By: Nathan Deg

The Bible is a library that is easy to get lost in. It consists of 73 different books written over a few thousand years, with letters, poems, histories all mixed together. There are a number of different ways to read and study the Bible, but my personal favourite is to read it through the lens of salvation history.

Salvation history is the story of how God came to rescue us from our loneliness of sin and death and return us to Himself told throughout time. The main way that this is expressed is in terms of consecutively larger and more amazing covenants. By the way a covenant involves an exchange of persons, so when God enters into a covenant with us He is giving Himself to us, and we are giving ourselves to Him.

It is possible to break Salvation History into 12 different historical periods. Placing each book of the Bible into the appropriate period helps to give context to what is being said and a particular message is given to certain peoples at certain times.

1-Early Days

Salvation History begins with the first covenant with Adam and Eve. In this covenant, with a single family, God asks us to trust Him and gives us paradise. But, we all follow Adam and turn away from God’s love.

2 – Patriarchs

After some time we get to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promises Abraham that his family will become a great nation, have a home flowing with milk and honey, that kings will descend from Him.   During this period the covenant with a family becomes a covenant with a tribe.

3-Exodus

In Exodus, God sends Moses to rescue the tribes of Israel. They had been enslaved for 400 years by the strongest nation around. Here God shows that He is stronger than any person or any nation, and that He loves us and will always rescue us.

4-Wandering

After their rescue, God makes a new covenant with the whole people of Israel. But they start complaining, turning away from God, and even start worshipping a golden idol. They don’t even trust Him to give them the promised land when He asks them to go to it.

5-Judges

Finally they trust God enough to enter the promised land. They take over the land and the people of Israel become a nation. During this time the nation is led by a succession of judges, like Joshua, Samson, and Deborah.

6- United Kingdom

After some time the nation of Israel decided that they wanted to be ruled by a king instead of by God. God lets them have their way, but He does warn them that kings aren’t generally great, but, since they want them, He’ll give them some. This period only has three kings; Saul, David, and Solomon. During this time God also establishes a yet another new covenant, this time with David and the kingdom of Israel.

7- Separated Kingdom

When Solomon’s son became king he treated the people horribly. This led to a rebellion that split the kingdom in two. The northern kingdom of Israel, which had Samaria as its capital, and the Southern kingdom of Judah, which kept Jerusalem as its capital.

The two kingdoms lasted for some time, but they fought constantly, and most of their kings turned away from God. It’s actually depressing reading this constant cycle of a king starting their reign by trusting and following God. Then they desire greater power in the world, turn away from God, and lead their people to start worshipping other gods. Finally a new king takes over and the cycle begins again.

8- Exile

Eventually things got so bad in each kingdom that God allowed them to receive the consequences of their actions. First, Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, then Judah was conquered by the Babylonians. The Israelites were scattered all over, but most of the Judeans were exiled to Babylon. But, in the midst of all this devastation, God promised that this destruction wasn’t the end. The exile would be temporary and God would rescue His people and return them to the promised land. He would fulfil all of His promises.

9- Return

During the exile, the people renewed their relationship with God. Then God fulfilled His promise when the Persians conquered Babylon. His people returned to Judea, rebuilt the temple, and renewed their covenant with God once more. Here we see that God always fulfils His promises that He never abandons us, and that He is always ready to save us.

10- Maccabean Revolt

After the return the people did start to turn away from God again and trust other nations. These ultimately led to Judea being taken over by the Greeks. The Greeks oppressed the Judeans and desecrated the Temple. This desecration led to a revolt led by the Maccabean family who loved God and passionately kept His covenant. This whole situation eventually led to a Roman takeover and sets the scene for the arrival of Jesus.

11- Jesus

Jesus is the new covenant, and He makes this covenant with everybody everywhere. Each covenant, each period in Salvation history up to this point involved God saying “I love you, and I want to give you something amazing. Just trust me” to a group of people, and those people ending up turning away and saying “Prove that you love me”. Jesus says, “I love you so much I’ll die for you.” And not you in some general way, but in in a personal way, where if you or I were the only person in history who ever sinned, He would still have died for us. We turned away from life and love and chose death. God reached into that death and takes it away and gives us back that love and life that He always wanted for us.

12-Acts

There is one last period of Salvation History; Acts. This is the story of how early Christians responded to this new covenant. They see this gift of Salvation, of love, and of life, and they can’t stop themselves from acting. They go out telling everyone the Good News.

 

The Good News that God loves you in an infinite and intimate way. We experience this amazing love and we respond. Like the Apostles, we respond to God’s gift, and that response, that story, is beautiful and amazing part of Salvation History.   The period of Acts continues with you and I today, as we strive to live out the personal covenant that God has made with each of us.


About the AuthorVersion 2

Nathan Deg

I am an astrophysicist working as a post-doctoral fellow at UCT.  I obtained my Ph.D. in 2014, and am currently studying barred spiral galaxies, stellar streams, and the Milky Way.  I enjoy way to many video games, books, movies, and tv shows and have a deep and abiding love for real (ice) hockey.