Bible Summary for Beginners
This summary is meant as a zoom-out reference so you can see God's plan and the progression of things at a high level. It is a high-level view of the total picture to help beginners into a more meaningful Bible reading experience in their seeking of God. Keeping in mind that if you care about seeking God, there is no alternative to reading (or listening to) all the detailed pages of the Bible.
The most important thing to remember when starting to read the Bible is, have a fresh mind. Read it with an open mind and the innocence of a child. If you go in with preconceived expectations searching for them in the Bible, is the wrong attitude. Because God's ways are different than our cultural ways, which vary with each generation. God is the same eternally past and future; never changes.
1. What is The Main Theme of the Bible?
Forgiveness of sins, driven by God's love for us, to save us from hell
Every move God made throughout the Bible was for the forgiveness of our sins, so He could reconcile us to Him. After the fall of Adam & Eve, God shifted focus to ways to save us from our sins, so we don't send ourselves to hell. The Bible says, the Holy nature of God demands that a death take place as a redemption for our sin, so that we ourselves don't have to die to pay the price. If you're thinking "we're good people, what sins?" see my page We're Good People What Sins?
He started with the Jews and the law of Moses, forgiving their sins with a proxy method; through redemption of "perfect" animal sacrifices and offerings (Old Testament). Then in the New Testament He finalized the redemption plans with the real and final method; the substitutionary sacrifice of His "perfect" Son Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf. And turned it into a "Bread of life" that He gives us for the forgiveness of our sins when we pray the Lord's Prayer and mean it correctly. That is we have to ask Him for the Bread of life; He doesn't just give it without us asking properly!!!. More on this in my page The Lord's Prayer is Misunderstood.
The Big Picture
Let me present to you the big picture as I formed it from years of studying the Bible. The main objective of God is to maximize the number of people in heaven after it's all said and done. He wants to see the maximum possible number of people in heaven after judgement day. He did whatever it took to accomplish this objective. People look at bits-and-pieces of God's actions in history, point to them and complain - "God killed people, God killed animals, etc.." No one sees the big picture! No one knows what difficult choices God had to make to accomplish the bigger objective!!
God is the only one who can see the big picture across time and space. His visibility is not available to us. He makes painful decisions to preserve the bigger objective. We, in our limited capacity, are like someone sitting next to a brain-surgeon and continuously complaining - "why did you cut here, why did you insert a needle there, that's painful, etc..."
2. What Does God Want from Us?
A genuine relationship, where we truly get to know Him as our God, love Him, and worship Him. And in return He brings us into His Family, pours His blessings on us, and gives us eternal life in Heaven. He wants us to mature in the knowledge of Him to get this relationship to a meaningful level. You can get started now with the Lord's Prayer and talk directly to "our heavenly Father".
God, in His Holy nature, has rules that He Himself cannot bend or break. Example, He cannot be in relationship with evil, which is us when we are sinful. Who among us is without sin? So knowing this, He devised a way to forgive us our sins - renewed day by day - to restore the relationship with Him. But first you have to learn all about Jesus' commands and keep them! Thus, seeking God in the Bible.
God Himself cannot bend or break His rules, but He can forgive us when we do!
What is His biggest concern? It is the risk of losing us. For example, become lost in this world's riches, worries, social media of today, or atheism. The worst sins of the flesh? He can forgive when we turn to Him with the right attitude. But leaving Him? means we've cut the cord; He can do nothing for us at that point. We'd be doomed to eternal torment. When you reject Him, He can only move away. And when He moves away, you have nothing left but darkness, desolation, depression, and every negative thing you've ever experienced in life multiplied by infinity.
You ask: Why would a loving God want to send us to hell and torment us just for rejecting Him?
Answer: He doesn't want to send us to hell - When you reject Him, He leaves. Then His absence is hell!!
Rejecting God comes in many shapes and forms. Example, when people reject His redemption plan through Christ and instead turn to dead people like Mary and saints. Or when people become so arrogantly callous, stick to the high-level lip-service belief ("by faith alone"), and refuse to learn the other half of the Bible, which clearly explains how wrong they are! This is another form of rejecting God. And the irony is, these people are throwing stones at Atheists all over the internet!! I see more hope for atheists than for them.
3. The Old Testament
Describes the time-period between creation and 400BC. From Genesis to Malachi, 46 books written by prophets guided by God. For those skeptical of this being humans writing, let me remind you. If we believe in a supreme being who is capable of creating such a grand universe, is it too difficult for Him to guide certain individuals to write, and others to compile the Bible for our learning?
Note that the Old Testament is mainly a Jewish book. They call it "the Torah". But it is also the same Old Testament that Jesus referenced much of in His teaching. Therefore, we consider the Old Testament a key integral part of our Christian Bible.
3.1 God Created the World in Days! Here is One Possible Way He Did It:
He created our universe in His realm over billions of years, then moved it over to our dimension in days complete with fossils and bones. Don't be so perplexed! How did Jesus change water to wine? He's not a magician! Wine takes years to make! The wine was made in God's realm, and moved over when Jesus asked for it. And the same with the few loaves of bread and fish that fed thousands. And God and angels themselves could enter and exit our dimension, example the angel that appeared to Mary then disappeared, and the angels that appeared to Abraham and Sarah. All these confirm the capability of God to move things from His realm to ours.
Some choose not to believe this because of the sequence of Bible wording that may seem contradicting, as in this reference below. But I believe God mixed into the Genesis account of the earth creation description - some from His realm and some after He moved it to our realm. It is very likely that He did. Because He uses similar vague descriptions throughout the Bible, examples, Old Testament prophesies, Jesus' parables, and the book of Revelation. Because His way is, to provide some of the answers, and the rest by faith.
Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
He wants us to diligently seek Him! This is so He reserves the right to selectively reveal things to those who wholeheartedly seek Him.
3.2 Who Created God?
An infinite supreme being capable of creating such a grand universe and intelligent humans, is not one to be figured out easily by us, His creatures! He is outside our realm and is not subject to our world's scientific laws of physics etc.. He is "I Am"!!
God is not male nor female; these are human characteristics. He is our loving parent representing both genders. The Bible says He created us male and female in His own image. Both male and female are in His image.
See my page Atheism - A Different Perspective for more details.
3.3 Adam & Eve
After God moved the universe-creation from His realm to ours, the Bible describes the creation of living things starting with the first couple Adam and Eve. It is not specifically stated how long ago creation happened, but based on the chronology of ages in the Bible, it is estimated to be around 10,000 years ago.
The area where Adam and Eve lived, the Garden of Eden, was God's perfection without any "pain on earth" that we see today!! Remained this way up until Adam & Eve brought the devil into their lives. Then God could no-longer be in relationship with them due to the violation of His Holy nature. He then had to design a redemption plan to forgive their sin to keep from killing them! This domino'ed into God taking drastic actions throughout history, including torturing and crucifying His own son, to reconcile those who truly seek Him, back to Himself.
Although the Bible only described the creation details of Adam & Eve, it does not mean God did not create other people the same way! No need to speculate about the children of Adam & Eve marrying each other. It was not specifically noted in the Bible, but it is consistent with God's ways and personality. Because incest marriages are against God's instructions! Here is what God said about brother and sister marrying each other:
If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.
Was it too difficult for God to create more people? Of course not! Would He create others to avoid disgraceful incest marriages?! Of course He would!!! There is no evidence against it! God creating more people even further explains the variety of races and ethnicities. So no need to trip all over ourselves trying to explain how black Africans evolved to become Asian or Northern Europeans, or vv.. God created the various types of people! More on this subject here: Was Earth Populated from Incest Marriages?
Adam & Eve, while in God's perfect garden environment, failed the test by choosing to eat from the forbidden tree. They were created with complete freedom to choose, and they chose to eat from the tree. Then God expelled them from the Garden of Eden, because they became evil in His eyes. As a result, He could no longer keep them in the perfect environment He created for them, nor stay in relationship with them.
But being the loving and caring God that He is, He provided them with a redemption plan to forgive their sins and restore them to a relationship with Him. The Bible says God made garments for them from animal skins. Which meant that animals had to be sacrificed. And that Adam & Eve ate from it for forgiveness of their sin as instructed by God.
Adam & Eve and several generations of their descendants lived to an age between 600 and 900 years (see my page Amazing Little Known Facts from the Bible for more details). This continued up until the Noah flood.
3.4 Noah & the Flood
In those days, the Bible described the population in its entirety as "wicked" - people were not interested in God. Meaning, not only sinful in their behavior, but also rejecting of God, which meant no way to forgive their sins. One Exception, Noah and His family. So, God instructed Noah to build the ark, and raptured him and his family and all animal kinds before the flood. The Bible said the flood covered the whole earth - I often read in the news about fish fossils found at mountain tops, puzzling scientists etc.
After the flood, the earth re-populated from the 3 sons of Noah and their wives who were on the ark. Noah and his wife also had more sons and daughters after the flood. Then the age of people was limited by God to less than 120 years.
Sodom & Gomorrah happened some years after the flood. It was during the days of Abraham. The destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah had a similar story to the flood. Its inhabitants were mostly sinful and rejecting of God. Then God raptured Lot and his family and destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah. Note that in the New Testament Jesus used Noah's flood and the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah as a parallel to the rapture coming in our future. He called it, "the return of the Son of man..."
3.5 Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob
The patriarchs of the Jews started with Abraham, who was granted "righteousness" by God because he wholeheartedly believed in God. God made promises to Abraham, some of which will become fulfilled in the future as the Apostle Paul described in the New Testament. Abraham had two first-borns - Ismail from the maid Hagar, and Isaac from his wife Sarah. Isaac's descendants became the Jews. Jacob, Isaac's son, was also called "Israel". Jacob was the father of 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel, which were the first ancestors of the Jewish nation.
God assigned the priestly role and the keeping of the temple, to the tribe of Levi (one of the 12). Moses was a descendant of Levi, and was given the role of leading the Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage and into the promised land.
3.6 Moses & the Commandments
God prepared people for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, by starting with the old covenant redemption plan through the sacrifice of animals and other offerings.
God appeared to Moses in the famous burning bush. Gave him hundreds of commandments and instructed him to document on tablets. This was the old-covenant law. It detailed requirements from God that the Jews had to execute in the temple daily in order to preserve God's holiness ("hollowed be Your Name"), keep Him among them ("Your kingdom come"), and remain forgiven of their sins ("forgive us our sins"). You see, the old-covenant from God was a shadow proxy covenant pointing to the new-covenant, the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Jesus came a 1,000 years later and fulfilled most of the old-covenant law requirements, then only 10 commandments remained for us Christians to keep. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross changed the redemption method from daily animal sacrifices that people had to eat to become forgiven of sins, to a spiritual "Bread of life," Jesus Himself, to be eaten daily by praying the prayer Jesus taught us for the forgiveness of sins (see The Lord's Prayer is Misunderstood). Who said the Bible is not consistent? God's main concern ever since Adam & Eve was to design a way to reconcile us to Him. He executed His design perfectly, resulting in redemption plans that are very consistent. But most people don't know this! Because churches don't explain it.
You may be thinking, why did God do it this way? Why did He not skip the old Moses law and go directly to the Jesus redemption plan? The apostle Paul explained this point later in the New Testament. It was a bit too philosophical for the average person. In short, in the old covenant, God introduced His detailed law required to remain righteous in His eyes. This showed how difficult it was for humans to keep it. Then the Messiah, the only perfect sinless human, Jesus Christ, with His sacrifice on our behalf, fulfilled the law, and turned it into a simple prayer, the Lord's Prayer, to receive the Bread of life in order to become righteous in the eyes of God.
3.7 Old Testament Kings
These were the Jewish kings that ruled Israel starting with King Saul, then David, then Solomon, etc. and ending about 1,500 years later with King Harrod, who ordered the killing of all babies under the age of 2, trying to kill Jesus after he heard of His birth!
After Kings David and Solomon died, for the next thousand years until the coming of Jesus, the rest of the kings deteriorated significantly in their relationship with God. As a result, the Jewish people also forgot about God and followed other gods. Which drove God's prophets like Jeremiah to use harsh words and prophesy severe disasters on Israel unless they turn back to God.
They did not turn back to God, and the disasters did happen. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, invaded Israel at one point, plundered the land, and took all its people as slaves. They were slaves in Babylon for hundreds of years until prophets like Daniel and others came and helped restore the Jewish people back to the land of Israel.
During this "kings" period, there were occasional kings that tried to properly follow God's commands and bring the people back to the true God. But would not last long, as when the next king takes over, they go back to their God-rejecting ways. This theme of good and bad kings (mostly bad kings) took almost half of the Old Testament scriptures.
The events described in the "kings" period explain the horrible behavior of King Harrod later. King Harrod, a Jewish king, heard that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. And what did he do? Ordered the killing of all babies in the region to make sure the Messiah is killed. It is not surprising that the Jewish people of that generation later crucified Jesus!!
3.8 Psalms & Proverbs
These were words-of-wisdom from people with Godly wisdom like King David who wrote almost half of the psalms. Old Testament Jews used these in their daily conversations, as reference to what is the wise thing to do in various life situations.
3.9 The Prophets
There were 17 Prophets that wrote in the Old Testament, including notable ones like Daniel, Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Their message can be summarized in 3 bullets:
Drill in God's redemption plan for the people to learn and follow.
Warn the Jewish nation, Israel, of extreme consequences if they don't stop worshipping other gods.
Predict the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
A Messiah was promised - Messiah means the Anointed, the Savior. The English translation of the word "Messiah" is, "Christ".
There were more than 300 prophesies about Jesus in the Old Testament thousands of years before He was born! All came true in the life of Jesus Christ. Predictions such as his birthplace, lineage, and method of execution, were beyond Christ's control and could not have been accidentally or deliberately fulfilled. Some of these prophecies were so vividly described. Examples from Isaiah 53, "He was pierced for our transgressions", "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter", and "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all".
4. The New Testament
Describes the time-period between 5 B.C. and 100 A.D.. From the book of Matthew to Revelation, 27 books written by disciples and apostles of Jesus, guided by God. The birth of Jesus marked the beginning of the New Testament.
3.1 The Promised Messiah Has Come - Jesus Is Born
Those who are religious-Jewish today, call Jesus an illegitimate child of a fallen woman, and are still waiting for the promised Messiah. Their ancestors did not believe Jesus was the One. So, they are still waiting today.
Jesus is the "Savior". Our Savior from what? From our sins! Without the forgiveness of our sins, God could not be with us, we'd be doomed to hell.
You may ask, we're good people, what sins? See my page on We're Good People, What Sins?
So, the Messiah was born, and peace on earth and glory in the highest?
Glory in the highest? Yes indeed.
Peace on earth? It would have been, had the generations of people followed Jesus' commands on how to become righteous and "wash their robes"!! But no, people got creative in their preferred ways, did not go with God's way. Regardless however, it is still peace on earth to those who truly love Him and follow His commands, just as it says in Verse 14 below. And just as it will continue to be peace on earth to the true Christians all the way through the days of tribulations to come.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
4.2 Why Did the Jews not Accept Jesus as the Messiah?
Most Jewish people at the time did not believe that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, for many reasons, examples:
Jesus did not fit their pre-conceived image of the Messiah. They expected a warrior that would fight the Romans for them. And a grand public figure that would negotiate with the Jewish temple leaders etc. But God had His own plan for the Messiah. Jesus came humbly in a stable manger, spent most of His time teaching in poor areas, and performing miracles for them.
Skeptical of Mary's claims of the angel story and the conception through the Holy Spirit. To the Jews, Jesus was a regular guy from their town, the son of Joseph the carpenter. "How did He become the Son of God all of sudden?!"
The arrogant leaders of the Jewish temple did not want anything that would change their way of life. They were money-rich, powerful, and respected. And who is this Jesus guy claiming to be God and changing everything? The teachers of the law were un-Godly, as Jesus showed on many occasions in the New Testament. Does this ring a bell? Today's highly-paid and respected seminary theology professors and church leaders - a parallel?
Many Jewish people rejected Him because He was performing miracles on the Sabbath!! And called Him demon-possessed for defiling the holy Sabbath. Jesus rebuked them for that and tried to explain why they were wrong.
Despite all the magnificent miracles He performed, including raising people from the dead, most Jewish people did not believe that He was the Messiah and are still waiting for the "real messiah" to come!!
4.3 The Gospel - The 4 Books of The New Testament
Written by four of Jesus' disciples who accompanied Him during His ministry on earth all the way through His crucifixion, death, and resurrection. They heard all His teaching and commands and witnessed all His miracles. Then years later, living in separate regions, wrote these 4 books. The early Christians assembled them into the Bible. All guided by God. You can be assured of that. Because He would not be the magnificent God that He is, then fail at giving us a book about Him?!
The 4 disciples who wrote these 4 books described the life of Jesus starting with His birth in a stable manger in Bethlehem to His resurrection and ascension into heaven. They described similar details in their own way. And sometime one reported certain stories that the others did not. But they all noted that they could write many books if they had time to include all the details.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
4.4 The Rest of The Books in The New Testament
Apostles and other disciples wrote the books that followed the 4 books in the New Testament. Note these were also mere humans who performed miracles in the name of Jesus, including making crippled people walk, and raising people from the dead! For more on this, see my page True Christians Can Perform Miracles!
The apostles introduced Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). They preached to the newly formed churches, where early Christianity was work-in-progress. But most of what they preached was not documented in the Bible. Only their followup letters to these churches were found and included in the Bible. These followup letters addressed the controversial misunderstandings of the day; they were not the complete message these apostles preached in person. This is why it is important to keep in mind that the complete message is in what Jesus said in the 4 Gospels of the New Testament, where 4 of His disciples wrote everything Jesus said and did.
The main objective of the apostles was to clarify God's salvation through Jesus to people. And to bring the message to the whole world as Jesus commanded. Meaning, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, He was no longer only the Messiah for the Jews, He became the Savior of the world. They introduced Jesus to the world. They did the introduction and performed miracles, hoping that people would be impressed enough that they would go do their own digging in the scriptures to learn more. But what did the people do? Some misunderstood the introduction as the whole thing - "by faith alone". And some went praying to dead people - Mary and saints. And here we are today - no peace on earth.
One of the apostles who wrote the majority of those books was Paul, who appeared on the scene after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He had started out as a persecutor of the church and a killer of the early Christians. But Jesus got his attention one day by blinding him with a flash of light on the road to Damascus when he was on his way to kill Christians there. Jesus revealed to him that He was the awaited Messiah. Then Paul, a wholeheartedly devout Jew, saw clearly and made a complete u-turn.
4.5 The Book of Revelation
A mysterious book full of visions and prophesies yet to be fulfilled. Uses difficult symbolic terms to describe future events to come. People throughout history attempted to interpret the meaning, but the reality is we only have speculations, and nothing confirmed by God. So, for now we keep reading this book and waiting for more wisdom from God to reveal these meanings to us.
See my page, End Times for more on this subject.