Beginning with the end

Despite Maria's refrain in 'do re me,' the beginning is not always the best place to start. When reading a map we commonly look to our destination first and then plot the route from our start point. So it is with the Bible.

We are fortunate to live AD. We know where God's great salvation plan is heading. He has already plotted the route to redemption. We are just retracing it. With one day until our reading plan begins I therefore thought it worth reminding us of our destination. This is helpful as it makes better sense of some of the landmarks we'll pass and the choices we'll see God made with respect to the route.

Essentially God's great goal can be summed up as "Christ over all." Paul puts this wonderfully in Ephesians 1v3-14. Read it here, noting especially v10.

Scholars have thought much about whether there is a key theme upon which the Bible's storyline can be hung. Paul's words here suggest that ‘the kingdom of God’ - more specifically ‘the reign of God in Christ’ would seem right. This is the goal of history when "the times reach their fulfilment" (v10). Jesus' gospel summary that "the kingdom of God is near" confirms this.

But there are many wonderful truths Paul weaves in. First, the kingdom of God is not simply about rule but about relationships. Its subjects are also adopted (and forgiven) sons. They don't just serve the king, they know him. Here for both ladies and gents, "sons" implies "inheritors." Second, this leads to holiness. Later in the letter we learn this is essentially to "image" God (4v32-5v2). Our destiny is eventually to be like him: to be free from sin, and pleasing to him in every way. Third, this of course means blessing, which is to be granted joy by God. But note this is "every spiritual blessing." There is nothing that might bring joy from God that these sons haven't been given.

Perhaps the most striking detail however, is that the Lord is doing all this that these people might be "for the praise of his glory" (v12,14) and especially of his grace (v6). God's "glory" is the display of his excellence just as the glory of a view is its beauty on show. So God's purpose throughout is that his excellence is displayed. It is this truth, perhaps more than any other, which gives some explanation as to why history unfolds as it does.

We instinctively feel seeking one’s own glory is to rather lack the humility we see in Christ. However, we recognize that it is an injustice for someone's name to be defamed by the press. It is therefore a reflection of the fact that God only does what is right that he seeks his own glory. And we should remember that this is to our benefit.

Before beginning our Bible overview we might therefore attempt to sum up God's great purpose in history as something like this: God's purpose in history is to glorify himself by displaying his character and grace in saving and blessing a people to image him in his world and know him through his Son.

In his excellent Bible overview "Gospel and Kingdom," Graeme Goldsworthy summed up the kingdom of God with the phrase “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” In terms of God’s purpose however we can elaborate on that: God's purpose is to establish a people to live to his praise, enjoying his place, obeying his rule under his ruler. From Eden to Eternity we will see these truths to be dominant. They are truths that mean whatever the New Year brings, it can still deep down be a happy one.