Category: Christian Theology


The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone. Also, man has an inherent sense of justice. Even the most ardent atheist believes in some type of justice and has a sense of right and wrong, even if he has no moral basis for making such judgments. Our inherent sense of right and wrong demands that if we are to be saved, our “good works” must outweigh our “bad works.” Therefore it is natural that when man creates a religion it would involve some type of salvation by works.

Because salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Salvation by works seems right to men, which is why it is the predominantly held viewpoint. That is exactly why biblical Christianity is so different from all other religions—it is the only religion that teaches salvation is a gift of God and not of works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Another reason why salvation by works is the predominantly held viewpoint is that natural or unregenerate man does not fully understand the extent of his own sinfulness or of God’s holiness. Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and God is infinitely holy (Isaiah 6:3). The deceit of our hearts is the very thing that colors our perception of the extent of that deceit and is what prevents us from seeing our true state before a God whose holiness we are also not able to fully comprehend. But the truth remains that our sinfulness and God’s holiness combine together to make our best efforts as “filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6, 6:1-5).

The thought that man’s good works could ever balance out his bad works is a totally unbiblical concept. Not only that, but the Bible also teaches that God’s standard is nothing less than 100% perfection. If we stumble in keeping just one part of God’s righteous law, we are as guilty as if we had broken all of it (James 2:10). Therefore there is no way we could ever be saved if salvation truly was dependent on works.

Another reason that salvation by works can creep into denominations that claim to be Christian or say they believe in the Bible is because of a misunderstanding of passages like James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Taken in the context of the entire passage (James 2:14-26), it becomes evident that James is not saying our works make us righteous before God, but instead he is making it clear that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ with a life that shows no works has a false or “dead” faith and is not saved. James is clearly making a contrast between two different types of faith—truth faith that saves and false faith that is dead.

There are simply too many verses that teach that one is not saved by works for any Christian to believe otherwise. Titus 3:4-5 is one of many such passages: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Good works do not contribute to salvation, but they will always be characteristic of one who has been born again. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the evidence of it.

While salvation by works might be the predominantly held viewpoint, it is not an accurate one biblically. The Bible contains abundant evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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“What happens if I sin, and then I die before I have an opportunity to confess that sin to God?” Another common question is “what happens if I commit a sin, but then forget about it and never remember to confess it to God?” Both of these questions rest on a faulty assumption. Salvation is not a matter of believers trying to confess and repent from every sin they commit before they die. Salvation is not based on whether a Christian has confessed and repented of every sin. Yes, we should confess our sins to God as soon as we are aware that we have sinned. However, we do not always need to be asking God for forgiveness. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, all of our sins are forgiven. That includes past, present, and future, big or small. Believers do not have to keep asking for forgiveness or repenting in order to have their sins forgiven. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and when they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43).

What we are to do is confess our sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What this verse tells us to do is “confess” our sins to God. The word “confess” means “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that we were wrong, that we have sinned. God forgives us, through confession, on an ongoing basis because of the fact that He is “faithful and just.” How is God “faithful and just”? He is faithful by forgiving sins, which He has promised to do for all those who receive Christ as Savior. He is just by applying Christ’s payment for our sins, recognizing that the sins have indeed been atoned for.

At the same time, 1 John 1:9 does indicate that somehow forgiveness is dependent on our confessing our sins to God. How does this work if all of our sins are forgiven the moment we receive Christ as Savior? It seems that what the apostle John is describing here is “relational” forgiveness. All of our sins are forgiven “positionally” the moment we receive Christ as Savior. This positional forgiveness guarantees our salvation and promise of an eternal home in heaven. When we stand before God after death, God will not deny us entrance into heaven because of our sins. That is positional forgiveness. The concept of relational forgiveness is based on the fact that when we sin, we offend God and grieve His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). While God has ultimately forgiven us of the sins we commit, they still result in a blocking or hindrance in our relationship with God. A young boy who sins against his father is not cast out of the family. A godly father will forgive his children unconditionally. At the same time, a good relationship between father and son cannot be achieved until the relationship is restored. This can only occur when a child confesses his mistakes to his father and apologizes. That is why we confess our sins to God—not to maintain our salvation, but to bring ourselves back into close fellowship with the God who loves us and has already forgiven us.

The phrase sola scriptura is from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings”—referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Sola scriptura was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible. Some examples are  prayer to saints and/or Mary, the  immaculate conception,  transubstantiation,  infant baptism,  indulgences, and  papal authority. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Protestant Reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with excommunication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther’s reply was, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”

The primary Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that the Bible does not explicitly teach sola scriptura. Catholics argue that the Bible nowhere states that it is the only authoritative guide for faith and practice. While this is true, they fail to recognize a crucially important issue. We know that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, and authoritative. We also know that God does not change His mind or contradict Himself. So, while the Bible itself may not explicitly argue for sola scriptura, it most definitely does not allow for traditions that contradict its message. Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines. The only way to know for sure what God expects of us is to stay true to what we know He has revealed—the Bible. We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition.

The Word of God is the only authority for the Christian faith. Traditions are valid only when they are based on Scripture and are in full agreement with Scripture. Traditions that contradict the Bible are not of God and are not a valid aspect of the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is the only way to avoid subjectivity and keep personal opinion from taking priority over the teachings of the Bible. The essence of sola scriptura is basing your spiritual life on the Bible alone and rejecting any tradition or teaching that is not in full agreement with the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Sola scriptura does not nullify the concept of church traditions. Rather, sola scriptura gives us a solid foundation on which to base church traditions. There are many practices, in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that are the result of traditions, not the explicit teaching of Scripture. It is good, and even necessary, for the church to have traditions. Traditions play an important role in clarifying and organizing Christian practice. At the same time, in order for these traditions to be valid, they must not be in disagreement with God’s Word. They must be based on the solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church, and many other churches, is that they base traditions on traditions which are based on traditions which are based on traditions, often with the initial tradition not being in full harmony with the Scriptures. That is why Christians must always go back to sola scriptura, the authoritative Word of God, as the only solid basis for faith and practice.

On a practical matter, a frequent objection to the concept of sola scriptura is the fact that the canon of the Bible was not officially agreed upon for at least 250 years after the church was founded. Further, the Scriptures were not available to the masses for over 1500 years after the church was founded. How, then, were early Christians to use sola scriptura, when they did not even have the full Scriptures? And how were Christians who lived before the invention of the printing press supposed to base their faith and practice on Scripture alone if there was no way for them to have a complete copy of the Scriptures? This issue is further compounded by the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history. How does the concept of sola scriptura handle these issues?

The problem with this argument is that it essentially says that Scripture’s authority is based on its availability. This is not the case. Scripture’s authority is universal; because it is God’s Word, it is His authority. The fact that Scripture was not readily available, or that people could not read it, does not change the fact that Scripture is God’s Word. Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. While it was unrealistic for every Christian to possess a complete copy of the Bible, it was possible that every church could have some, most, or all of the Scriptures available to it. Early church leaders should have made studying the Scriptures their highest priority so they could accurately teach it. Even if the Scriptures could not be made available to the masses, at least church leaders could be well-trained in the Word of God. Instead of building traditions upon traditions and passing them on from generation to generation, the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2).

Again, traditions are not the problem. Unbiblical traditions are the problem. The availability of the Scriptures throughout the centuries is not the determining factor. The Scriptures themselves are the determining factor. We now have the Scriptures readily available to us. Through the careful study of God’s Word, it is clear that many church traditions which have developed over the centuries are in fact contradictory to the Word of God. This is where sola scriptura applies. Traditions that are based on, and in agreement with, God’s Word can be maintained. Traditions that are not based on, and/or disagree with, God’s Word must be rejected. Sola scriptura points us back to what God has revealed to us in His Word. Sola scriptura ultimately points us back to the God who always speaks the truth, never contradicts Himself, and always proves Himself to be dependable.

Another word for regeneration is rebirth, from which we get the phrase “born again.” To be born again is opposed to, and distinguished from, our first birth, when we were conceived in sin. The new birth is a spiritual, holy, and heavenly birth signified by a being made alive in a spiritual sense. Our first birth, on the other hand, was one of spiritual death because of inherited sin. Man in his natural state is “dead in trespasses and sins” until we are “made alive” (regenerated) by Christ when we place our faith in Him (Ephesians 2:1). After regeneration, we begin to see, and hear, and seek after divine things, and to live a life of faith and holiness. Now Christ is formed in the hearts; we are now partakers of the divine nature, having been made new creatures. God, not man, is the source of this (Ephesians 2:1, 8). It is not by men’s works, but by God’s own good will and pleasure. His great love and free gift, His rich grace and abundant mercy, are the cause of it and these attributes of God are displayed in the regeneration and conversion of sinners.

Regeneration is part of the “salvation package,” if you will, along with sealing (Ephesians 1:14), adoption (Galatians 4:5), reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), and many other salvation concepts. Being born again or born from above is parallel to regeneration (John 3:6-7; Ephesians 2:1; 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:13; 1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18). Simply put, regeneration is God making a person spiritually alive, a new creation, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. The reason regeneration is necessary is that prior to salvation we are not God’s children (John 1:12-13); rather, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:18-20). Before salvation, we are degenerate. After salvation we are regenerated. The result of regeneration is peace with God (Romans 5:1), new life (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17), and eternal sonship (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26). This regeneration is eternal and begins the process of sanctification wherein we become the people God intended for us to be (Romans 8:28-30).

The Bible is clear that the only means of regeneration is by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. No amount of good works or keeping of the law can regenerate the heart which from birth is “deceitful and wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). This concept of the new birth is unique to Christianity. No other religion offers a cure for the total depravity of the human heart, preferring instead to outline an often massive body of works and deeds that must be done to gain favor with God. God has told us, though, that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). Total regeneration of the heart is necessary for salvation. Paul explains this concept perfectly in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is true regeneration.

Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ’s own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God’s demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us.

Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the fact of justification that enables God to begin the process of sanctification—the process by which God makes us in reality what we already are positionally. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him, had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

The word propitiation is used in several key verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example, in Romans 3:24-25 we see that believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the Book of Romans and are really at the heart of the Gospel message.

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul has made the argument that everybody, both Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. God in His infinite grace and mercy has provided a way that His wrath can be appeased and we can be reconciled to Him. That way is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement or payment for sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice, foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament, that we can be reconciled to God.  It is only because of Christ’s perfect life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection on the third day that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a Holy God. The wonderful truth of the Gospel message is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. This truth is also communicated in 1 John 2:2; “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” An important part of Christ’s saving work includes deliverance from God’s wrath that the unbelieving sinner is under, because Jesus’ atonement on the cross is the only thing that can turn away God’s divine wrath. Those that reject Christ as their Savior and refuse to believe in Him have no hope of salvation. They can only look forward to facing the wrath of God that they have stored up for the coming day of judgment (Romans 2:5). There is no other propitiation or sacrifice that can be made for their sins.

The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Jesus Christ died in our place when He was crucified on the cross. We deserved to be the ones placed on that cross to die because we are the ones who live sinful lives. But Christ took the punishment on Himself in our place—He substituted Himself for us and took what we rightly deserved. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Here again we see that Christ took the sins we committed onto Himself to pay the price for us. A few verses later we read, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Not only do these verses teach us about the substitute that Christ was for us, but they also teach that He was the atonement, meaning He satisfied the payment due for the sinfulness of man.

One more passage that talks about the substitutionary atonement is Isaiah 53:5. This verse talks about the coming Christ who was to die on the cross for our sins. The prophecy is very detailed, and the crucifixion happened just as it was foretold. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Notice the substitution. Here again we see that Christ paid the price for us!

We can only pay the price of sin on our own by being punished and placed in hell for all eternity. But God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to pay for the price of our sins. Because He did this for us, we now have the opportunity to not only have our sins forgiven, but to spend eternity with Him. In order to do this we must place our faith in what Christ did on the cross. We cannot save ourselves; we need a substitute to take our place. The death of Jesus Christ is the substitutionary atonement.

Imagine two friends who have a fight or argument. The good relationship they once enjoyed is strained to the point of breaking. They cease speaking to each other; communication is deemed too awkward. The friends gradually become strangers. Such estrangement can only be reversed by reconciliation. To be reconciled is to be restored to friendship or harmony. When old friends resolve their differences and restore their relationship, reconciliation has occurred. Second Corinthians 5:18-19 declares, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

The Bible says that Christ reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:20-21). The fact that we needed reconciliation means that our relationship with God was broken. Since God is holy, we were the ones to blame. Our sin alienated us from Him. Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies of God: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

When Christ died on the cross, He satisfied God’s judgment and made it possible for God’s enemies, us, to find peace with Him. Our “reconciliation” to God, then, involves the exercise of His grace and the forgiveness of our sin. The result of Jesus’ sacrifice is that our relationship has changed from enmity to friendship. “I no longer call you servants … Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Christian reconciliation is a glorious truth! We were God’s enemies, but are now His friends. We were in a state of condemnation because of our sins, but we are now forgiven. We were at war with God, but now have the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive salvation and forgiveness. But that’s not all. The Bible says we also receive justification, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, propitiation, and regeneration. Each of these theological terms expresses wonderful truths about the blessing we receive when Jesus becomes our Savior. Salvation and forgiveness, while related, are not exactly the same.

The term salvation comes from the Greek word sozo, which means “to be delivered, rescued.” Salvation is deliverance from the penalty of sin, that is, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Matthew 25:46). Salvation is God’s rescuing us from our deserved fate. Salvation also includes a more immediate deliverance from the power of sin in this life. Sin has lost its dominion over the saved ones (Romans 6:14). Faith in Jesus Christ rescues us from the empty and meaningless life described in Ecclesiastes and provides us with a life that is abundant and fruitful (John 10:10; Galatians 5:22–23).

The term forgiveness comes from the Greek word aphiemi, which means “to let go, to give up, to keep no longer.” When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is analogous to financial debt being erased. When God forgives us of our sins, we are free. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold them against us (Psalm 103:12).

Salvation and forgiveness are closely related. There is no salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s delivering us from the consequences of sin. Forgiveness is God’s erasing our sin debt. To use a financial illustration, forgiveness is God’s shredding the documents that list our debt, and salvation is God’s letting us out of debtors’ prison. Praise God for the wonderful salvation and forgiveness He has provided. May our lives reflect gratitude for all He has done for us (Romans 12:1).

In the very beginning, God was already there. For His own good pleasure, God created time and the universe by the power of His word, turning nothing into something. On the sixth day of creation, God made something unique: mankind—a man and a woman—created in His likeness. As God created the first two humans as male and female, He instituted the covenant of marriage (Genesis 1–2).

God placed the man and his wife in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility of tending the garden. God allowed them to eat of any fruit in the garden but one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden to them. They had a choice to obey or disobey, but God warned them that death would result if they disobeyed (Genesis 2:15-17).

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer rebelled against God in heaven. He and one third of the angelic host were cast out of heaven. Lucifer came into the garden where the man and his wife were. There, he took the form of a serpent and tempted Eve, the first woman, to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. He told her that she would not die and that the fruit was actually good for her. She believed the lies and ate some of the fruit. She then gave the fruit to her husband, Adam, and he ate it, too. Immediately, the couple knew they had done wrong. They felt ashamed and vulnerable and exposed. When God came looking for them, they hid (Isaiah 14:12-15; Genesis 3).

Of course, God found them. Judgment was meted out. The ground was cursed for the man’s sake: it would no longer bring forth its fruit easily; instead, man must toil to produce a crop. The woman was cursed with pain during childbirth. The serpent was cursed to crawl in the dust from then on. And then God made a promise: one day, Someone would be born of a woman who would do battle with the Serpent. This One would crush the Serpent’s head, although He would be injured in the process. God then slaughtered an animal and provided coverings of skin for the sinful couple before He drove them out of Eden (Genesis 3:15-19, 21).

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel, and was cursed for his deed. Another child was born to the first woman. His name was Seth (Genesis 4:8, 25).

Several generations later, the world was filled with wickedness. Violence and a disregard for God were rampant. God determined to destroy the wickedness of man and begin anew. A man named Noah, one of Seth’s descendants, was extended grace (God’s blessing on the undeserving). God revealed to Noah that He would send a great Flood to destroy the earth, and He gave Noah instructions on building an ark to survive the Flood. Noah built the ark, and when the time came, God caused animals of each kind to enter the ark. These animals, along with Noah and his family, were spared. The Flood destroyed every other living thing on the earth (Genesis 6–8).

After the Flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth. When their descendants began building a monument to themselves in defiance of God, God confused their language. The inhabitants of the earth separated according to their language groups and spread out over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:1-8).

The time came for God to begin His plan to introduce the Serpent-crusher into the world. The first step was to create a people set apart from Himself. He chose a man named Abraham and his wife, Sarah, to begin a new race of people. God called Abraham away from his home and led him to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants who would possess Canaan as their own. God also promised to bless Abraham’s seed and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the earth. The problem was that Abraham and Sarah were old, and Sarah was barren. But Abraham believed God’s promise, and God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness (Genesis 12:1-4; 15:6).

In due time, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. God repeated His promise of many descendants and blessing to Isaac. Isaac had twins, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob to inherit the promised blessing and changed his name to Israel. Jacob/Israel had twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 21:1-6; 25:19-26; 28:10-15; 35:23-26).

Due to a severe famine, Jacob moved his entire family from Canaan to Egypt. Before he died, Jacob gave prophetic blessings to each of his sons. To Judah, he promised there would be a King among his descendants—One who would be honored by all the nations of the world. Jacob’s family increased in Egypt, and they remained there for the next 400 years. Then the king of Egypt, fearing that the children of Israel would become too numerous to handle, enslaved them. God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham (Genesis 46; 49; Exodus 1:8-14; 3:7-10).

The exodus from Egypt was accompanied by many great miracles, including the parting of the Red Sea. Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Moses the Law. This Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, was the basis of a covenant God made with Israel: if they kept His commandments, they would be blessed, but if they broke His commandments, they would suffer curses. Israel agreed to follow the Law of God (Exodus 7–11; 14:21-22; 19–20).

In addition to establishing a moral code, the Law defined the role of the priest and prescribed the offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The Law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, or tent, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people (Leviticus 1; Exodus 25:8-9).

After receiving the Law, Moses led the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land. But the people, fearing Canaan’s warlike inhabitants and doubting God’s promises, refused to enter. As a punishment, God turned them back into the wilderness, where they were forced to wander for 40 years. In His grace, God miraculously provided food and water for the entire multitude (Numbers 14:1-4, 34-35; Exodus 16:35).

At the end of 40 years, Moses died. One of his last prophecies concerned the coming of another Prophet who would be like Moses and to whom the people must listen. Moses’ successor, Joshua, was used by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. They went with God’s promise that none of their enemies would be able to stand against them. God showed His power at Jericho, the first city they encountered, by causing the walls of the city to fall down flat. In His grace and mercy, God spared a believing harlot named Rahab from Jericho’s destruction (Deuteronomy 18:15; Joshua 6).

Over the next years, Joshua and the Israelites succeeded in driving out most of the Canaanites, and the land was divided among the twelve tribes. However, the conquest of the land was incomplete. Through a lack of faith and simple disobedience, they failed to finish the job, and pockets of Canaanites remained. These pagan influences had an effect on the Israelites, who began to adopt the worship of idols, in direct violation of God’s Law (Joshua 15:63; 16:10; 18:1).

After Joshua’s death, the Israelites experienced a tumultuous time. The nation would lapse into idolatry, and God would bring judgment in the form of enslavement to an enemy. The people of God would repent and call on the Lord for help. God would then raise up a judge to destroy the idols, rally the people, and defeat the enemy. Peace would last for a while, but, after the death of the judge, the people invariably fell back into idolatry, and the cycle would repeat (Judges 17:6).

The final judge was Samuel, who was also a prophet. During his time, Israel demanded a king to rule over them, in order to be like the other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, however. He disobeyed God and was removed from power. God chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as king. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on the throne forever (1 Samuel 8:5; 15:1, 26; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem after David’s death. During the reign of Solomon’s son, civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided: the northern kingdom was called Israel, and the southern kingdom was called Judah. The Davidic dynasty ruled in Judah (1 Kings 2:1; 12).

The kingdom of Israel had an unbroken series of wicked kings. None of them sought the Lord or attempted to lead the nation according to God’s Law. God sent prophets to warn them, including the miracle-working Elijah and Elisha, but the kings persisted in their wickedness. Finally, God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. The Assyrians deported most of the Israelites, and that was the end of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 2; 17).

The kingdom of Judah had its share of wicked kings, but the chain was broken by an occasional godly king who truly loved the Lord and sought to govern according to the Law. God was faithful to His promise and blessed the people when they followed His commandments. The nation was preserved during the Assyrian invasion and endured many other threats. During this time, the prophet Isaiah preached against the sins of Judah and foresaw the Babylonian invasion. Isaiah also predicted the coming of the Servant of the Lord—He would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem (Isaiah 37; 53:5; Micah 5:2).

Eventually, the nation of Judah also fell into gross idolatry. God brought the nation of Babylon against Judah in judgment. The prophet Jeremiah experienced the fall of Jerusalem and predicted that the Jewish captives in Babylon would return to the Promised Land after 70 years. Jeremiah also prophesied a future covenant in which the Law was not written on tablets of stone but in the hearts of God’s people. This new covenant would result in God’s forgiveness of sin (2 Kings 25:8-10; Jeremiah 29:10; 31:31-34).

The Babylon captivity lasted for 70 years. The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel ministered during that time. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of many nations. He also predicted the coming of the Messiah, or Chosen One, who would be killed for the sake of others (Daniel 2:36-45; 9:26).

After Babylon fell to the Persians, the Jews were released to return to Judah. Many Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Nehemiah and Ezra led those endeavors, with encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. One of Zechariah’s prophecies included a description of a future King who would come into Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey (Nehemiah 6:15-16; Ezra 6:14-15; Zechariah 9:9).

Not all of the Jews returned to Judah, however. Many chose to stay in Persia, where God still watched over them. A Jewess named Esther rose to the rank of queen of Persia and was instrumental in saving the lives of all the Jews in the kingdom (Esther 8:1).

Malachi wrote the last book of the Old Testament. He prophesied that the Lord would come to His temple, but, before His arrival, another messenger would prepare the way for the Lord. This messenger would be like the prophet Elijah of old. After Malachi’s prophecy, it was another 400 years before God spoke directly to man (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring about the redemption of man. At the close of the Old Testament, God has a unique Chosen People who understand the importance of blood sacrifices, who believe the promises made to Abraham and David, and who are awaiting a Redeemer. In short, they are ready to receive the Serpent-crusher of Genesis, the Prophet like Moses, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the Humble King of Zechariah—all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.