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An Overview of the Bible, Establishing a Timeline

Timeline Restrictions

There are inherent difficulties of placing books of the Bible on a timeline or within a restrictive time frame. Many of the books of the Bible contain overlapping and transitional features that a finite timeline simply cannot adequately illustrate. Furthermore, much of the Bible contains prophecy covering periods thousands of years ahead of its initial revelation and recording. In addition to these complexities, most prophecy finds its fulfillment fragmented. The prophecy has a partial fulfillment in the past with the completed fulfillment yet to come in a future time. There are also many instances of dual fulfillment: past and future. Thus, a book of the Bible may be placed in the Old Testament but have content (especially concerning prophecy) yet to be fulfilled far into the New Testament.

The Old Testament Breakdown

The Pentateuch (Genesis Through Deuteronomy = ~4000 BC to ~1500 BC)

The Old Testament records God’s dealings predominantly with the Jews and through the Jews. The Pentateuch is no exception to that fact. However, the first eleven chapters of Genesis cover a time frame prior to the formation of the Jewish people through the calling out of Abram. Note: Although the authors stand by the previous statement, it should be noted that Abram was called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13) likely tying him back to his great, great, great, great grandfather, Eber (Genesis 11:14-17) or Heber (Luke 3:35).

The book of Genesis also speaks of the wanderings of the patriarchs (the Jewish fathers) ending with their settling in the land of Egypt. The remainder of this section chronicles Israel’s deliverance from Egypt along with their journey to the land of promise. Specific emphasis in this section is placed upon the provision of laws or commandments to be obeyed by the Jewish nation upon entering the land.

History (Joshua Through Esther = ~1500 BC to ~500 BC)

This section begins with one man (Joshua) leading a mostly united nation into the land of promise. It ends with one woman (Esther) risking her life to spare a remnant of that same nation while being held captive within a heathen land. The nation repeatedly ignored God’s laws (mentioned in the previous section), resulting in their ultimate demise. As they rejected the God that brought them into the land, they turned to the idols that had been the root cause for removal of the land’s previous inhabitants.

Just as God warned, their rebellion led Him to give both the northern (Israel) and the southern (Judah) kingdoms into the hands of their enemies. This section covers their captivities in detail. Also of notable interest: the first section (the Pentateuch) to this section (History) has no overlap; This section, however, does overlap with the prophecy section by approximately 300 years. This overlap will be further explored with the details of the section titled Prophecy (Old Testament).

Poetry (Job Through Song of Solomon = No Notable Time Frame)

Prophecy-Old Testament (Isaiah Through Malachi = ~800 BC to ~400 BC)

For approximately 500 years, Israel as one united nation dwelt within the promised land. Solomon’s collecting of pagan wives and his compromise with idolatry and the worship of false gods caused the kingdom to be divided into two kingdoms following Solomon’s death. It split into the ten northern tribes and the two southern tribes. The southern kingdom (Judah) retained a king from David’s lineage while the northern kingdom (Israel) was not ruled by a descendant of David.

Unfortunately, both kingdoms were forced into captivity because they rebelled against God. Israel suffered the Assyrian captivity, while Judah found itself in the Babylonian captivity. In advance of their respective captivities, God, in His grace, sent prophets to warn of the impending judgment. These warnings were mostly ignored. For instance, Amos and Hosea were sent to Israel, while Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk were sent to Judah. During their captivities, God sent Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. These prophets were sent to exhort the people, to warn of immediate judgment, and to promise deliverance. God used Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi to minister during and after each return of the Jews to the land to help them to become reestablished. Many of the prophecies in this section spoke of immediate deliverance taking place at the time of their writings. Their partial fulfillment indicated the deeper prophetic nature of the writings. These writings pointed forward to the work that God’s Son would accomplish in both His first and second coming to earth.

Note: This section contains frequently misapplied promises usurped by those attempting to assimilate the Jewish promises into the New Testament church. God will fulfill His promises with those to whom He made them—the future believing Israel. A lack of spiritual understanding in this matter has led to confusion, error, and even heresies. Continued ignorance will simply lead to increased confusion, additional error, and further heresies.

The New Testament Breakdown

The Gospels (Matthew Through John = ~5 BC to ~AD 29)

The four gospels are the first books of the New Testament. These books follow the thirty-nine Old Testament books and the roughly 400 years of silence from God. The books of Matthew through John cover a period of time of approximately thirty-three years overlapping each other in content more so than any other section of scripture. They end with the ascension of Jesus Christ, the same event which kicks off the book of Acts. (Note: “5 BC” has been used to recognize the perceived errors in the calendar dating systems.)

The four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are both logically and theologically grouped together as a unit. For this reason, the four gospel books should be studied together as a unit. However, it should be noted that there is an obvious division between the Synoptic Gospels (that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the Gospel of John. Although there are likely many reasons for this distinction, John’s gospel was written “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

Note: John is the only writer that has a book in three of the four New Testament sections with Luke as the only other writer with a book in two of the four sections.

The Acts of the Apostles (Acts = ~AD 29 to ~AD 64)

The book of Acts follows the Gospel of John. It serves primarily as a historical and transitional book. It begins with the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ—the last major event recorded in the Gospels (Luke 24:51). The last half focuses upon Paul’s missionary journeys and ends with the apostle Paul in a Roman prison. As a historical book, Acts sets forth the act(ion)s of the apostles. Diligent Bible students quickly notice that the book of Acts is not primarily a book of doctrine but is predominantly historical in nature. As a transitional book, Acts transitions from the Gospels (covering the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter, and the other eleven apostles ministering primarily to the Jews) to Paul and his writings.

Within the book, it features a definite and defined transition from one primary spokesman (Peter) to another (Paul). As alluded to in Luke 22:32, Peter became the obvious leader of the apostles. The earliest chapters of the book of Acts further demonstrate Peter’s leadership role in the church’s embryonic stages. Following Acts chapter 12, the complete shift in prominence and focus from Peter to Paul becomes quite pronounced. This point is critical for understanding the Bible! For instance, Peter’s name appeared a total of fifty-eight times in Acts but only once after Acts chapter 12 (Acts 15:7). Even this occurrence in Acts chapter 15 shows Peter supporting the ministry of the apostle Paul. On the other hand, Saul (whose name is changed to Paul) appears 157 times in Acts with 141 of those occurrences after Acts chapter 12.

The Epistles (Romans Through Jude = ~AD 40 to ~AD 95)

The twenty-one epistles were authored by five men with the bulk of the writing being the work of the apostle Paul (obviously via the Holy Ghost) (1 Corinthians 2:13). Seventeen of these epistles begin with the name of the author. Interestingly, John did not use his name in his epistles or his gospel. The book of Hebrews uniquely stands apart from the other books in this section (which will be discussed later in this work). These epistles take the church from its infancy all the way to the throne in Heaven, providing doctrinal and practical instruction for its purification all along the way (Ephesians 5:25-27). Many of the epistles begin with doctrinal teaching followed by the practical execution of the doctrines taught. The life of the church parallels the life of an individual. In infancy, the church operated with the signs and wonders required by the Jews, but later blossomed into the abiding strengths of “faith, hope, and charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Prophecy-New Testament (Revelation = ~AD 33 to Eternity)

This section is divided into three parts because it contains relevant content covering three distinct periods: the Church Age (Revelation chapters 1-3 through 4:1); Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Revelation chapters 4-18); and the Second Coming, kingdom, and eternity future (Revelation chapters 19-22).

The first three chapters of Revelation contain letters to seven churches similar to epistles sent by Paul and the other apostles to churches (although the Revelation letters are very short). The fourth chapter sets forth John’s rapture into Heaven to receive additional revelation (also representing a wonderful PICTURE of the church’s rapture and its presence in Heaven prior to the onset of any part of Daniel’s Seventieth Week (commonly called the Tribulation Period).

Revelation chapters 5 through 18 expound upon the persecution of the Jews and outpouring of Satan’s wrath. As it was in the days of Job, the Devil and man will only be able to do to the Jews that which God permits. Therefore, the wrath depicted in these chapters is ultimately God’s wrath. At that time, God’s attention and prophetic plan again focuses upon the Jews—no Replacement Theology here. Revelation chapter 19 chronicles the return of Christ with His armies. At this return, the Jews will be judged. This judgment is described in Ezekiel 20:34-38. At this judgment, the Lord will plead with the Jews face-to-face (Ezekiel 20:35-36) and the timing is clear—“I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered” (Ezekiel 20:34). Those who are found to be rebels will be purged (Ezekiel 20:38) and those who have exercised faith in the Lord’s revealed truth will be brought “into the bond of the covenant” (Ezekiel 20:37) and ushered into the land, so fulfilling the promise that “all Israel shall be saved.”

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

All this happens in fulfillment of God’s covenant with the nation of Israel. Unfortunately, some teachers find themselves upon spiritually shaky ground with their incorrect teachings concerning “Israel’s salvation.” They have been taught to believe that “all Israel shall be saved” infers that God indiscriminately considers all those claiming to be Israel are in fact Israel. Yet, God delineates Israel’s constituency and it is not all inclusive.

Romans 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

The Bible says that NOT ALL Israel are “of Israel”! Regrettably, the spiritual misconceptions do not end there. These same Bible teachers apply passages dealing with physical salvation (or deliverance) during Daniel’s Seventieth Week to the soul’s salvation. It is hard to imagine how anyone could apply the next two passages to the soul when the context plainly refers to physical (flesh) being saved (or delivered).

Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Matthew 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

God promised to shorten the days to preserve physical life. If those days during that time are not shortened in some fashion, the Bible says that none of the elect (believing Israel) would be able to physically endure unto the end. The shorter the days, the more that will be saved— spared physically. No flesh during Daniel’s Seventieth Week on its own power will be saved, spared, or preserved! None whatsoever! Interestingly, Jeremiah prophesied extensively concerning the physical salvation of Judah and Israel dwelling safely in the land.

Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Following the Second Advent, the Judgment of the Nations, and the Judgment of the Jews, Revelation chapter 20 describes the kingdom, the Great White Throne, and the Second Death. Finally, the last two chapters of Revelation introduce the New Jerusalem and the beginning of eternity future.