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How important is the cross in the Bible? Christians would say, “Very, very, very important. The whole book is about the cross in the Bible. All 66 books point to Jesus.” “Can you prove it? Can you back up your claim that all 66 books point to Jesus?” And with today’s book, the answer is yes.
Hi, my name is Terence, and I’m your host for Reading and Readers Podcast, where I review Christian books for you. Every month I review Faithlife’s Free Book of the Month and for the month of April, the free ebook is Bloodline: Tracing God’s Rescue Mission from Eden to Eternity by Skip Heitzig. According to his biography:
Skip Heitzig ministers to over 15,000 people as senior pastor of Calvary Church in Albuquerque. He reaches out to thousands across the nation and throughout the world through his multimedia ministry including a nationwide half-hour radio program, Connect with Skip Heitzig. He is the author of several books including Bloodline, You Can Understand the Book of Revelation, and The Bible from 30,000 Feet.
His book, “The Bible From 30,000 Feet” is 600 or so pages long. It’s on how to read all the books in the Bible in 52 chapters. Wait a minute. There are 66 books in the Bible, not 52. And yes, what he has done is he has combined some books like the prophets together. The three Gospels are in one chapter, and there are some epistles which are combined in some chapters. So you get 52 chapters, which leads to 52 weeks, which means you can read one chapter a week to finish the book in one year. Now, why am I bringing up “The Bible from 30,000 Feet? I thought we were reviewing Bloodline.” Yes, we are but I’ll explain why in a moment.
The Bible bleeds
Bloodline is a book where the title refers to the redemption of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The Blood of Christ. Heitzig writes:
History hinges on a single pivotal event: the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. There, God’s great redemption of mankind was accomplished—a rescue mission that culminated at the end of Christ’s three-and-a-half-year public ministry but began before the world was formed. This incredible tapestry is woven throughout the Scriptures in red. The great Bible teacher of yesteryear, William Evans, noted, “Cut the Bible anywhere and it bleeds.” The blood of Jesus stains every page, every book, in both testaments. Evans observed that “the atonement is the scarlet cord running through every page in the entire Bible”; it “is red with redemption truth.”
That is where the title Bloodline comes from. He also refers to the story where Jesus, after his resurrection, walked with two disciples to the village named Emmaus and as they were talking, they went to a place and they had dinner at the table. Jesus then said to them, And I quote Luke, Chapter 24:25-27.
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
The last part is where we get the biblical support for what Hietzig does in this book. Look at the last sentence: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Every part of Scripture points to Jesus. So that is what Hietzig has done in this book.
One chapter, many books
The structure of Bloodline is as follows. Remember how many books are there in the Bible? 66. Now there are 16 chapters in this book, that is 16 chapters plus the introduction, plus the epilogue. Now those 16 chapters are in canonical order. It’s not chronological. Meaning they are arranged by the groupings of the books as you read in the Bible.
If it’s chronological, you would have the Prophet Isaiah and his prophecies coming up in Second Kings. If it’s chronological, you would have Paul’s missionary trip to Galatia, coming up in the Book of Acts. But it’s not chronological, its canonical.
What you get is things like the first two chapters. The first two chapters of Bloodline is on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Then later on, you have a chapter, one chapter, which is subtitled The Monarchy. In it you have 1st, 2nd Samuel, 1st, 2nd Kings, 1st 2nd Chronicles, all these six books in one chapter. You have one chapter, subtitled, wisdom literature. In it you have Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Lamentations. All these books in one chapter. And you have combinations of grouping of prophecies in various chapters, the four Gospel and Acts is one chapter. You have various chapters that group together the Letters. So you have the the Pastoral Epistles, the Prison Epistles and the General Epistles as grouped into separate chapters. And you have the last chapter on, obviously Revelation. That is how he has arranged the book. It’s going according to how the Bible itself is structured.
Now I want to give some criticism first in this book review. Then I will go to the positives.
The biggest criticism I have of this book is that it’s a self imposed creative challenge. Do you know those challenges where you have the professional photographer and give him a toy camera? He then has an assignment where he takes a photo and you see, wow, that picture is so amazing even though he was constrained by using a toy camera?
Well, you’ve seen those challenges where the professional uses dumbed down tools. In this book, Heitzig has handcuffed himself. He has handcuffed himself by various constraints. He’s trying to achieve many things in one book. He is trying to:
1. Tell the big story of the Bible.
2. Write about the atonement.
3. Make it easy to read. He doesn’t assume that the reader knows much of the Bible, so he makes it easy to read, easy to understand.
4. Refer to all 66 books of the Bible. He doesn’t skip any one of them.
5. Do all of the above in a short book in 250 pages or so. Remember that in his previous book, “The Bible From 30,000 Feet” it was 600 pages. So here we have bloodline 250 pages to deal with 66 books and his earlier book, he did the same with 600 pages. So he doesn’t have a lot of pages. And because he doesn’t have a lot of pages, there are some parts which comes in very rushed. Okay, so I think that he could have done a better work. This is my assessment.
Example from Philemon
One of the best parts of this book, for me, was the section on Philemon. And the reason is Philemon itself is just a single letter. It’s just one chapter. It’s self contained. So he could write the summary of it quickly. For example, he writes:
Reading between the lines of this epistle, it’s generally believed that Onesimus, a slave of the Christian leader Philemon, stole money from his master and ran away to Rome, thinking, I’ll just blend in and get lost in this big city. Instead of getting lost, however, Jesus found him: Somehow Onesimus met Paul, who was still in prison, and Paul led him to Christ and found out his story. In this letter, Paul appealed for Philemon to receive Onesimus back to him not just as his slave, but as his new brother in Christ.
Now this is a mastery of a summary because over here you have the characters Onesimus, Philemon and Paul. You have the background of the city. And you also have the intent. Paul appealed to Philemon to receive Onesimus back to him, not as a slave but as a brother. So it’s a very masterful paragraph and he does a background for almost every section because he needs to explain to the reader what’s going on in this book.
After this, he would share some insights from that book. Some of us, the general reader, may not be familiar the Bible and may find it fascinating. This is how he ends in this way. In this Philemon section, he writes:
That’s how it is with God: He loves to restore people. He looks for hearts that are broken, for people who have made bad choices, who are beat up and scarred. He loves to turn people around. And when you choose to become part of His family, His bloodline, that’s what He will do for you. If you bring your broken heart to Him, the master mechanic, He will rebuild it. He’s in the business of restoration and redemption.
So you see here, that he is. He ends by connecting it to the bloodline metaphor and he wants, he’s inviting us to worship. And he says that he writes that, “more than merely inform about God’s astonishing rescue operation, I want you to be inspired to worship him.”
That is his intent. He begins with a background. He gives some insights, and then he ends by a connection to the bloodline. He wants us to worship God by the end of it.
Runway too short, can’t takeoff
Let’s take this passage as an airplane. So if the background is the engine and the worshipping final paragraph is the take off. I could not take off because there was not enough runway. There wasn’t enough space to build up so he could not build up on the insight for it to lead us to a sense of “God, you’re so amazing. I am so in awe of you” because just as he is getting there, it ends. The plane does not crash. It’s not a tragic incident. But it just putters along and he goes back. Taxis back to the start and he tries again to take off. And oftentimes it doesn’t. It just doesn’t work.
He just doesn’t have enough runway to take the plane off the ground, and I will show you why I think so.
All right, in the book, in Bloodlines you have in there a chapter. There’s a section in one of the chapters. It refers to Genesis 33:15. Now in the book, it’s one page. If you go online, you go and search for Heitzig. You look for his sermon series on Bloodline and you find that there is a sermon title: “The Cure for the Curse.” The exact same subtitle in this book: The Cure for the Curse. It’s a one page section, very short, not much runway. In the sermon, it’s one hour. It’s a one hour, 5 point sermon of the same name. So you see, he can expound at length about one verse. But he couldn’t do it in this book because he had no pages.
I give a second example. In the Book of Ruth, I found that I couldn’t connect the dots. He makes a conclusion that I disagree with, and I couldn’t see how he made that conclusion. Let me read to you and you see whether you know what I’m talking about. Heitzig writes:
More than anything, the book of Ruth shows us how God chose us and paid the highest price to be able to call us His beloved children.
Now, when I read this, I was thinking “More than anything. Wow, this is, like, more than anything.” The Book of Ruth shows us how God chose us and paid the highest price. But I didn’t get that. How did God chose us and paid the highest price in the Book of Ruth? What is the highest price? Did I miss something? And later on, in another section, Heitzig writes:
Boaz put a significant portion of his resources and his reputation on the line to become Ruth’s bridegroom, and Jesus set aside His heavenly glory for a season to buy your salvation with His blood.
So the great sacrifice, the highest price that God paid that is demonstrated in Ruth is demonstrated by Boaz. But how is that so? Because the way I read Ruth is that Ruth has made a bigger sacrifice than Boaz. What has Ruth done? She has left her home. She has left her family to live together with her mother in law in a foreign land. And this positive compliment is not just my assessment. It’s in the Bible. In Ruth 2:11, it says, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.”
So Boaz has a positive view of Ruth. Not just Boaz, the people have a positive view of what Ruth has done to leave her family, to leave her home, to stay with Naomi. And if you say that Boaz has put a significant portion of his resources and his reputation, in what sense? Yes, I know Ruth is a Moabite. Yes, I know that in marrying Ruth there is a threat to Boaz’s inheritance. That’s why the other guy did not take Ruth in. I know that, but the Bible doesn’t make a big deal about this. In fact, the Bible, the Book of Ruth seems to make a bigger deal, I would say, of what Ruth has done in choosing God.
So now hear me clearly, I’m not even saying that I’m right and Heitzig is wrong. What I am saying is that I couldn’t connect the dots. He doesn’t give me enough words. He doesn’t give me enough evidence in this book to show me that more than anything, the Book of Ruth shows us how God chose us and paid the highest price to call us his beloved children.
And last example. And this one, I think, will convince you: when he comes to the monarchy. The monarchy that started with Saul and ended with the last kings of Israel and Judah. There is the United Kingdom. And then there was the Divided kingdoms. The monarchy in Bloodline is one chapter that covers 1st, 2nd Samuel, 1st, 2nd Kings and 1st 2nd Chronicles. And that is all covered in 14 pages. In his other book, “The Bible from 30,000 Feet”, each of those books, I just told you, is a chapter by itself. So you have six chapters, and all together those six chapters form 53 pages. In those 53 pages he gives the background, he links to the to the gospel, and there’s a sense that he calls to worship and so on. So you have three times as many, four times as many pages in the “Bible from 30,000 Feet”.
Bloodlines chapter on the monarchy is very rushed. In Bloodlines, Saul is barely mentioned. David has two sections. Solomon seems to take the most central position and there is little to nothing on the Kings of Israel and Judah. But what can you expect with 14 pages? The writer spends a lot of words and paragraphs explaining to the reader, the general reader who doesn’t know the background. By the time you have finished explaining the background, you don’t have much room to say anything else.
You need this book, or something like this
After finishing with my criticisms, let me now turn over to the positive aspects. If you judge the book by the constraints that it has imposed on itself, all right, it’s a good book. There is no book that I know of that attempts to tell the big story of the atonement in an easy to understand way from 66 books under 300 pages. If that is what you’re looking for, I think there is only one book, and that is Bloodline. If you think there’s another book, please let me know.
Now, despite the flaws, and I think those are big flaws, I think that Christians should know the breath of the Bible and how every book connects to the Atonement, how all 66 books can be traced to the Cross of Christ, because:
1. It immunizes you from this understanding, this popular notion, that the Christian Bible is a storehouse of quotations where you just look for verses to put up in Instagram. Or it’s just quotations that you read on bumper stickers. No, it’s not. If you understand how every book is actually God-breathed, you can overcome all manner of apostasies and false teachings. If you just understand the whole counsel of God. So this book helps in that.
2. It answers the challenge that the Bible is an inconsistent mess. You have 66 books, dozens of authors, a mishmash of genres: poetry, narrative, letters, apocalyptic literature. So it’s a mishmash of things. But with this book, it helps Christians understand. There is one message that even though there are dozens of authors, there is really only One Author. And the book is centered on Jesus Christ.
3. The atonement itself is very important, so even if you don’t read about the 66 books and so on, but if you understand the atonement, that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. If you understand this, you can interpret the Bible correctly. You can evaluate sermons and teachings. Does your teacher, preacher, pastor or leader hold to the atonement? It is one of the most important doctrines in the Christian faith. So you should understand what is the atonement.
Another thing that I want to say about this book as a caution, not as criticism, is he refers to the millenial. In various parts of the book, he makes a pre-millennial interpretation of the verses. For example, let me read:
A curious feature of the millennial kingdom (Christ’s 1,000-year reign on a refurbished earth) is the presence of another temple, complete with some animal sacrifices.
So you see over here, that there is the Christ 1000 year reign on the physical earth, and you have another temple, a real future temple in the real city of Jerusalem. I personally don’t hold to pre-millennialism. I’m a-millennial. Now, if you think that means I’m not biblical and close to blasphemy, then please consider it as part of my journey. As I consider the Bible and every passage I read, I try to think about the question: How does this correspond with the pre-millennial, post-millennial or a-millennial interpretation?
Now here’s the thing. If you have very strong feelings because I do not hold a pre-millennial position or you think otherwise, that strong feeling or hostility that comes out is probably the reason why nobody talks about it anymore or preaches about it much nowadays. Because it invokes a lot of those unpleasantness where people are quarreling and arguing about things that seem so far away and not important. Now here’s the danger. What we have today is that many people think that eschatology or the teachings on the last days is not important, and that is so wrong.
I think eschatology is important. I think that even though we don’t know the details, we do know that yes, Jesus will come back and we win. Okay? Christians win. The Kingdom of God reigns. That’s true. But we should understand what are the different views so that we can make sense of the different parts of the Bible.
So I think that is very important. I appreciate what Heitzig has done in this book. Even when I don’t hold to that. Because as I read it, I can see that. Okay, this is how he interprets Ezekiel. This is how he interprets those passages, and it gives me an opportunity to reflect. I just want to mention this because of some of the readers may be surprised by the strong pre-millennial position that he takes in this book, but I think that if you understand how to read it, I think you would be better off with it.
Books without Bloodline’s Constraints
Now, let’s go to my conclusion. Is Bloodline a good book? I don’t think it’s a very good book because of the constraints. I don’t know what happened. I mean, why can’t we just increase the page count, for example? Is it a marketing issue? Is it a publishing issue? Is it a creative writing challenge sort of thing? I don’t know why he handcuffed himself such that he could not have more space to write.
It’s good in light of the constraints. It’s unique. But it’s not something that you can read in one sitting. I think that the plane couldn’t take off. The runway is too short, so I find that very jarring in many, many ways.
If you’re not looking for a book that fits all those constraints, there are other books that I can recommend. If you want an easy to read a book for the whole Bible, I would suggest children’s books. Okay, if you’re trying to help a young believer or a child understand, one of the easiest ways is just give a children’s Bible book. I would recommend “Biggest Story” by Kevin DeYoung. He looks into the centrality of Jesus. He goes through the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but makes it easy for children to understand. So I would recommend the Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung.
As you move forward, maybe you want to read more about how the 66 books relate to the central theme. I’ve read several of those type of broadening books. I have not read “The Bible from 30,000 Feet”, but that looks like a good book. And I think that at 600 pages, one chapter a week, I think you should gain from reading that book. So I would recommend that book for you to have a look at.
If you’re looking at the Atonement, then I would suggest this book that I really enjoyed, John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”. I found it very engaging. He goes into the atonement, and you can see the depth of what the Cross of Christ means for the believer. John Stott is a very gifted teacher.
So those are some of my book recommendations.
If you enjoy Heitzig’s teachings, I think that he does a better job of explaining all that we’ve talked about in his sermons, in his teaching series. If you just looking for devotional book, this can be it if you don’t mind the runway being too short. You just want a very quick and easy read every day. Then, yes, this book will be good for you.
But beyond that I find that there are better books that I can recommend. So this is a Reading and Readers review of Bloodline by Skip HeitZig.
Before you go, can I ask you to do something? If you are a Christian, that means we are both of the same bloodline. We can both trace a line from Jesus on the cross to where we are today. If you like the podcast, can you hit the subscribe button, write a review or drop me a line at readingandreaders.com. As an encouragement, not as a compulsion. Thank you so much.
If you’re not a Christian, I hope you will hear carefully to what Heitzig has to say. I get this from his chapter on Revelation. Let me read to you:
All through this journey we have seen very clearly that at the center of all Scripture is a single person: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the megatheme, the protagonist from Genesis to Revelation. In the Old Testament, Christ is promised by the prophets. In the Gospels, Christ is presented. In the book of Acts, Christ is proclaimed. In the epistles, Christ is pondered. And in the book of Revelation, Christ’s return is predicted. It’s all about Jesus. Boiled down to its irreducible minimum, the Bible is about one person and two events: Jesus Christ and His first and second comings. Jesus dealt with sin the first time He came, and the second time, He will rule and reign with those who are cleansed from sin.
Thank you for listening.
Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung. Amazon.
The Bible From 30,000 Feet by Skip Heitzig. Amazon.