The Big Picture
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The Big Picture
The death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian message. Much
effort has gone into spreading this story. But as powerful as this
story is, it is even more powerful when seen in the context of God’s overall
Have you ever
worked on a large jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of pieces? Such a puzzle
can be quite a challenge! If it were not for the picture on the front of
the box, it would be nearly impossible to find how all the pieces fit together.
But with a picture to refer to, we can find colors and patterns that match,
thus eliminating much of the trial and error.
The same is true
concerning God’s plan to restore immortality to the human race. We need
to get a good look at the big picture if we are to readily grasp the Christian
message. When we do, many of the difficult issues of life become non-issues.
The Way it Was
A Magnificent Creation
the story, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen
1:1). God created the sun, the moon, the stars, and billions of galaxies.
On the earth, He created the seas, the dry land, all the plants and the
animals. Then He created man—male and female.
All of God’s creation was magnificent
beyond anything we can imagine, but man was a very special creation. Why?
Because God made man in His own image! God said, "Let us make man
in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
Of course, no
created being can ever be equal to the uncreated God. But to be made in
the image of God is as close as any created being could ever be to being
like God. No other creature was created to be godlike. What a privilege
to be created in God’s image!
God planted a
wonderful garden called Eden, and He placed the man and the woman in the
garden to keep it. God came often to this garden to enjoy sweet communion
with the man and the woman. He told the man and the woman (Adam and Eve)
to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over all the earth. God intended
for the entire earth to be like the garden—a paradise!
There was even
a tree in the garden called the Tree of Life which gave eternal life to
those who ate of its fruit. God told man, “You are free to eat from any
tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen 1:16–17).
But Satan, who
had rebelled against God, tempted man, saying, “You will not surely
die...God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you
will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4–5). So, yielding to the
temptation, man doubted God’s Word (that death would really come) and actually
believed he could be equal with God. In spite of all that God had made
available to man, man rebelled against God.
The rest is history.
Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and, through
sin and rebellion, death entered the human race. Mankind fell from the
position of close personal companionship with God and has sought ways of
regaining dominion over the earth ever since. The result has been jealousy,
murder, theft, suffering, wars, and every kind of evil.
So, we see that
man was originally created to live forever and enjoy wonderful fellowship
with God— then, sin entered the picture. But don’t despair! God has a plan
to restore eternal life to mankind and perfect order to creation. What’s
more, you and I have been offered the privilege of participating in that
The Plan of Restoration
a plan is:
a scheme or program for making, doing, or arranging something; project,
design, schedule, etc.
a method of proceeding.
plan has guiding principles or rules. The rules and principles of a plan
are always linked directly to the nature and character of the planner.
God’s plan of restoration is no different. If we want to participate in
God’s plan, we must familiarize ourselves with the nature of the Planner—God
Himself. We must also understand the method of proceeding, the rules, and
the overall purpose.
God is Holy
One primary aspect
of God’s nature is holiness; He is absolutely and completely pure. Therefore,
when man sinned, God placed a barrier of separation between Himself and
man. This was necessary because if the very nature of God were compromised,
all of creation would be without hope. It was also an act of compassion,
since anything unclean that touches God would surely be destroyed in an
is therefore the basis for one of God’s eternal laws: the wages of sin
is death. All sin will eventually be judged. However, God did not totally
abandon mankind. Though man was infected with sin, God still loved him
and made a way to maintain contact with him through a process called atonement.
Atonement ? Covenant
innocent animals were killed and their blood was received by God to atone
for or, in other words, satisfy the requirement of God’s law which says,
“the wages of sin is death.” Through an atonement by blood, God established
a means of “covering” man’s sin. By doing this, God was able to maintain
a degree of communication with man and establish covenants or “agreements”
whereby He would work out His plan of restoration.
of blood to cover sin was established in the very beginning. Some Bible
scholars believe that, prior to sinning, Adam and Eve were literally clothed
with bright light, the glory of God. However, having sinned, this covering
of light faded away and they knew that they were naked. Then God made clothing
for Adam and Eve out of animal skins to cover their nakedness. This, of
course, required the killing of innocent animals; thus, we have the first
case of sin being atoned for by blood.
The Covenant with Abraham
God found very
few people through history with whom He could make a covenant. But eventually
He found a man named Abram and made a special covenant with him by blood
and changed his name to Abraham. God commanded Abraham to keep this covenant
and to command his children and household after him to keep the ways of
the Lord. God promised Abraham that through his family line He would eventually
bring the blessing of salvation from sin and death to all nations.
Abraham had a
son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob had an experience
with God and God gave Jacob the name Israel. Israel had twelve sons and
they became twelve clans (or tribes) which became the nation known as Israel.
of years of Israel’s history, God blessed them and gave them victory over
their enemies when they offered the required blood sacrifices and obeyed
His laws. Yet, when they disobeyed God and worshiped false gods, God handed
them over to be defeated by their enemies.
The Perfect Sacrifice
All the while,
through many good times and bad times, God was still working on His plan
to bring salvation to all nations, not just Israel. Through the nation
of Israel (the bloodline of Abraham), God would bring forth a special man.
This man would offer the perfect blood sacrifice once and for all.
You see, the
blood of animals was only a temporary atonement. Even the most perfect
and innocent animal, such as an innocent little white lamb, could not atone
for the sin of man, because animals were not created in the image of God
as man was. Something lesser cannot purchase something greater.
sin had entered all men, there was none totally righteous, not even one.
All the while, God surely knew what He would do. He would come to earth
Himself in the form of a man and live life on the same level as man. Even
His entrance into this world would be like ours, through the womb of a
would triumph over judgment! He would endure all the tests and temptations
of this world, yet without sin. Then He would offer His own life
(blood) as the atonement for the sins of the world—once and for all!
So, God entered
the womb of a young virgin named Mary and she became pregnant. When the
time came, Mary gave birth to the Son of God. This man was Jesus Christ.
God had come to earth in the form of a man—God in the flesh!
Christ is fully God, He is also fully man. He overcame the world as a man,
facing all the same temptations that we face, yet without sin. This qualifies
Him alone to be the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin. He and He alone is
God’s “Sacrificial Lamb” who takes away the sins of the world.
This Jesus demonstrated
true humility and love in the midst of a perverse world. He healed the
sick, raised the dead, and did many wonderful miracles. He brought good
news about the coming kingdom of God and gave this world a taste of eternity.
But, those descendants
of Abraham, who were supposed to be expecting His coming, refused to believe
in Him and had Him killed. Though Jesus was killed by those who hated Him,
they did not take His life—He gave it. He gave His life because He knew
His purpose—to be the sacrifice for man’s sin. It was all part of the plan.
Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross and hung there until He died.
This was the
greatest act of love the world has ever known. Jesus’ death satisfied
the requirement of the law that says, the wages of sin is death.
The Resurrection ? The Promise of Power
Before His crucifixion,
Jesus taught extensively about the kingdom of God. His disciples had expected
Him to establish His throne in Jerusalem and rule the earth. But watching
Jesus die on the cross dashed their hopes.
However, on the
third day after His death, something wonderful happened. Jesus had paid
the price for man’s sin, but being innocent, death could not hold Him;
Jesus rose from the dead! What a plan! He was seen alive by many people
over a period of forty days. One time, He was seen by five hundred people
Now, being witnesses
to the resurrection, the disciple’s hopes were restored. At one point they
asked Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples thought the time for the kingdom of God on earth had surely
come. But there was more to the plan.
Jesus told them
not to concern themselves with when the kingdom would appear—at least as
it related to time. Instead, He instructed them to wait in Jerusalem until
they were endued with power by the Holy Spirit. With this power, they would
spread the good news of the kingdom of God and salvation from sin to all
nations, not just Israel.
Shortly after receiving these instructions,
the disciples watched as Jesus ascended into heaven and disappeared into
a cloud. As they gazed into heaven, two men dressed in white assured them
that Jesus would return again.
The Holy Spirit Poured Out
About ten days
later, Jesus’ followers were all gathered together in one place, and the
promise of power from on high was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came upon
one hundred twenty people with such great power that it sounded like a
mighty rushing wind! The Spirit appeared to them as flames of fire that
lit upon each one of them.
The noise of
it was such that it was heard by people all around the city, and they gathered
to see what was going on. One of the men, named Peter, stood up and explained
to the crowd what had happened. He told them that Jesus who had been crucified
was the Christ. He explained that death could not hold Him and that He
was risen from the dead and had sent the Holy Spirit. This was the plan
of God coming to pass that had been spoken of by the prophets centuries
them to be saved from this perverse world by believing on the name of Jesus.
He told them that if they would turn from their sins and be baptized, they
too would receive the Holy Spirit. About three thousand people believed
and were baptized that day!
Now the disciples
understood their part in the plan. They would carry God’s plan of salvation
to all nations, preparing the earth to receive the King, the King who would
bring peace on earth!
One Sacrifice—One Plan
through the blood of Jesus happened almost two thousand years ago. Since
that time, blood sacrifices have no longer been required by God. The sacrifice
of Jesus’ blood is good, once and for all. The requirement now is to believe
on the name of Jesus Christ and follow Him. That is why there is no other
name given among men whereby we can be saved.
of Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit and began to spread the
message of salvation and do the same kinds of miracles and works that Jesus
had done. And it continues today. There have been many struggles in taking
the good news about Jesus Christ to those who are still under the power
of sin. Many Christians have suffered or even lost their lives at
the hands of wicked men. But the plan has not changed. There is only one
sacrifice. There is only one message. There is only one Savior.
The Plan Marches On
It is easy to
wonder why God has allowed His plan to stretch out over so much time. Why
prolong the struggle? The reasons are many, this much is sure.
For one thing,
God is patient. It is not His desire for anyone to suffer eternal judgment.
For generation after generation, He offers the gift of salvation for those
who will believe in Jesus Christ and repent of sin.
Another reason is because He is preparing
people who will rule the earth with Jesus when He returns. This preparation
involves the tests of time and trials. Character and faithfulness
are developed as we endure difficulties. Through these tests, God finds
those who will be faithful for eternity.
Oh, yes, He could
have made us like robots, simply programming us to act according to a specific
plan. But then, since God is not a robot, we would not be created in His
image. To be made in God’s image is a high privilege. It is to have a level
of companionship with God that no other creature can have.
God is not bound
to time and space as we are. A thousand years to God is like a day and
a day is like a thousand years. God’s plan is marching on. Jesus will return
again, but not as a sacrifice for sin. This time He will come as a conquering
When the good
news of the kingdom of God has spread to the ends of the earth, Jesus will
return. He will judge all those who resist Him and establish His Kingdom
throughout the entire earth. He will correct all injustice and complete
the plan of restoration. At that time, immortality and eternal life
will be a present reality for those who have trusted and follow Jesus.
God’s plan of
restoration is a reality that is taking place right now. It is confirmed
every day in the lives of hundreds and thousands of people who have experienced
the life-changing power of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. There
is much more to this plan than what could be written in this short account.
But the question for you is, “Will you be a part of His kingdom when it