19th April 2008, mgh
1) About the Bible
The Bible has two main functions for today. It contains prophecies that reveal that God guides the destiny of the nations, the approaching great crisis of Armageddon and the results of the return of Jesus. It is the book of life. It examines human's nature and explains why we are mortal and subject to death. It shows how mankind can gain eternal life, that is, immortality. There is the promise of an age when the Kingdom of God will be established on this earth, bringing peace and justice to the earth.
The word Bible means 'book'. It is really a library of sixty-six books which were compiled over a period of about 1600 years. The authors came from many classes of society and wrote in various places. There is however a harmony and unity in their works.
The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God. This Divine authorship is the reason for the unity and harmony of the books of the Bible. In the first five books of the Bible there is the assertion “The Lord said” or “the Lord spake”. In the following books there are three hundred similar statements and in the prophetic books similar expressions occur over twelve hundred times. The claim of Divine inspiration is supported by the revelation of the failings of many of the prominent characters in the Bible, together with their great faith, acts and endurance in their attempts to obey God. The failings and disobedience of the Jews, condemned by God, is recorded in detail and has survived to this day. In a human account such blemishes would be unlikely to be recorded. History and archaeology have also confirmed the reliability of this book.
The Bible's claim to Divine inspiration is most obvious in the fulfilment of Bible prophecy. Humans cannot predict the future with any certainty. God has made predictions in the Bible that have been confirmed by history and archaeology. Babylon, mentioned extensively in the Bible, was long regarded as a mythical city and was used to bring the accusation of unreliability to the Bible. However, as predicted, it had remained in heaps and was a lost city until discovered by archaeologists in the middle of last century. (Jeremiah 51: 37). Other examples are:
It was prophesied that the Jews would become a nation again after being scattered among the nations. Since 1948 the Jews have been returning to their traditional homeland, restoring the wastelands, draining swamps and bringing fertility to a land long ravaged and desolate. (Jeremiah 30: 18-24; Amos 9: 14 and many other places in the prophecies of the Bible)
2) The Old Testament
The first section of the Bible is known as the Old Testament and deals with the history of Ancient Israel and the nations of the ancient world of the Middle East. It contains a significant amount of prophecy relevant to the ancient Jewish nation and to both Jew and non-Jew in the modern world.
The Bible and History
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, introduces the Creator and the record of Creation. Adam and Eve the first humans, because of disobedience to God's command, were punished with death and their descendents inherited their nature. Genesis deals with the early history of man and the selection of Abraham and his descendents to play a special role in God's plan with the earth. Abraham was selected for this purpose because of his great faith in God, as many of the world's inhabitants had shown a total disregard for God and had turned to idolatry and immorality. From Abraham's descendents emerged the nation of Israel, which was to be the witness to God's promise that the earth was to be filled with His glory and ultimately inhabited by a people who reflected his character.
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy trace the growth of the nation of Israel. Following a period of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were saved from slavery by God through the leadership of Moses and they are led into the wilderness for forty years. It is there they are taught the Law of Moses which set out the principles of worship, laws related to many aspects of daily life, morality, hygiene and behaviour. The ideals of God were set before the people and although they failed to attain to the high standards they learnt of God's great love and mercy and provision for forgiveness.
Abraham had been promised the land of Canaan as a possession and it was under the leadership of Joshua that the nation of Israel took possession of the land of promise, details of which are given in the book of Joshua. In the book of Judges it is revealed how the nation failed to obey God and Judges were appointed to govern the nation. The book of Ruth shows how some of the people remained faithful despite the general faithlessness of the nation.
In 1 & 2 Samuel a monarchy is established to satisfy the demands of the people to be like the nations around them and a faithful servant David is elevated to kingship. However in 1 & 2 Kings the nation is divided into two parts, Israel in the north and Judah in the south of the country. The nation again fails politically with some good kings but many were corrupt and the people turned from the true and acceptable worship of God into idolatry a immorality. 1 & 2 Chronicles also describes this period of the nation's history and the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom and then the captivity of Judah, the southern kingdom, by the Babylonians when the Jews were taken captive to Babylon.
Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther deal with various aspects of Israel's return to their land and Jerusalem from Babylon and the reconstruction of their worship and society and their preservation from hostile occupants in the land.
The Bible and Poetry
The book of Job is a dramatic epic that shows the blessing that can come through suffering. The Psalms are poetic and deal with faith in the Creator, who is a God of love and mercy, obedience to His laws, and songs of reverence and praise. Many of the Psalms are prophetic and speak of the Messiah and the coming kingdom that will bring righteousness and justice for all mankind. Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom for life and the advice to seek wisdom and understanding. Ecclesiastes gives advice that we should not seek treasure in earthly things but seek the treasure that comes from on high. The Song of Solomon is an allegory that uses figurative language and abounds in metaphorical language.
The Bible and Prophecy
There are eighteen prophetic books in the Bible, which deal with the destiny of Israel, its dispersion and the ultimate return of a remnant in the last days to their traditional homeland, after years of persecution in many countries. They deal with the destiny of nations, the kingdom of men, and the war that will lead to a major world conflict and the establishment of Jerusalem as the world capital of a government that will rule the world in peace and righteousness. All men will then recognise their Creator and worship him and a Temple will be built as a House of Prayer for all nations. These books also speak of the greater son of David who will be King in the future. They also give prophecies about the destiny of other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean nations and the Arabs. The prophetic books are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
3) The New Testament
The New Testament is concerned with the rise and growth of Christianity and its relationship to the promises given to the Fathers of ancient Israel, the extension of the hope of life eternal to all people and the requirements that God expects of the faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
The Bible and History
In the New Testament, the first four books, known as the Gospel records, deal with the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give first hand accounts of the teaching and commandments of Jesus. Just as God created Adam and Eve, God used his great power to cause Mary to conceive a child, who was destined to be the means of salvation for all who believe in God's promises and who do his will.
Under the laws of the Israelites the sacrifice of animals had been the means by which sins could be recognised and forgiven. The death and sacrifice of Jesus, through the crucifixion of Jesus. was the fulfilment of the law by the provision of a sinless man who would take away the sins of believers through the shedding of his blood. Baptism was instituted as a symbol of a person's identification with the Messiah's death, burial and resurrection, an acknowledgement of sin needing to be covered and forgiven and a necessity to live one's life as required by the Creator.
The Gospel records describe the ability that the Messiah had to perform miracles, which were the sign of the power given to him by God and that identified him as the Son of God. They record his conflict with the leaders of the Jews and their ultimate betrayal of Jesus by demanding that the Romans have him crucified. The Gospels close with the resurrection of Jesus, the first man granted eternal life.
The book of Acts is about the preaching of the Kingdom of God by the Apostles, who had been closely involved in the work of Jesus' ministry. The first Christians were Jews who had followed Jesus and believed his teaching. Christianity spread to other regions of the Roman Empire through the work of the Apostles. Acts gives accounts of the work of such men as Paul, Barnabas and Peter and their experiences and difficulties in preaching about the promise of God's future Kingdom on earth.
The Bible and the Christian Faith
Paul wrote many letters to the early Christian believers: Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The letters were designed to instruct and guide the communities of believers. Difficulties related to matters of doctrine and the expectations related to morals and behaviour were addressed.
The letters of James, Peter, John and Jude were concerned with issues such as faith. courage in times of persecution, the manifestation of love and contending against those who attempted to destroy their faith and beliefs by turning them to the worship of idols.
The Bible and Prophecy
The last book of the Bible is a prophetic book. In the opening verses it is stated that this is a prophecy given to the Apostle John in AD 96 when he was on the Isle of Patmos. It is given by Jesus and John is clearly told that the things contained in the prophecy would shortly begin to come to pass. The prophecies detail the decline of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Catholic Church and the Papacy, the rise of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of Protestantism and religious conflict. The book concludes with details of Armageddon and the glories of God's Kingdom which will follow this war, which will affect all people who survive its calamities and an earthquake.
The Bible thus concludes with the Kingdom of God on earth and an age of peace, beauty, justice and righteous rule with the Lord Jesus Christ as King.