Understanding
 The Bible
The Bible

The Bible is not just a history book or about things pertaining to a way of life thousands of years ago; it is highly relevant to our lives today and indeed the years to come. Much of the descriptions of events in the Bible are about OUR future. For example it speaks of a time to come when a person living to 100 years of age will be considered as just a child. So there is still a long way to go before the end of our world despite the concerns about global warming, possible future ice ages or running out of renewable sources of energy. However, try as we may to preserve the environment, it is probably too late for us to repair the damage to the atmosphere and the ozone layer. Humanly speaking the future does look bleak, and this should be of concern to all of us, but particularly the young, as it is their heritage that is being destroyed. The Bible does give us hope; not in our own ability to repair the damage and restore the earth’s environment; but in the clear intention of the Creator to redeem and reclaim the earth. But it will be done in His way, not our way1.

 

The Bible is not about a religion. It features the most gripping love story upon which all true romance is modelled. It describes and plans a union of the most powerful being imaginable, greater than the universe, creating and wooing a lover over thousands of years through treachery, unfaithfulness and warfare. Religion dictates a way of life, by adhering to rules and regulations. The Bible, and indeed this book, is about a relationship and a romance that is supernatural and yet totally real and tangible. This subject cannot be compared with religions, which are about people trying to improve themselves or attain some higher goal or find happiness. This is about a wayward and self-focused beloved, being pursued by a lover who is prepared to give everything, even his own life, to rescue and claim his bride2. The story has not yet ended. We are right in the middle of it and approaching the climax of the story.

 

The Bible is really about one person, God, manifested in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, and his dealings with humanity. Every book and many of the major characters in the Old Testament reflect or teach us about Jesus in some way. The Old Testament is mainly about preparation of the world for Him to come the first time. The New Testament focus is on preparing the world for Him to come the second time.

 

Jesus is concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament.

 

For example, in Genesis chapter 1, He is the Light; in chapter 2, He is the Gardener; in chapter 3, He is the Seed of the woman. As we go into Exodus, He is that Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, He is the Great High Priest; and so on. We see Him portrayed in major characters, such as Joseph, Joshua, Boaz and Elisha. If you read their stories you can see many parallels with Jesus and similar aspects in His life, rejection, deliverance, redemption, healing and miracles. He is present, woven into the very fabric of the Bible culminating in the book of the Revelation where He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is called the Alpha and Omega, which in Greek is equivalent to A to Z.  He is given over 600 different Names in the Bible such as Provider, Counsellor, Lamb, Lion3. The most important event in the history of mankind and the focal point of all time was His death on the cross. The Old Testament was preparing the world for that event and from then on we can look back on His sacrifice with gratitude. His death purchased our life. We will look at the incredible lengths to which God went to teach mankind the meaning of substitutionary atonement; that the life of one can be traded for another to put right that which was wrong.

 

The Bible can be seen as totally trustworthy, believable and factual. There is no deception in it, deliberate or accidental. The first part of this book aims to establish credibility; that every concept, teaching and even the very words can be trusted. Then we look forward to see what the Bible has to say about OUR future and how we can prepare for it.

 

As you hold your Bible, treasure it, remembering that much of it was written over 3000 years ago and it is the very word of God the Creator. Some of the words were carved in stone, other parts carefully inscribed on to leather and papyrus before becoming the concise book you can hold in one hand. The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 writers, from many different walks of life: kings, fishermen and farmers; all inspired by one author. Yet its message is totally consistent. They had no reason to write it other than that they were compelled to do so by a force outside themselves, reporting what they saw and heard. Mankind has developed a current understanding of the universe that he inhabits and his views and perceptions have changed accordingly over the centuries, but the message in the Bible does not change. Science is continually making new discoveries and we now realise that the ‘Laws’ and definitions even from 20 years ago are invalidated by later findings. One of the purposes of this book is to challenge some of the misunderstandings and deliberate deceptions that have kept us from the truth. It aims to present a comprehensive overview of our destiny. The Bible is a history and yet it is a prophetic book. It is about things that have happened but that were accurately described hundreds of years before the events happened, authenticating the veracity of the writings. It as also about things that are yet to come, some of which we are seeing unfold before our eyes. Because of its accuracy of forecasting of things that have already happened, we can have faith in what it says about those things that are prophesied but have yet to occur.

 

There are many other ancient writings and manuscripts that have been found which authenticate and validate the Bible, such as the writings of Josephus and Tacitus which make reference to Jesus and His contemporaries. The Dead Sea Scroll confirm much of the Bible although, as they appear to have been written around the same time as Jesus lived on Earth, He is not mentioned. There are literally millions of books describing and commenting on the biblical history and theology, but God has provided us with a single volume that we can hold in one hand, that is all we need. Researchers have spent lifetimes perusing and studying Hebrew texts, but what God has provided by divine inspiration is all that we need to understand and intimately know Him, as far as that is possible for a human being. John the Apostle says ‘There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.’ (John 21:25). But he condensed all he felt was needed to convince people that Jesus was the Son of God into a short biography.  He also wrote 3 other short letters of which he said, ‘These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.’ (1 John 5:13)

 

Archaeological finds continue to confirm the validity of the Bible. For example, the Hittites were only to found mentioned in the Bible until their capital and records were recently discovered in Turkey; the Assyrian king named Sargon as mentioned in Isaiah 20 was thought to be myth until his palace was discovered in Iraq; the very recent discovery of King Herod’s tomb in Judea (May 2007) are all examples of archaeology confirming scripture4.

 

I often come across people who do not think it is necessary to read, study or understand the Old Testament, saying that it is the old and obsolete covenant, which has been superseded. The God of the Old Testament seems like a different person, with all the blood and thunder and they do not want to know about Him. But God has chosen to provide us with a fuller picture. He is a God of mercy and forgiveness, but also a God of justice and righteousness. We must hold these attributes in tension and not discard 75% of the Bible as irrelevant. In fact, it has been estimated that 80% of the New Testament comprises direct quotes from the Old Testament. I hope this book will restore or initiate a deep reverence for the whole Bible and encourage the reader to read the Bible over and over and over, each time going deeper and gaining greater understanding and deeper relationship with God.

 

The author of the Bible is clearly not a person living in our space and time, but one that is outside and above our dimensions, who somehow communicated with the 40 writers. It is not a scientific textbook written for the 21st Century but the historic facts are nevertheless to be viewed as true. If we regard it as fables, myths or allegories, then how can we rely on it as a handbook for life? How can we say the God is faithful to his promises? How can we put any confidence in what it says about the future? How can we trust Him?

 

1. Isaiah 65:17-25

2. Ezekiel 19

3. Names of God, e.g. see http://www.ldolphin.org/Names.html

4. Archaeology. http://www.christiananswers.net/archaeology/home.html

 

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