‘From Eden to the New Jerusalem’ by T. Desmond Alexander

In this book, T. Desmond Alexander traces some of the central themes of the Bible story. Dr Alexander explores each theme in an unusual way – by beginning at the end of the Bible, in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. In this way, he keeps the goal of God’s plan of redemption in view as we track each theme from Genesis onwards through the Bible.

There seven main chapters, bracketed by an introduction and conclusion. Here are the titles of these seven chapters; each is followed by an outline of the chapter’s content.

Chapter 2: “From sacred garden to holy city: experiencing the presence of God. ” This is by some way the longest chapter. It develops the central theme of God’s presence on Earth. We’re introduced to the end-goal of God’s plan: Revelation 21.1-3 describes the holy city that possibly fills the whole earth, and where God lives with His people. After an overview of the Bible’s theme of God’s dwelling on Earth, Alexander shows us that New Jerusalem is a temple-city. Then we’re taken back to the beginning: he shows us that God’s first dwelling place on Earth was the temple-garden of Eden. But after their sin, Alexander explains that God deprived Adam and Eve of their priestly status in God’s temple-garden; God’s plan that, in Alexander’s words, “the whole earth should become a holy garden-city” is jeopardised. Alexander briefly looks at the escalation of sin and God’s response by sending the Flood, and at the Babel project. Alexander then traces the path that God took to restore Earth to be His dwelling place with humanity – through the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Church as God’s temple. Finally, he looks briefly at the New Testament’s references to God’s promise of His city.

Chapter 3: “Thrown from the throne: re-establishing the sovereignty of God.” Alexander first looks at God’s sovereignty over Earth and mankind’s original vocation as God’s viceroys – as royal priests. But, as Alexander tells us, “By betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God” . He then traces the way God restored His sovereignty over the whole Earth – firstly, through Abraham and through the theocracy of Israel, and then through the Man Christ Jesus. The author shows that Christ is now God’s viceroy over Earth, a role that His Church – a royal priesthood – shares. As he writes, “By living in obedience to Christ, his disciples participate in the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth.” Finally, he briefly looks forward to the time, pictured in Revelation chapters 21-22, when God is king over the whole Earth.

Chapter 4: “Dealing with the devil: destroying the source of evil.” In this chapter Alexander explains that Satan exercises authority over this world, and outlines how he came to do so. He traces the ensuing conflict between God and Satan as it is played out in the world. He looks at Jesus’ conflict with Satan, culminating in Jesus’s death, which seems to be a triumph for Satan. But, as he tells us, “Apparent defeat is dramatically turned into victory with the resurrection of Jesus. For this reason, Jesus can subsequently proclaim to his disciples, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28.18).” Finally, he briefly looks at the end of Satan’s domination as described in Revelation 20, and believers’ spiritual warfare in this present world.

Chapter 5: “The slaughter of the Lamb: accomplishing the redemption of creation. ” Five times, the last two chapters of Revelation refer to Jesus Christ as “the Lamb”; He is referred to as a “Lamb” 28 times in all. He briefly looks at the image of Christ as the Lamb in the Book of Revelation, then back to the Passover in Exodus. He writes that “the Lamb of Revelation 5 is undoubtedly associated with the Old Testament exodus story”. He takes us through the first Passover in Egypt. He explains that the Passover ritual in Egypt provided atonement and purification, and that Jesus’s sacrificial death provides atonement and purification for all believers. Dr Alexander also writes that eating the Passover lamb in Egypt made people holy; and that eating the New Testament equivalent – the Lord’s Supper – sanctifies believers. In his words, “Like the original Passover sacrifice, his death atones for the sin of the people, his blood purifies and cleanses, and those who eat his body at the Lord’s Supper share in his holy nature.” (However, it isn’t clear why eating the Lord’s Supper sanctifies us. I can personally see a connection, however. Both the Old Testament Passover and the Lord’s Supper are covenant meals. Participating in them reaffirms the covenant bond between the Lord and His people – that is, the God’s people are committed to and belong to the Lord – and so therefore are holy to the Lord.)

Chapter 6: “Feasting from the tree of life: reinvigorating the lives of people from every nation.” Alexander writes, “we have traced how God has acted to reclaim the earth as his own and build a temple-city by gradually establishing his presence and sovereignty through the theocracy of Israel and the church. Central to the redemptive activity of God is the cross of Christ, for through it Satan is defeated and human beings are enabled to regain the holy, royal status Adam and Eve lost. Building on these observations, this chapter explores how John’s vision of the New Jerusalem anticipates human existence as we have never known it. The life to come will be truly abundant and fully satisfying. This hope is reflected in themes found in Revelation 21–22 that reappear throughout the entire biblical meta-story, in particular, the concepts of ‘holy people’, ‘tree of life’ and ‘nations’.” Alexander look briefly at God’s people as holy people in His presence. He then explores what the Book of Leviticus teaches about holiness, cleanness/purity and uncleanness/impurity. Dr Alexander writes, “To be holy is to be unblemished or unmarred; it is to be complete, perfect, whole”. So he then looks at the bodily wholeness that will be part of our holiness – bodily perfection and immortality, with access to the tree of life. Finally, he looks at the ecological transformation of our planet, and the social harmony we’ll enjoy, where peoples from all races and nations will live in unity.

Chapter 7: “Strong foundations and solid walls: living securely among the people of God.” Dr Alexander makes it clear that the New Testament builds upon what is revealed in the Old Testament. He writes, “The continuity between the Old and New Testaments is also important because it provides a greater basis for believing in the reality of the future New Jerusalem. . . . . As our study has revealed, the New Jerusalem is a natural extension of all that has been revealed in the rest of the Bible.”. He then explores the contrasts between the New Jerusalem and the other city described in Revelation – Babylon. He explains, “Babylon and the New Jerusalem represent contrasting worlds.” Babylon is a prostitute; in Alexander’s “the city of Babylon represents humanity’s obsession with wealth and power, which become a substitute for knowing God” . New Jerusalem is a bride; Alexander writes, this city “promises holiness, wholeness and love in the presence of God.”. He points out, “the book of Revelation warns us to come out of Babylon and encourages us to take our stand with Christ”.

Dr Alexander specialises in the study of Pentateuch and Biblical Theology. This book is based on his expertise in these areas, and there’s substantial theological depth underpinning this book. It bridges the gap between books written at a popular level and those aimed at such people as seminary students and scholars. The book is relatively brief (less than 200 pages of text) and accessible. The text is accompanied by many footnotes, and there’s a 9-page select bibliography at the end.

David Schrock has written a helpful summary and brief analysis HERE.

Read the publishers’ descriptions HERE and HERE

T. Desmond Alexander is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies in Union Theological College, a constituent college of the Institute of Theology at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests lie primarily in two areas: the Pentateuch and Biblical Theology. He has authored and edited a variety of articles and books.

‘Even Better than Eden’ video series by Nancy Guthrie

In her book, Even Better than Eden, (which I review HERE), Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Guthrie has now produced this same material in a series of nine videos. Session 8 – The Story of a Dwelling Place – can be watched free of charge on Vimeo, above. The complete set can be purchased as digital downloads HERE or on a flash drive HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

‘The One True Story’ by Tim Chester

This daily reading book is subtitled Daily Readings for Advent from Genesis to Jesus. In his introduction, Tim Chester writes, “Everyone loves the Christmas story  . . . . But the Christmas story is not just a great story. It’s the great story. It’s the story that ties together a thousand other stories. . . . . The Christmas story is the one true story because it completes and fulfils all the stories of the Bible. But it also goes on being the one true story. This is the story that makes sense of my story and your story. We were made to know God. All our longings only truly find their fulfilment in him and through him. The plotlines of our lives are meant to find their resolution in the enjoyment of God. But we’ve set our lives on other trajectories which always lead to disappointing endings. But through the Christmas story God is rewriting the story of human history, bringing it to a glorious climax. In all the busyness of Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to discover or rediscover how you can be part of the one true story.”

Each of the 24 chapters traces a theme from the Old Testament that finds its culmination in Jesus – for example, The new Adam, The dragon-slayer, The new ark, The rock, The anointed one, The good shepherd, and The end of exile. The chapters also explore how the Christmas story connects with our stories. Each chapter ends in a meditation, and a prayer. This book is packed with Biblical insights, and will provide a rich feast for meditation through the Advent season (or, for that matter, other times of the year, too). I can thoroughly recommend it.

Read the publisher’s description HERE

Tim Chester has also written two other Advent daily reading books: The One True Light: Daily Readings for Advent from the Gospel of John (read the publisher’s description HERE), and The One True Gift; Daily Readings for Advent to Encourage and Inspire (read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 16 (2 November 2018)

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework Dr David Schrock writes, “. . . in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

Exodus in 1 Kings Dr Alastair Roberts explores how the narrative of Solomon and the division of the kingdom is linked to Adam in the Garden of Eden and to the Exodus.

Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father” Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’,”Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended. The word, then, calls for closer scrutiny.”

Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia Here’s a remarkable story of how Iranian refugees in Serbia are turning to Christ.

”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Here’s a recording of it being sung congregationally at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference.

The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework.

David Schrock writes, “God’s people dwelling in God’s place under God’s rule: This tripartite division, outlined by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book According to Plan, well articulates the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden. Yet, often when Christians read the creation account in Genesis 1–2 they miss the royal and priestly themes in those two chapters. . . . . So, in what follows, I hope to provide a brief summary of the biblical evidence for seeing the first image-bearers (imago Dei) as royal priests commissioned by God to have priestly dominion over the earth—a commission later restored in type to Israel (see Exodus 19:5–6), fulfilled in Christ (see, e.g., Hebrews 5), and shared with all those who are in Christ (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10). In these sections, we will focus on the temple and by extension to the purpose and work of mankind in that original garden-sanctuary.”

He then explores the theme of the garden in the Bible, focusing on the garden’s role as a priestly and a royal sanctuary. He notes how the Garden is clearly seen as a sacred temple when comparing it to Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.

He concludes,“Therefore, in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”

To help show the biblical basis for this approach to Eden, Dr Schrock very helpfully lists a number of Bible passages relating to the theme of the garden.

Read the whole article HERE. Much of the research behind this article stems from Dr. Schrock’s dissertation, A Biblical-Theological Investigation of Christ’s Priesthood and Covenant Mediation with respect to the Extent of the Atonement, which can be downloaded free of charge HERE.

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Exodus in 1 Kings.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. That the author of Kings should date the start of the building of the temple from the Exodus is noteworthy. . . . . The building of the temple on the mountain in Jerusalem is, in many respects, the climax and the completion of the process begun in the Exodus. . . . . Since its construction, the tabernacle had functioned as a sort of portable Mount Sinai, an architectural extension of the theophany that occurred there. It was also a new Eden and microcosmic representation of the wider creation . . . . Solomon’s Temple introduces a new stage of history and, once again, there are echoes of the original creation and of Eden.”

And, as Dr Roberts tells us, “Within this world, Solomon is like a glorious new Adam. He is the wise ruler of the world, who is able to name the trees and the animals (4:29-34). Indeed, when the Queen of Sheba comes to him, it is akin to Eve being brought to Adam, the moment when the story of the first creation arrived at its zenith of glory. Unfortunately, just as in the account of the original creation, it is at this point that things all start to crumble. The rest of the story of Solomon is a tragic story of the fall of the new Adam and of being removed from the peace and rest of the new Eden.”

Dr Roberts traces the sorry story of Solomon’s fall through the division of the kingdom to the day when Ahijah the prophet prophesied the doom of the northern kingdom of Israel in 1 Kings 14.7-16. In Dr Roberts’ words, “There would be a great reversal of the Exodus as Israel once again found itself in captivity. The Red Sea Crossing would be undone, as Israel would find itself cast on the far side of the great River.”

Read the whole of this fascinating exposition HERE.

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Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father”.

Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’, “Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended.”

Dr Ross then explores the origin and meaning of the word, and the significance of calling God “Father”. He concludes, ”What, then, does the term “Father” for God mean for use? First, to call God Father is to speak of him as the absolutely sovereign God of creation. . . . . Second, to call God “Father” is to use covenant language. In all of God’s covenants, the people are “sons” or “children” by their adoption into the covenant. . . . . Third, for us to call God “Father” is indeed to acknowledge a close personal relationship with him; it is after all a family term. It is fair to say that in Jesus’ time the word was colloquial but respectful, even in human families; but it was not a childish expression like “daddy”. To call God “Father” is to affirm that we have been born into the family of God, . . . . But he is still the sovereign and holy Lord God; and the significance of the word “Father” is one of a reverent, respectful and solemn adult address of God.”

Read the whole article HERE.

As a postscript to Dr Ross’s article, my own personal attempt to translate ‘Abba’ – in order to bring out the intimacy and the respect that is inherent in the term – is “dearest Father”.

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Seeing the Iranian church grow . . . in Serbia.

A friend of mine, Nicky Andrews, tells of a remarkable turning to Christ among Iranian refugees in Serbia. She writes, “The OM field leader of the Balkan region, Volker Sachse, doesn’t cry easily. But in the past three or four years, he has often been moved to tears by the plight of refugees he has met in Serbia; OM has played a significant humanitarian role in one of the government-run camps there since the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe escalated in 2015. Today, however, it is tears of joy that brighten Volker’s eyes, as he describes how many refugees from Iran are turning to Jesus during a worldwide move of God amongst Iranians. “It’s a privilege for me to witness the Lord touching so many Iranians in Serbia, including in the camp where OM works,” he shares.”

There is now a need to disciple these new believers. Nicky writes, “[Volker] shares, though, that there is ongoing need to nurture the young believers towards greater maturity. “So, I’m very excited by the possibility of running an intensive discipleship training course for up to eight Iranian believers over five days, which would then be repeated for a second group of eight.” says Volker. . . . . The training would be aimed at equipping Christians to launch a church plant in the camp.”

More information about how to be involved, including how to contribute financially to the discipleship programme, is available HERE.

Read the whole article HERE.

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”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. This particular recording is part of an album recorded live from the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

The lyrics are available HERE.

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‘The House of God’ by L. Michael Morales

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of cloud, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

L. Michael Morales writes, “When the fiery cloud of God moved from the summit of Mount Sinai to the newly constructed tabernacle, covering God’s house with smoke and filling it with His glory (Exodus 40.34), a pinnacle in God’s dealings with humanity was realized. In this majestic scene, the book of Exodus ends with a resolution, albeit temporary and intermediate, to the story of humanity’s exile from Eden narrated in Genesis 3. Moreover, the glory-filled tabernacle also foreshadowed God’s ultimate solution to that primal expulsion through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Dr Morales continues, “As we consider the significance of the tabernacle (and later temple) in Scripture, it will be helpful to keep two points in mind. First, the tabernacle was the house of God, the place of His dwelling. . . . . Second, the tabernacle was also the way to God, its sacrificial rituals providing the atonement and cleansing needed to dwell with God. . . . . In sum, Israel’s relationship with God was preserved and cultivated by the sacrificial system of the tabernacle, enabling the Maker of heaven and earth to dwell with His people in fellowship. To understand the depth and wonder of such a purpose, we will reflect upon the meaning of the tabernacle first within God’s goal for creation and then as the heart of God’s covenant with His people—a purpose taken up and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Dr. L. Michael Morales is professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina, and adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando/Dallas). He is author of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: a Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. You can read the publishers details for this book, which I can thoroughly recommend, HERE.

‘Preaching Christ from the Old Testament’ by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Image from Lightstock

Dr Sinclair B. Ferguson asks, “. . . how do we legitimately preach the text of the Old Testament as those who stand on this side of Pentecost? What difference does it make to expound Genesis or Psalms as believers in Jesus Christ? Or, to put it in a more graphic way, how can we reconstruct the principles of Jesus’ conversation in Luke 24.25-27,45, and learn to follow his example of showing how all the Scriptures point to him so that hearts are ‘strangely warmed’ and begin to burn? . . . . Yet we must also preach the Scriptures without denuding them of the genuine historical events they record and the reality of the personal experiences they describe or to which they were originally addressed. How, then, do we preach Christ, and him crucified without leapfrogging over these historical realities as though the Old Testament Scriptures had no real significance for their own historical context?”

He explains, “. . . there are . . . very important principles that help us to develop Christ-centred expository skills. As we work with them, and as they percolate through our thinking and our approach to the Bible, they will help us develop the instinct to point people to Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures. The most general principle is one for which we might coin the expression fillfulment. Christ fulfils or ‘fills full’ the Old Testament. He came ‘not to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5.17). As Christians standing within the light of New Testament revelation and looking back on the Old Testament, Christ himself acts as a hermeneutical prism. Looking back through him, we see the white light of the unity of the truth of Jesus Christ broken down into its constituent colours in the pages of the Old Testament. Then, looking forwards we see how the multi-coloured strands of Old Testament revelation converge in him.  . . . . We want to develop an instinct to preach Christ. This is the general principle. But it can be broken down into at least four subordinate principles . . . .”

Dr Ferguson then explains these four principles. In his conclusion, he comments, “These are general principles; they do not constitute a simple formula, an elixir to be sprinkled on our sermons to transform them into the preaching of Christ. There is no formula that will do that. . . . . But as we come to know the Scriptures more intimately, as we see these patterns deeply embedded in the Bible, and—just as crucially—as we come to know Christ himself more intimately and to love him better, we shall surely develop the instinct to reason, explain and prove from all the Scriptures the riches of grace which are proclaimed in Jesus, the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

Dr Ferguson’s article is instructive and stimulating, and worth taking time to read and to digest – and to apply.

It’s available in 10 parts from website of The Proclamation Trust. For part 1, click HERE; for part 2, click HERE; for part 3, click HERE; for part 4, click HERE; for part 5, click HERE; for part 6, click HERE; for part 7, click HERE; for part 8, click HERE; for part 9, click HERE; and for part 10, click HERE.

An earlier version of this article is available as a single webpage HERE (the online version in 10 parts available above is a later edited version).

‘Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story’ by Nancy Guthrie

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Each of these nine mini-overviews is just a chapter in length (in fact, the main text of the book is only 150 pages in length). Guthrie succeeds in her task brilliantly. Her writing is clear and engaging. Yet the book – despite the fact that it’s so accessible and easy to read – is also theologically rich.

Guthrie’s overall thrust is that God’s plan for His world is not simply to restore what was lost in Eden before the Fall. The new creation we read about on the final two chapters of Revelation will be far more glorious than the creation we see in the opening chapters of Genesis.

There’s a discussion guide at the end of the book, which gives questions for discussing the themes presented in each chapter. There are also endnotes to explain further and to support some of what she writes.

In the introduction, after talking a little about her own personal story, Guthrie writes, “There’s another story, a story that is found in the pages of the Bible—from the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation—that shapes and defines where I came from, why I am the way I am, what my life is like day to day, and what is ahead for me in the future. It is this story that explains my deepest joys as well as the empty places where contentment can be elusive. It is this story that explains my drive to be somebody and my sensitivity to feeling like a nobody. It explains what makes me cry and why I can laugh. This story explains my desire to look good, my craving for the good life, my longing for home and security, and much more.”Guthrie continues: “And whether you know it or not, this same grand story—the story found in the sixty-six books of the Bible—shapes the world you live in, who you are, and what you want too. That’s why you and I need to know this story. It is where we find the answers to our questions about what really matters now and into eternity. This story has the power to change everything about our stories.”

Scott R. Swain, President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, writes, “One of the weaknesses of much popular Christian teaching on the Bible is the tendency to read the story of the Bible in a circular manner, as if Jesus Christ came into the world to bring us back to Eden. Nancy Guthrie charts a better course in her book. In a manner that is profoundly biblical and deeply practical, she traces nine biblical themes along a common trajectory, from their beginning in God’s good creation, through their destruction and devastation by Adam’s sin, to the ways Christ perfects, consummates, and crowns each theme by means of his suffering and glory. Let Guthrie take you by the hand and lead you through the Bible to Jesus Christ, in whom we find a better provision, a better life, a better identity, a better rest, a better wardrobe, a better spouse, a better savior, a better sanctuary, and a better city than this world in its present state could or would afford.”

Read the publisher’s description HERE. Download an excerpt HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

A nine-session video version of Even Better Than Eden is also available – click HERE for more information and to view one of the sessions free of charge.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

Image from Lightstock

In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 15 (5 October 2018)

Every story casts His shadow Watch this brief video and see how the whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. It is inspirational.

From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture Dr David Schrock writes, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.” Focusing on the office of priesthood as an example, Dr Schrock guides us to a better understanding of how the types found in the Bible story point us to Jesus and His Church.

What did Jesus have against goats? Ian Paul throws some clear Biblical light on the well-known but often misunderstood illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46)

A society without Psalms Mark Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, . . . .”

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement Stephen Tan calls attention to grave errors in the theology and their practices of the hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and concerns about The Passion Translation of the Bible , which Bill Johnson, leader of the Bethel Church, enthusiastically endorses.

Every story casts His shadow.

Watch this brief video (a trailer for The Gospel Project) and see how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax comments: “I get chills every time I watch this . . . .” From the video’s narrator: “Sixty six books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Consider the works…accounts of history and law. Prophecy and poetry. Verses of wisdom and letters from friends. Now. Look again. What do you see? . . . . Every story casts His shadow. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony — the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.”

The video is a trailer for The Gospel Project, published by LifeWay. The Gospel Project, provides, in their own words, “a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study plan for every age group in your church: preschoolers through adults. These studies are age-appropriate, easy to teach, and aligned by Scripture to help your entire church grow in the gospel together.” The Gospel Project’s home page is HERE.

Details of their upcoming 3-year study plan (from Fall 2021 to Summer 2024 is available for download HERE.

Read Trevin Wax’s article HERE.

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From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture.

Dr David Schrock comments, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.”

Dr. Schrock explains: “. . . this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church. Therefore, in addition to the standard ‘tests’ for valid types, I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype — namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ. . . . . Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible. But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history.”

In demonstrating his understanding of Biblical typology, Dr Schrock takes one concrete example – that of the priesthood. He writes, “. . . in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.”

Dr Schrock first present the Biblical texts and then shows the priestly office develops through the different periods of Bible history. He explains, “To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king. . . . . Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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What did Jesus have against goats?.

Ian Paul brings fresh insight into Jesus’s illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46), in which he describes the Last Judgment. He writes, “The most common interpretation of the narrative allocates the people groups in the following way. The ‘least of these’ are the poor in general; the sheep are those (probably followers of Jesus, obeying his teaching here) who care for the poor rather than just having a theoretical faith; and the goats are those who neglect Jesus’ teaching. Thus this becomes a general argument of the importance of caring for the poor. But this interpretation has only been around since around 1850 (which raises issues about how we should response to ‘novel’ interpretations…) and in fact has some serious obstacles to it.”

Dr Paul lights up our understanding of the illustration of the sheep and the goats. He does this especially by taking us back to the Biblical art of shepherding that he recently heard explained by Richard Goode, of Newman University in Birmingham, at the British New Testament Conference. Dr Goode’s paper was entitled, What did Jesus have against goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the context of caprid husbandry of Roman Palestine. (You can see an abstract of this paper HERE – it’s the third paper of session 1; just click the  View abstract  button to see it.)

Read the whole article HERE.

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A society without Psalms.

Mark Loughridge writes, “When contemporary poet Edward Clarke turned 40, he set himself the task of reading through the Authorised Version of the Bible in one year . . . . As Clarke spent time in the Bible he shared that ‘one does feel enthralled to something greater’, and that while he is not a regular church goer, there was an element of spiritual catharsis in trying to think and write from the space the Scriptures provide. This, however, was no mere exercise in subjectivity, but the outcome of convictions which Clarke has developed about the 21st century and biblical literature.”

Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, what our secular nation will look like without the bedrock of biblical categories through which to see the world, understand themselves, and articulate the things which most matter.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement.

Stephen Tan, pastor of Regeneration Church, a new church in Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, writes: “”Australia for Jesus” is the motto of Awakening Australia, an event that seeks to unite every denomination under one mission: to bring revival to Australia. . . . . While revival, unity and nationwide prayer are good goals for Christians to have, I am unable to support Awakening Australia. . . . . My main contention with Awakening Australia is that it is part of a hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California. In fact, the leader of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, is the main speaker at Awakening Australia.”

Pastor Tan tells us: “If you log onto Bethel’s website (bethelredding.com), their mission is clear: to bring revival to Redding and to the whole world. They see themselves as having “a global impact” as “a revival resource and equipping centre”. They run “revival” conferences and rallies all over the world. Kingdom Invasion in Singapore draws thousands, as will Awakening Australia later this year. Bethel also runs their own ‘Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)’ which teaches people to perform miracles and bring revival. BSSM spawns hundreds of similar schools around the world, including in Melbourne and in other cities in Australia. But what exactly does Bethel mean by revival?”

Pastor Tan calls attention to grave errors in their theology and their practices. He also voices his concerns about the Passion Translation, which Bill Johnson enthusiastically endorses. Tan comments: “What makes the Bethel movement dangerous is that their reach is extended through their music ministry. Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have created a brand of worship music that can genuinely compete with Hillsong. . . . . I fear Jesus Culture serves as a gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster.”

He comments, “I am concerned that the upcoming ‘Awakening Australia’ event also fits the description and has the potential to cause much confusion and spiritual damage to thousands of unsuspecting Australians. To those who are supporting this event in the name of revival, may I ask this question: “At what price, awakening?” Is it worth pursuing awakening if it means that the gospel is compromised and that false teaching is promoted?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Delighting in Leviticus

Image © Steve Creitz, Creitz Illustration Studio

An artist’s impression of the camp of Israel in the wilderness at night. The Tabernacle is in the centre of the camp. Above the Tabernacle is the pillar of fire, which was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

Dr Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, and who has written an excellent commentary on Leviticus (see the publishers’ description HERE), said this: “What happens when you study Leviticus for more than 10 years? I know the types of answers many people would provide:

“You get to know your psychotherapist really well.”

“People stop inviting you to dinner parties.”

Or perhaps the most common: “Is this a serious question? Who in the world would do this?”

I did. And it changed my life in ways far different from those just named. In my experience, at least four profound things happen when this book begins to seep into your soul.”

Read the whole article HERE.

And in the brief video below, Dr Sklar also introduces his commentary on Leviticus:

But why exactly would anyone study Leviticus for such a significant period of their life? Why is it so important?

We’ll begin by setting out the background to this book. After the Exodus from Egypt, God’s people Israel didn’t go straight to the Promised Land. They went through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 19.4). A few weeks’ journey from where they crossed the Sea of Reeds, God’s people were encamped at the foot of this mountain.

There at Mount Sinai, God brought His people into covenant relationship with Himself. This covenant was like a marriage. God became their Husband (see, for example Isaiah 54.5, Jeremiah 31.32). And, in Peter Leithart’s words, “Moses is the minister officiating at the wedding.” Firstly God made a solemn covenant with His people – just as a man and a woman make vows to each other at a wedding. Then God and representatives of His people ate and drank together – just like a wedding reception. And after their marriage ceremony, a husband and wife live together. Accordingly, God made arrangements to live together with His Bride, Israel.

God showed Moses the blueprint for a beautiful new home where He planned to live among His people. This home was a tent; it was called the Tabernacle. God Himself was going to live there. When all was complete, God moved into His new home: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40.34-35 and see Numbers 9.15).

The tabernacle was God’s home among His people. One of the two primary designations for the Tabernacle is the Hebrew word miškān, which means dwelling place. Jay Sklar, in his commentary on Leviticus, imagines an Israelite asking this burning question: “How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity?” ”

But there’s more. God also called His Tabernacle “the tent of meeting” (for example Exodus 27.21, 30.16, 31.7). He said to Moses: “There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites . . . “ (Exodus 29.42-43, NIV). God – as far as possible under that covenant – welcomed people into His home. Only selected representatives could enter, and they had to be prepared and, where necessary, offer the appropriate sacrifices. But they could come. Once a year Aaron was even able to enter the Most Holy Place, the very presence-chamber of God (Leviticus 16.11-15, see Hebrews 9.7).

It was astonishing that God could live among His people at all. But how in the world could He go one step further and actually allow people to come into His home and meet with Him there? In other words, how could the dwelling place of God become “the tent of meeting” – a place where the holy God met with His sinful people?

The Book of Leviticus answers these questions. In his commentary, Jay Sklar writes: “Leviticus . . . . . . . begins by explaining the sacrifices that address sin and enable the Israelites to worship this King rightly (Leviticus 1-7). It provides the people with priests to intercede on their behalf and lead them in worship before the King (Leviticus 8-10). It gives them laws to teach them how to deal properly with impurity (Leviticus 11-15). It provides a yearly ceremony to remove every last ounce of sin and impurity from the kingdom (Leviticus 16). It provides a whole series of laws in other areas to direct them in living as a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Leviticus 17-27), that is, in setting up a society where God’s character and wishes for humanity can be seen in the corporate life of the nation.”

But the Book of Leviticus goes even further than this. Sklar explains: “But Leviticus does more than answer questions raised by its immediate literary and historical context. It also casts a vision rooted in the Bible’s larger story and, in particular, in creation. Indeed, God’s purpose for his people in Leviticus is in many ways a return to his purpose for humanity in creation. This may be seen in terms of separation, blessing and calling. . . . . In Leviticus, the Lord once again brings order to the world by ‘separating’ . . . things into their proper place and calling his people to do the same (Leviticus 10.10; 11.46-47; 20.25). Indeed, he separates his people from the rest of the world (Leviticus 20.24,26) and promises to bless them as he did Adam and Eve, whether by shining his favour on them to make them fruitful (Leviticus 26.9; cf. Genesis 1.28), placing them in a lush land where all their physical needs will be met (Leviticus 26.4-5,10; cf. Genesis 2.8-25), giving them Sabbath rest (Leviticus 23.3; 25.1-7; cf. Genesis 2.3), or, most of all, ‘walking’ . . . with them as their God (Leviticus 26.11-12; cf. Genesis 3.8). And, as in creation, the blessings are again accompanied by a calling. He has separated them from the peoples of the earth in order to reflect his image in the world: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (19.2; see also 11.44-45; 20.7,26). The Israelites are the ones who are to represent the Lord in this earth, thus fulfilling the purpose the Lord had for humanity in creation, as well as showing the rest of the world what that purpose is, how to live in keeping with it, and therefore how to experience the abundant life God intended for his creation . . . . Simply put, the Israelites are not only to be a signpost back to Eden; they are to become a manifestation of it and a people who extend Eden’s borders to every corner of the earth.”

In the video below, Dr Sklar explores why should we think more highly of Leviticus (it’s one of a series of seven available HERE):

Covenant Theological Seminary has also uploaded seven free audio talks by Dr Sklar on Leviticus. As well as an introductory talk, he teaches about atonement, the burnt, grain offering and fellowship offerings, purity and impurity, and curious laws found in Leviticus. Dr Sklar is an engaging speaker and these are very much worth listening to. The talks can be accessed HERE. The first two are available without creating an account. To access the other five, you just need to create a free account.

CREDITS Text copyright © 2018 Robert Gordon Betts Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (other than those in quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). UK trademark number 1448790.