Summary of the Bible, Genesis to Revelation
This Summary of the Bible, Genesis to Revelation was written to give a “big picture” view of the story of the Bible. In order to put all of the stories that you have already heard into one comprehensible story. I do not intend to tell the individual stories, but to tell the major story line of God’s chosen people. I will also include things not in the Bible itself that I think are interesting and also some memory tricks that I use.
“In the beginning God...” Then God created Adam and Eve. They had Cain, Able, and Seth. After a long period of time comes Enoch. After another long period of time, comes Noah. The story of the Tower of Babel is next. More than 1000 years later, comes Abraham.
Abraham is promised to be the father of a great nation. So it is from Abraham that the story of God’s chosen people began. Abraham had Isaac. Isaac had Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “wrestles with God.” Israel had 12 sons, which become the 12 tribes of Israel. The most famous son is Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery, taken to Egypt, rose to number two, and brings the whole family of Israel (66 people) to Egypt to save them from the famine. Then Joseph dies and this concludes the book of Genesis.
The book of Exodus opens some 400 years later. We find the family of Israel no longer in a prestigious status. They have been taken as slaves. Now this next part is not in the Bible. I read it from a Jewish author, but it does explain the story somewhat. We know that the family of Israel was brought to Egypt in order to be saved from the famine, but where did they come from? They were living in the land that was promised and given to Abraham. So the Jewish people felt that the reason they were taken as slaves in Egypt was a punishment from God because they failed to return to the Promised Land after the famine was over.
Back to the story. Up to this time God has dealt with individual people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. But now we have for the first time (after a period of 400 years of silence), God revealing Himself to the masses in signs and wonders. Remember this, you will see it again. The signs and wonders are the plagues that God did to Egypt in order to get the Pharaoh to let His people go. Once released into the desert, God gives them laws, directions on how to build the tabernacle, how to do sacrifices, etc. Then they build all this stuff and we end the book of Exodus.
Leviticus has a bad reputation for being filled with laws. It deserves every bit of that reputation because that is exactly what it is.
Numbers has a bad reputation for being filled with census numbers. It does not deserve this reputation. There is a lot of plot development in Numbers. Numbers begins with a census that not only counts the men (estimates put the full number of people, including women and children, somewhere between 2 and 3 million) but organizes them into a cohesive group, capable of moving as one. Then they move from where God gave them the laws to the Jordan River and ready to enter the Promised Land in 11 days. They send out 12 spies. Ten of the spies come back too afraid to proceed. Two come back with confidence to proceed. The two are Joshua and Caleb. The penalty for not going into the Promised Land is to wander around in the desert for 40 years. They wandered for 40 years in a space that took them only 11 days to cross in the first place. They wandered until all persons over the age of 20 had died, with two exceptions, Joshua and Caleb. At the end of Numbers they have returned to the Jordan River and are ready to try it again.
Deuteronomy covers a period of 60 days. Thirty days Moses was giving speeches. He reminded the people what they have been through and encouraging them not to repeat the mistake that their fore fathers made. Moses dies and 30 days of mourning then Joshua takes the lead. This is the last of the five books of Moses, also called the Torah, the Law, or the Pentateuch. The rest of the Old Testament was mostly written by the Prophets. So when you see, in the New Testament, references to the Law and the Prophets, you will know they are referring to the Old Testament.
The book of Joshua is then the story of Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land and driving out those who lived there. Here is a little known fact. The purpose of God’s chosen people was so that God could be revealed to other people through His chosen people. You can see this happen in stories like Rahab. She makes it clear that all were aware that God was with the Israelites and they were very afraid. Also, the Israelites were to convert other people from their pagan gods to following the Creator God. These converts were called Proselytes.
After they are settled in the Promised Land, they then need to be ruled over. This is done by a series of Judges. The first of the most memorable Judges is Deborah, because she is a woman in a male dominated society.
Then comes Gideon. Gideon is listed in the study Bible as a Judge for 40 years, but if you read the text you will find that he led a revolt against those oppressing Israel at that time. When the wars were over they offer Gideon a Judgeship and he turns it down. So how do we resolve this obvious contradiction? The answer lies in the translation of the word Judge. It more appropriately should be translated “leader”. So a Judge could have been a mayor, governor, general, etc. So after Gideon had finished being a general, they offered him the position of Governor and he turned that down.
The last famous Judge (in the book of Judges) was Samson.
Next comes the story of Ruth, who was alive during the time of the Judges.
Next come the stories in 1& 2 Samuel. Samuel is the last good Judge. One interesting thing about Samuel is that he dies in 1 Samuel 25. So why would they name 2 Samuel after Samuel? Well, the full text of Samuel was found on one scroll. So the whole document was referred to as Samuel. Because it was so big they decided to split it in half. Just as a memory trick, if it hadn’t been found on one scroll they would probably have named them the book of Samuel and the book of David.
The Israelites came to Samuel and pleaded for a king. So Samuel asked God for a king and God said that He wanted to be their King. But they continued to press Samuel for a king, so God finally says OK, I will give you a king, but you are not going to like it. So He told Samuel to anoint Saul of the tribe of Benjamin (you will hear this again later too) as king. Saul didn’t work out so good so God told Samuel to go anoint a son of Jesse. This turned out to be David. After Saul died in battle, David was made king. On his deathbed David handed the Kingdom over to Solomon, his son. When Solomon died the Kingdom of Israel was splint into a divided Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the Southern Kingdom was Judah. So there were only three Kings that ever ruled over a united Israel.
More memory tricks. This is not exact but is useful for remembering where people are in which book. Mentally split 1 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles into halves. In the first half of 1 Samuel the major character is Samuel. In the second half the major character is Saul. 2 Samuel is all about the reign of King David. In the first half of 1 Kings the major character is Solomon. In the second half of 1 Kings the major character is Elijah. In the first half of 2 Kings the major character is Elisha. In the second half of 2 Kings there is a list of kings both in the north and in the south, but no major character.
The end of 2 Kings has a lot of plot development. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was sacked and dispersed to other nations and intermarried with other races. They became known as the half-breeds or the Samaritans of Jesus’ day. That is why they were so despised by the Jews. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was sacked by Babylon and taken captive for 70 years. Then King Cyrus became king and allowed them to return to Jerusalem and Judah. An event that was prophesied by Isaiah (including the name Cyrus) about 150 years before it happened. You will find it in Isaiah 44:24-28. Thus ends 2 Kings.
Now we enter into 1 & 2 Chronicles. 1 & 2 Chronicles is a snapshot of everything we have talked about to this point. Back to the memory trick. The first half of 1 Chronicles is genealogy. Hidden in this genealogy is the Prayer of Jabez (Chapter 4). The genealogy ends with Saul. And then the second half of 1 Chronicles is about the reign of King David. So the first half of 2 Chronicles is about the reign of King Solomon. The second half of 2 Chronicles is about the divided Kingdoms and ends with King Cyrus releasing Judah.
Interesting to note is that after Solomon both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms had 19 kings before being sacked. The Northern Kingdom almost exclusively had one King rise up and over throw the reigning king; killing the king and his family. The southern kingship almost exclusively was passed down from father to son.
Next comes Ezra. Ezra was a high priest who reinstituted the procedures used in Temple worship.
Next Nehemiah was more like a governor who rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem in order to protect the people and the newly rebuilt temple.
This ends the chronological story of the chosen people of God. The rest of the books in the Old Testament are located somewhere in this story.
Esther lived during the Babylonian exile.
Job is probably a contemporary of Abraham or a grandson of Israel.
Psalms is a collection of songs written mostly by David.
Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings mostly by Solomon.
Ecclessiastes and Song of Solomon were more writings by Solomon.
Now we come to the prophets. There are 16 prophets; four Major Prophets and twelve Minor Prophets. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They are called Major Prophets merely for the amount of material they wrote.
The Major Prophets are split in half by a book called Lamentations. This book is composed of 5 poems that were recited by the people during the Babylonian Exile. Basically, they say, “We have sinned against God, please forgive us and restore us to the Promised Land.” These poems follow the book of Jeremiah, which will help you remember that Jeremiah wrote Lamentations.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all prophesied during the Babylonian Exile. Daniel had 3 friends named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so the book of Daniel is where you find their story.
These Minor Prophets were all before the Babylonian Exile: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. The last 3 Minor Prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) were the only ones that prophesied after they had returned from the Babylonian Exile.
This ends the Old Testament.
Now comes 400 years of silence followed by God revealing Himself to the masses through signs and wonders (sound familiar); which are the miracles of Jesus Christ. There are many things in this book that give one the impression that this book (which was written by over 40 authors over a period of 1500+ years) was written by one Person; which it was. It was written by the Holy Spirit. This is one of my favorites. Consider this. Did 12 individuals (who would not normally associate with each other) come together and recognize that it had been 400 years since Malachi? Therefore the timing would be perfect for them to write about a messiah that would reveal Himself through signs and wonders. Also, they would have this fictional messiah fulfill all the O.T. prophecies in a way that absolutely nobody was expecting. Finally, all of them would go to their death professing this truth, without one of them recanting. This seems extremely unlikely to me.
The New Testament opens with 4 Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John). They tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus corrected the definition of “God’s chosen people” from the descendents of Abraham to anyone who has a love for God and a love for other people, all other people. A careful read of the Old Testament will show that this was the true message of the Old Testament. Still the purpose of God’s people remains the same, to Glorify God and to encourage others to follow the Creator God, now made known to us through Jesus Christ.
Then Acts tells the story of how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to all the earth. It is in Acts that we get the story of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin (sound familiar, I don’t know that it means anything, but interesting). It is chapter 9 where Saul has his conversion experience. An interesting note is Saul’s name change to Paul. It is not the same kind of change like Abram to Abraham or Jacob to Israel. Those names were actually changes from one to the other. Saul to Paul was more of a cultural name change. Like someone named Jacque coming to live in the states and now going by the name James. It is the same name in two different cultures. It is not like Saul has a Jesus experience and Jesus changes his name, like what happened to Abram and Jacob.
After Acts we have 13 letters written by Paul. It is from these letters that we get most of our doctrine. These letters are arranged in order of size: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Hebrews is next. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, which made the canonizing process interesting because Hebrews did not have the backing of an apostle.
James was written by the half brother of Jesus. Jesus’ brother was very active in leading the church in Jerusalem. James the apostle had already been martyred by this time. He was the first disciple to be martyred, but Stephen was the first martyr.
1 and 2 Peter were written by Peter.
1, 2, and 3 John were written most likely by the Apostle John. When reading the Gospel of John you see the word “believe” repeated several times. In 1 John the dominant word is “know”.
Jude was written by the brother of James, half brother of Jesus.
Revelation was written by the Apostle John and is the prophecy describing the return of Jesus Christ and the setting up of His eternal kingdom.
That is the story of God’s chosen people. Throughout this story there is a thread that runs continuously, which gives us the feeling that this is all one book. One book written by One hand. That thread is the Messiah. I will give but a few examples.
I will pick up the thread at Genesis 3:15. God gives us the first promise of a Messiah that will suffer (be struck on the heal) but will deliver a deathblow (crush his head) to satan. We are painted a beautiful and unforgettable picture of the substitutionary nature of the Messiah in the story of Abraham laying Isaac on the altar as a sacrifice. Jacob refers to the Messiah as the Redeeming Angel when he gives the blessing to Joseph’s sons. The Israelites are instructed to construct an Ark of the Covenant. The law was kept inside it and the lid on the Ark was called “the Mercy Seat.” During the ceremony the High Priest would sprinkle blood from the perfect lamb onto the Mercy Seat. Such beautiful imagery is already given that through the blood of the Perfect One comes mercy that will cover the law. Moses refers to Him as “a prophet like me.” David refers to Him as “my Redeemer.” Job calls Him, “my Vindicator.” Isaiah has 4 sections in his book called Servant Songs, where he talks about a suffering Messiah. Half of the book of Daniel is end time prophecies of the conquering Messiah setting up His eternal kingdom here on earth.
The Gospels of New Testament tells the story of the suffering Messiah in the flesh. Which is followed by how His story was spread throughout the world. The letters give us the “truths that we are to know” about the Messiah. The word doctrine means “teachings.” Then the Revelation tells us of the return of the same Messiah, this time as a Conqueror that will set up His eternal kingdom here on earth. The whole Bible then is about our Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.
If Jesus is the fulfillment of this Messiah, why is it that the Jews don’t recognize Him? Near as I can tell the only reason they reject Jesus is because He did not set up His eternal kingdom. I learned something interesting when I audited a New Testament course at Campbellsville University. They said that before Jesus arrived on the scene, some of the Jewish Priests were beginning to teach that they were to look for two Messiahs. Their understanding of the scriptures was such that there must be a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah and they could not resolve the two into one Messiah. They were just too different. They did not understand the purpose of the suffering Messiah and would therefore look only for the conquering Messiah, the One that would set up His eternal kingdom here on earth.
How close they were to getting it. The New Testament then is the story of one Messiah and two comings. I heard one Jewish Priest put it this way. When the Messiah comes and sets up His eternal kingdom here on earth, we will ask Him, “Have you been here before?” Then we will know what to believe.
I hope you have enjoyed this quick Summary of the Bible, Gensis to Revelation.