If you just skip from end of the OT to the NT without knowing what happened in the 400 years between...you’ll wonder about:How Romans got control…?What happened to the Persian Empire?Where did Greek language & culture come from?Synagogues? Sanhedrin? Pharisees & Sadducees?Herodians? Zealots?Crucifixion for capital punishment?And several changes made it possible for “good news” to spread.Koine (common) Greek – trade languageRoman system of roadsRoman law and peace in Mediterranean WorldAnd the growing Jewish zeal of this era seems to indicate that something big was about to happen.
Forty daysafter his humble birth in a Bethlehem manger, baby Jesus was presented for dedication in the temple at Jerusalem. The fact that his mother (Mary) and Joseph only offered two doves or pigeons probably indicates that they were quite poor.But if they were poor and Joseph was away from his carpentry shop in Nazareth—how could they afford to flee to a foreign country to escape King Herod who sought to kill this special child? Some wise men from the East had visited Jesus and brought expensive gifts. Could this have been God’s way of providing for His escape?Perhaps as many as one million Jews lived in Alexandria, Egypt at that time. So it is no wonder they fled to Egypt to escape danger.After the death threat was over, Joseph and Mary returned to their home in Nazareth where Jesus grew into manhood.
When Jesus was about 30 years old, a “radical” young prophet—”John the baptizer”—was baptizing people in the Jordan River.Jesus went to John to be baptized and when he came up from the water, the sky was literally “ripped apart” and the Holy Spirit like a dove descended on Him and a voice came from heaven—”This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!”Think about it—Holy Spirit,Son, and theFatherof the Son!!!Jesus then went into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan, much like Eve was, but the results were very different!From the wilderness, Jesus returned to the scene of John’s baptisms and this time John declared—“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”Jesus’ ministry began quietly as he met with individuals like Nicodemus and a Samaritan woman and began to gather disciples.
The region around the Sea of Galilee was largely a Gentile area and a place long known for its spiritual darkness, but it was there that the fame of Jesus began to spread, just as Isaiah had prophesied.The people there generally marveled at His message and at the authority with which He spoke—except for Jewish synagogue members in his hometown of Nazareth. They were quick to try to kill Him!Jesus’ demonstrations of power over nature, over sickness, and over demons attracted a large following and deepened the faith of His disciples.But, as is often true, popularity was not long-lived.
It wasn’t the goal of Jesus to be popular! He was on a mission with a message that eventually made Him unpopular to some:Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham!He claimed to be one with God!He claimed to have the authority to forgive sins!AND as we mentioned earlier, He performed miracles:He exercised power over blindness and many diseases!He exercised power over nature and demons!He even (publicly) exercised power over death!While the common people were attracted to Him because of these powers, the religious and political leaders becamejealousof Him or becamefearfulof Him and His growing influence.And they certainly were offended when He warned them that Hell was for people who rejected Him and the message He proclaimed.
When you read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call the first “palm Sunday,” it’s hard to imagine that event being the starting point for Jesus’ most intense sufferings.Jesus shocked His disciples by telling them that the Jewish nation would eventually accept Him as King, but that would not happen until the Jews endured some intense future times of tribulation.Then Jesus entered into His own sufferings. How’s this for a“terrible, horrible, no good,very bad” week?Betrayal to executors by a close friend, for a measly price!Unjustsentence based onfalsewitnesses inillegaltrials.Humiliating verbal mockings and grotesque physical beatings.Death by the most horrid means—crucifixion!When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was “ripped apart” just like the sky was “ripped apart” (same word) after Jesus was baptized.
In Jesus’ day there were two popular views of death and “the after life.”1Some= No life after death2Most = disembodied spirits (ghosts) roamed the world with no place to settle – even Jesus’ disciples believed in these ghosts.But nobody believed that a dead person would be raised in a physical body – as Jesus had been.Jesus appeared many times to His disciples, over period of 40 days. They ate with Him and touched Him (yet, He did pass through doors & walls).For 40 days He spent time with closest disciples – taught them and challenged them to spread the “good news.”THEN, He surprised them by ascending back to Heaven.Later, in the New Testament we learn why He ascended—we need a High Priest in Heaven to advocate for us when we fail.
The good news of Jesus went to the Jews first, then to some on the fringe of Judaism—Samaritans and proselytes to Judaism, then to the Gentiles. But that final step was a decades-long process, sometimes involving one step forward and two steps back.Two leading influences opposing this anti-Gentile bias were1a church in the major cosmopolitan city ofSyrian Antiochand2a convert from Jewish Phariseeism—Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.On Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean world, he encountered various types of worldview barriers and learned to present the gospel-related content that was needed or best suited to penetrate those worldview barriers.In the latter half of the first century, all of the apostles of Jesus “paid the price” of serious discipleship, by martyrdom or exile.
It is true that the “Church” began in the 1stcentury A.D. with the apostles, but >95% of church history has occurred since then.We can roughly divide all of church history into these seven (non-precise) periods:Persecution– lots of martyrs, esp. in first three centuries.Popularity– governments joined forces with the Church.Corruption– very political and teachings moved away from Biblical foundations.Reform– Protestant Reformation, but also important Pre-Reformation heroes (ex. Wycliffe and Hus).Skepticism(Rationalism) – led to liberal views.Outreach– revivals and missions movements.Divisions– always existed, but perhaps greatest today.Hopefully this era will end soon – when Jesus returns for us.
There are three layers of teachings that deal with a future time of intense tribulation for the Jewish people and those who are sympathetic with them—a period that will even exceed the holocaust in scope and intensity.In the ninth chapter ofDaniel, the prophet Daniel wrote about 70 prophetic “weeks” (periods of seven years each) that include judgment on the Jewish people.Justa few days before He died, in His “Olivet Discourse”Jesusspoke of that 70thweek as being yet future to His time.In about 90 A.D. the apostleJohnelaborated in more detail regarding a future time of great tribulation for the Jews.Two sinister characters (“beasts”), the Antichrist and a False Prophet, will play major roles in this time of future global crisis.
Throughout the Old Testament, God promised a literal earthly kingdom to Israel, ruled by a descendant of King David and characterized by…Peace & Joy, longevity and good quality of life, with Jerusalem at the center and Israel as a privileged nation.Jesus came to be that King, but was rejected. But it is clear that this does not mean that God’s plan was abandoned.When Jesus was ascending back to Heaven, his disciples asked –“Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?”His response –“It’s not time for that.”(did not say it wasn’t going to happen)In the third chapter from end of Bible (Revelation 20), we learn another key fact about this kingdom = 1000 years (6 times in chapter). (Latin: mille +annus- millennium).In that same chapter, we learn that Satan will be bound during that time.
There’s an ancient saying –“The wheels of justice turn slowly, butthey grindexceedingly fine.”This is true in the overall plan of God.At this point (in the study of the Bible’s Big Story)—there are three acts of justice (“judgments”) that still need to occur:Final doom of Satanin the eternal lake of fire. It was promised in 3rdchapter of the Bible and the final fulfillment of the promise is described in 3rdchapter from end of Bible.Judgment of unbelieversat the Great White Throne Judgment, when the small and great stand before God to receive their verdict of eternal separation from God and the degrees of severity of their punishment.Thepurging of sin from this sin-cursed universe, when God’s justice will be effected upon His now-contaminated creation.
Remember—the first two chapters of the Bible were not tainted by sin? The same is true of the final two chapters of the Bible.The paradise condition that God created with be perfectly restored– and even better!New heavens and new earthHoly city, New Jerusalem will descend from God out of heavento the earth(God will dwellon Earthwith His people)No night or darkness – no sickness nor pain – no deathNo evil people will be there, but…Only those whose names are written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.”Remember John the Baptist’s “Lamb of God” proclamation?Again—the Lamb will be the focus of everyone’s attention!Perhaps the most amazing thing (that often is overlooked)—is that God’s entire creation will be “saved” (restored!).