The Bible instructor today would do well to capitalize in present-day interest in the continued serial story. The psychology of the progressive story, which develops the main theme and leads toward a strong climax, also has its special value in a series of Bible readings.
The Bible contains a most thrilling account of the greatest events that have occurred, not only in human history, but in the history of the entire universe. It deals with the rebellion of the mighty angel Lucifer. The record of this rebellion, with its attendant developments and God's method of dealing with these developments, gives a very clear presentation of the truths for our time.
From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is a united whole. Its central theme is the cross of Christ. In order that this great sacrifice may be appreciated, the circumstances which made it necessary must first be understood. In His written Word, in the first three chapters of Genesis God laid the foundation for that which He wiled to reveal, and on this the entire superstructure of Scripture is erected. It is impossible for one to get the proper slant on the various doctrinal points unless he views them from this angle.
In conducting a series of Bible readings, one should bear in mind this fact. Much better results will be obtained if a proper background is established. Although it is not always possible to present just what we would select for a first study, because we must meet the people where they are, it is nevertheless helpful to go back and establish the basic truths as soon as the special point of interest is cared for. A proper foundation can be laid in two studies, the one dealing with God's original purpose in creation, and the other with the origin of evil.
Lesson 1—God's Purpose in Creation. In the first of these studies the success of the plan will quite largely lie. Care must be exercised to include all the basic principles, such as a literal creation; the Trinity; man created in the image of God, not only physically but morally. Since the character of God is a perfect embodiment of love, truth, and righteousness, it is evident that a man made in His image could be nothing less than a perfect man. The command to multiply was given, and the earth was to be populated to capacity.
Provision was made for man's temporal needs. The tree of life was placed in the garden. Man was to live eternally. The establishment of law must be emphasized. Those great principles of right—"Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," etc.—are all basic to civilization.
The tree of knowledge was to be the test. Man was created a free moral agent with full power to yield or withhold obedience. The results of disobedience were clearly set forth. God is the only source of life. To separate from Him would necessarily mean death. Thus man was master of his own fate.
We now come to the tragedy of sin. An antagonistic power entered the garden, challenging the character of God and the great principles of right for which He stands. But the serpent said, "Ye shall not surely die. God is telling a lie." Then follows the story of the fall. Immediately a change of character was seen in man. Man now inherited the selfish, biased character of Satan.
The plan of redemption was next made known, for God would give man another chance. The curse, the sentence of death, expulsion from the garden—all followed in quick succession. By this act of disobedience, the human race, as well as man's dominion, came under the control of Satan. If God had destroyed Satan at this time it would have reacted against Himself and would only have made matters worse. He must let sin develop and work out its own condemnation. Thus began in this earth the great controversy between Christ and Satan, the struggle over right and wrong.
This study should not end without pointing out the glorious victory for truth and righteousness, as pictured in the last chapters of Revelation. The destruction of sin and Satan and the earth cleansed and re-created are all portrayed. Hebrews 2:6-9 makes a good closing text.
Adam failed. We can never have eternal life through Adam, "but we see Jesus." He is the bridge that connects earth with heaven. By accepting Him we may regain all that was lost through the fall and have a home in the earth made new
Lesson 2—Origin of Evil. The lesson on God's original purpose in creation is followed by the second study on the origin of evil, which shows the high position of Lucifer in heaven, his aspirations to the Godhead, and his expulsion from the courts above. He established his kingdom on this earth. He has a thoroughly organized government, operated on principles opposed to God's government.
A thought on the extent of his power should now be included. The first chapter of Job furnishes a good source. Christ stepped in and took Adam's place, wresting the dominion from Satan. This study ends with the final destruction of sin, given in detail. Here is a good place to refute the argument of an eternally burning hell.
When clearly presented, these basic truths answer what, to many, is a very perplexing question—"Why is this world in its present condition, and why does not God do something about it ?" To those who are inclined to be a bit skeptical, a comparison of the Bible story of the entrance of sin into this world with the present world situation, proves a very convincing argument as to the authenticity of the Scriptures. Thus the reader enters upon a series of studies with much greater interest and confidence.
Lesson 3—Inspiration of Bible. We are now ready to introduce our doctrinal subjects. This is best done, perhaps, by a study on the inspiration of the Scriptures. This study, as well as all succeeding ones, we should carefully anchor to the foundation studies, building, as we go along, on a solid structure of truth. The connecting link in this particular lesson is the fact that in the Scriptures are given the truths that lead us out of sin, back to the original perfection, and therefore to eternal life. Such texts as John 6:63, John 5:39, and 2 Timothy 3:15 should be emphasized and followed by those dealing with proper motive, interpretation, and method of study.
Lesson 4—Re-establishment of Christ's Kingdom. The point we usually deal with next is that of the re-establishment of Christ's kingdom. It requires a great stretch of imagination, after viewing the world in its present condition, to conceive of it as it was originally created. Also, there are so many conflicting theories floating about that the interest is usually centered on just how the re-creation is to take place. Though we do not at this time go into a detailed study of the plan of redemption, we know that it centers in Christ. Beginning with His own promise to return (John 14:1-3), we follow through the manner of His coming, and the effects, first, on the righteous, second, on the wicked, and third, on the earth. In dealing with the effects on the righteous, we should emphasize the fact that here the redeemed regain that which was lost through sin—incorruptible, glorified bodies and immortality. We then follow through the millennium, the cleansing of the earth, and the final restoration.
The question arises, When is this change to take place? A study on Daniel 2, followed by another on present-day signs, will take care of these questions.
Lesson 7—God's Standard of Right. We have now reached a very important point in our series—the law of God and its relation to the gospel. We stress that these principles of right do not apply to this world only, but are the basis of the government of the entire universe, having their foundation in the character of God. That Satan's kingdom stands for disobedience—for the violation of God's law which we see in the world today—must now be firmly established. The plan of redemption logically follows this study. It treats of reconciliation, sanctification, and man's restoration to sonship into the heavenly family.
Lesson 9—The State of the Dead. We are now ready to study the state of the dead. With the background already established, it is not difficult to prove that death is merely a period of unconsciousness between the earthly life and the final restitution. Immediate entrance to heaven at death does not fit into the picture at all.
Lesson 10--2300 Days. The study on the state of the dead is followed by a prophecy of the time of the end—the 2300 days of Daniel 8 and 9 and a study on the cleansing of the sanctuary, showing that not only on earth but also in heaven preparations are being made for the final scenes. We are nearing our heavenly home. If a study is to be given on the two covenants, here is the logical place to give it. We have just learned of the law in the sanctuary above. Under the new covenant, the law is again placed in the human heart. This makes a good introduction to the Sabbath studies which are next in line.
Lesson 13—THE SABBATH. The first study on the Sabbath the significance of the days should be clearly set forth, showing that the seventh day is the emblem of creative power, the sign of the true God. Earthly powers have chosen flags as their emblems by which their authority is recognized. God has not chosen a design on a piece of cloth; He has chosen a day. In earthly warfare each side tries to tear down the other's flag and raise its own instead. So Satan is endeavoring to tear down God's emblem, to substitute a false one.
The second study on the Sabbath, "The Apostasy and the Change of the Sabbath," tells how this came about. The third study, on "The Seal of God and Mark of the Beast," brings us to the climax of our story. The two sides in the conflict over obedience to the law are now arrayed against each other. The issue is the fourth commandment.
Lesson 16—Three Angels' Messages. The ground is now ready for the three angels' me-sages, showing that before the end there will be a great movement proclaiming the judgment hour and the true Sabbath. The emphasis in this study should be placed on the first angel's message, clearly setting forth the rise of this movement and touching rather lightly the second message. The third message has just been studied, and now needs little more than to be placed in its proper setting. This may appropriately be followed by a study on the United States in prophecy, showing the part our Government is to act in the closing scenes.
Lesson 18—Faith in God. It is well at this point to ease off a little on presenting heavy doctrines. The readers are facing a crisis in their lives. A study on faith, showing the marvelous working of God's power for His people, should now be given. This will strengthen them for the decision we know they soon must make. When sufficient time has elapsed, in which to digest and assimilate that which has already been given, we may resume the main thought.
Lesson 19—Spirit of Prophecy. The time has now come to introduce the Spirit of prophecy. At the entrance of sin, direct contact between man and his Creator was broken, but if Christ is to work out our salvation, there must be some means of communicating with man. The gift of prophecy is the 'chosen method. After the 1844 disappointment, the Spirit of prophecy was introduced into the advent movement, and through its agency our work has been developed to its present proportions.
Lessons 20—Christian Temperance. We have now reached the closing studies. Since the gospel is to restore men physically as well as spiritually, the principles of hygienic living must be presented. Perhaps a study on obedience would here be in place, to aid in getting our readers established. The ordinances.- the personal obligations one assumes in becoming a child of God, proper dress, and support of God's work, should all be taught to the prospective Seventh-day Adventists.
Lesson 24—God's True Church. We now come to another important study, the identification of God's true church. AR through the ages God has a people through whom He has been working. At times they have lost the Bible path, and it then became necessary to start a new organization of God's children. How to determine the true church is now a subject of vital importance. There are certain characteristics that have run like threads through each succeeding organization. They are obedience to law, redemption through Christ, and the gift of prophecy. In the remnant church the question of prophetic time also enters in. There is hut one church that meets these various requirements.
Lesson—The Controversy Ended. We have now reached the end of the controversy. A study of the two judgments—both the investigative and the one during the thousand years—touching again on the destruction of the wicked, but dwelling more particularly on the earth made new, should here complete the gospel story. The redeemed have again entered the paradise of God.
We have found this method of presenting a series of Bible readings to be very successful. The fact that we overlap in a few places, touching points that we have already presented, is a help rather than a hindrance in this plan. Following this procedure shows the complete correlation of edch doctrine with the whole series of doctrinal truths, and makes it more difficult to reject one special point. The truth in this way will stand or fall as a whole, and is far more easily understood than when given in disconnected portions.