25 August 2022


We have considered biblical theology and the biblical storyline. In a nutshell, the biblical story is fundamentally about what God has done and will do to bring this world to judgment and His people to salvation; it reveals the plan of salvation and how God has accomplished that plan, first through Israel and finally through Jesus Christ.

The biblical storyline focuses on God’s eternal purpose to create through Jesus Christ a new society and humanity, one characterised by life in place of death, unity and reconciliation in place of corruption and wickedness, peace and love in place of strife and hatred (Ephesians 1).

This means that the fallen humanity and creation in the first Adam is decaying and meeting an impending disaster. The human predicament is even deeper than the injustice in the world – it is characterised by selfish desires and corruption of the hearts of men and women. It cannot be corrected by political ideology; it cannot be solved by improved economic pursuits; it cannot be overturned by ‘revolution’ or new resolutions.

Through Jesus Christ, God is creating a single new humanity in place of the old disastrous one with its decaying values – God is recreating believers in His own image ‘in true righteousness and holiness’. The new man and the new society and humanity are God’s creative work – it is beyond the capacity of human power and ingenuity. It depends solely on the work and power of the divine Creator alone. Notice in John 3 that the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a leader among the Jews who was well trained in the Old Testament and ‘Torah’, that he must be ‘born again’. It has to be a new creation through the work of God’s Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17) – the old will not do, and it cannot enable one to enter the kingdom of God. Although this applied to Nicodemus personally, it is also true for all who desire to enter the new ‘humanity’ headed by the second Adam, Jesus Christ Himself.

Understanding this, certain implications and applications follow:

A) Our churches are in fact participating in the heavenly assembly joined “together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2). The local church is not the church entire, but she is the church complete. Everything the universal church is, the local church is, the local church pictures in microcosm.

The local church is meant by Christ to be a localised picture in real time of the church He bought with His blood, that single assembly that He will finally summon on the last day.The unity of the church works itself out in many practical ways: – they are to bear with each other (Eph. 4:2); they are to wait on one another, and celebrate the Lord’s supper together (1 Cor. 11:33); they are to share with others of the assembly who are in need (Acts 4:32-35); they are to contend together for the faith (Phil. 1:27). Unfortunately, what we see now in the ‘church’ is generally not a community of believers united with Christ but rather, a collection of groups of individuals with common interests or values, resulting in a ‘social club’ which meets the needs and desires of various ones. Beside ‘wheat’, there are ‘tares’ in abundance in the local assembly; there are also those who seek life-partners, social interaction and a need for personal desires and not interested in God and His revelation.

Para-church organisations cannot replace the church – they exist because the church has failed to be a church which God desires. When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matt. 28, the mission is to be worked out in the church (where baptising, making disciples and teaching all that Jesus has commanded take place) in the context of the working of the Holy Trinity. In that sense, there is no place of making our own disciples for our own organisations – true discipleship is worked out in the context of healthy churchlife with the Triune God as the Lord and Master disciplemaker, and the church as the ‘body of Christ’ with the members functioning healthily and in unity with the Head.

B) Christian marriage is not finally about the love between one man and one woman; it is about the love affair between Christ and the church. Every christian marriage points to the ultimate marriage of the bride (the church) and Christ (the bridegroom). Christian families in the church are therefore to reflect the characteristics of God’s family.

C) The church’s goal, and in fact the goal of all creation (cf. Rom.8:19), is that we be conformed to the image of Christ, something accomplished only by the Spirit through the regenerating power of God in the gospel (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:16-19). Through the gospel, the Spirit unites us to Christ, so that the life we live is His life (Rom.8:9-11; Phil. 1:21). A change of thinking and behaviour comes from above, as the Spirit regenerates and rejuvenates the heart in the context of churchlife and bodylife. Real change means repenting from sin and putting faith in the grace of God held out in Jesus Christ; it happens through the gospel, through receiving and resting on what Christ accomplished on the cross.

D) The church is called to witness to the Son; she proclaims His message; she makes disciples and she displays within herself the life of the kingdom. Like an outpost of heaven, she is a beacon and a display of the unique work that the Son is accomplishing within her.

E) We note that the church is given a specific mission by Christ her Head. She is to make disciples, to preach the gospel, and to teach disciples to obey everything Jesus has commanded (Matt.28:18-20). This is the primary mission.
If we are not careful, we can deviate from this mission. For instance, the church might embark, as a priority, to focus on acts of social mercy, to alleviate poverty in the world and to be involved in many social concerns to the point of losing the primary mission. True, care for the poor inside the local church is commanded and modeled in the New Testament (Acts 4:6; 1 Cor. 16). Insofar as caring for the poor can, in many circumstances, be used in making disciples and commending the gospel, the church may assess and responsibly choose to care for the poor but she has to cautious not to lose her first and important mandate – to proclaim the good news and to fulfil the Great Commission and end up with the social gospel instead.

As a church, we are not to live as if this world does not matter. Our good deeds are to be evident to all. There is no question that we should go and be salt and light in the world (Matt.5:13-16); but this does not mean accommodating to the world and stopping proclamation of the good news. The end of the biblical storyline is not accomplished through the mercy ministry of the church; no, the end of the story is when the elect from all the nations are finally and forever made one in the new heavens and the new earth, displaying the glory of God Himself.

Our mission as a church is not the renewal of culture; it is the redemption of souls. Our war is not the culture war, but a war against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And our hope is not in the political levers of power or the movement to change the values of unbelievers – our hope is in the sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords, who even now reigns at the right hand of God.

When John the Apostle was shown the pressures on the churches in Revelation and the cosmic upheavals and persecution of God’s people, in the midst of all these, he was transported to the heavenly realm.

‘At once, I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven with one seated on the throne’ (Rev. 4:2).

‘…and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God’ (Rev. 4:5b)

‘And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lam standing as though it had been slain with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth’ (Rev. 4:6). And there was continual worship of, and singing of praise to the One seating on the throne and to the Lamb by multitudes and multitudes of angels.To the Lamb was dedicated the song: … “for you were slaln, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).

In the midst of calamities, suffering and persecution, do not forget that God is still on the throne and Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father. We are looking and waiting for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14) – that is the culmination of the biblical storyline. We must not be side-tracked in the meantime from our mission and mandate given by the Lord Jesus.


One of the greatest dangers facing us today is the spirit of despair as life becomes uncertain amidst war, tragedies, calamities.
We recall in the previous sharing that Apostle John was given a vision in the Spirit and ‘he went up to heaven and at once he was confronted by a throne and by one who was seated upon the throne’; John was then given a preview of history and a ‘revelation’ of the unfolding future.

Before John was given the vision of history and the unfolding of the future, he had to start with the great vision of God upon the throne. In a sense, he was reminded that man’s relationship to God is more important than his relationship to history. Kingdoms may come and go, empires may rise and wax and wane, civilisations may appear and vanish, but God remains, and our relationship with Him is something eternal.

John was also reminded that everything, history included, starts with God, is under God, and will end with God. God is at the back of everything; He is the Author of everything; He is the originator of history and there would be no history but for God. History itself starts with God, is ever under God, and will certainly end with God. It is God who started the process and it is God who will wind up the process (this is the essence of the biblical storyline).

We are told that John saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals – in it is the account of the future history of mankind and of the world. Everything that is going to happen is known perfectly by God and there are no surprises for God. History is ultimately controlled by God.

Basically, there are two types of history: the history that God permits and the history that God produces. The first one that God permits is the only concern of secular history. Take the great story of the world with all the rivalries, jealousies, quarrels and warfare. Now all that is the history God permits and allows. Secular history makes a great deal of empires and dynasties – it records the great battles of history and the great leaders and generals as if they were the most important factors in life. Interestingly, the Bible records the briefest accounts of all these and pays attention to that which has relevance to biblical storyline and to the outworking of God’s eternal plan.

The second type of history is that which God determines, the history that God brings to pass (Note Rev. 5:1-4), The breaking of the seals means that God was bringing history to pass. The history is a record of God’s intervention, God’s overruling and God’s sovereignty in action. God is bringing to pass His own great and gracious purposes; it is the grand history of God’s redeeming purpose on the human plane.

The two types of history are constantly interacting and they intersect according to God’s ultimate purpose. The true significance of history, as seen in the biblical storyline, is a record of the conflict between God and evil.

God, in His infinite wisdom, permitted evil to come into existence and evil is terribly powerful and it has entered into the life and story of mankind. It has brought havoc, discord, and misery into the world. God made a perfect world and men and women were made to enjoy the fruits of the earth and communion with God. The power of evil is stronger than man – it would have finally destroyed men and the world were it not for the fact that Glod came in.
The Bible tells you the story of creation and tells you of that which came in and spoiled it, and then it tells you of God coming in. The conflict between God and evil, between heaven and hell, has been going on ever since. The great process of redemption originated and initiated by God, has continued ever since.

Evil, we are told, may take many different forms and many different shapes. Sometimes, it appears in a very ugly and hideous form; at times, it is incarnated in certain men who seem to be the very embodiment of the spirit of rebellion and antagonism to God; it can rear its head in nations and dynasties that are godless. But evil can also appear respectable; it may parade itself as a false religion; it may show itself as idealism, humanism, materialism, even culture.

What matters is not which regiment of evil we may belong to, but are we on the side of God? Anything which is not of God belongs, of necessity, to the kingdom of darkness and iniquity. This is the test facing us in the coming future – this is what is revealed in the book of Revelation. Will we be on God’s side or on the side of evil (seen in Antichrist, the false prophet and satan)? This is the biblical storyline that will unfold. In the interim and temporarily, there is nothing to expect but apparent defeat and temporary suffering. In the immediate it is pessimistic. But thank God, it is only in the immediate. In the ultimate it is optimistic.

The Bible pours scorn and ridicule upon the various movements of idealism in human history, for they never come to anything. Civilisations rise and wane. The world seems to be making much progress and then it crashes down. Several world wars have come to pass. Despite technological progress, even reaching out to space, serious climate change, the probability of nuclear warfare, famine, hunger – all these are still rife and moving to situations beyond correction.

At the end, we are reminded of the power of Christ, the sovereignty of God, and the eternal plan of God. We would see all that has raised its arrogant head against the Lord of glory defeated and cast into the lake of fire. God and His saints triumph over all and there is a new heaven and a new earth, and the glory of God is revealed. History is not going around in circles – it is moving towards an end, and God is at the beginning and the end of human history.