All the World’s a Stage
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare famously wrote, “And all the men and women merely players” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII).
He was right, but he wasn’t the first to say that. Forty years before Shakespeare penned those words, John Calvin had called the universe God’s “majestic theater.” So the world isn’t just a stage; it’s God’s stage where all things showcase the magnificent splendor of his surpassing wisdom, power, and love.
And since the universe is a theater for God’s glory, that means the name of the “play” that has been performed since its grand debut is Life. God the Father is the Author of Life, God the Spirit is the Director, and God the Son (Jesus) is the Star Actor and Main Character of its story.
Along with everyone who has ever been born, you and I have been cast as supporting actors in Life. We were literally born to play our parts. We were not cast because of our great abilities. There were no casting calls, talent searches, or screen tests. No, we were given only a part to play in Life because the Author/Director/Actor wanted us to experience the eternal joy that comes from knowing him. That’s what Life is all about.
Playing Our Part
But what is our part to play? How do we know what to do? The Author/Director/Actor has given us a script—the Bible. The Bible tells the true story of the whole world and everyone in it, giving us what we need to know to play our parts: character descriptions, settings for the action, lines to memorize, stage directions to follow, etc. The script even gives us needed background information concerning the Author/Director/Actor, telling us who he is, what he’s like, and where he’s going to take the story.
This is where you and I come in. To play our parts well, we must know the Author/Director/Main Actor and we must know the script for his play.
We’ve already said that the Author/Director/Main Actor in the play is God himself. As many have put it, history is his story. (So cheesy, but so true.) But God doesn’t write and direct the play from a distance in a behind-the-scenes sort of way. No, God has written himself into the story in the life of Jesus. “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3).
In addition to knowing who wrote the play of Life, we must understand what story it tells. What happens? What is the point? What is it all about? Here’s how the Bible tells the story of Life in five acts:
Act I – Creation and Rebellion
God created everything and everyone to know him and delight in his goodness forever (Gen. 1:1; Psalm 16:11; John 17:3). God is the source of everything good, and all things were created through him and for him (Col. 1:16-17). But the first two actors thought they could improve upon God’s script. Choosing to ignore God’s stage directions (commands), they sought to replace God as the Author/Director/Starring Actor in Life—and every actor since them has followed in their footsteps. Our actions have not brought harmony and happiness for all, but the opposite: the peace between us and God has been broken, selfishness and strife between people is the norm, and we are unable to put right what we have put wrong.
Act II – Israel
The first stage in God’s plan to put right what we put wrong was to create a group of actors who would trust him, honor him and tell the world about his ultimate rescue plan. So God called a man named Abraham and promised that one of his descendants who would reverse the curse of sin and bless all the world (Gen. 12:1-7; Gal. 3:16).
But a lot had to happen first: Abraham’s offspring, Israel, would fall into slavery, be rescued by mighty signs and wonders, and receive even more stage directions (commands) from God for how to play their parts. No matter what God did for them, however, Israel repeatedly proved themselves unwilling to follow God’s commands. Many tragedies would befall them because of their disregard for God’s script, but God kept rescuing them anyway. Every one of his merciful acts of rescue along the way were signs of the ultimate rescue that he had promised to Abraham.
Act III – Jesus
Enter Jesus, the main character and starring actor of Life. In a way, Jesus has been present all along, working behind the scenes with the Author and the Director to make sure that everything was set for him to make his grand entrance “when the fullness of time had come” (Gal. 4:4). For Jesus is the Son promised to Abraham who came to put right all that we put wrong.
But how does Jesus do this? By fixing the people who made everything wrong, of course. Jesus came to forgive us, to heal us, to cleanse us, to renew us, and to reconcile us to God and to each other. He took it upon himself to repair and repay all the damages that our sins have brought upon the Majestic Theater of God’s glory. The price was steep, but Jesus paid it in full, willingly laying down his life for ours and taking it up again (John 10:11, 18) so that we could be forgiven and accepted by God.
Act IV – The Church
When Jesus finished playing his part, he sent his followers out into the world to continue playing their parts, telling others about the point of Life and all that Jesus had done for them.
Actors are “awakened” to the part God has given them when they see their need for Jesus. They are given a new hear that wants to follow God’s script— not out of fear or self-righteous pride, but out of faith in Jesus and love for him. We call this group of actors “the church.” They don’t always play their parts perfectly, but they do know that their misdeeds are sinful and wrong, and that the church itself is a sign to the world Jesus is going to make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
Act V – The End
By his death on the cross, Jesus posted a condemnation notice on everything evil and twisted and wrong in the world (Col. 2:13-15; 1 Cor. 15:23-26). The notice reads, “Condemned. Destruction pending.” Condemned as in, “This is wrong, evil, terrible, backwards, foolish, destructive, deadly.” Destruction pending as in, “I will come again to rid the world of these things forever.”
And that’s how the story ends. Jesus returns to destroy everything marked with a condemnation notice. All sickness, sadness, sin, and death are removed forever, along with everyone who insists on trying to keep those things in God’s theater. The church will be resurrected, just as Jesus was, to share in God’s new world together, where they will spend their eternal days living the original “happily ever after.”
That’s the true story of the whole world. Are you playing your part?
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.