At Christmas time it’s worth thinking about the Big Story we find in the Bible. The Christian story can be told in terms of a Six Act Drama.
Act 1: God establishes his kingdom – Creation
God creates a bobby-dazzler of a world. Ferrets, weasels and stoats are just some of the many creatures that God has crafted with great delight. God then commissions humans, the crown of his creation, to care for and to unfold this amazing cosmos. In this story humans are not merely machines à la Thomas Hobbes (£4.99 per item) but rather we are dignified and given extraordinary worth by God, the Creator. We are appointed as the Image of God and we have a task to reflect God’s goodness and wisdom to the rest of creation. We live in this peaceable and good-humoured kingdom with a loving and artistically creative God. We know God is imaginative by considering the works of His hands. Just as we admire Bill the Bard for his cracking plays so we can admire God for his stunning creation. According to Psalm 104 whales reveal something of God’s wisdom and glory by frolicking in the sea.
Act 2: Rebellion in the kingdom – Fall
Unfortunately the plot goes horribly wrong when humans break the everlasting covenant/deal/treaty. Humans turn away from God and worship created things. We bow down before the crocodile and worship it. We prostrate ourselves before worthless idols and gods. Everything starts to go pear-shaped. Instead of valuing and honouring all people as God’s image bearers we turn some people into slaves, commodities and 'objects to consume'. Badgers are no longer rejoicing and dancing merry jigs. The peaceable kingdom has morphed into a warzone. Humans, the key players in the drama, are no longer focusing on such innocent pastimes as Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo. Now they are killing, raping and torturing each other.
Act 3: The King chooses Israel – Redemption initiated
But God does not abandon His kingdom (creation project) and his unruly, defiant and rebellious subjects (us). He raises up a holy people (Israel) and shows them how to live in ways that are good and life-affirming. Israel is given the task of revealing God to the rest of the world by loving justice, mercy and responsible stewardship of the bobby-dazzler creation. Unfortunately Israel fails miserably in this holy calling. Instead of worshipping and loving the true God they bow down and worship false gods like Baal, Asherah and Molech. These gods demand human sacrifice and all kinds of superstition, abuse and savagery.
Act 4: The coming of the King – Redemption accomplished
And so God sends his Son the Lord Jesus Christ to bring the story to a dramatic climax. He fulfils the calling of Israel. He lives in perfect fellowship with His Father by obeying all aspects of the covenant. He announces God's kingdom and confronts the devil, his arch enemy, who has been deceiving and enslaving the King’s subjects. Satan thoroughly enjoys ruining peoples' lives by adroitly sponsoring idolatry and false worship of created things like money, sex and power. Every murder, every theft, every rape is greeted with heartfelt approval by demonic powers. Jesus, God's Son, the Word made flesh, dies on the cross and comes back from the dead. These two pivotal historical events launch God’s kingdom and signal Satan's demise.
Act 5: Spreading the news of the King – The mission of the Church
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, God's kingdom begins to advance into the devil's territory. At Pentecost we see God's new people, the Body of Christ emerging as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. People are now turning away from false gods and false stories and turning to Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The gospel message urges humans to repent, believe, get baptised and enter God’s kingdom. We are all living in this fifth act and we are called to improvise faithfully with our gifts and talents.
Act 6: The return of the King – Redemption completed
One day Jesus will return and bring His Kingdom in its fullness to the earth. There will be a great day of judgment. God will judge everyone who has ever lived. Those who have honoured and obeyed God will inherit the renewed creation but the wicked will be unable to enter the New Jerusalem. God will not scrap His broken creation; rather he will heal it, restore it and renew it. The lion will lie down with the lamb and ferrets will stop being beastly to rabbits. In this perfected kingdom humans will be able to slide down the necks of friendly and good-humoured brontosauruses. And King Jesus, the Word made flesh, will rule forever in His kingdom without any opposition from evil-doers and demonic powers.
Read more in this short paper on the Bible in six acts.