In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1 ESV
Before mankind walked the earth, before there were birds in the air or fish in the sea, before plants sprouted from the earth to give food to the animals, before there was an earth from which plants could sprout, from eternity past into eternity future, God exists. God is an almighty, all-powerful being, in whom is no imperfection, who never changes, who has no body, or parts, or passions, and who exists from himself. He was never created; he has always existed. He is perfect in his being and thus exists without need of anything or anyone. The Scriptures tell us that he exists eternally in three subsistences, or persons, called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is because of his Triune existence that God has no need of anything; he has all he needs in himself.
This God created all things. It has been expressed that the love between the Father and the Son and the Spirit overflowed in an act of sublime creativity. From the farthest star in the outermost galaxies to the tiniest particle in the atom, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth itself, and everything in it—all things were created by him. His crowning achievement was the creation of mankind in his image, that is, as his representative, his viceroy on earth. Mankind was designed for a special relationship with his Creator.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.Genesis 1:31 ESV
We are told in the Scriptures, which are the words of this Triune God to mankind, that everything was created “good.” There was no sin to speak of, no illness, no tragedy, no disaster, no pain or torment; all was well on earth, as God and man lived together in peaceful harmony, walking together and sharing in God’s infinite being and holy nature. God covenanted with the man and his wife, giving them one command: do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If Adam and Eve had kept this law, they would have remained in perfect communion with God. However, our first parents were tempted to disobey and ate of the fruit of the tree. They transgressed God’s law and so became separated from him. They brought sin into the world, and with it, condemned themselves and their offspring to death forever apart from God.
This is the state in which we find ourselves: separated from our God who created us, reveling in our sin and misdeeds, continually running away from what is good and right and seeking only to do what ought not be done. Sickness, death, turmoil, wars, plagues, natural disasters—these are the results of our rebellion against the God who loved us and walked with us. Worse than that, God is holy and pure; since we are not holy or pure, we cannot live with him. The righteous requirement of God’s law still stands, but since you and I cannot ever hope to meet God’s holy standards, we are doomed to everlasting punishment. How then can we be saved? Someone must keep God’s law on our behalf.
The wages of sin is death…Romans 6:23a ESV
From all eternity, God purposed to redeem a remnant of mankind, to rescue them from the sin into which we had plunged ourselves. The Old Testament portion of the Bible tells the story of the establishment of the nation of Israel, whence would come a man called the Messiah, or the Christ. This man would be God in human flesh, born of a virgin, a perfect person, incapable of sin and wrong-doing. It was prophesied that he would suffer, and take the sins of his people upon himself, bearing the judgment due for them, and then rise again victorious, ushering in a new creation where all was well once again.
All this was fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell the life story of this God-man, and include many of his teachings and discourses. The later epistles explain the meaning of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53:6 ESV
The central event in the gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. After having lived a blameless life, completely sinless in all his actions, perfectly keeping the Law, Jesus was wrongly condemned by the religious leaders of his day and sentenced to die on a cross, a popular Roman form of execution. He was crucified on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem in Israel, between two common criminals, by the orders of Pontius Pilate, governor of that region. The Gospels tell us that a rich man named Joseph, who was one of the few religious leaders who believed in his message, placed his body in a nearby tomb and sealed it with a large rolling stone. Jesus’ disciples were distraught and confused, even though Jesus had told them that this was going to happen.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.Matthew 28:6a ESV
On the third day, that is, the first day of the week, Jesus was resurrected bodily. He did not remain in the tomb, but was raised to life, and appeared to many of the disciples throughout Israel, before he finally ascended into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of God, his perfect work of redemption having been completed.
…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23b ESV
What does his death and resurrection mean for you and me? Jesus bore the punishment of our sins on himself. He took away the wrath of God that was hanging over us, defeating death, and redeeming people from all over the world. Not only this, but he kept the Law on our behalf. Those who repent of their sins, that is, turn away from doing them, and who believe in Jesus, trusting that what he has done is sufficient to take away wrath, are made right with God—our sins are placed on him, and his righteousness is given to us. Our relationship with him is restored. Once again, we can walk with God together, if only we will put our trust in Jesus’ work on the cross. This trust is called “faith.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”Revelation 21:5 ESV
The beginnings of new life in Christ are manifest within the visible institution called the Church, described as the Body of Christ in the Scriptures. Those who place their trust in Christ are part of a divine society, a foretaste of the age to come, whose supreme king and governor is Jesus himself. This society is ruled by men commissioned by Christ for ministry, who are called to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do all that Jesus commanded. The Church, as a divine institution, is not subject to earthly rulers and governors in the same way as other institutions, but is subject only to Christ as Lord. All those who believe in Christ are made members of his body and therefore ought to belong to his Church on earth.
Not only this, but God has promised to restore and renew all things. All of creation will one day be made new and perfect. One day, Jesus will return for those whom he has saved by his death and resurrection. These ones, who trust in Jesus, will dwell forever with him on this new earth. We will live in perfect harmony and peace. There will be no more death, no more pain, no more suffering, no more disaster or turmoil. All will be right. This is good news indeed.