"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Read and Understand the Bible with Christ as Key

I had lunch this week with a highly decorated soldier who has been attending Emmanuel for the past year.

He said to me, "Since I started attending, I've developed a desire to read the Bible. My wife gave me a Bible as a gift for Christmas, and my New Year's resolution is to read it through. Is there something that could help me understand it better?"

I explained that nobody would begin building a house without a set of plans. Constructing a house requires a framework. So too, before one can read and understand the Bible, a proper framework is needed.

I told him the Bible is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, "The Scriptures speak of me" (John 5:39), Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Bible.

The problem many have when they start reading the Bible is that they don't set out to see how everything in Scripture revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is that time we celebrate the Creator of the universe coming to earth as a Man. Emmanuel means "God with us." The Creator came "humbling Himself by becoming obedient to death" (Philippians 2:8).

He came to fulfill the Law of "sin and death" for us, setting us free from the condemning power of His Law (Romans 8:2). Our Creator commanded mankind to live life to its fullest, loving others the way He loves us. But we've all broken His Law, and we deserve to die because of our sin, at least according to the Lawgiver, who sets the penalty for violating His Law (Romans 6:23). It's fruitless to argue with God that you don't deserve to die for your sin because He has said in His Law, "The one who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20).

But God, in His love for sinners, came to take our place, absorbing the penalty of death on Himself, conquering it through His resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-8), and promising life now and life eternally to those who trust Him (Romans 6:23).




Time for western civilization has historically been measured by the coming of God to this world, an act called "the Incarnation." Chili with "meat" is called "chili con carne." Carne is the Latin word that means "meat" or "flesh." When the invisible, immortal, immutable Creator God took on "flesh," we call it the In-carn-ation.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son." (Gal. 4:4)

Celebrating the Messiah in a manger at Bethlehem has meaning only when comprehending the Messiah on a cross at Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19).

So Christ is the center of history because nothing in history is more significant than Christ's coming for us.

Before Christ and the Year of our Lord (Anno Domini)


B.C. is an abbreviation for "Before Christ" and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation "Anno Domini" which in English means, "The Year of Our Lord." When the abbreviations are properly used, B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500).

Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if events occurred before the Incarnation of God or after it.

Before the coming of Christ at Bethlehem, the dates of historical events were measured in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.). People would measure the time of an event by saying "in the third year of the XI Olympiad." The ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C. and occurred every four years, so "the third year of the XI Olympiad" is 743 B.C.

During the Roman era, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. For the Jewish people, the time/date of events has been measured using the A.M. (anno mundi) which in Latin means for "Year of the World." The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. from Creation.

The First Olympiad (776 B.C.)
Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive "year of our Lord" in dating abbreviations. C.E. means "Common Era," and B.C.E. means "Before the Common Era." Of course, a person might ask "What makes our era common?" and one might respond, "The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man" (see Colossians 1:16).

The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ's name, but I am reminded that "those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them" (see Luke 9:26).

So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates - when memorized - will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.) when the dates will be precise.

And the following dates, which help with understanding the Bible you read, are measured by the Advent of Christ that first Christmas.
4000 B.C. 
The Creation of Adam

We will let people fall all over themselves attempting to prove the age of the earth, but we will politely bow out. Whether you believe the earth and universe are "billions and billions" of years old,
Adam (4000 B.C.)
or relatively young (e.g. "thousands of years"), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date.

Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals.

Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27).

2345 B.C.
The Flood of Noah

The Flood (2345 B.C.)
This date is easy to remember - 2 3 4 5 - years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because "man was evil."

The re-population of the earth began again with Noah's sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world's population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe.

The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world's population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion).

2000 B.C.
The Birth of Abram


As a young man, Abram lived in "Ur of the Chaldees" (an ancient city in modern Iraq). God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's family to go "to a land that I will show you" (Genes12:1; Acts 7:2).

Abram is born (2000 B.C.)
This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Genesis 12:2), through whom "all the peoples of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
Abram to Himself to "make of him a great nation" (

Abraham's family is the beginning of a nation of people called Israel. God chooses Israel as the nation through whom the Messiah would come. God chose them from all the nations of the world not because they were mighty or strong, but because they were weak. God chooses the weak things of this world to put the mighty to shame

Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to "Israel." Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).

1500 B.C. 
The Call of Moses


Though this date is approximate, I believe it is very close to accurate. We know that Israel (Jacob) and his family went down to Egypt during a great famine (Genesis 46), and Israel sojourned in Egypt, and God turned them into a "great nation" of people due to the influence of Joseph, one of Israel's sons. Over the next three centuries, the Israelites "multiplied greatly" (Exodus 1:7), growing very numerous in number. The Pharaoh of Egypt who came to power grew afraid of the Israelites, so he enslaved them

God calls Moses at the Burning Bush (1500 B.C.)
 God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to over 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by "immigration" like the United States has had, it's not hard to understand how Israel became a "great nation" while in Egypt.
When God called Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exodus 3:6)

 Moses led God's people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.

This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant "the Old Covenant." Israel called it "The Law." The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land - the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, - literally, everything about Israel revolved around God's Law. Why? The Law pointed to the Messiah who was to come through Israel to "bless all the peoples of the earth." (Genesis 12:3). Jesus came "to fulfill the Law." Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who fulfilled the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.

1051 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God's people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually, they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted "a king" for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel "like other nations" (I Samuel 8).

When God allowed Israel to have a king, it was the beginning of a decline that eventually led to a complete divorce of God from national Israel because Israel "broke the covenant with God" (Jeremiah 3:8) Of course, this was all part of the providential. God's Law was intended to reveal the depths of man's sin (Romans 3:7-25) and the beauty of mankind's Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law and gives perfect righteousness and corresponding blessings from God to all those who trust Him (Philippians 3:7-11).

A kingdom is "a king's dominion," and Israel had three kings in their history as a kingdom: Saul (1051-1011 B.C.) - David (101 - 971 B.C.) - Solomon (971 - 931 B.C.)



931 B.C.
The Division of the Kingdom of Israel

Israel Divides Into Two Nations (931 B.C.)
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to
build the Temple. 10 tribes of Israel rebelled and started their own kingdom under a rival to Solomon, a man named Jeroboam. This split in Israel led to two nations. The 10 tribes formed a northern kingdom called Israel, and they moved their capital to a city they called Samaria. They built for themselves their own temple and began to worship pagan gods.

Two tribes - Judah and Benjamin - remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.

Of the twenty kings that would eventually rule the southern kingdom of Judah, about half were good, and the other half were evil. I used to joke with my daughter that I would only allow her to date when the boy requesting a date could quote for me the nineteen kings of the northern kingdom in order, and the twenty kings of the southern kingdom in order. You will never understand the Old Testament until you know that the prophetical books of the Old Testament are words of warning to either the northern kingdom or the southern kingdom to repent of their violations of their covenant with God and return to Him. The books of the Old Testament look like this:
Historical books (17 books) - Genesis to Esther
Poetical books (5 books) - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 books) - Isaiah to Malachi
There are a total of 39 books in the Old Testament. You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms.

722 B.C. 
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel 


The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel, and
Assyria, the World's FIRST Empire
their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was "repent" or "perish." The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets, God then raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Nineveh was Assyria's capital), and brought in pagan men they'd captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women.

The descendants of these "mixed marriages" were the Samaritans, considered "half-breeds" by the Jews of Jesus day. In fact, the Jews (Jew is an abbreviation for Judah, the people of the southern kingdom) would go to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans and the land in which they lived (Samaria). But not Jesus. "He must go through Samaria" (John 4:4) because Jesus is interested in giving life to the least, the lost and the littlest - those the world rejects. It was in the land of Samaria that Jesus met the woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Though the descendants of the mixed marriages were called "Samaritans," after the fall of the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes of Israel were forever lost - thus they are called the "Lost Tribes." The Mormons wrongly teach that these lost tribes became the Native Americans. In reality, the tribal identity of northern Israel was lost because they broke covenant with God, and God divorced Himself from them as a nation.


586 B.C.
The Fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah


After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would "reign over the house of David forever." King David was from the tribe of Judah. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" was still in effect.

However, the people of Judah began to go the way of their northern brothers. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others began to warn Judah that they too would perish if they didn't repent and return to God. The world's second empire, the Babylonians, conquered the Assyrians, and in a series of three increasingly severe attacks on Jerusalem (609, 597 and 586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews (the abbreviation for the people of Judah) into captivity. This captivity into Babylon (modern Iraq and Iran) is called "The Babylonian Exile." I date this 70 years of captivity from 609 B.C. when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon, to the fall of Babylon to the Persians in October of 539 B.C. Many amazing things occurred during the Jews captivity in Babylon. Synagogue worship begins. Daniel wrote his prophetical book and names the date for the coming of the Messiah.

The "magi' from the East who came looking for "he who has been born king of the Jews' came because they knew Daniel's scroll. He was the most revered magi of them all, and he was a Jew who never went back to Jerusalem, but stayed in Babylon (and is buried in Iran).

400 B.C.
The Close of the Old Testament


When the Jews returned from Israel after their Babylonian captivity, they were led by men like Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and they rebuilt the walls and the city of Jerusalem. The Jews rebuilt the Temple itself and re-dedicated it in 516 B.C. They tried to get back to their normal lives in the land of Israel. Esther, a Jew born in Babylonian captivity, would remain in Babylon and eventually marry a Persian king named Xerxes. Her story is the last historical book of the Old Testament.
400 Years from the Close of the Old Testament to Christ
A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don't realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It's interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews.

It is during this period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees). From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn't have written it (because a man can't tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. A man may not know the future, but God does.

4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ


The birth of Christ (4 B.C.)
I won't get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to do with leap years), but it will help you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. - The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. - The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. - The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law" and make a New Agreement with the world.

The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ - who came to fulfill the Law - are perfectly blessed by God. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. It's odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. Christ's coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything.

A.D. 30 
The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ

The death of Jesus Christ is God's mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might
Jesus died and rose again (A.D. 30)
never forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be "limited" to a Man. How can God be both Spirit and Man?

The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us is so transcendent (i.e. "beyond us"), we would never be able to comprehend Him except that in His love for us He condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel - God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him.

A.D. 70
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (A.D. 70)
The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls "the last days." It's the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.

In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to "the Jews first, then the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc...), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. "The last days" of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world. 

Trust Christ and live.


17 comments:

Dustin Long said...

This was a fantastic post/article. Concise and thorough at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

The problem many have when they start reading the Bible is that they don't set out to see how everything in Scripture revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

I think a factor in that is looking at the Bible as disconnected single verses/proof texts.
"I Know I'm Right --
I HAVE A VERSE!"
Concentrate on single verse after single verse and you miss the narrative.

This would also explain why Christians are such suckers for Twitter feeds such as John Piper and Donald Trump, treating those Tweets as Inerrant SCRIPTURE(TM). Because a Twitter feed is already broken up into separate 140-character Verses.

Chris Riley said...

That's what E.Y. Mullins and Herschel Hobbs said was the beginning to understanding Scripture as well.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I do see a typo to correct. "King David was from the tribe of Benjamin." I am sure you mean Judah: the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

Wade Burleson said...

A typo indeed! An eggregious one (I was writing about the two tribes of the south in my draft and deleted the wrong one).

Thanks.

Doug Martin said...

Dustin Long's post expresses my sentiments exactly. WONDERFUL overview!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Great post.

I plan to give it to our Bible study groups, and Judy wants one for her son. So I copied it and saw many blue lines that revealed too many spaces between words and some red lines that show typos:

Daniel wrotes…

Ninevah vs. Nineveh

(Clue: It has to due with leap years)

Do you have spell-check?

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

Thanks for the heads up - I do have spell check. It doesn't do spaces though. I'll see what I can do. Nineveh was corrected.

Christiane said...

Hello Wade,

you wrote,
" It's odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. Christ's coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything."

Are there reasons, in your opinion, as to WHY some followers of Christ speak more of Our Lord's Second Coming than His Incarnation and Birth? There must be reasons for this.


I do agree that Our Lord's first coming changes everything. I may see this in a different way, but I agree that at the moment of His Incarnation, Our Lord changed everything.
I like to think we are a part of the Incarnation in the sense that ‘humanity’ was once again seen upon the Earth unblemished in the Person of Our Lord who was conceived in Mary’s womb and born at Nazareth

St. Anselm of Canterbury said this:
“”From the moment of her fiat,
Mary began to carry all of us in her womb.”

I think that the mystery of what happens to us after our mortal death is absolutely that we have become connected to Christ Himself in a way that we cannot fully comprehend.

Christiane said...

Hello out there, REX RAY

I left you a message after your comment about two or three posts ago. Glad you posted here today, as I was beginning to wonder if you were back in hospital. Take care.

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

You ask, "Are there reasons, in your opinion, as to WHY some followers of Christ speak more of Our Lord's Second Coming than His Incarnation and Birth? There must be reasons for this."

To put it succinctly and simply:

Christians long for something to come and what they'll be given then when there's little love for what has already come and what they've already been given now.

Christiane said...

Thanks for responding, Wade.

"Christians long for something to come and what they'll be given then when there's little love for what has already come and what they've already been given now."

that's sad .... it's like they don't realize or aren't able yet to understand; or maybe their own lives are so very difficult that they have a need to focus on the Second Coming in their own lifetimes (?) . . . I guess it's best not to judge, but it does seem sad that they cannot find comforting now in their present time of trial

I imagine there are those who have taken advantage (or are taking advantage) of these fragile people in not such good ways.

.

Victorious said...

Christiane:
Are there reasons, in your opinion, as to WHY some followers of Christ speak more of Our Lord's Second Coming than His Incarnation and Birth? There must be reasons for this.

My simple answer is because prophecies are part of God's Word and He encouraged us to watch for specific signs of His soon return.

You can find additional scriptural reasons for the focus on end-time prophecies here:

http://www.fulfilledprophecy.com/page/why-study-end-time-prophecy/

Christiane said...

Thank you for the link, Victorious

Paul D said...

Wade - long time reader, never commented though. Really appreciate what you do here.

One question that your post brought to mind that I'd never really considered - how were Temple functions performed in the divided kingdom and post exile without the Levites?

Wade Burleson said...

Great question Paul.

The scroll of 1 and II Chronicles tells us that the Levites living in the northern kingdom (Cities of Refuge) LEFT Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and all MOVED to Judah (the Southern Kingdom). So - technically speaking - the southern tribes were THREE (Judah, Benjamin and the Levites).

Thanks for the kind words.

Wade Burleson said...

The Levites continued the Temple worship of Jerusalem, and the northern Kingdom appointed new priests for the temple they built in Samaria.