The heart and soul of the Bible is its story. It is the real saga of a particular people, how God called them and intended for them to bring blessing to all people.

Story is also the word that best describes our own lives. While we may or may not follow the right rules, investigate certain facts, and attempt to live wisely, none of these activities provides the central way we make sense of our lives. Stories give context and provide meaning.

All the different parts of the Bible come together as one narrative.

To understand the Bible you must get to know its characters,

understand its setting, and follow its plot.

The climax and ultimate resolution will make sense only if you’ve followed the earlier parts as a story. Learn to feel the tension and wrestle with its major conflict. Lose yourself in this story the way you do with a good novel.

We present here an abbreviated version of the story of the Bible as a drama in five acts.

ACT I      Creation

The drama begins with God already on the stage. He is creating the world. He makes a man, Adam, and places him in the Garden of Eden to work in it and take care of it. God’s intention is for humanity to be in close relationship with him and in harmony with the rest of creation around them. God is described in these early chapters of the Bible as dwelling in the garden together with the first human beings, Adam and Eve. At the end of the first chapter of Genesis, God gives his own assessment of his work:

God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good! (verse 31)

Act I reveals God’s desire for people and provides the setting for all the action that follows.

ACT II    The Fall

Tension is introduced in the story when Adam and Eve decide to go their own way and seek their own wisdom. They listen to the deceptive voice of God’s enemy, Satan, and doubt God’s trustworthiness.

As a result of this rebellion:

God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life. (Genesis 3:23—24)

God’s intention in creation is known, but part of his own creation has put his plan off course. Can God regain his relationship with humanity and remove the curse from creation? Or did God’s enemy effectively end the plan and subvert the story?

Acts I and II take only the first few pages in the Bible to be completed.

Yet they introduce the struggle that dominates the rest of the story.

ACT III   Israel

God told Abram:     “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.  I’ll make you a great nation and bless you.  I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing.  I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse.  All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1—3)

In calling Abram (God later renamed him Abraham) and promising to make him into a great nation, God is narrowing his focus and concentrating on one group of people for a period of time. But the ultimate goal remains the same: to bless all the peoples on earth, remove the curse from creation, and restore the original relationship that existed in the garden.

When Abraham’s descendants are later enslaved in Egypt, a central pattern in the story is set: God returns to his people, frees them, and restores them to the land promised to them. God makes a covenant with this new nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. He appoints Moses to be their leader during their liberation from Egypt—the Exodus. As part of the covenant, God makes it clear that if his people remain true to him and faithfully follow his ways, he will bless them in their new land and make it like the original Garden of Eden.

However, if Israel is not faithful to the covenant, God warns them that he will send them out of the land, just as he did with Adam and Eve. Sadly, and in spite of God’s repeated warnings and pleadings, they are determined to go their own way. They break the covenant, follow the false gods of the nations that surround them and bring the judgment of God down upon themselves.

Abraham’s descendants, chosen to reverse the failure of Adam, have now apparently failed themselves. Along the way, however, God has planted the seeds of a different outcome. One of Israel’s kings, David, is noted for being “a man after God’s own heart.” So God promises to send another king to Israel, a son of David, who will lead Israel wisely, bring the nation back to God and be the agent of blessing to the peoples of the world.

So while Act III ends tragically, with God apparently absent, the hope of a promise remains.

ACT  IV Jesus

F our centuries later, the people of Israel are suffering under Roman occupation and waiting for God to return. An angel of God comes to a young woman named Mary and announces,

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called “Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever— no end, ever, to his kingdom. (Luke 1:31—33)

Jesus’ arrival is introduced with the claim that God is keeping his promise.

So Jesus begins his mission. He heals sickness and disease among the people. He confronts God’s enemies in the spiritual realm, the demons, and forcefully orders them to leave the people whom they torment. Jesus forgives the sins of those who humbly come to him. He proclaims the gospel, or good news, that:

“Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” (Mark 1:15)

The very heart of Jesus’ Message is the good news of the coming of God’s reign. God is coming back to dwell with his people. This is why Jesus is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

But Jesus’ message receives mixed responses. Some people believe, but most people simply watch him with amazement, never knowing quite what to make of him. The established religious leaders quickly become hostile toward him. Eventually this conflict escalates to the breaking point and the religious leaders conspire to have Jesus arrested and killed on a cross.

But this defeat is actually God’s greatest victory. Jesus’ death turns the tables on God’s enemy and turns the world upside down. By willingly giving up his life as a sacrifice, Jesus takes onto himself God’s judgment for our wrongdoing. He gives up his own life as a sacrifice for his people as Israel’s true priest. He leads his people to a new Exodus, through death to a new life. In all of this Jesus shows himself to be the promised child of Abraham who reconciles humanity with God. It is through Jesus that Israel can finally fulfill its role, the purpose for which God called Abraham.

This account of Jesus is the focal point of the Bible’s entire story. The key struggle with God’s enemy, the desperate attempts to correct what has gone wrong at the very heart of things, comes to a head in the life of Jesus. He is the one and only hero of the story.

ACT  V   The New People of God

If the key victory has already been secured, why is there an Act V?

God wants the victory of Jesus to spread to all the nations of the world. Those who follow Jesus are being built into God’s new temple, the place where God’s Spirit lives. God is gathering these people from all around the world and forming them into his church. When this is complete, Jesus will return and the reign of God will become a reality throughout God’s creation (1 Corinthians 15:24—25). The curse imposed during Act II will be removed (Revelation 22:3).

The task of bringing blessing to the peoples of the world has been given again to the descendants of Abraham. According to the New Testament, all those who belong to Christ are true children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). Act V emphasizes the mission of Christ-followers: to proclaim and live out the liberating message of the good news of Christ’s kingdom.

Act V moves through history to our own time, enveloping us in its drama. The Message of Christ and his kingdom has now come to us. The challenge of a decision now confronts us too. What will we do? How will we fit into this story?

The story of the Bible is the true account of the central conflict winding its way through the history of the world. Will we be a part of God’s mission of re-creation — of restoring the world around us — and making the world (including ourselves) new?


The most important thing you can do is to read these Scriptures carefully. God’s Spirit uses them actively and powerfully to accomplish his purposes — in you and through you to impact the world.

The Bible is not necessarily an easy book to read. Some passages are difficult for everyone to understand. But if you stick with it, if you are committed to learning more about God and the story he’s given us in the Bible, it will guide you, change you and keep you close to God.

NOTE:  A special thanks to the International Bible Society for permission to include an edited version of the Bible notes, The Drama of the Bible’ 2002 by International Bible Society’. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.