by Jacob Ninan
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God is too big for our small created brains to figure out for ourselves, and what we know about God is only what He has revealed to us. The Bible gives us a record of how God has revealed Himself to us throughout time. It reveals to us what He has been doing from the beginning, what He is doing now, and what He will do in the time to come. In order for us to get a good understanding of our relationship with Him and His plans for us, it will be good for us to get an overview of the entire scenario.
a. The nature and character of God
God is a spirit, and has no physical body or form (John 4:24). The Bible sometimes mentions His arms, eyes, etc., in a figure of speech to convey some spiritual truths. But God does not want us to represent Him in any visible form. From the ancient times people have made idols to represent god as they understood. But God opposes all such attempts since it misrepresents His real nature (Exodus 20:4,5).
God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) and omnipotent (almighty). Since He created everything, He knows every detail of every substance in the universe and every created being by name. He knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:2), He sees what we are doing at any time (Psalm 139:3,4), every hair on each one of our heads is numbered (Matthew 10:30), He knows what all is happening to each creature (Matthew 10:29), etc.
God is present everywhere (Psalm 139:8; Jeremiah 23:23,24). This is how He sees everything that is happening, hears every prayer and is close to every one of His children (Psalm 46:1). A sinner cannot hide himself from God, and even the darkness is like light to Him (Psalm 139:12).
God has power to do whatever He wants (Psalm 135:6). But He cannot contradict His own character, and He has chosen to grant people the freedom to choose. As a result there are many things that He will not do. Since He has absolute power and authority, He is in control over all things. But since He has allowed certain freedom to His created beings, including demons and evil people, He is not directly responsible for everything that happens.
God has revealed Himself as one God (monotheism) existing and working together as three Persons, the Father, the Son (who took the name of Jesus when He came to earth), and the Holy Spirit. This is altogether difficult for us to imagine or understand, but we believe it because that is how God has shown Himself from the time of creation. We see at the time of creation God the Father as the One who was responsible for the creation and who made the announcement about each step, the Holy Spirit moving about over the creation, and the Son (who implemented the acts of creation as the Father spoke Ė Genesis 1:3 John 1:1-3). The Son came down to earth as Jesus (John 3:16), prayed to the Father (Luke 22:42), and was filled with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16). Now those who have become children of God are born of the Spirit (John 3:8) and have the Son in them (Colossians 1:27). They can be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) and have the Father also make His abode in them (John 14:23). Believers are baptised in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The three Persons cannot be separated. One cannot have the Father without the Son (1 John 2:23), and if one does not have the Spirit, he does not have the Son either (Romans 8:9). The character of God is seen in His holiness (as being separate from sin - 1 John 1:5; Isaiah 6:3), righteousness (Deuteronomy 32:4), truthfulness (Psalm 19:9; John 17:7), love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 8:35-39), mercy (Romans 11:30), goodness (Matthew 5:45), compassion (Isaiah 30:18; Daniel 9:9).
God has no beginning or end, and He knows the past, the present and the future as we see time. The Book of Genesis starts with the description of how God created the universe as we know it now, and all the creatures on earth including man. But we know from the Bible that it was not the beginning of creation itself. God had created a set of spiritual beings including angels (messengers, ministering spirits), seraphim and cherubim. They have no physical form or shape, just like God, but they seem to have physical forms when they appear to man so that they can be visible. Angels have appeared at different times in Bible in the form of men and as shining ones. Seraphim and cherubim have been seen in visions as having many wings, face, feet, hands, etc. (Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 10:8).
At one time Lucifer was the anointed cherub at the top of the hierarchy of angelic beings. But he became proud of his abilities and position and wanted to be like God. God judged this rebellious spirit and cast him down from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:2-19). Lucifer managed to influence a third of the angelic beings to join him in this rebellion against God, and now they are called Satan and the demons (Revelation 12:4). This is the background from which the Genesis story of the creation of man begins.
c. Adam to Noah
The creation of man was the second phase of Godís activities, after the first phase ended in rebellion. He created Adam and Eve as innocent people, but with an ability to choose what they wanted. After providing everything that they needed for an abundant life, He tested them by giving them a simple instruction to obeyónot to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. At the same time they could eat from every other tree including the tree of life. Satan entered the scene, speaking through a serpent, and deceived Eve into questioning Godís word and sincerity (Genesis 3:1-5). Adam also fell after listening to Eve.
When sin entered into the world it brought corruption into everything. The whole creation became defiled, and manís life on earth became very tough (Roman 8:20-22; Genesis 3:14-16). All people who came later are Ďborn in siní having a sinful nature or a tendency towards sin (Psalm 51:5; Romans 7:17).
From then onwards, sin began to control people more and more, starting with Adamís son Cain killing his brother Abel, till a point came that God felt that it was better to destroy the whole world (Genesis 6:5-7). But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
d. Noah to Abraham
Noah was righteous and blameless in Godís sight (Genesis 6:9). God tried to start a Ďnew worldí with Noah after the rest of the old world was destroyed through the flood. But degeneration began almost immediately after the flood through Noahís son Ham, and Hamís son Canaan became the father of the Canaanites who spread throughout the area (Genesis 10:15-19). Some of these descendents tried to make a tower at Babel tall enough to reach into heaven to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). God did not want them to continue in that direction and become so powerful that they would not remember their need for Him. So He confused them by mixing up languages (Genesis 11:7-9). As generations came down, they forgot God and started worshipping idols. God started again by calling Abraham to come out of their midst to go to the promised land (Genesis 12:1).
e. Abraham to Moses
Abraham is called the father of faith because he believed what God told him, without doubting (Romans 4:11,18,19). When God told him to leave his fatherís household and go to the place which He would show him, Abraham obeyed even though he had no idea where he was going to (Hebrews 11:8). By faith he became the father of Isaac when he was 100 years old, 25 years after he had heard the promise from God (Genesis 12:1-4; 21:5). By faith he gave the choice to Lot, his nephew, to take the land which God had promised him, believing that God would still keep His promise (Genesis 13:8,9). He decided to obey God who asked him to sacrifice Isaac believing that God was able to raise him up (Genesis 22:10-12; Hebrews 11:17,19).
One mistake Abraham made was to listen to his wife Sarah when they could not see the fulfilment of Godís promise for a son, and take her servant Hagar as his wife. Ishmael was born as a result from whom the Arab race started. Paul later used Isaac and Ishmael to represent what we receive as a result of Godís promise and as a result of our own efforts (Galatians 4:22,23).
Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. God said that He loved Jacob and hated Esau even before they were born (Romans 9:10-13; Malachi 1:2,3). This was based on His foreknowledge that Esau would hate his birthright and Jacob would repent of his wickedness. Esau (also called Edom) is a picture of our carnal nature and Jacob (later called Israel) is a picture of the new nature.
Jacob had twelve sons who became the heads of the children of Israel. From this point onwards Israel has assumed great significance in the plan of God for man. God chose them to start a new work. Jacob and his children moved to Egypt when there was a famine in Canaan, where in the course of time their descendents became slaves to Pharaoh. God raised up Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The slaying of the Passover lamb, the Lord passing over the houses where they had sprinkled blood on the doorpost, leaving Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and the River Jordan, conquering Canaan Ė all are pictures of what happens in a personís life when he comes to Christ.
f. Moses to Christ
Moses is a picture of Christ who would lead people from the slavery of sin to the abundant life. Moses also represents life under the Law. It was through Moses that God established the Old Testament (covenant). It was he who brought down the Ten Commandments and also the ceremonial and ritualistic regulations of the old covenant.
The period from Moses to Christ is a demonstration of peopleís inability to keep Godís standards. Through these commandments God told the people of Israel how He expected them to live and behave. The people of Israel were not able to keep those commandments, and they failed again and again. God raised up judges to lead the people. But they wanted kings like their neighbours. God gave in to their demand and made Saul king of Israel. He lost his kingdom when he disobeyed God. The next king was David who was a man after Godís own heart (Acts 13:22). His son Solomon began well, but as he prospered and became famous his foreign wives turned his heart away from God to idols (1 Kings 11:4). At the time of Solomonís son Rehoboam, the kingdom got divided into Judah and Israel, and the people started following the practices of the people around them and beginning to worship idols. God on His part kept sending prophets to warn them to turn back to Him. Eventually God warned them that they would be sent off to captivity, but they did not take heed. Later on Israel was conquered by Assyria and Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon. They came back to their land once the predetermined period of their stay in captivity was completed.
Many of the prophets prophesied about the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One = Christ) as a Servant who would suffer and be killed, who would be raised after three days and who would save people from their sins. But the people did not understand this because they were looking for a king who would deliver them from earthly oppression.
g. Christ to the present
Jesus came to bring out the new covenant, the ultimate relationship between God and man under which sinful men could be forgiven and adopted by God as His children (Luke 22:19,20). He lived a sinless life, and died as a substitute for us taking the punishment for our sins (2Cor. 5:21). He also brought forth the real meaning of a holy life (an inner holiness in contrast to external behaviour in the old covenant), worship (in spirit and truth in contrast to form and ritual) and a relationship with God (John 4:23). The religious leaders of His day felt exposed of their hypocrisy and saw Him as a threat to their authority. They manipulated the people and got Jesus crucified. But God raised Him from the dead and He ascended to sit with the Father in heaven on the right side.
Now all power and authority have been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). He first sent out His apostles to go to every part of the earth and to preach the good news of salvation, to baptise them and to teach them to obey everything that Jesus had taught them. Jesus also told them to wait in Jerusalem till they were baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,5). On the Day of Pentecost (50 days from the Passover), the Holy Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire on about 120 people (including the apostles) who were waiting in prayer in the Upper Room. Peter preached that day explaining how this was a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel the Prophet, and how the people should turn away from their sin and believe in Jesus. About 3000 people were converted and baptised that day. They began to gather together from then onwards to listen to the preaching of the word of God and fellowship (Acts 2:42). This was how the church (an assembly of called out ones) started. The apostles took the gospel to different places and set up churches.
The books of the New Testament were written around this time. False teachings and spurious writings also began to emerge, and the leaders of the church had to meet together and determine the collection of books that would form part of Scripture, based on general acceptance among the churches and harmony with accepted truth. During and after the time of Emperor Constantine, a lot of pagan customs were Christianised, and the hierarchy of priests and bishops was set up, leading to the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther, a Catholic priest in the 17th century, questioned and protested against many of the malpractices of the Catholic Church and this led to the Reformation. However that reformation was only the beginning, and even now many people are trying to reform the church in many ways and bring it back to the design that God had for it.
Jesus said that He was going to heaven and prepare a place for us (John 14:2,3). When that is ready He would come and take us to spend eternity with Him. There is going to be no judgment for those who belong to God, but the others are going to be judged according to what they have done in their lives. We know that for us it is going to be a time of unending joy and fellowship with God and His people. God will destroy this present Earth and create a new earth. There will be no pain, sorrow or tears there (Rev. 21:4). We shall receive glorified bodies (Php. 3:21). But we know very little details of all the wonderful things we would be enjoying and doing there, which God has kept as a surprise for us (1 Cor. 2:9).