In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In six days, God created day and night, oceans and sky, dry land and plants, the sun, moon and stars, fish and birds, and land animals. Finally, God created in His own image a man called Adam and a woman called Eve. God looked at all that He had made. It was very good. Then God rested on the seventh day.
God prepared the Garden of Eden as a wonderful place for Adam and Eve to live. In it, God planted every tree that was pleasant and good for food. God told them to eat the fruit of all the trees. But God told them not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or else they would die.
One day, a serpent tricked Eve. It lied to her and told her that she would be like God if she ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve ate some fruit and persuaded Adam to eat some. Then they realized that they had done an evil thing by disobeying God. When they heard God approaching, they were ashamed and afraid. They tried to hide from God but eventually they had to confess that they had sinned.
God placed a curse on the serpent and made it crawl on its belly in the dust. God increased Eve's pain in childbirth. God caused weeds and thorns to grow so Adam would have to work hard to grow food. God made them leave the garden so they couldn't eat the fruit in the garden anymore. But God made a promise that someday one of Eve's descendants would crush the power of sin.
After Adam and Eve left the garden, they had two sons, Cain and Abel. When they grew up, Abel raised sheep and cattle while Cain grew plants. One day, Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. God was pleased with Abel's offering because Abel's heart was right but Cain's offering did not please God. God told Cain that he needed to overcome his sin. Instead, Cain gave in to anger and jealousy, and he killed his brother. Then God placed a curse on Cain so the earth would not grow crops for him.
Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, and other children. Their children married and had more children. People began to fill the earth. But they became very sinful. A man named Lamech boasted that he had murdered a young man for no good reason. People became so wicked that God decided to destroy all of the evil people with a great flood.
Only Noah pleased God. God told Noah to build a large boat called an ark to save his family and the animals from the flood. Noah obeyed God. He and his family built the ark and filled it with food. Then God brought two of every kind of animal to the ark. When they were safely inside, God sent forty days of rain. Water covered all the earth, even the tallest mountaintops. But God kept Noah safe in the ark. After the flood, Noah built an altar and thanked God. God promised that there would never be another great flood. He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise. God also commanded that anyone who committed murder should be executed.
After the flood, the descendants of Noah began to fill the earth again. But they disobeyed God and worshiped idols. They built the tower of Babel out of their pride. God confused their languages so they were divided. Then God scattered them over all the earth. But God gave them over to their idolatry.
God chose one man, Abraham, to start a nation that would worship Him. God called Abraham and his wife Sarah to leave their home and travel to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of more people than the stars in the sky and that they would possess the land of Canaan. Abraham did not have even one child and he did not own any land, but he believed God and that was credited to him as righteousness. God told Abraham to circumcise himself and all of his male descendants as a sign of their covenant.
Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by Sarah's maid, Hagar. Ishmael is the father of the Arabs. But Ishmael was not the son that God promised. Abraham and Sarah waited more than fifteen years for the birth of their promised son, Isaac.
Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. God gave Jacob a new name, Israel. Jacob had twelve sons whose families formed the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph. The other brothers were jealous of Joseph. One day, they sold him as a slave to some men on their way to Egypt.
Joseph served faithfully as a slave and was put in charge of his master's household. When the master's wife enticed him to sin, Joseph refused. So she falsely accused him of wrongdoing and had him thrown into prison. Even in prison, Joseph served faithfully and was soon put in charge of the other prisoners. One day, Joseph was called to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. The dream predicted a seven year long famine. Joseph told Pharaoh how to store up food for it. Joseph was then promoted from prisoner to the second ruler in all of Egypt, next only to Pharaoh.
When the famine came, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy food. Joseph forgave them and invited them to come and live in Egypt. Joseph realized that God had allowed him to suffer slavery and prison so he could prepare the way for his family to move to Egypt.
During the 430 years that the Israelites were in Egypt, they became slaves to the Egyptians. Moses was born to Israelite slaves but he was raised as a son of Pharaoh. When Moses was forty years old, he tried to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Instead, he had to run for his life into the desert. When Moses was eighty years old, God spoke to him from a burning bush and instructed him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites out. At first, Moses thought that he was going to fail again but he followed God's leading. When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave, God sent ten plagues. The last plague killed every firstborn child and animal in all of Egypt. But none of the Israelites were killed. The angel of death passed over their houses because they had put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. The Israelites celebrated this Passover every year.
God led the Israelites into the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But He led them back into Egypt to the edge of the Red Sea. When they were trapped between Pharaoh's army and the Red Sea, the Israelites were afraid and cried out against Moses. But Moses had learned to trust God. God opened a way for them through the Red Sea.
God led the Israelites through the desert to Mt. Sinai. He provided manna from Heaven to eat and a stream of water from a rock. At Mt. Sinai, He gave them the Ten Commandments and many other commands. God had them build the Tabernacle as a place to worship Him.
God gave the Israelites instructions on worship and on offerings and sacrifices for sins. The greatest commands that God gave were, "Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength," and, "Love your neighbor as yourself." All of the other commands are based on these two.
After a year at Mt. Sinai, God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, but they did not trust God to help them conquer the land. They rebelled against God's leading so God made them wander in the desert for forty years until all of the unbelieving adults had died. During all of that time, they ate manna from heaven and their clothes and sandals never got old or wore out.
But many times the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses. One time, they grumbled because there was no water. God told Moses to speak to a rock and it would pour out water. Out of anger, Moses struck the rock and took credit for providing water. Because he did not honor God in this, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Another time when the Israelites grumbled, God sent poisonous snakes among the people and many people died. The people admitted that they had sinned and asked God to remove the snakes. Instead, God told Moses to make a brass serpent and mount it on a pole. When someone was bitten, he would not die if he looked at the brass serpent that Moses had lifted up.
When the Israelites reached the Jordan River, Moses reminded them of all the things the Lord had done for them. He explained the covenant that God had made with them at Mt. Sinai. He described the blessings they would receive if they obeyed God and the curses if they disobeyed. Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo and saw the Promised Land before he died.
After forty years in the desert, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. God commanded them to completely destroy all of the people who lived there to cleanse the land of sin and idolatry. When they followed God's plan, the walls of Jericho fell down before them. But when they devised their own plan, they were defeated at Ai. Joshua fell on his face before the Lord because of their defeat. But God told him to stop crying and go remove the sin from their camp. Achan had sinned by keeping some of the treasure from Jericho. The Israelites destroyed Achan, his family and all his possessions. Then they followed God's plan and conquered Ai.
God helped the Israelites conquer the rest of the Promised Land. He made the sun and the moon stand still for a full day so the Israelites had enough daylight to destroy the Amorite armies. God fought for the Israelites when they destroyed the rest of the Canaanite armies. But the Israelites stopped fighting before they had completely destroyed all of the Canaanites. Some Israelites began to worship the Canaanite idols. They did not learn the lesson that God is far greater than any idol.
For three hundred years, the Israelites were led by judges such as Deborah, Gideon and Samson. When neighboring nations attacked the Israelites, they would cry to God for help. Then God would raise up a judge to lead them. God would help them defeat their enemies. After a while, they would forget what God had done and go back to worshiping idols. Then God would raise up another nation to attack them until they turned back to God for help. This cycle repeated for thirteen judges. During this time, God showed special grace to a foreign widow named RUTH.
1 & 2 SAMUEL
The last judge was Samuel. The Israelites asked Samuel to let them have a king like the other nations. God chose Saul as the first king, but he didn't obey God. So God chose David as king because David had a heart that followed God. David trusted God when he fought against Goliath, the giant. David wrote many of the PSALMS to praise God. God promised that David's family would always be kings in Israel.
1 & 2 KINGS, 1 & 2 CHRONICLES
David's son, Solomon, became king after him. God gave Solomon great wisdom and he wrote many PROVERBS. He wrote ECCLESIASTES to say that all of his wisdom and riches were meaningless compared with knowing and obeying God. He wrote SONG OF SOLOMON as a tribute to his new wife. Solomon built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem to worship God. But he also built temples to the gods of his foreign wives. Therefore, God took the ten northern tribes of Israel away from Solomon's son and made them a separate kingdom.
The northern tribes of Israel had bad kings who led the people to worship idols. One time, the prophet Elijah challenged the Baal worshipers to a test to see whom to worship, God or Baal. The Baal worshipers prayed all day and even cut themselves but nothing happened. Then Elijah prayed and God sent fire from heaven to burn up the offering on Elijah's altar to God.
God sent JONAH to Ninevah to warn the Assyrians that God would destroy their city because of all the evil things they did. They listened to Jonah, repented and asked God to forgive them, which He did.
However, God sent prophets such as HOSEA, JOEL, AMOS and MICAH to warn the northern tribes to turn back to Him, but they did not listen. So, God sent the Assyrians to conquer Israel and take them away to foreign lands. However, Ninevah fell back into wickedness and it was eventually destroyed, just as prophesied by NAHUM.
The southern tribe of Judah had some good kings who led the Jews to worship God. But they had many bad kings who led them to worship idols. God sent prophets such as ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, HABAKKUK and ZEPHANIAH to warn them to turn away from idols, but the people didn't listen. Finally, God sent the Babylonians to conquer Judah and take most of the people to Babylon. They cried out their LAMENTATIONS.
God was still with the Jews in Babylon. He raised up EZEKIEL to tell them that God was still in control even though Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would live in Babylon for a long time. He raised up DANIEL, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego to places of leadership in Babylon. Daniel trusted God when he was thrown into a den of lions. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego trusted in God when they were thrown into a fiery furnace. God kept them safe, even in the lion's den and fiery furnace. God also raised up ESTHER to be queen at a time to deliver the Jews from their enemies.
After 70 years, God allowed many of the Jews to return to the Promised Land. EZRA, the priest, led them to rebuild the temple. NEHEMIAH led them to rebuild the city walls. God sent prophets HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH and MALACHI to encourage them. (After the Jews returned from Babylon, they never worshiped idols again. They finally learned their lesson.)
The Old Testament also includes the story of JOB, who suffered greatly even though he was a good man.
Between the Old and New Testaments
For four hundred years, there were no prophets or messages from God. The Jews were conquered by the Greeks, then by the Romans. They were ruled by foreign kings. But God never forgot his promise to David that one of his descendants would rule over the nation. God had not forgotten his promise to Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would crush the power of sin.
MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, JOHN
In a humble stable a little baby was born to a poor couple named Mary and Joseph who were both descendants of David. The baby was named Jesus which means "God saves." Angels foretold that he would be born the Son of God. Angels announced that he was born as the promised King and Savior, Christ the Lord.
When Jesus was about thirty years old, he was baptized by John and began his public ministry. He called disciples and began to teach them. He chose twelve disciples to be apostles. For three years, they traveled around the Promised Land. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons. He walked on water and even the wind and the waves obeyed him. He taught people about true and genuine righteousness, worship, prayer and service. His life is an example of humility, purity, friendliness, mercy and grace. Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."
Many people followed Jesus and listened to every word. But the religious leaders hated him because he did not follow their man-made traditions. They arrested Jesus but the only charge against him was that he claimed to be the Son of God. The religious leaders turned the hearts of the people against Jesus. Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross until he died, and he was buried in a borrowed tomb.
Early on Sunday morning, Jesus arose from the dead just as he had promised his disciples. For forty days, he appeared to them at different times and places. He told them to go into all of the world and spread the good news that he had conquered sin and death. Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. (He is now with God the Father and intercedes for mankind. His death was the perfect sacrifice for every sin, from Adam and Eve to the end of time. His shed blood established a new covenant of salvation by grace, not works. His death and resurrection opened up the door to Heaven and eternal life for everyone who trusts in him.)
Ten days after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. When a crowd gathered, Peter preached to them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the Lord and Christ. When they realized how great their sin was, Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Three thousand people believed and were baptized. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship and to prayer. They shared what they had with those in need. Then the church grew rapidly.
The religious leaders opposed and persecuted the church. The apostles were threatened and beaten, but they could not help but talk about Jesus. When the disciples were forced to leave Jerusalem, they went throughout the area and talked about Jesus. A zealous Jew named Saul went about arresting disciples. Then Jesus appeared to Saul and he also believed in Jesus. Saul began to tell everyone that Jesus is the Christ.
At first, the believers were all Jews. Then God sent Peter to preach to Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, a Roman soldier. The church rejoiced to see that God's grace had been extended to the Gentiles, too. Saul, who was also called Paul, traveled through Cyprus and into Asia Minor. He told the Jews and Gentiles about Jesus. Many people believed and many churches were started. Later, Paul spread the good news about Jesus through Asia Minor and Greece. Paul's traveling companions included Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Luke, Timothy and Titus. When Paul returned to Jerusalem, he was falsely accused by the Jews, and was sent to Rome for trial before Caesar. In spite of a shipwreck, Paul arrived in Rome and spent two years under house arrest. (Apparently he was released but later arrested again and put to death.)
Besides starting many churches, Paul wrote letters to the churches and to individual Christians. To the ROMANS, Paul wrote about God's plan of salvation by grace. To the CORINTHIANS, Paul wrote about dying to sin and walking in love. To the GALATIANS, Paul warned against the false teaching of salvation by works. To the EPHESIANS, Paul encouraged them to follow the example of Jesus Christ. To the PHILIPPIANS, Paul encouraged them to walk as mature Christians. To the COLOSSIANS, Paul encouraged them to put Jesus Christ first in their lives. To the THESSALONIANS, Paul encouraged them to remain steadfast to the Lord in spite of persecution and false teaching. To TIMOTHY and TITUS, Paul gave instructions on leading the churches and to remain faithful to God's calling. To PHILEMON, Paul asked him to forgive and welcome back a runaway slave.
The book of HEBREWS describes how Jesus is superior to angels and to Moses, how the new covenant of grace is superior to the old covenant of law and how Jesus' death for sin is superior to animal sacrifices for sin. It encourages believers to remain steadfast in their faith to Jesus. JAMES wrote a very practical book on Christian conduct. The apostle PETER wrote two letters encouraging Christian to remain faithful to Jesus in spite of suffering and false teaching. The apostle JOHN wrote three letters to encourage Christians to maintain their fellowship with God and with each other, and to avoid false teachers. JUDE wrote a stern warning to false teachers.
REVELATION prophesies about the events that will lead up to the return of Jesus Christ. Then, all of the dead will be resurrected and judged according to their lives. All of the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars will be thrown into the lake of fire along with Satan and his demons. Everyone whose name is written in the Book of Life will enter into the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, where God dwells. There will be no death, sorrow, tears or anything evil. They will live forever in the presence of God.
Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
The Bible begins with mankind in a beautiful garden where Adam and Eve could be with God. The Bible ends with all of the saved in the Holy City of God where everyone can live in the presence of God. But the unsaved will be thrown into the Lake of Fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus said, "For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)
Many people believe that the way to get eternal life is by doing good works and obeying God's law. But the Bible says, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law...This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:20, 22-24 NIV)
The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, "'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.'" (Acts 16:30-31 NIV)
The crowd in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost asked, "'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:37-38 NIV)
Three thousand people responded to Peter's invitation that day. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42 NIV.)
If you have questions or comments, please email me.
© 2015 Rodney A. Smith
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