I once met a highly decorated soldier who told me, “I’ve developed a desire to read the Bible. My wife gave me a Bible as a gift for Christmas, and I want to read it through. Is there something that could help me understand the Bible better?”
I explained that nobody would begin building a house without a set of plans. Constructing a house requires a framework. So too, before one can read and understand the Bible, a proper framework is needed.
I told him the Bible is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “The Scriptures speak of me” (John 5:39), Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Bible.
The problem many have when they start reading the Bible is that they don’t set out to see how everything in Scripture revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is that time we celebrate the Creator of the universe coming to earth as a Man. Emmanuel means “God with us.” The Creator came “humbling Himself by becoming obedient to death” (Philippians 2:8).
He came to fulfill the Law of “sin and death” for us, setting us free from the condemning power of His Law (Romans 8:2). Our Creator commanded mankind to live life to its fullest, loving others the way He loves us. But we’ve all broken His Law, and we deserve to die because of our sin, at least according to the Lawgiver, who sets the penalty for violating His Law (Romans 6:23). It’s fruitless to argue with God that you don’t deserve to die for your sin because He has said in His Law, “The one who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
But God, in His love for sinners, came to take our place, absorbing the penalty of death on Himself, conquering it through His resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-8), and promising life now and life eternally to those who trust Him (Romans 6:23).
Time for western civilization has historically been measured by the coming of God to this world, an act called “the Incarnation.” Chili with “meat” is called “chili con carne.” Carne is the Latin word that means “meat” or “flesh.” When the invisible, immortal, immutable Creator God took on “flesh,” we call it the In-carn-ation.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son.” (Gal. 4:4)
Celebrating the Messiah in a manger at Bethlehem has meaning only when comprehending the Messiah on a cross at Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:19).
So Christ is the center of history because nothing in history is more significant than Christ’s coming for us.
Before Christ and the Year of our Lord (Anno Domini)
B.C. is an abbreviation for “Before Christ” and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation “Anno Domini” which in English means, “The Year of Our Lord.” When the abbreviations are properly used, B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500).
Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if events occurred before the Incarnation of God or after it.
Before the coming of Christ at Bethlehem, the dates of historical events were measured in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.). People would measure the time of an event by saying “in the third year of the XI Olympiad.” The ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C. and occurred every four years, so “the third year of the XI Olympiad” is 743 B.C.
During the Roman era, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. For the Jewish people, the time/date of events has been measured using the A.M. (anno mundi) which in Latin means for “Year of the World.” The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. from Creation.
|The First Olympiad (776 B.C.)|
Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive “year of our Lord” in dating abbreviations. C.E. means “Common Era,” and B.C.E. means “Before the Common Era.” Of course, a person might ask “What makes our era common?” and one might respond, “The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man” (see Colossians 1:16).The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ’s name, but I am reminded that “those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them” (see Luke 9:26).
So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates – when memorized – will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.) when the dates will be precise.
The Creation of Adam
|Adam (4000 B.C.)|
or relatively young (e.g. “thousands of years”), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date.
Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and “discovered” that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals.
Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27).
|The Flood (2345 B.C.)|
This date is easy to remember – 2 3 4 5 – years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because “man was evil.”
The re-population of the earth began again with Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world’s population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe.
The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world’s population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion).
As a young man, Abram lived in “Ur of the Chaldees” (an ancient city in modern Iraq). God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s family to go “to a land that I will show you” (Genes12:1; Acts 7:2).
|Abram is born (2000 B.C.)|
This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Genesis 12:2), through whom “all the peoples of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Abram to Himself to “make of him a great nation” (
Abraham’s family is the beginning of a nation of people called Israel. God chooses Israel as the nation through whom the Messiah would come. God chose them from all the nations of the world not because they were mighty or strong, but because they were weak. God chooses the weak things of this world to put the mighty to shame
Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to “Israel.” Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).
|God calls Moses at the Burning Bush (1500 B.C.)|
God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to over 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by “immigration” like the United States has had, it’s not hard to understand how Israel became a “great nation” while in Egypt.
When God called Moses at the burning bush, He said, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6)
Moses led God’s people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.
This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant “the Old Covenant.” Israel called it “The Law.” The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land – the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, – literally, everything about Israel revolved around God’s Law. Why? The Law pointed to the Messiah who was to come through Israel to “bless all the peoples of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3). Jesus came “to fulfill the Law.” Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who fulfilled the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.
God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God’s people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually, they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted “a king” for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel “like other nations” (I Samuel 8).
|Israel Divides Into Two Nations (931 B.C.)|
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to
Two tribes – Judah and Benjamin – remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.
Historical books (17 books) – Genesis to Esther
Poetical books (5 books) – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 books) – Isaiah to Malachi
There are a total of 39 books in the Old Testament. You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms.
The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel, and
|Assyria, the World’s FIRST Empire|
their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was “repent” or “perish.” The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets, God then raised up the Assyrians, the world’s first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Nineveh was Assyria’s capital), and brought in pagan men they’d captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women.
After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would “reign over the house of David forever.” King David was from the tribe of Judah. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” was still in effect.
|400 Years from the Close of the Old Testament to Christ|
A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don’t realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It’s interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews.
It is during this period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees). From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn’t have written it (because a man can’t tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. A man may not know the future, but God does.
The Birth of Christ
|The birth of Christ (4 B.C.)|
I won’t get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to do with leap years), but it will help you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. – The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. – The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. – The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came “to fulfill the Law” and make a New Agreement with the world.
The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ – who came to fulfill the Law – are perfectly blessed by God. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. It’s odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ’s second coming than we do His first coming. Christ’s coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything.
|Jesus died and rose again (A.D. 30)|
The death of Jesus Christ is God’s mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never ever forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be “limited” to a Man. How can God be both Spirit and Man?
The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us is so transcendent (i.e. “beyond us”), we would never be able to comprehend Him except that in His love for us He condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel – God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him.
|The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (A.D. 70)|
The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls “the last days.” It’s the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.
In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to “the Jews first, then the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc…), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. “The last days” of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world.
Trust Christ and live.