I wrote the following introduction to the New Testament for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed into Bibles all around the world.
The Bible tells one story, because God has one plan for all of history (Isa. 46:9–10; Gal. 4:4–6). The 27 books of the New Testament bring that story to a climax and then explain its significance.
The Old Testament was the story of how God created a good world, man plunged it into sin, and God worked through the family of Abraham to bless and fix it again.
God promised Abraham that kings would come from his line. He promised King David that his line would hold the throne of Israel forever. But at the beginning of the New Testament the Jews have no king. The Romans rules their land. How will God fulfill these promises?
The Gospels (Matthew–John) open with the answer: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One (Ps. 2) who would save His people from their sins (Isa. 53). He will be their king. He will establish peace in their land. And the angels who announce His birth express an even greater hope: peace on all the earth!
How is it that 33 years later, that miracle-working King lies dead in a tomb?
In Jesus’ apparent defeat lay His greatest triumph. His death was all part of the plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28). God was justly angry at human sin, and He sent His own Son to pay the massive debt for that sin (Rom 3:21–26).
But the sinless King Jesus did not deserve death. And as the divine Son of God, He was granted power over it. He conquered that enemy and rose gloriously from the tomb. He rose to sit at the right hand of God.
But He did not leave us without guidance. He sent His Holy Spirit to fill all believers and to form up a special body on this earth: the church. In the church, believers come together to hear God’s teachers deliver God’s Words (Eph. 4). They provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 3).
The 13 letters of Paul—and the other New Testament books after the Gospels—give all sorts of instructions for members of the church. And they explain the significance of Jesus’ death.
In the church, believers offer a foretaste of what the renewed earth will look like. Through the church at least some of mankind can have dominion over God’s world as His representatives. And they can be God’s tools to spread His rule by telling others about the good news of forgiveness in Christ for those who repent from their sins (Matt 28:18–20).
One day, through Jesus, God will fulfill all His promises to Abraham. All true believers, whether Jewish or not, will live together on the New Earth. God will dwell with men for all eternity (Rev. 21).