Let’s quickly recap:
Beginning: God creates the world and has a special relationship to humans.
Inciting Incident: The enemy Satan deceives the first humans and turns them away from God toward self-determination. Violence and death ensue.
Second Thoughts: Regretful, God wipes the earth clean through a flood, and starts over through the family of one righteous man. But despite this fresh start, humans still choose to worship gods of their own making.
Climax of Act One: A few generations later, he puts his plan to redeem the humans he has created into action: He will set apart one man and his descendants and use them to carry a message of reconciliation to all the families of the earth. He will give them a specific territory and will cause them to become as numerous as the stars.
Remember that in all great stories the protagonist has an inner problem and an outer problem to resolve. God’s inner problem is that the humans he loves so dearly do not love him back, and his justice will not allow their sin to go unpunished. The outer problem is that Satan is prowling around deceiving humans.
A series of obstacles arise, mainly obstructing the fulfillment of God’s promise to settle Abraham’s descendants on the territory he has promised them (the Promised Land). The Israelites find themselves enslaved in Egypt, assaulted on all sides by invaders and eventually deported from the land by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Though a significant number manage to return, they are not able to achieve sovereignty and by the middle of Act Two, it’s the Romans who control the Promised Land.
Mid-Point Twist: Messiah arrives, and everyone hopes he will be the one to restore Israel’s sovereignty. But at this point in the story, God is only working on the inner problem: “ to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Obstacle: Some people understand what is happening and believe; others think he's a pretender and should be killed for blasphemy.
But Messiah goes back to heaven, leaving the promises to Abraham unfulfilled. The first followers of Jesus are very confused. They soon figure out, however, that the message of reconciliation is for the whole world, not only the Jews and before you know it, the descendants of Abraham are off to bless all the families of the earth with the good news.
Second half of Act Two
We still have the land problem, which won’t be resolved until the end of Act Two. But before we get there, we expect to see a Disaster and a Crisis as the conflict ramps up. In fact, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.
Though we are now in the realm of future events, the Bible reveals what will happen in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, Matthew, 1 Thessalonians and Revelation.
DISASTER- ANTICHRIST: Toward the end of Act II, the Jews have been gathered back to the Promised Land and have rebuilt the temple. Though their nation is still threatened on all sides, a new political ruler appears on the scene who makes a peace treaty with the Jews. But he’s only bluffing and three and a half years later, his true motives are unveiled. He begins to kill vast numbers of God’s people and sets up his own image in the temple. Anyone who doesn’t worship him will not be allowed to buy or sell. Biblical prophecy calls this man Antichrist because his main goal is to halt the worship of Christ and to make people bow down to him. He even gets killed in battle and comes back from the dead—a kind of counterfeit resurrection—which is the means of luring people into worshiping him. He’s also got a sidekick the Bible calls the False Prophet whose counterfeit miracles further enhance public opinion of this evil character.
CRISIS- TRIBULATION: But during the reign of Antichrist, terrible things begin to happen in the cosmos and on earth. Climate change on an unprecedented scale occurs. A third of the plants burn up, a third of the sea turns to blood, , a third of all freshwater turns bitter and poisonous, a third of the stars stop shining, including a third of the sun, and two armies—one of locusts and one of 200 million soldiers—wreak devastation on the remaining population on earth. Weakened he may be by all this environmental and political upheaval, but Antichrist still refuses to acknowledge the Creator’s claims and persecutes Jews and Christians like no other ruler in history.
Then the last trumpet sounds, and the earth is rocked by thunder, lightning, rumblings, a global earthquake and giant hailstones.
CLIMAX ACT TWO-MESSIAH RETURNS: Messiah is ready to take his place on the throne in Jerusalem and restore the Promised Land to his people. At the head of a vast army of his saints arrayed in white linen, he fights the Battle of Armageddon, annihilating the 200 million man army and casting Antichrist and the False Prophet out of the Promised Land and into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity. In defeating all the nations of the earth, he becomes King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Next, Satan is thrown into the Abyss and locked up for a thousand years, temporarily relieving the outer problem. Jesus reigns from Jerusalem during this time, and temple worship according to the Law of Moses is restored and Jews and foreigners dwell in peace and prosperity. The remaining nations are ruled with a rod of iron.
How things stand at the end of Act Two
Now, at the end of Act Two, God’s promises to Abraham have all been fulfilled. Abraham’s descendants are increasing in number and dwelling in the Promised Land. Each of the twelve tribes is given a specific land allotment.
God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.” (Ezekiel 37:26)
Not only so, but anyone who wants to live in this blessed kingdom is welcome: even foreigners who place themselves under Christ’s rule are given a land allotment. (Ezekiel 47:22) This is a further way that the nations of the earth are blessed through Abraham’s offspring.
All is good, right? Peace and justice and harmony restored? Almost. By the end of Act Two, the inner problem is always resolved. Perhaps you’ve seen adventure stories where the hero and his love interest are reunited before the bad guys get their just desserts. Here, too, it’s at the end of Act Two that Jesus and his Bride (all his faithful followers) are united at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9).
But though there is a thousand-year respite from his deceptions, the bad guy is still out there. We have to wait until Act Three to see how God deals with this last remaining threat and puts everything else to rights.
For a lot of people, the Bible is either art or truth. For me, it's both, and I hope to persuade readers in both camps to see the other perspective.