the promise that He’ll crush the head of the serpent who deceived them. Ultimately, this is the promise of eternal life,
“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,” (Titus 1:2).
When my son has committed a disobedience to my authority, he often runs away from me also. He is ashamed of what he’s done, knowing it was wrong. I take him in my arms and explain to him that I must spank him. After this spanking we pray together and ask His Holy Spirit for help to choose obedience. I then tell him there is good news! God has promised that one day he will be delivered from disobedience and enabled to never sin again! I remind him that there is a day when the serpent who originally deceived us will be crushed and this sinful life will be swallowed whole into life eternal! If I were to simply take him out for a pizza and not address his sin, this would only produce in him the hope of having a pizza after his next act of disobedience. This would accomplish nothing. If however I fix his hope upon that grand promise of deliverance, he has an anchor that cannot be moved, a salvation reserved for him in heaven, imperishable and undefiled (cf. 1 Peter 1). This teaches my son in the endgame of the good news just as Adam was taught that very day in the garden.
Understanding the Good News
The good news at this stage is God’s commitment to crush the head of the serpent, and in doing so deliver the earth and man from the disciplinary curses that came upon them because of their sin.
If you or I were God, we would have most likely thrown out the whole idea of relating to men in that moment. As God, He had every right to do this––except that He had already connected His very own identity and image to the earth and these humans! He was committed to bring forth what He foresaw in the beginning. This is what Paul is articulating in the Titus introduction above.
The wonderful thing about this promise is that it is not just about forgiveness of sins––this promise embodies complete and total deliverance from sin and its effects upon the whole of man and the earth! Here we see that the very genesis of good news is fixed upon its final revelation! The beginning is highlighting the end! It is because of this that we must also remain apocalyptic (restoration focused) in our theology, since the very promise directly after man’s fall from the garden is end-focused in nature. We can therefore join that song of faith in Revelation even now, laying down our questioning of God regarding the Edenic account, and agree, singing, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”
In summary, there is only one end game in Scripture concerning men. Men believe the good news and then meet its requirements in order to inherit eternal life, or men do not inherit eternal life, and the bad news of Scripture overtakes them. There is only one narrative in the Bible and it possesses these two outcomes. The first is hope filled and delivered by God in hope that men would repent of their wickedness; the latter, God takes no delight in,
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ez. 33:11).
And although He does not delight in their death, He has fixed this eternal death as the discipline for those who reject the conditions of His good news. He will endure the displeasure of their death for the sake of rewarding the righteous.
This brief introduction was necessary to set the context so that we are envisioning the same biblical picture. Everything that takes place after this is merely the outplay of the story resulting from this one event. It is imperative that we connect an understanding of the good news given in the beginning as relating to the final restoration of all things and the inheritance of eternal life. Without this anchor resting on the seafloor of Scripture we at best flounder around the biblical seas wondering where it is all going.
On that dreadful day the wave of sin crashed down upon the age old shore of innocence. In its wake the tide of hope rises still, soon to consume that beach of treachery! The sun before long will rise over that ancient ocean line and the deluge of redemption and salvation will wash us into the kingdom of grace. Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!