Big Picture - NT

For this Big Picture - NT study, you'll need a Bible & pad to write some notes or questions. Don't be in a hurry. Study the information and Scriptures carefully.

Before you begin this lesson, make sure you've completed the Old Testament study located here.

When one speaks of the “big picture”, what comes to mind is an overview, general assessment or panoramic view. It provides a general sense of the landscape without all the intricate details, a broad, not finite, view of some thing. The big picture enables a general, not complex or exhaustive understanding.

When studying the Bible, it is easy to get focused upon, and perhaps even confused by, all the details in the chapters and books of the two major divisions of the Bible called the Old and New Testament.

How they are related can get lost in all the information until we back up and get a broader general view of how the Bible is put together and the important people, places, and historical and prophetic events it records.

A general understanding of the Bible (the big picture) is the purpose of this lesson. It offers a basic overview of how the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) are comprised, related, and the key major events that each contain.

A good understanding of the big picture of the Bible better equips the student in understanding the details when reading, studying, and hearing the word of God preached and taught.

The big picture builds confidence in your ability to explain the Bible to others as you share your new and exciting faith in Jesus Christ. One important step in getting better acquainted with the Bible is to memorize all sixty-six books in order forward and backward.

This will help you locate the books quickly when involved in studying, teaching or preaching. Doing so will also help you place the books in their respective categories and audience. A little time and effort doing so will bring great reward.

The New Testament Big Picture

1. During the century leading up to Jesus Christ’s first coming (year zero on our Roman calendar) Jerusalem and the surround-ing area experienced social, political and religious upheaval that influenced the culture at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth.

A.   Jewish religious zealots made several attempts to throw off rule by foreign nations. Rome rules in peace when Jesus is born in Bethlehem to Mary, a virgin, and Joseph her fiancé.

B.   Two religious sects are dominant in Judaism (the Jewish religion rooted in the Old Testament): 1) The Pharisees who are orthodox and conservative. 2) The Sadducees who are liberal and more politically and socially motivated.

C.   The Sanhedrin, a ruling body over Jewish life in Jerusalem, is formed from both the Pharisees and Sadducees.

D.   The Scribes studied, copied and interpreted the OT. These “lawyers” were powerful, influential men.

2. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament (NT) divide into five sections beginning with the 1st coming of Jesus Christ and ending with the revelation of His 2nd coming and kingdom:

A.   Biographical books (The Gospels: Matthew – John). Four books giving complimentary accounts of Jesus’ earthly life.

B.   Historical book (Acts). Records the events immediately following Christ’s resurrection and early church expansion.

C.   Church epistles (Romans – Philemon). Thirteen books written by the apostle Paul concerning Christian beliefs and behaviors, and instruction for pastors and church planting.

D.   General epistles (Hebrews – Jude). Written to all believers with special significance to Jewish Christians instructing faithfulness to Jesus Christ and holy living no matter the degree of suffering, affliction, temptation, or persecution.

E.   Apocalypse (Revelation). This last book reveals the fulfillment of the prophecies in Scripture concerning the return of Jesus Christ, the end of this world, and its re-creation.

F. All of the New Testament was written before 68AD with the exception of 1-3 John and Revelation, written in 90-95AD.

G.   The order of the books is significant. They reveal three key periods of time: The 1st coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew – John), the church age (Acts – Philemon), then the Tribulation period and 2nd coming of Jesus Christ (Hebrews – Revelation).

H.   Remember, while all of Scripture is profitable for the believer today, it is not all written to the believer today.

Recognize these key divisions for profitable understanding of the Word of God (2 Timothy  2:15, 3:15-17, Hebrews 9:15-18, Matthew 26:28).

The New Testament records three periods of time. 1) Before the church is established (Gospels); 2) during the church age (Acts – Philemon); and then 3) post-church (Hebrews – Revelation). We presently live in the church age period: The time between Christ's first and second coming.

The books of Acts and Hebrews help transition the reader from one period of the New Testament to another.

3. Overview of Events

A.   The Christ: The fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew – John).

1) The first four books, the gospels, give complimentary accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, miracles, mess-ages, mission, death, burial and resurrection (years 0-33AD).

2) They record the fulfillment of OT prophesies concerning the Christ, His contentious interactions with the leaders of those to whom He came to seek and save (Matthew 1:21-25, John 1:11-14), and His preaching the good news (gospel) of deliverance and kingdom (Luke 4:16-21, 18:9ff).

3) Christ’s 1st coming fulfilled the law (Romans 10:3-5); satisfied the wrath of God by paying the penalty for the sins of all men (Romans 3:19-25, 1 John 1:6-2:2). It also established a new and living way to God (John 14:6, Matthew 26:26-29, Hebrews 10:19-25) for both the Jew and Gentile (Galatian 3:19-29). 

4) Matthew–Luke are called “synoptic gospels” since they give similar details of Christ’s 1st coming. The gospel of John is different due to its emphasis on Jesus’ deity.

5) Christ’s earthly life was thirty-three years. His ministry lasted three years: beginning with His baptism and ending with His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

B.   The Church: The founding and progression (Acts).

1) Acts records the years immediately following the resurrection of Jesus Christ and expansion of the church (Acts 1:8).

2) Acts 1-2 give the account of the birth of the church at Pentecost (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:6-11, 2:1-11). Acts 2-12 record the growth of the infant church in Jerusalem, Judaea and Samaria with Peter playing a prominent role.

3) In Acts 13-28, Paul becomes the focus of the growth and expansion of the church as he and others take the gospel to the Gentiles in the uttermost parts of earth.

4) Acts 13:1-14:28, 15:36-18:22, and 18:23-21:17 record Paul’s three church planting (missionary) endeavors.

5) Once back at Jerusalem, Paul is falsely accused, tried, sent to Rome, and imprisoned (Acts 21:18-28:31).

C.   The Church: The followership and practices (Romans – Philemon).

1) The next portion of the NT contains thirteen books written by Paul (49-68AD) specifically to local churches and believers of his day and continue to Christ’s return.

2) These books form the body of doctrine (beliefs and behaviors) all Christians and local churches are to follow (1 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Timothy 1:11-14).

3) Four of Paul’s letters, Ephesians, Philippians, Colos-sians, and Philemon were written from prison.

4) Three of Paul’s letters, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, were written specifically to assist pastors and evangelists in establishing and leading local churches.

D.   The Christian: The fellowship and post-church (Hebrews - Jude).

1) The books of Hebrews – Jude form a section of the NT that have significant value for every believer; but will be of special benefit to Jewish Christians during the Tribulation period that follows the church’s Rapture (removal prior to Christ's return to earth).

2) Christians suffering intense persecution, afflictions, suffering; or experiencing other trials and temptations of life, will find instruction and encouragement so as not to abandon faith in Jesus Christ when life gets hard.

3) Peter’s two letters are of great value in learning how to thrive when facing suffering or persecution. 1 John is written to believers to measure and prove one’s salvation experience and avoid false professions of faith.

E.   The Consummation: The finale of prophecy (Revelation).

1) A blessing is promised to the reader of Revelation (1:3). A concise outline of the book is revealed (1:19).

2) Revelation is written to reveal, not conceal, a concise history of the church period (Revelation 2-3); a glimpse of heaven (4-5), and pouring out of God’s wrath upon the world; while simultaneously preparing the remnant of Jewish people to receive their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, at His 2nd coming and kingdom on earth (6-19).

3)  Revelation 20-22 offers a summary of events after Christ’s 2nd coming, judgment, then recreation of heaven and earth.

MEMORY VERSE (memory verses help you recall important thoughts from the Bible to assist in your spiritual growth and in helping others)

  • Luke 24:44 …These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.


1. Name and briefly explain the five major sections of the New Testament:






2. Write how the “big picture” new testament study has helped you better understand your Bible and how you can use this knowledge to help others: