The Story’s Not Over Yet…
“Walking, stumbling, on these shadow feet; toward home, a land that I’ve never seen. I am changing: less and less asleep, made of different stuff than when I began and I have sensed it all along, fast approaching is the day.” | Brooke Fraser
These lyrics are from a song by Brooke Fraser, which I think really speak to our hearts as Christians. When I listen to this song, I feel as if I catch a glimpse of the real world beyond the veil, the world that exists beyond these shadowlands. For a brief moment, it seems as if I catch sight of the home that I know to be an unseen reality, that one day I’ll see, in all its fullness, for myself.
I want to share a few thoughts about God’s Story, the story we see laid out in poetry, prose, prophecy and parable in the book we call the Bible.
We might be inclined to describe the Bible as merely ‘the story of the drama of human history’ – but, in truth, it’s not history yet. History, defined as “something that happened or ended a long time ago and is not important now, or a person who is not important now, although they were in the past“, does not accurately describe the reality that is the Word of God.
The Story of God, of which the Bible contains many important aspects, won’t become history until the arrival of “the new heavens and the new earth, the passing away of the first earth and the moment a loud voice proclaims “behold, the dwelling place of our God is with humanity and God is all in all” (Revelation 21: 1-3, ESV)
It would also be too simplistic to state that the Bible is merely a catalogue of continuous human drama. The Bible isn’t just a collection of stories about characters and events that happened in the past, nor merely information about cultures or civilisations that have now ceased to exist. Neither is it simply a compilation of recommended principles by which to live an honest and upright life (although it does contain these things and other helpful advice besides!).
The Bible’s overarching story can’t be relegated to simply ancient history or human drama alone.
“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” | Hebrews 4:12, NIV
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” | 2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV
The Bible is the living, Spirit-breathed Word of God, the written revelation of what God has been doing in the past and what He is still doing right now. It’s a record of how and when God communicated His intent and purpose with humanity in the past and how He has communicated to us today.
Far from being just black text on white pages alone; this book unveils the purpose, intentionality and creative action of the Eternal One; breathed out, captured by way of quill and scroll by the faithful scribes who heard ‘the voice of God’, and recorded the Story of God for all to read. The words on these pages capture the historical reality of God’s powerful, creative activities throughout the history of humanity.
When Jesus was sent into the world, the story of what the Creator was doing was demonstrated literally, in Jesus himself, who was the Word-Made-Flesh. Jesus showed to humanity all the fullness and glory of God and His purpose, embodied in flesh and bone and tabernacling amongst us.
Powerful. Authoritative. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel (God With Us).
“On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.… His Word, made flesh and who dwelt among us” | Hebrews 1:1, John 1:1, ESV
By communicating through vision, in person, through prophets and finally, through His Son, we are challenged to move from simply thinking of the Bible as a book of facts or information and to instead see it as a visual recounting of what God has and is still communicating with us – the Story of God’s rule and reign and the redemption of humanity demonstrated in His Son’s life and death and resurrection.
This Story of God, of which the Bible contains many important details, is still being written, all around us every day. The Bible is simply the paper record of a living transformative event, of the real and ongoing story. It provides the relevant information for us to know and understand this centuries-long event, as participants in that story and as recipients of the invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven. It contains the details we’re supposed to be paying attention to so we can not just understand the story being told but choose which kind of character we’ll be in that story.
The promise – that God will dwell with humanity again – is the great thread of the Bible and it’s the real story that’s being written every day, all around us in a thousand different ways.
God’s kingdom in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ . . . Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden dimension of ordinary life – God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last, He will remake both and join them together forever. The end times are not the end of the world — they are the beginning of the real world — in biblical understanding.” | N T Wright
The Story Begins…
The Bible opens with an account about the beginning of all things:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created humans in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” | Genesis 1:1-2, 26, NIV
We can tend to read this account as if it’s a completed narrative. As if the statement ‘Let us create humanity in our image’ was a single event that occurred in the past, one which we perhaps give little real thought to today. Yet, if we view it from a different perspective, stretching our minds a little higher, a little farther, we realise that God is still creating humans in His image. This is not history, this is the present reality we are living in and surrounded by.
God is doing magic, right under our noses, every single day!
God’s Spirit is still hovering and continues to move in new and astonishing ways. His Word – His living Word, which brought all of the natural world into being, is continuing its creative work through redemption and regeneration in Jesus Christ, the Word-Made-Flesh. Light is still entering darkness, new life is being ignited and men and women are being reborn in God’s image, to become His representatives and perfect image-bearers on this earth.
The Bible is, therefore, the only book in the world which contains snippets and segments of a real-life story that hasn’t finished being told. We know what the ending will be, but we’re still in it, right now, living and breathing it, every moment of our lives.
The stories we read about in the Bible then take on new significance. They’re supposed to engage all our senses and connect us in very real ways to the people and situations we read about, to help us understand our place in the story that is not just theirs, but ours too. And we know that every story, every moment, has been recorded with intentionality, to enable the reader to participate, but we also know there’s plenty more, left untold, that time and space couldn’t allow for:
“What else can I say? There isn’t enough time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.” Hebrews 11:32, CEV
“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.” | John 21:25, HCSB
The Bible Is Our Own Personal Origin Story
Everyone’s probably familiar with the idea of origin stories. An origin story is an account or back-story revealing how a character or group of people become a protagonist or antagonist in the main story. It adds complexity to a narrative, often giving reasons for the characters’ intentions and choices.
The Bible is therefore our own personal origin story. It tells us where we’ve come from and where we’re going and invites us personally into the main story. The primary character in this story is the King of the Earth, God, revealed in Jesus and the antagonist, the Prince of this World – Sin. There are two kingdoms in this story – one of darkness and one of the Son of God, a Kingdom of Light. We don’t get a choice about which kingdom we start out in but we certainly get to decide which kingdom we finish up in
When we read the Bible, we’re not just reading about a story, we’re actually in this story and it’s unfolding all around us. This is a story of creative magic, impossible realities, futility, despair and death, rescue and redemption, light, salt, allegiance and exaltation. Most of all, it’s a story of hope.
It’s the story of the creation of the real world, not this shadow world that we live in now. It’s the story of how God’s Will will be done on earth, as in heaven and how God will once again walk with us in paradise. It is the story of the Creator’s divine life flowing into ours if we allow it.
This narrative gives shape and purpose to our human experience and hope for our future.
“If we think that this life is all there is to life, then there is no interpretation of our problems, our pain, not even of our privileges. But everything changes when we open up to the possibility that God’s story is really our story too.” | Max Lucado
“Your life flows into mine, pure as a garden spring. A well of living water springs up from within you, like a mountain brook flowing into my heart! Then may your awakening breath blow upon my life until I am fully yours. Breathe upon me with your Spirit wind. Stir up the sweet spice of your life within me. Spare nothing as you make me your fruitful garden. Hold nothing back until I release your fragrance. Come walk with me as you once walked in your paradise garden. Come taste the fruits of your life in me. I have come to you, for you are my paradise garden! Come walk with me until I am fully yours. Come taste the fruits of your life in me.” | Song of Songs 4:15-16, TPT
Not If, But How?
The question for us all, then, is not if we want to be a part of this story, but how.
As descendants of Adam and Eve, we’re all born into the kingdom of darkness. Their story is our story and we’re participants in that reality, whether we’re willing or not. But the Master Storyteller hasn’t left the world in darkness. He has crafted a narrative of redemption and light and offers a way, through the sacrifice of His Son, for us to be transferred from that dominion of darkness and into His glorious Kingdom.
Jesus came, preaching that kingdom, urging people to choose a better way and to give their allegiance to him. “Repent, he said, for the kingdom of God is here. I have arrived, proclaiming God’s rule and bringing His salvation to humanity.” (Isaiah 52:10, Luke 17: 20-21, Luke 2:30)
“What I love about the Bible is that the story isn’t over. There are still prophets in our midst. There are still dragons and beasts. It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning. The light is breaking through. So listen to the weirdos. Listen to the voices crying from the wilderness. They are pointing us to a new King and a better kingdom.” | Rachel Held Evans
If you still belong to the kingdom of darkness, if you haven’t yet given your life and allegiance to the King, we repeat the appeal of Paul to you: “Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God Himself were making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into His friends!” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
If you have given your life to Jesus through baptism, then Good News: So Glorious! You’ve been transferred into the Kingdom of Light. Don’t be a passive participant in the Story.
You are a child of God, a member of the household of faith, a character in God’s story whose name is written in the book of life! (Psalm 56:8, Daniel 12:1, Malachi 3:16, Philippians 4:3)
Boldly take hold of your place in the story. Be strong and courageous and don’t fear the enemy who surrounds you. Jesus, your King reassures you: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, BSB)
“All of their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: Now, at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. | C S Lewis, The Last Battle