The Chronological Method of The Anatomy of The Bible
Compiled From Harold Wilmington’s Guide to The Bible
In the councils of eternity past the divine decision was made. Even today angels and mortals are prone to gasp in amazement as they ponder the implications of that mind-boggling plan. In the fullness of time, the sinless Son of God would visit a cursed planet and shed his blood for its sinful inhabitants. Could anything more unexpected and undeserved be imagined? But many things must first precede and prepare for that glorious journey from heaven to earth. To begin with, man and his universe would be created. Then, from the many, a particular nation would be selected to serve as a divine channel. Finally, all those events, places, and personalities playing a part in that glorious tale had to be carefully and accurately recorded.
God’s schedule called for 30 human authors to describe that sovereign story in some detail. Moses was the first and Malachi the final writer. However, God was in no hurry to complete his marvelous manuscript. A thousand years would transpire between the first and last Old Testament books. Then an additional four centuries passed before the beginning of the New Testament.
The Creation Stage: Genesis 1–11
There are 1,189 chapters in God’s Word, the Bible. Undoubtedly, the most important among all these are the first 11 for they effectively serve as sturdy foundations on which the remaining 1,178 chapters firmly rest. If one rightly understands the divine story presented in these chapters, then a clear and concise picture appears, showing the origin, purpose, and future of all things.
The necessity for accepting these early chapters in a literal, factual, normal, and historical manner cannot be overstated if one is to correctly ponder his past and please his God! Note the pointed words of Jesus and the writer to the Hebrews: “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12). “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. … But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:3, 6). Four stupendous events transpire during this original stage. Each is mind-staggering. The final three would forever and radically change the course of history. 1. The origin of all things. 2. The fall of man. 3. The universal Flood. 4.The tower of Babel. One may well experience confusion and depression at the end of this stage. How could a story which began with such majesty end at Babel with such idolatry? But this is only the first stage in the story. One must read on for the answer.
The Patriarchal Stage: Genesis 12–50, Job
A founding father and his three descendants. A suffering saint and his three friends. Their lives make up the Patriarchal Stage. Abraham is the founding father. His three descendants are Isaac (son), Jacob (grandson), and Joseph (great-grandson).
Job is the suffering saint. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are his three “friends.”
Abraham’s life may be summarized by two words: seed and soil. In a special promise known as the Abrahamic covenant, God assured Abraham that he would father a great nation (seed) and that a particular land (soil) would be given to them forever. That nation would later become Israel, and the land would be Canaan. Two of Abraham’s three descendants would foreshadow the New Testament person and work of Christ. Isaac the son foreshadowed Jesus’ supernatural birth and sacrificial role. Joseph the great-grandson foreshadowed Christ’s manifold sufferings. And now for the suffering saint.
Question: Why does a loving and sovereign God allow pain and persecution to fall on his people?
Though the complete answer will only be revealed in heaven, the book of Job does suggest at least three reasons. First, to glorify the person of God. Second, to purify the lives of saints. Third, to nullify the lies of Satan. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Job. What are the spiritual lessons to be learned from this “quality quintet”? Abraham demonstrates faith; Isaac, submission; Jacob, self-mastery; Joseph, character; and Job, patience!
The Exodus Stage: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
What are nice people like you doing in a nasty place like this?” As the book of Genesis ends, Jacob and his entire family clan had moved from Canaan to Egypt. This stage now tells us just how God will bring his people out of the land of bondage. It begins with the persecution by Pharaoh and ends with the proclamation by Moses. Between these two key events, separated by 80 years and 800 miles, a breathtaking history transpires. Both God’s faithfulness and Israel’s fickleness are clearly seen. God’s faithfulness is evident in the pouring out of 10 plagues, the rolling back of the Red Sea, the bringing forth of water from a rock, the handing down of the law, and the raising up of the Tabernacle. Israel’s fickleness is seen in the idolatry at Sinai and the rebellion at Kadesh. During this stage, Israel received directly from God a special diet (the manna) and a special day (the Sabbath). This stage is actually the tale of three trips. The first trip was from Egypt to Mount Sinai; the second, from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea; and the third, from Kadesh to the east bank of the Jordan. Two of the Bible’s most famous and capable men were divinely appointed to direct these journeys—Moses the lawgiver, and Joshua the rest-giver! Observe Moses’ confusion about God at the beginning of this stage: “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?” (Exod 3:13). Observe Moses’ confidence about God at the end of this stage: I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut 32:3-4).
The Conquest Stage: Joshua
It was April 1405 BC. Two men stood quietly beside a flowing body of water. Both were deep in thought, as they remembered an April long ago when they were standing beside a different body of water some 800 miles away and 40 years past. The names of these two men were Joshua and Caleb. They were standing by the Jordan River. The first time, they had been standing by the Red Sea. So much had happened since that time. In fact, of their entire generation, they alone had survived. So far, so good. But what would happen now? What of the future? Would God’s faithfulness sustain the present generation as it had the previous one? It would indeed. The Jordan waters would roll back and the Jericho wall would fall down. In fact, before it ended the sun itself would stand still. In three brilliant and brief campaigns the land was subdued. Beginning with a central attack, which separated their enemies, the victorious Israelites quickly moved south, and then completed the campaign in the north. For the most part, the land now lay in their hands. These two April events beside the water would culminate in a final April scene that would assure all repenting sinners of an eternal home beside the ultimate body of water. Matthew tells us of the April event. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matt 26:1-2). “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Matt 27:35). And John describes the water. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him” (Rev 22:1-3).
The Judges Stage: Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel 1–7
“Kill the ump! Kill the ump!” How often has that cry been heard in the bleachers, from overzealous baseball fans who felt a wrong decision was made by an official? Can you imagine, however, two teams actually attempting to play a game without an umpire? A game where both pitcher and batter would lovingly and logically decide what was a ball and what was a strike? Or in the bottom of the ninth, after stealing second base, can we picture the baseman and the runner calmly and cheerfully determining whether the player was safe or out? On second thought, “Long live the ump! Long live the ump!” In essence, the Judges Stage is similar to that impossible ball game without an umpire. Four times we read: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). This sad and sordid stage vividly illustrates the fact that sinful man not only needs a referee to arbitrate, but also a Redeemer to propitiate.
The United Kingdom Stage: 1 Samuel 8–31, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 1 Kings 1–11, 2 Chronicles 1–9, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
The Israelite crowds began gathering by tribes at Mizpeh, just north of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, they could not meet in Jerusalem, for the Holy City was still occupied by pagans. Finally the great prophet Samuel appeared and made his announcement. So it was true after all—Israel was to have its very own king, like all other nations! But from what tribe would he come? The popular view was from Judah, largest of them all. Others felt, however, he might be from Ephraim, the most influential tribe in the north. Both guesses proved wrong. Audible gasps were heard when the official selection was announced. Israel’s first king would be Saul, son of Kish, and a Benjamite, smallest of all the tribes! The United Kingdom Stage is the tale of three kings. Saul was the first, David the second, and Solomon the third. The latter two were not only rulers but writers also. Many of the psalms came from David’s pen, while Solomon authored the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These books, written by Israel’s first kings, predict the glorious future reign of her final King, the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Chaotic Kingdom Stage: 1 Kings 12–22, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles 10–36, Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Lamentations
“Daddy, what did you do during the war?” All those fathers living from 931 BC onward probably had to answer this penetrating question. In that fateful year, a civil war broke out among Israel’s 12 tribes, dividing the kingdom in two. The ten northern tribes left the two southern ones to form their own nation. Perhaps Jesus had this very event in mind centuries later when he said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt 12:25). The Chaotic Kingdom Stage is best characterized through the actions of two official groups—potentates and prophets. More of each appear at this time than at any other period in biblical history. No less than 39 rulers sat on two thrones, 20 in the south and 19 in the north. Thirty-eight were men, and one was a woman. The longest reign was 55 years, and the shortest a mere seven days. Ministering to and, more often than not, preaching against these 39 monarchs came the prophets. Who were they? For the most part, they were God’s 11 admonishing authors! Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Amos, Hosea, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah. Each man appeared and fell like a heavenly hammer on sin and sinners. To whom did they write? One directed his writings to Edom, two to Nineveh, six to the southern kingdom, and two to the northern kingdom. In fact, an additional two—Elijah and Elisha—were so busy pronouncing judgment and performing miracles that they didn’t even take time to write down anything. What did they write? In a nutshell, “Shape up spiritually, or be shipped out physically!” Or, stated another way, “Seek God’s pardon, or suffer God’s punishment.” Revival or ruin—which would it be? How did they fare? Some were ridiculed, others murdered, and the rest ignored. And the results? Satan’s twin wolves—Assyria and Babylon—were permitted to prey on God’s 12 tribes. Assyria would devour the northern 10, while Babylon would destroy the southern two. The sad words of heartbroken Hosea would become a terrible reality: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos 4:6).
The Captivity Stage: Ezekiel, Daniel
“If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime!” This seems to be the official in-house proverb among prisoners, used especially to taunt newcomers who often complain bitterly about their “unfair” incarcerations. The Chaotic Kingdom Stage describes Israel’s crime. The Captivity Stage records the time. The righteous Judge, however, does not “throw the book” at his guilty nation by imposing either the death sentence or life plus 99 years! Instead, he graciously limits confinement to 70 years. But then, wonder of wonders, he not only promises to be with his spiritual prisoners during that confinement, but to then fully restore them to their former homeland. As one considers these facts, it becomes evident that the real purpose for the Babylonian captivity was more to purify than to punish. A politician and a priest now become God’s two chief spokesmen. Daniel and Ezekiel are used to promote, protect, and preserve those taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. Their two books graphically describe those awesome events transpiring during those 70 years in exile. As a result of those seven long decades, Israel learned its lesson. Never again would that nation be guilty of the crime of worshiping idols.
The Return Stage: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Many Jewish exiles doubtless wondered whether Jeremiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied just before the Babylonian captivity: “For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jer 29:10). Had Jeremiah heard God correctly? Should this amazing prophecy be taken literally? Now the truth was out. He had and it should. The official Persian decree, issued by Cyrus the Great himself, fulfilled Jeremiah’s prediction: “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2-3). The Return Stage gives the account of what happened to the minority of Jewish people who decided to return to Jerusalem and the majority who remained in Babylon. The actions of Zerubbabel, Joshua, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah summarize the minority group. The actions of Esther and Mordecai summarize the majority group. Before the story ended, both groups found themselves in great conflict. The minority faced bitter hostility, and the majority, an outright holocaust. But in each case God’s promise concerning his people rang true: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa 43:2).
The Gospel Stage: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
There was little doubt that they were the best-known couple in Herod’s Temple at that time. No, they were not married. In fact the woman had been a widow for many years. We are told very little about them, but what we do know plays an all-important part in the Gospel Stage. His name was Simeon and her name was Anna. A. In regard to Simeon (Luke 2:25-26, NKJV) “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” B. In regard to Anna (Luke 2:36-37, NKJV) “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” From these verses it may well be rightly concluded that no other individual or groups of individuals in all of Israel during those days demonstrated more passion in their anticipation of the Jewish Messiah’s imminent appearance than did these two old people! Amazing indeed! Others had just been born or would soon be born who would eventually assume their roles in the divine drama of redemption: An infant son to a beloved priest some six months prior (John the Baptist). B. Four baby boys born all living in Galilee, where they would become fishermen (Andrew, Peter, James and John). C. The offspring of a wealthy and influential family. The boy would eventually be regarded as one of Israel’s greatest teachers (Nicodemus). D. Two baby boys who would soon give themselves over to a life of crime and eventually pay the supreme price for it (two thieves at Calvary). E. A baby girl who would eventually be freed from the torment of having seven demons (Mary Magdalene). F. A baby boy who was born blind to the grief of his parents (John 9). G. A baby girl to a rising and materialistic young priest. She would later marry another priest equally as godless as his father-in-law (Annas and Caiaphas). Yes, all the props would soon be in place followed by the dimming of the lights and the sound of music.
The Early Church Stage: Acts
If the previous overview had a theme, it might have been “Twas the night before Christmas.” In that case, the one for this stage could be “Twas the day before Pentecost.” The Father had already sent his Son to purchase our redemption, which he did by his death on the cross. He would now send his Spirit to proclaim that glorious truth everywhere! And it was indeed proclaimed! A small nucleus of 120 believers would soon be joined by thousands upon thousands of Christ-followers. In fact, a Jewish historian by the name of Josephus, writing at the time, estimated as many as one-third of all those living in Jerusalem had become disciples of Jesus. And this was in the Holy City alone. In fact, the period recorded in the book of Acts from 30 to 60 ad could well be referred to as “Those Three Decades of Divine Destiny!” With the exception of the Gospel Stage, this period doubtless witnessed more advancements in regard to the Kingdom of God than any other in biblical history. The action never seemed to pause—beginning with the mighty Spirit outpouring at Pentecost, followed by additional miracles, fruitful missionary trips, successful church-planting activities, and great preaching crusades. Furthermore, nearly one-half of the New Testament Epistles were written at this time, all authored by one of the church’s most vicious enemies prior to his conversion—Saul of Tarsus—who would become the apostle Paul. Glorious indeed are the ways of God!
The Pauline Epistles: Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy
The general Epistles: 1st Peter, 2nd Peter, James, 1st John, 2nd John, 3 John, Jude
What a blessed and exciting time the original “Upper Room 120” group of believers were having (Acts 1:15)! Following Pentecost, they had seen the conversion and baptism of literally thousands upon thousands of people (Acts 2:41; 5:14). In addition, they had the privilege of hearing both great preaching and teaching—and being a part of Spirit-filled prayer meetings. Who could possibly ask for more? But eventually, these early believers felt there was indeed more—a final element to complete their assignment to be witnesses for Christ. Actually, it had to do with the Old Testament books. God had once ministered to his people Israel by sending the writing prophets such as Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, and others. Thus, his new people, the church, needed this to be done for them. In fact, many questions and issues had been raised which could only be addressed by the arrival of scriptural revelations. To address them, God provided a solution: Introducing … Peter, Paul, John, James, Jude! These five writing warriors would enlighten the body of Christ. On each of these topics, these men wrote to address them: A. The nature of the church—read Ephesians, Colossians. B. Great theological concepts concerning justification, sanctification, glorification, and more—read Romans, Galatians. C. Christian liberty—read 1 Corinthians. D. Christian forgiveness—read Philemon. E. Christ’s high priestly ministry—read Hebrews. F. Israel’s future—read Romans 9–11. G. The church’s future—read 1 Thessalonians and Revelation.