– An evil snake
– Two foolish rebels – And then judgment, murder and death
– It’s a desolate scene- this is God’s Big Picture: The Perished Kingdom –God’s Big Picture- Bible Overview Course
The perished Kingdom Unit 2– In this course we’re following the big picture
of the Bible’s story. Each unit consists of a talk and a short bible study. I really recommend
that you do both: you can download all units for free, including printable outlines of
the talks and the bible studies at clayton.tv and godsbigpicture.co.uk Now we saw in our first unit that the Bible
is ultimately -one book,
-with one divine author, -one subject: Jesus Christ,
-and one story: God’s plan to save the world through him.
And in this series we’re focussing on the theme that binds that story together: the
kingdom of God, which has been defined as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule
and blessing”. So what’s the story so far?
Well, the first two chapters of the Bible describe human beings enjoying a series of
perfect relationships with God, one another and the world around them, the world as it
was designed to be: “the pattern of the kingdom”. But sadly it didn’t continue like that. Today
we’re looking at the next section in the story of the Bible, which I’ve called “the perished
kingdom”. It tells us how everything went so badly wrong. –Where did evil come from?- Genesis 3 introduces us to a new character,
an evil snake, later identified in the Bible as Satan. That immediately raises the question,
“where did he come from?” The Bible doesn’t give us a direct answer,
but it does provide some fixed points: – God is absolutely sovereign – he alone is
eternal and is in complete control of the universe; nothing takes him by surprise.
– God is absolutely holy and good – he’s never responsible for evil.
– And God is absolutely loving. So we can be sure that the answer to the question,
“How did evil come into the world” lies somewhere within that grid and is consistent with those
truths, even if we’re not told exactly what happened.
The New Testament points towards the answer when it speaks of a rebellion against God
in the angelic world in 2 Peter 2 and Jude 6.
So we can conclude that Satan was part of the original, perfect creation, but he then
rebelled against God. –SATAN’S TACTICS- God exercised his rule in the garden through
his word and that’s where Satan directs his attack. He begins by distorting God’s word:
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve soon puts him
right; they’d been forbidden to eat from only one tree: the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil. But Satan doesn’t give up. He now starts to
question God’s word: “You will not surely die” he says.
Then he distorts God’s motives, making him out to be a cosmic spoilsport:
“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing
good and evil”. In effect he says ‘God’s word isn’t clear,
isn’t true and isn’t fair’ and he’s been been making the same claims ever since. His tactics work. Eve takes the fruit, eats
it and then gives some to her husband. This act is what Christians call “the fall”, because
it leads to the spoiling of God’s perfect creation. –THE FALL- But why is what they did so terrible? What’s
wrong with eating a bit of fruit? It’s wrong because God told them not to. It
was an act of blatant disobedience, an act of rebellion. But why didn’t God want them to eat from that
particular tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Surely it’s good to know
the difference between right and wrong? Yes, but the ‘knowledge of good and evil’
refers not to knowing what’s right and wrong, but rather to deciding what’s right and wrong.
They’re not just law- breaking which would be serious enough. They’re going much further
and presuming to be law- makers. They’re saying, “From now on, God, we want to be the ones
who decide what standards we’ll live by. We’ll determine what’s right and wrong, what’s good
and evil, not you.’ It is an act of fundamental rebellion. They’re
usurping God’s authority and establishing their own independence. And that’s been the
nature of sin ever since. –BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS- The consequences of sin are disastrous. God
acts in judgment and all the perfect relationships that were established at creation are ruined: The relationship between the man and the woman,
which had been marked by complete trust and intimacy, is soured. They make coverings to
hide their nakedness. Shame and squabbling puts distance between them. The battle of
the sexes has begun. And the relationship between human beings
and the natural world has also lost its original harmony. From now on it will be a struggle
to control it. God says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through
painful toil you will eat food from it”. But the most devastating impact of the fall
is in the relationship between humanity and God.
The punishment fits the crime. Adam and Eve turn away from God in rebellion and, terribly,
he turns away from them in judgment. The warm friendship they’d enjoyed with God is now
destroyed. He still draws near, calling out, “Where are
you?” but they hide from him. In his amazing grace, God continues to seek after sinful
human beings, but by nature we run away. The old innocence has gone. Adam is afraid and
ashamed, conscious of his nakedness before God. And God judges the guilty, just as he said
he would. Satan was wrong. God’s warning that Adam and Eve would die was no mere threat;
it’s carried out. Genesis 3: 23 tells us ‘So the LORD God banished him [that’s Adam
and Eve] from the Garden of Eden’ and a guard is placed to prevent them from returning to
the tree of life. They continue to exist physically, but spiritually they’re dead, cut off from
God’s presence and it’s only a matter of time before their physical existence also ends. –THE SPREAD OF SIN AND DEATH- Genesis chapters 4-11 show the consequences
of the fall in the generations that follow: the spread of sin and God’s judgment against
it: death. It’s no surprise that the first sin in Genesis
3 is followed in Genesis 4 by the first murder, with Cain killing his brother Abel. Once the
vertical relationship with God is broken, it’s inevitable that horizontal relationships
between people will be affected as well. Genesis 5 contains a genealogy of Adam’s family.
It begins by stressing that, even after the fall, his offspring still bear the image of
God. All humans continue to have great dignity as those who reflect God’s likeness, unlike
other creatures. But it’s not only the image of God that is passed down the generations,
but also sin and it’s consequence, death. The brief account of each generation ends
with the same words time and time again, like the tolling of a funeral bell: “and then he
died ….. and then he died …. and then he died”. And so it’s continued down the centuries;
death comes to us all. By chapter 6 a few generations have come and
gone, but sin is very much alive. The writer makes the devastating comment:
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become, and …… the
Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth”. He therefore resolves to destroy the human
race and the creatures of the earth by sending a terrible flood.
God did save Noah’s family, so human history carried on, but so did sin.
Noah’s descendants prove to be just as wicked as Adam’s and continue in proud opposition
of God culminating in the Tower of Babel. They say,
“Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that
we may make a name for ourselves” . This tower is a vivid symbol of our sinful
desire to exalt ourselves and create our own kingdom independently of God. But God won’t
ignore such arrogance. He frustrates the people’s empire building by scattering them throughout
the earth and giving them different languages. We’ve reached the low point of these early
chapters of the Bible. Human beings are divided, not just from God, but from one another. So after all of that, what’s happening in
our theme of the Kingdom of God? The perfect pattern of God’s kingdom, which
existed at creation, has been destroyed by sin. We are now in the Perished Kingdom- Human
beings are no longer God’s people; they are banished from God’s place and, because they’ve
rejected God’s rule, they no longer enjoy his blessing, but live in disobedience under
the curse of his judgment. And that’s where the Bible could have ended-
with the perished kingdom. It is only because God is amazingly gracious that the story continues
at all. And it starts again with just one man- Abraham. We’ll find out in our next unit
just how that story unfolds – in the Promised Kingdom.