In the Old Testament, God promised Israel that someday he would make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) (or testament) with his people. At that time he would “write the law upon their hearts” instead of on stone tablets (like the Ten Commandments). Jesus established that “new testament” with his life, death, and resurrection, and therefore the writings that relate to him and his church are called the New Testament. It has four sections: the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles (or letters), and Revelation.
The first section of the New Testament, called the Gospels, consists of four accounts of the life of Jesus. (The word gospel means “good news.”) The first three gospels have been given the title “synoptic” because they look at Jesus’ life from a similar point of view.
The second section of the New Testament is one book, the Book of Acts. It contains the history of the early church from Jesus’ ascension to the imprisonment of the apostle Paul in Rome. In Acts we have the story of the gospel going from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria (Acts 1:8) and then out to the distant parts of the earth. Even today, Christians are called to continue that story of concern for the world and evangelistic outreach.
The Epistles (Or Letters)
The third section of the New Testament contains the letters of apostolic writers. The largest number were written by the apostle Paul (Romans through Philemon). His writings have been subgrouped into letters (Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, I and II Thessalonians); prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon); and pastoral letters (I and I Timothy, and Titus). Hebrews is considered by some scholars to have been written by Paul as well. The remaining letters, James through Jude, are called general or catholic letters because most of them, except II and III John, were written to the church at large (generally), as opposed to individual churches or people.
The fourth section of the New Testament consists of one book, Revelation, which is also called the Apocalypse. It stands by itself as a book of prophecy depicting the eventual course of history, both on earth and beyond this life. Here we find a picture of heaven and the promise of being forever with the Lord.