Though God Doesn’t Change, but the Way He Relates to Us Has
We divide the Bible in two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament focuses on the relationship of Father God to his people and looks forward to the coming Savior. The New Testament centers on Jesus and the work of his followers. Each testament has its own focus, and we must not lose sight of it.
To further enhance my understanding of Scripture, I look at the Bible in three parts, each one focusing on one aspect of the Trinity. God the Father is central throughout the Old Testament. God the Savior—Jesus—is central in the Gospels.
God the Spirit takes center stage in the rest of the New Testament, Acts through Revelation. Jesus, of course, stands as the foundational part of the godhead that saves us and draws us into right relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We can break this down even more, however, to better guide us as we study Scripture and apply it to our daily lives.
In this regard, it helps to consider six eras in the Bible. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He never changes (Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8).
Yet the way he relates to his people does change throughout Scripture. We will do well to keep this in mind as we read and study the Bible, taking care to not take one passage from the past and misapply it to our situation today.
Consider these six eras in the Bible.
God creates the world in which we live and places people in it. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. They walk with God in the cool of the evening. But they break the one rule he gave them. They eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
So that they don’t also eat from the tree of life, and live forever in their sin, God forces them out of this idyllic paradise.
This takes place in Genesis 1–3 and moves us into the second of six eras in the Bible.
2. No Law
Though most people think of the Old Testament’s focus as being on God’s law, this doesn’t occur yet, not until the third era. The second era is what happens after Adam and Eve leave the garden and prior to God giving the Law to Moses.
During this time, God continues to speak to his people (Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others). Throughout this time, God is patient. He does not hold people accountable for their sins. This is because there are no laws to let the people know that they are doing wrong (Romans 5:13).
During this era, God wipes out the depravity of the people he created by killing most all of them through a flood. Only Noah and his family survive. It’s creation 2.0, a restart of humanity, a do over. Then God calls Abraham and later Moses.
God tells his people he wants them to become a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6), but the people are afraid of God and don’t want him to talk to them. They request that Moses stand in for them. This ends the second of six eras in the Bible, covering Genesis 3 through Exodus 18.
3. The Law
Then God gives the people his laws and shares his expectations. This begins the third era, which covers the rest of the Old Testament of the Bible, Exodus 19 through Malachi.
This era has three phases, but they all fall under Old Testament law. In the first phase God rules as their sovereign Lord, and judges lead the people from time to time. The people, however, go through cycles of following God—usually under various judges—and turn away from him after each judge dies.
For the second phase under the law, the people ask for a king, which effectively rejects God as their king. He starts with Saul. David then replaces Saul, and God establishes David’s line forever, from whom the Messiah will come.
In this phase, kings rule instead of God. Most do so badly, and the people rebel against their Lord. Most of the prophets do their work during this era.
For the third phase under the era of the law, God’s people are conquered and deported. They have no ruler, and they have no nation.
Though some eventually return to the promised land, they subsist without leadership, except for some of the latter prophets. The people wait for the coming Savior to rescue them. This is the third of the six eras in the Bible.
Jesus comes to earth, calls people to follow him, and dies as the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sacrifices. But he overcomes death, proving his power to serve as the once-and-for-all sacrifice.
This is the fourth of six eras in the Bible and is the pivotal point around which all Scripture—and all humanity—revolves. The four biographies of Jesus cover this: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
5. The Church
After giving his followers final instructions, resurrected Jesus returns to heaven. The Holy Spirit arrives to guide the church and remind them of Jesus. Acts through to Revelation 3 cover this fifth era of the Bible.
We currently live in this era today, which is why the New Testament is critical to guide our actions as Jesus’s church. And the Old Testament supports this because it looks forward to this era.
Yet to conclude the six eras in the Bible, there is one era remaining, a time we anticipate for our future.
6. A New Heaven and New Earth
Starting in Revelation 4 we read of John’s vision of the future. Though the details confuse most and trip up many, the main point is that there will be an epic spiritual battle between good and evil. God wins. Satan is defeated.
After this we will see a new heaven and a new earth. This is paradise restored. Everyone who follows Jesus will spend eternity with him there.
This is the sixth era of the Bible and the one we anticipate as Jesus’s disciples.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.
2 replies on “Six Eras in the Bible”
Hi Peter. I agree with your description of the six eras break down of the Biblical narrative. I would add a little more description about the fifth era or Church age, how Jesus tasked the Church to continue the mission he inaugurated with his incarnation, how he sent the Holy Spirit to empower them/us to fulfill it, and how when Christ’s Church is at her best, she demonstrates to the world the age to come.
Robert, you are so right.
There is much more that I could have added to the era of the Church. Maybe expanding on that will make for a follow up post!