19th April 2008, mgh
3) The New Testament
The New Testament is concerned with the rise and growth of Christianity and its relationship to the promises given to the Fathers of ancient Israel, the extension of the hope of life eternal to all people and the requirements that God expects of the faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
The Bible and History
In the New Testament, the first four books, known as the Gospel records, deal with the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give first hand accounts of the teaching and commandments of Jesus. Just as God created Adam and Eve, God used his great power to cause Mary to conceive a child, who was destined to be the means of salvation for all who believe in God's promises and who do his will.
Under the laws of the Israelites the sacrifice of animals had been the means by which sins could be recognised and forgiven. The death and sacrifice of Jesus, through the crucifixion of Jesus. was the fulfilment of the law by the provision of a sinless man who would take away the sins of believers through the shedding of his blood. Baptism was instituted as a symbol of a person's identification with the Messiah's death, burial and resurrection, an acknowledgement of sin needing to be covered and forgiven and a necessity to live one's life as required by the Creator.
The Gospel records describe the ability that the Messiah had to perform miracles, which were the sign of the power given to him by God and that identified him as the Son of God. They record his conflict with the leaders of the Jews and their ultimate betrayal of Jesus by demanding that the Romans have him crucified. The Gospels close with the resurrection of Jesus, the first man granted eternal life.
The book of Acts is about the preaching of the Kingdom of God by the Apostles, who had been closely involved in the work of Jesus' ministry. The first Christians were Jews who had followed Jesus and believed his teaching. Christianity spread to other regions of the Roman Empire through the work of the Apostles. Acts gives accounts of the work of such men as Paul, Barnabas and Peter and their experiences and difficulties in preaching about the promise of God's future Kingdom on earth.
The Bible and the Christian Faith
Paul wrote many letters to the early Christian believers: Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The letters were designed to instruct and guide the communities of believers. Difficulties related to matters of doctrine and the expectations related to morals and behaviour were addressed.
The letters of James, Peter, John and Jude were concerned with issues such as faith. courage in times of persecution, the manifestation of love and contending against those who attempted to destroy their faith and beliefs by turning them to the worship of idols.
The Bible and Prophecy
The last book of the Bible is a prophetic book. In the opening verses it is stated that this is a prophecy given to the Apostle John in AD 96 when he was on the Isle of Patmos. It is given by Jesus and John is clearly told that the things contained in the prophecy would shortly begin to come to pass. The prophecies detail the decline of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Catholic Church and the Papacy, the rise of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of Protestantism and religious conflict. The book concludes with details of Armageddon and the glories of God's Kingdom which will follow this war, which will affect all people who survive its calamities and an earthquake.
The Bible thus concludes with the Kingdom of God on earth and an age of peace, beauty, justice and righteous rule with the Lord Jesus Christ as King.