Our study is based on the premise that in some future world where all digital information is processed, transmitted and stored by a joint business and government agency, the Bible becomes one of those books banned because its content includes material that is deemed subversive.
This means that Bibles are removed from the shelves of bookstores and digital copies are ordered deleted. Eventually no copies are left and all that remains is what people remember about the Bible. The challenge that would naturally arise in a situation such as this would be how to preserve and spread the core message of the Bible if no text was available.
Of course this is a story line one would find in a futuristic sci-fi drama, but just for argument's sake, "How would believers preserve and pass on the message of the Bible if this situation came to pass?" One suggestion, detailed in this book, would be to select a number of passages that summarized the key ideas and teachings of the Bible which then could easily be memorized, shared and passed on in order to keep the gospel message alive. This method would be much like the "oral histories" passed down from generation to generation in ancient times before writing and printed materials were widely used.
"The Bible in Seven Passages," therefore, is an attempt to identify seven key passages that actually contain enough information to summarize the entire 66 books that make up the holy Bible.
Seven Passages – Review
- Genesis 1:1 – Prelude to the promise: creation – Genesis 1:1 is the foundational verse in the Bible because it not only explains how the world came into being, but who created it.
- Genesis 3:1-24 – God's promise to fallen man – This passage explains how man and the creation came to be in their present fallen and imperfect condition, and introduces a promise of redemption in the future.
- Genesis 11:27 – 12:7 – The person of promise: historical – God's promise is given a human identity that can be traced through the history of the Jewish people.
- Isaiah 53:1-12 – The person of promise: spiritual – God's promise is identified through prophecy, which describes the person and mission of the promise from a spiritual perspective.
- John 3:14-16 – The promise revealed – The details of the promise are clearly revealed and explained.
- Romans 6:1-14 – The promise realized – Paul explains how the promise is realized in a person's life here on earth through the effects of grace on those who receive the promise through faith.
- John 17:1-3 – The promise fulfilled – The seventh passage describes the final state of all who believe and remain faithful to the promise as they pass from the earthly to the eternal heavenly realm.
1Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.3This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
- John 17:1-3
Jesus spoke these words as part of the teaching, encouragement and prayer he offered up after sharing the Passover meal with His Apostles and just before His arrest leading up to His death by crucifixion.
In this passage, Jesus refers to the suffering, death and resurrection He will experience in the days to come. He also includes the "glory" the Father will give Him by confirming His exalted status as the divine Son of God (by resurrecting Him from the dead) – a point that is also made by Paul the Apostle in Romans 1:4.
Jesus also states, in simple terms, the essence of the promise which had been made by God in the garden; carried forward throughout history by the Jewish nation; confirmed and articulated by the prophets; and now about to be realized through His atoning death on the cross and proof of attainment for all who believed through His glorious resurrection.
Jesus signals to all believers that God's promise of eternal life was about to be made possible, and the proof that He could deliver on this promise was His own resurrection from a sure and terrible death on the cross.
This promise and its subsequent fulfillment in His own resurrection was enough to provide hope and joy to all of His followers. Jesus, however, goes one step further by describing the nature of this experience referred to as "eternal life."
Jesus not only reveals that believers will consciously exist after they die, He also describes what this existence will be like! Not just "how long" we will live (forever) but "how" that experience of life will be!
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
- John 17:3
The essence of eternal life is the experience of knowledge, and this experience continuing without end. The believer, because of and through the agency of the Holy Spirit, will experience the filling of his being with knowledge. The original Greek word translated into the English word "know" in this passage means the intimate knowing of another with understanding, with appreciation, enlightenment and awareness. This is how we will know the true and living God (the Father) as well as have the same knowledge of God the Son (Jesus).
This will be possible because of two reasons:
1. We will possess a glorified body after our own resurrection from the dead.
42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
- I Corinthians 15:42-49
This body will enable us to be in the presence of God without harm since the glorified body will not be subject to sin or death.
2. The Holy Spirit will enable our own spirit to interact with God.
The Holy Spirit helped us to overcome sin, to live according to God's will and to offer acceptable prayers to God (Romans 8:13; 14; 27), when we had physical bodies. The same Holy Spirit will enable resurrected believers to experience the never-ending growth of the knowledge of God and Christ that is referred to as eternal life.
Every religion has an afterlife scenario. Atheism and other philosophies that try to explain life without reference to God teach that there is no life or consciousness after death. Hinduism and other eastern religions say that individual consciousness merges with a higher "force" and thus ceases to be. Other monotheistic religions see the afterlife as a perfected version of life on earth where physical and emotional appetites are satisfied. Biblical Christianity teaches that life after death is primarily focused on a heightened understanding and knowledge of the Godhead of which, through Christ, believers have become a part. This means that:
A. Believers will have a relationship with God based on knowledge and appreciation, not sin and death.
Sin and death are part of the physical world which will have passed away in judgment, destruction and memory. Believers will live in the perpetual now and will no longer experience the yesterday, today and tomorrow context that measured their physical existence. Eternal life consists of an ever growing and dynamic relationship between God and believers within the Godhead in the eternal now.
B. Eternal life will be based on unfettered adoration and not service.
Service was necessary in the physical world because of the various needs that arose on account of sin. Christians served the needs of others (even the need to evangelize) because in doing so were fulfilling God's command to love and serve others in the name of Christ. There are no "needs" in the Godhead, but there will always be the natural impetus for the created to worship the Creator. This worship will no longer be impeded by human weakness, ignorance or sin. Eternal life will permit worship that is in spirit and truth because it will be enhanced and informed by ever increasing knowledge and understanding of the object of worship: the true and living God.
C. Eternal life will be an existence not only anticipated, but fully realized and experienced.
The Christian believer begins to experience the eternal life that he anticipates after death in the present life. Unlike many other religions where the afterlife reward is only received after death, the Christian begins to experience his afterlife reward in this present life. For example, the follower of Jesus is promised the joy of a sinless existence in heaven but actually begins to taste what that is like when he becomes a Christian by expressing his faith in Jesus through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:37-38). According to this and many other verses in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 22:16) sins are actually forgiven at baptism because God has provided an atoning sacrifice to remove them (Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:21-25).
The Christian, therefore, receives actual forgiveness now and experiences the corresponding relief, joy, gratitude and peace in this world because his sins are forgiven now, not only in the future. His eternal life is guaranteed now even before he goes to the next world. The knowing of God (and the rewards of this knowledge) is possible in this life but will be fully realized when all the obstacles to this end that exist in this world are removed in the next.
D. We will exist within the Godhead, not apart from it – I Corinthians 15:28.
Jesus' ultimate mission was to bring man into the Godhead.
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
- II Timothy 2:12
Jesus changed the composition of His divine nature to include a human nature. He did not discard or change back His nature to eliminate this altered state after he ascended to heaven. Note that He appeared to the Apostles and ascended back into heaven in His altered nature as Jesus – the God/man.
Our faith in God and our belief in Jesus will grant us an eternal life which will allow us to forever know and experience the things only God knows and experiences. In a word, this ultimate knowledge and experience is perfect, eternal love. We know that this is the nature of the knowledge and understanding that eternal life within the Godhead will bring believers to because John tells us that this is the essence of God's being.
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
- I John 4:7-14
Note that love is the touchstone for everything done by God to give believers eternal life. Love was the basis from which the promise was made, sent and completed. Love is also the basis for the realization and fulfillment of the promise. Love from the beginning to the everlasting end. This is why all sin is, in fact, violence against love in one way or another.
Hell, therefore, is existence without love, which ultimately is no existence at all since existence cannot be sustained without a measure of love. Therefore, hell does exist but those there cannot be sustained forever and in this is seen the judgment and mercy of God in that those who go to hell go to a real dimension of mind and sense and suffering, but cannot survive there.
Mankind's end, therefore, is either intimate loving knowledge of God within the Godhead forever or the separation from God into nothingness forever.
Let's hope that God will spare us the type of future I have talked about in this series. A future where access to the Bible is denied or restricted. A future where we would be forced to carry an abbreviated form of it just to summarize its message and pass it on to others. (I am not sure this could be done, considering our laws, but there are many who would like to see it done.)
If, however, this did happen, here once again are the seven passages I would choose to summarize the Bible:
Passage #1 - Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Passage #2 - Genesis 3:1-24
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" 4The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
8They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." 11And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14The LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
16To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you."
17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18"Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."
20Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
22Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Passage #3 - Genesis 11:27 – 12:7
27Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
1Now the LORD said to Abram,
"[Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
2And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
4So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.5Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.6Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land.7The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
Passage #4 - Isaiah 53:1-12
1Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
Passage #5 - John 3:14-16
14As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Passage #6 - Romans 6:1-14
1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.
8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Passage #7 - John 17:1-3
1Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
In closing, let me suggest that a good exercise of study would be to find your own seven passages to summarize the Bible.