“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” –Revelation 22:13
Have you noticed how many superhero movie series today are turning backward to show the origins of the character and the storyline? These prequels give us context we don’t otherwise have, new texture and nuance to the narrative and helps us understand the story as a whole. The same is true for you and me.
We find our true selves inside the Great Story of God. But what exactly is that Story? To understand our current role, including why we get up and go to work each day, we need to understand the Author’s original intent. Where did this Great Story start and where is it ultimately taking us.
Origins and Endings
We call this the “metanarrative,” the overarching account of the Bible.
Most of us approach the Bible as a book of spiritual “advice.” I’d like to understand what God thinks about money, or parenting, or politics, or in our case here our everyday work, so I grab my Bible and begin looking for passages that explain God’s feelings about each topic of interest.
We treat the Bible like a spiritual encyclopedia of sorts. That may have value in some contexts, but God isn’t selling the latest self-help craze. The Bible is primarily a Story, the Great Story that God has been unfolding since the beginning of time. A Story we have been invited into through His Son Jesus.
What is this Story? Theologians unfold it in four “chapters.”
In the beginning, God created mankind out of His love so He could dwell with us. The earth itself was the original Temple, where the realm of God and the realm of man were one. God Himself walked with man in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
Eden was the perfect paradise, not just because it was green and lush and pristine, but because God Himself was literally with mankind. This is our origins story, God’s Creation living in the fullness of His loving presence. It is “with God” that we are fully alive, fully human.
But something horrible broke this perfect union. Sin. Sin disconnected our designed union with the Creator and physically separated God and man. Through our God-given freewill, we chose to pursue fulfillment and identity in everything except where we were designed to find it – in God Himself. This is the root of sin.
So God cast mankind out of His presence, not only as punishment, but because our rebellion and His holiness are incapable of coexisting. We were left to function alone, disconnected from our Source. This absence of God’s presence did not only affect mankind but all of Creation.
And yet, since Genesis 3, God has been passionately pursuing the reunification of this broken relationship. The Great Story follows a loving Creator chasing down His beloved, lost, and wandering creation.
God began this redemption chapter with a promise to a person (Abraham) and then a people (Israel). He began reconnecting with mankind in strategic, yet veiled ways – between the wings of the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, behind a curtain in the Tabernacle and Temple. The Law was was given as a temporary placeholder, outlining the expectations for a holy life, and sin was dealt with through a series of animal sacrifices and offerings.
But God’s plan was a permanent solution, to redeem all creation and re-establish His Kingdom!. Enter Jesus, the perfect and final sacrifice for sin. When Jesus died on the cross, the Temple veil was torn, and His resurrection established the first fruits of a new creation! Through faith, Jesus now lives in us, no longer in a Temple of stone, but in human hearts.
Through Christ, God and man can once again dwell together. But this isn’t the last chapter of the Great Story.
God is now restoring all things to Himself through Christ! We are the firstfruits of this coming Kingdom! We live in the “already but not yet,” the period between Jesus’ first and second coming, where His rule is being restored here on the earth in and through His people. CS Lewis called it the “Shadowlands.” We see its form but not its full essence.
But one day, Jesus will come again and finish this Great Story, dwelling fully with man in the new heavens and earth, where the dominion of man and God will once again tangibly meet – just as He always intended.
The Great Story
This is the Great Story we were born into, and it’s the narrative in which all our work, great or small, finds its purpose and meaning. Our everyday work is not about fulfilling our ambition, it’s not about making millions of dollars (although making money is not wrong), it’s not about accumulating power, earning the respect and admiration of others, making our mark on the world, becoming famous or well-known. Ultimately, our work is not about us at all!
Our story is part of the cosmic redemption Story of God!