The Master Plot of the Bible – Chapter Summaries
This is not a long book (176 paper pages), but has verses from 70 chapters in 20 Old Testament books, and 71 chapters in 19 New Testament books (all included in bold print in both editions).
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Chapter #1 -- Did God Really Say That?
This chapter does not have a summary. Its last four paragraphs prepare readers for the rest of the book. Please read them. They are like a summary and introduction of the complete book:
A common response to the title of this book is, “What do you mean by the Plot of the Bible?” Webster has several definitions for the word plot, including “the plan or main story of a literary work” and “a secret plan for accomplishing an (often evil or unlawful) end.” As we proceed through the Bible, we will see its plot is not secret, evil, or unlawful, but is more than just “the main plan or story of a literary work.” The Bible’s plot definitely includes the concept of: “an intelligently planned course of action designed to accomplish an end or purpose.”
While the human authors of the Bible were unaware that their writings were going to become a part of a larger book with a central plot, God chose to progressively reveal His plan through the writings of men whom He selected and inspired. The result is a “Book of Books” written by many men from several centuries. This book of many books has an amazing unity, and one central plot that begins in Genesis, and flows through the Bible to the book of the Revelation.
To prepare you for the rest of this book, the foundation for the Bible’s plot rests on certain covenants and prophetic promises that God made in the Old Testament, which provide the basis for His action on our behalf -- actions recorded in the New Testament. Understanding these promises, and God’s work to fulfill them, helps us understand the Bible’s plot. When the plot is understood, the individual parts of the Bible, that rest on the primary message, become much more meaningful.
Like the opening of a rose bud, the Bible’s plot unfolds gradually. When the full bloom is viewed, it is a magnificent creation. It is because of this gradual development, within a very long book, that the plot is often missed by many believers. In this book, we will skip over much of the material that rests on the main plot, not because it is unimportant, but to help you, the reader, grasp the main flow of biblical truth. Then you will be prepared to joyfully appreciate the many “buds” that spring off of the “main stem.” Please be patient as we begin -- the flower will gradually reach full bloom.
Chapter #2 – The Story Line
God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in a historical setting. The Bible's plot is given in the context of this history, and it tells us what God has done, is now doing, and will do in the future to fulfill His purpose for our being here on earth. It is helpful to develop an understanding of the flow of the main historical events in the Bible so the plot can be more fully comprehended. (The main story line of that history is given in this chapter for that purpose, and it may be a good idea to review it several times.)
While there are a total of sixty-six books in the Bible, the main historical flow can be traced in thirteen books, eleven in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament. While there are other books that are historical, they either cover some of the same history from a different perspective or fall within the context of the thirteen main historical books. The books of the Bible are organized by type of content and are not always in chronological order.
Chapter #3 – In the Beginning – The Promise
The foundation for everything in the rest of God's progressive revelation is found in the Abrahamic Covenant. In this covenant, God promised Abraham some land (from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River), seed (descendants so numerous that they cannot be counted), and blessings (for all families of the world).
While there were initial conditions given to Abraham, after he fulfilled those conditions, this covenant became unconditional. It was later confirmed to Abraham's son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (who was renamed Israel).
The New Testament book of Hebrews looks back to when God gave this covenant to Abraham, and tells us that God's promise to Abraham is part of His purpose which will ultimately be accomplished.
The covenant promise that God gave to Abraham laid a foundation. The rest of the Bible builds on this foundation and tells us how God will fulfill His promise to Abraham of land, seed, and blessings for all families of the earth.
Chapter #4 – The Nature of Biblical Faith
Biblical faith is not a “fuzzy” subjective faith, it is not a blind faith, and it is not faith in faith. Faith is a word that demands an object, and the object of biblical faith is ultimately Jesus and His work for us on the cross. From the life of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham and the New Testament comments about his faith, we learn of five factors of faith. That God IS. That He has made promises. That He is able to fulfill His promises. That He is faithful in fulfilling His promises. And that real faith has legs that walk – when someone walks in true biblical faith, it will have an impact in their life and actions.
Chapter #5 – The Promise is Followed by The Law
After spending four hundred years in slavery in Egypt, God raised up a deliverer named Moses. Through Moses, God gave another covenant to the children of Israel. It is called the Mosaic Covenant. In this covenant, God told Israel He wanted to use them as a kingdom of priests, with the inference He wanted to use them to minister to the world. While the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional, the Mosaic Covenant was clearly conditional. Its conditions were given in what is known as the Law. It included moral, political, economic, and religious provisions.
Before entering into the promised land, God warned the children of Israel through Moses, that if they were disobedient to His command in the Law, they would have curses come upon them. History records that they were disobedient. So Moses, in essence, became a prophet when he warned them of the curses. This warning, written hundreds of years before the events transpired, foretold the future history of Israel.
But God's unconditional covenant with Abraham still stands, and based on it, Moses told there will be a future time when God will circumcise the hearts of the Israelite's, gather them back from the lands where they would be scattered, and bless them.
The Bible required 100% accuracy of the prophets with the death penalty for false prophets, and biblical prophecies were not based on observations of factors that might lead to the prophecy being fulfilled. The unique supernatural nature of biblical prophecies were like fingerprints that God has left to confirm that He has spoken.
Chapter #6 – The Law and The Promise
The children of Israel had two covenants existing side by side. The unconditional Abrahamic covenant promising land, seed, and blessings, and the conditional Mosaic covenant warning them that their present enjoyment of the land was based on their obedience. They are two different covenants, and the conditions of the Mosaic covenant cannot be applied to the Abrahamic covenant because, as Paul pointed out, the Law that was given four hundred and thirty years later does not annul the promise.
The question naturally arises, “Why then was the Law given?” Paul asked that questions and answered it himself in Galatians, chapter three, when he explained that the Law was given to reveal to men their sin and be a schoolmaster that would lead them to Christ that they might be justified by faith.
In answer to the question how the law, written over a thousand years before Christ was born, could lead people to Christ, one should look at the Levitical sacrifices that were given as part of God's law. This sacrificial system pictured, and a prophecy in Isaiah foretold that the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah, would come as a suffering Savior, and pour out his soul as an offering for sin. These passages pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that would be offered for our sin when Jesus, the Lamb of God, died on the cross so our sins can be forgiven and we can inherit eternal life.
Note: This chapter ends with an evangelistic invitation.
Chapter #7 – Someone is Coming
After King David had conquered his enemies, God gave him a promise that a descendant of his would always reign as King of Israel. This promise, called the Davidic Covenant, is the foundation for the promise that one will come who is called the Messiah. The Old Testament prophets gave many specific details about the promised Messiah, but there seemed to be two diverse pictures of Him. Today we see these were not about two different Messiahs, rather they describe one Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would come to this planet – two different times.
Note: Understanding a context can give meaning to a statement, and understanding the Old Testament context for the Messianic prophecies gives them meaning, and magnifies their significance. The summary for this chapter is short. But it is one of the longer chapters in this book, because it looks at many Messianic prophecies.
Chapter #8 – He Came Unto His Own, but...
The book of Matthew is the Gospel that best connects the New Testament to the Old Testament. It is the Gospel that presents Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the King of the Jews. In Matthew, we can see that the life of Christ had three phases: The Preparation for the King. The Presentation of the King, and the Passing of the King.
During the second phase, Jesus first established who he was by the word He spoke and the miracles he preformed. He and His disciples proclaimed “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” The king of this kingdom was to be the promised Messiah, whose arrival was imminent. The Jews knew that for the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament to come, the Messiah would have to come. Thus Jesus was being offered to Israel as Messiah.
The response of Israel was rejection. Finally, Jesus gathered His disciples and asked, “Who do men say that I am?” The response indicated that the leaders of Israel were rejecting Him as Messiah. So Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered for the group and proclaimed Him as the Messiah. Jesus affirmed this belief and announced that, in the future, He would build His Church.
Having been rejected, the final phase of Jesus' life here on earth focused on preparing His disciples for the task before them. He was formally presented to Israel as Messiah, on Palm Sunday. He gave parables about His being rejected by the leaders of Israel, which precipitated their having Him crucified. But, the tomb could not hold Him and He rose victorious on Easter morning, for he is Lord of Lord and King of Kings. Hallelujah.
Chapter #9 – It's Something New
In Jeremiah, God promised to give a New Covenant to Israel. Concepts from the New Covenant were repeated in the prophecies of Ezekiel and Joel. Both foretold that God was going to send the Holy Spirit to indwell men.
Joel's prophecy pointed to an end-time event called, “The Day of the Lord.” After Jesus ascended into heaven, on the day of Pentecost, God poured out His Spirit on the believers in Jerusalem.
Four major strand are seen in the tapestry woven together by Luke, the author of The Acts of the Apostles.
The first was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The activities of the Holy Spirit so dominate the Book of Acts that it is often called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.”
The second strand was the re-offering of Jesus as Messiah to the nation of Israel. In Peter's sermons, He proclaimed Jesus as Messiah and Paul always went to the Jews first.
The third strand in Acts is the fulfilling of the promise Jesus made in Matthew sixteen, when he said, “I will build My Church.” The Greek word translated church means “the called out ones.” Jesus added the modifier, “My,” and His church is composed of those whom the Lord has called to Himself, both Jews and Gentiles.
The fourth strand in Acts is the message they proclaimed about Jesus. They boldly told everyone; Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament; He died on the cross as the sacrificial Lamb of God to redeem us from our sin; and He rose from the grave on Easter Sunday morning. They asserted that because He lives, we can have eternal life, that he is alive today, and He wants to live His life through us.
Chapter #10 – Know... Reckon...Yield
From the New Covenant we learned that the cause in our life is the work of the Lord (I will put my Spirit within them), with the effect being the life that is led (and cause you to walk according to My statutes), To appropriate these new Covenant promises we need faith that knows God's promises to us, reckon them to be true, and then yield the right of way in our lives to Him.
Chapter #11 – Never Forget You're Forgiven
One of the promises in the New Covenant is that we will be forgiven for our sin. The apostle Peter tells us that many believers walk in defeat because they have forgotten they are forgiven. This tells us that a key for having victory over sin is to remember we are forgiven.
We remember we are forgiven by “walking in the light,” not hiding our sin from God, but confessing it to Him and claiming our forgiveness because Jesus died for our sin.
Claiming our forgiveness is but one side of the coin. Just as God has forgiven us, we must forgive others. The parable of the unjust steward reminds us that our sin against God is far greater than anyone else's sin against us. God has forgiven the major debt debt, therefore we must forgive others for their minor debt. The keys to be able to forgive others are first, to see ourselves as being guilty, but forgiven, and second, to ask God to forgive through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter #12 – More than a Heart Transplant
The New Covenant promised us a reconstruction of the heart. God said, “I will put My Spirit within you.” What He has done for believers is greater than a physical heart transplant.
In Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, he equated the pouring out of the Holy Spirit with that which had been promised in the Old Testament. In his epistles, Paul explained that the Power of the Holy Spirit within us is the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.
The secret to have a victorious Christian life is to”walk in the Spirit,” knowing we are indwelt by the Spirit, reckoning it is true, and yielding the right of way in our lives to Him. Paul tells us if we so walk, we will have the fruit of the Spirit.
The important question is not what others have done to us, rather, whether we have responded in the Spirit or in the flesh. If we respond in the Spirit, our response will be “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, mercy and temperance,” in spite of what anyone else does or does not do.
Chapter #13 – Where Do We Go From Here?
There is no summary for chapter 13. Interpretation of end-time prophecies is left to pastors. The following is the final paragraph. It introduces some text from the book of Revelation:
The Bible begins with the fall of man. The rest of the Bible unfolds God's progressive revelation of the redemption He offers to us through Jesus, His promised Messiah. It is only fitting that we should end this book with some awesome passages from the last three chapters of the final book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. No book has ever closed with more powerful words than these. Any comments I might make about these passages would be, at best, superfluous. So I let them speak for themselves.
Bob Prall, M.Div. Author & Evangelism Encourager
PO Box 73486, Houston, TX 77273-3486
bobprall36 (at) gmail dot com - (832) 928-3658
At my age, I can't promise a response or answer.
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