IN THE BEGINNING
Did you ever wonder how to sum up the main theme of the Bible accurately in a single, simple concept? It’s right there in the first line: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Put simply, the Story starts with a Sovereign who creates a domain he benevolently rules over. There is a King and his “dom,” so to speak. There is a kingdom.
This is what the Story is all about. The main theme is not love or redemption or forgiveness or even relationship. Those are all important parts of the Story, to be sure. They serve the theme in important ways, but they are not the main point of the Story. The idea that God owns everything and has proper authority to rule over everything he has made is the main point.
Here is another way of looking at it: The universe is managed by some One, not some thing. We are not abandoned to the fates or to the blind and brutal forces of the natural world. Instead, we have a powerful King carefully watching over us and who is there for us.
God is an active player in the Story. He does not sit silently and idly by. He is the storyteller, but he is also a player in the drama. He shows up. Because he is there, we are not alone. Because he speaks, we are not in the dark. Because he participates, we are not forsaken. More important than anything else, because he makes himself known, then we can know him.
The Story calls this theme “the Kingdom of God” (or sometimes “the Kingdom of Heaven,” but it means the same thing). You might even call it the “rulership of God” if you want to, since that’s what the concept of kingdom amounts to. Only while under God’s rulership can man fulfill his chief purpose—glorifying his King—and only under God’s rule can man discover his deepest satisfaction—enjoying him forever.
The kingdom theme is especially obvious later in the Story. A prophet named John comes preaching the Kingdom of God. He prepares the way for Jesus of Nazareth who also preaches the Kingdom of God. The disciples and apostles who follow after him preach the Kingdom of God. They preach that God is in charge, that the world belongs to him, and that coming back under his care and direction is the true secret to happiness. It is the only place where those who are weary and weighed down with life’s woes will find true rest.8 We do not just return to a sovereign, but, like the prodigal son, we come home to the protective care of a father. And because there is no limit to this sovereign’s power, and because he is a noble, honorable, and perfectly worthy king, it’s a good thing for us that he is the one who is in charge.
Now, I realize the idea that God is in charge is bothersome to many people, but what is the alternative? If someone is not in charge, then no one is in charge, and that seems to be a big part of our complaint about the world to begin with. Of course, it’s entirely fair to raise the point that if someone is in charge, then why are things such a mess, but that is something we will get to later on. As I said before, the whole Story is about how God puts the world right again.
Think about this. Some homes are governed by a strong-willed child, or worse, a band of them. Chaos reigns because children do not know what is best for them. When they consistently get their way, mischief abounds. Generally, this is not a home where you want to spend much time.
Usually, though, the problem is not the strong-willed child, but the weak-willed parent. Thoughtful grownups know that no child really fares well in a home like that. Even though the youngsters think, for the moment at least, that life could not be better, that will not last. As one friend of mine used to say regarding children, “No pain now, big pain later.”
When the whole world is run by children doing as they wish, ugly things happen. That’s our complaint. Deep inside we hunger, like unruly children do, for things to be different, for someone bigger and trustworthy to be in charge so that good would prevail, even though, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that we (like the unruly children) are the main source of the problem. We need to be ruled if anything is going to be different.
There is a prayer in the Story that says, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” The petition is a wise one because it asks for something each of us desires deep in our heart—for goodness and justice to prevail in a world that lacks them. We are hungering for the thing we were made for. We are hungering for God’s Kingdom.
One final thing. The world has not always been broken. That is not the way things started out. If it was, if the world now is the way it had been from the beginning, it would be difficult to imagine how it might be any different.
According to the Story, though, when God made everything, when he formed the world at the first and set up his Kingdom, everything was exactly the way his noble mind intended. Everything was in its proper place. Everything was fulfilling its designated purpose. This is the heart of happiness—all the world, and everything and everyone in it, working together in perfect harmony just the way God wanted it.
That isn’t to say nothing could ever disrupt it, disorder it, throw it out of kilter. The happiness was not immutable. It could change. Things could go wrong. But they did not start out that way. They started out right. Everything was just the way it was supposed to be. Which is just another way of saying that everything God made was good.
Gregory Koukl holds MA degrees in both apologetics and philosophy. He’s spoken on over 50 university campuses and hosted his own radio talk show for 18 years defending "Christianity Worth Thinking About." Greg is founder and president of Stand to Reason (str.org) and serves as adjunct professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University.
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Publication date: January 12, 2017