Almost everyone has reflective moments in which certain questions arise,
questions like: Who am I? Why am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
Where is history going? Why is there evil and where did it come from? Why
do we die? Why are things the way they are and will they ever be any
different? So issues like identity, purpose, the future, cosmology, eschatology
and protology are now and have always been relevant in every generation.
Mankind has always wanted to write his own story for himself and make himself the center, and everything else peripheral for the glory of their own egos. That self-created story will never make sense. We are too small and the universe is too big. God will never agree to a bit part in our “B” movies. So what is the story that makes our story make sense?
There is no better place to go than the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Here we get the big picture story that the rest of the scriptures fill out. Genesis 1-11 really serves as an interpretive framework not only for the rest of the Bible but also for the whole of your life. Here we see the grand doctrines of creation, fall and redemption. God ordered a beautiful, harmonious, glorious creation in six days and placed man His creature in the midst of it with work to do. Man fell from this estate and became, as it were, a glorious ruin. The power of sin was let loose and marred the beautiful creation. Everything is disordered and broken. However, God did not wash His hands of us and boot the world across the universe. He is a redeeming God and His purpose is to wipe the world clean of all the effects of sin until all is restored to wholeness. Let’s take a closer look by considering the concept of the kingdom of God under three rubrics: the pattern of the kingdom, the perished kingdom and the promised kingdom.
The kingdom of God is the theme of Genesis 1-11 and its subordinate motifs are best understood in the light of the whole Bible. The entirety of the Bible is about the kingdom of God i.e. God’s establishment of His kingdom by way of covenant. The kingdom of God as a term is never mentioned in the Old Testament although it was central in the teaching of Jesus and Paul. The concept of the kingdom of God informs the whole of Genesis 1:1-2 Kings 25; the primary history which traces Israel’s history from the creation of the world to the fall of Israel. In the primary history, God’s kingdom mostly takes the shape of national Israel, a political state with other geospatial boundaries in contradistinction from the nations. The principal concern of the primary history is the irruption, or breaking in from without of God’s righteous kingdom through the political state of Israel.
The kingdom of God simply put is God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule in the context of grace and blessing. God longs for His creatures to enjoy an intimate relationship with Him and live in His presence. As He is a perfect and holy God that is possible only as we submit to His loving rule and never sin. That is life at its best, life as it was designed to be lived. To live under God’s rule means to enjoy God’s gracious blessing. The two go together. That is what we see in Eden until the fall, then disobedience leads to the forfeiture of the blessing and devastating consequences ensue. In His great love God promises to put things right again and to establish His kingdom. The rest of the Bible is a fulfillment of this gracious promise, partially fulfilled in Israel’s history and perfectly through Jesus Christ, so the Bible is about God’s purposeful plan of salvation which is His promise to restore His kingdom by fulfilling that promise through the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ.
So a good way to remember the story that makes our story make sense is to think first of the pattern of the kingdom. The first two chapters of Genesis who how the world was made and ought to be. Four important truths regarding creation are revealed which tell us what the kingdom looks like. God is the author and source of the creation. God is eternal because in the beginning God is there. He took the initiative and as a Trinity created the world out of nothing. God pronounced His creation good and then in 1:31 pronounced it very good. The material creation is good because God pronounced it good and redemption is cosmic i.e. extending to material creation. God is King of creation and the Lord of all. He is the rightful King over all that He has made. The only proper response is to acknowledge this rule and fall down in worship before Him. Our reason for being is to give Him glory. Human beings are the pinnacle of creation, we are His image, we are stamped with it and we are to image Him in His kingdom. Our dignity comes from being His image and we express that image through dominion. Finally, rest is the goal of creation. There is no end ot the seventh day and the Sabbath is continuous. We are to share in that rest and enjoy His perfect creation. Truly in God’s provision of relationships and in the sanctity of labor, this is the good life. We see in Eden the pattern of God’s kingdom—God’s people under God’s rule enjoying shalom and the blessings of grace.
The second division of the story is the perished kingdom. The perfect creation is spoiled, marred, messed up and broken. Shalom has been vandalized. It begins in Genesis 3 with a talking snake who seduces the creatures into an act of rebellion and autonomy. They believe the lie that they can become as God. They can be their own lawmakers, set up their own standards and establish their own kingdom. They get rid of His script for their lives and begin to write their own. The consequences are disastrous, resulting in devastation. Man in all his relationships and in all his work finds nothing but frustration and alienation. The guilty pair experience shame and nakedness and hide from their Maker. God finds, interrogates and banishes Adam and Eve from the garden though He makes an amazing promise and clothes them before their exile. Surely in judgment tender mercy is found. In Chapters 4-11 we see the spread of sin, death, judgment and grace. By the time we go through fratricide and the flood we find ourselves at the tower of Babel where God confuses the languages to prevent mans’ puny attempt to build a monument to his autonomy and his attempt to assail heaven. The pattern of the kingdom is now a distant dream. The pattern of the kingdom is destroyed by human sin. No longer are we God’s people we are His enemies. No longer do we live in God’s place we are east of Eden. No longer do we submit to His rule we establish our own. Therefore judgment comes not grace, and curses replace blessings. As the story continues there is no reason for God to do anything and yet we find He is gracious. He will restore and establish His kingdom where His rule is gladly accepted.
Finally the climax of the story that makes our story make sense is the promised kingdom. In Genesis 12 God singles out one man Abram and enters into an everlasting covenant with him to be his God and that Abram’s descendants would be His people. His descendants will become a great nation and his seed ultimately would be Christ. The curses of the Fall will be replaced by the blessings of salvation encompassing all nations. The rest of the Bible expounds how God fulfills His promise to establish His kingdom by way of covenant. This kingdom is already but is also not yet. When Christ comes the kingdom i.e. God’s people in God’s place under God’s gracious rule will experience the zenith of blessing and joy.
So how does this story make our story make sense? It and it alone answers all the questions raised in the introduction to this article. You are a glorious creature made in the image of an awesome God. You are also ruined and corrupted by sin and it deforms and destroys you. You can be redeemed by trusting in the One who has completed the work to save you and restore you to your former glory and even to exceed it. As you repent of your kingdom and submit to His, life will make more and more sense as you are renewed and ultimately when you are glorified.