It’s asking a lot of a single model to capture the whole biblical story in a balanced way, which can also be easily remembered and reproduced by others. Well, here’s my go at it . . . .
The following is an overview of the biblical story, divided into 6 stages. This post only gives a bird’s eye view of the Bible narrative. My July 2013 article in Global Missiology (“Biblical Theology from a Chinese Perspective”) is more detailed.
It must be said from the beginning that the model was first written with a Chinese context in mind. Linguistically, the Chinese names (of each stage) carry stronger force than the English. Feel free to come up with better names if you like. However, you will first want to read the fuller presentation in the coming posts.
Six Stages of the Biblical Story
In order to avoid writing a book, I offer only a concise summary of the narrative for each point. These brief comments are certainly not exhaustive of all that can and should be said concerning that section of the story. For now, I simply want to capture its essence for the sake of explaining how to understand the graph and its six stages.
A Brief Summary of Each Movement
1. 天下一家: One Family Under Heaven
The Creator God is Father and King over the human family. Being made in God’s image, humanity should reflect the glory of the heavenly Father. He created the world to be his kingdom. In the beginning, there was harmony in creation. Humans were set apart from the rest of creation. In the “cultural mandate,” the Father-King gave them a special vocation––to rule the world on God’s behalf.
Cf. Gen 1–2; Ps 104
2. 丢脸争面：Losing Face, Seeking Face
All people have defamed God’s name and broken relationship with him. Humans have forsaken their father and betrayed the world’s true king. As a result, people have lost true and lasting face (脸), that which marks us as being fully human. Sadly, people seek to regain an inferior kind of face (面子), one that is fleeting and superficial. Consequently, human relationships are also fractured. The world is now full of shame. Humanity is all enslaved to sin, that is, the disgraceful ambitions and actions that characterize this cursed world.
Cf. Genesis 3, 4, 11
3. 万民之王：King of All Nations
God takes the initiative to restore harmony to the world. He graciously made a covenant with Abraham, promising that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s offspring. From Abraham came the nation of Israel, whom God planned to use as a means of blessing the whole world. He rescued them from an oppressive nation and gave them a law, which was meant to teach them what it meant to be a righteous people. God intended to use Israel to show himself as the King of all nations.However, Israel repeated the error of her earliest ancestors. They rejected the one true God as King. Instead of enjoying God’s blessing, they fell under a curse. Therefore, because they choose to worship created things rather than the Creator, God sent them into exile. Their sin put them to shame; yet God never forgot his promise to Abraham.
4. 拨乱反正：Setting the World Right
God sent Jesus into the world to vindicate the Father’s honor and set the world right. He would defeat God’s enemies, becoming the king (Christ) over Israel and the world. Jesus was the offspring promised to Abraham (and David). In life, Christ perfectly honored his Heavenly Father, confronting the world’s evil, whether demons, disease, death, or other dominions. For this reason, his people killed him. As Israel’s king, Christ was able in death to bear Israel’s curse upon himself. Because he is also the true king of the world, he represents true humanity. Therefore, Christ resurrection from the dead signifies his victory over sin and death. He became the means through which all nations would be blessed.
5. 以辱为荣：Honor through Shame
All who honor Christ are set free from slavery of sin. The Father sends his Spirit to his adopted children, those who have repented of their shameful disloyalty. No longer afraid of death, God’s people go into the world announcing the coming of the world’s true king—Jesus Christ––sent from the Creator. Although God’s children live in the world, they are not of the world. This means that God has radically changed how they see life. What the world regards as disgraceful, the Father sees as honorable (for example, the cross). Christians understand that they––like Christ––must endure shame on the way to glory.
6. 雪耻复国：God Vindicates His Honor & Restores His Kingdom
Ultimately, God as King will judge the world, ridding it of corruption. In so doing, God’s glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the see. His children will also be glorified with resurrected bodies. The one true God will create a new heaven and new earth. The nations are reconciled with the Father and each other. God keeps his promises. Harmony is restored to creation.
In the next post, I’ll explain the significance of the titles given to each stage. Afterwards, I’ll demonstrate how a person can share the story in a step-by-step fashion.
*** If you would like a copy of the packet (in English) I made presenting this model, click here.
*** For a very scaled down version of the model in Chinese, click here.