Theology and Key Dates
Already—but Not Yet
Like John the Baptist before him, Jesus announced the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15), which was another way of saying that the saving promises found in the Old Testament were about to be realized. The kingdom of God, however, came in a most unexpected way. The kingdom did not come with apocalyptic power but in a small and almost imperceptible form. It was as small as a mustard seed, and yet it would grow into a great tree that would tower over the entire earth. It was as undetectable as leaven mixed into flour, but the leaven would eventually transform the entire batch of dough (Matt. 13:31–33). In other words, the kingdom was already present in Jesus and his ministry, but it was not yet present in its entirety. It was “already—but not yet.” The day of judgment was still to come in the future, even though there would be an interval between God’s beginning to fulfill his promises in Jesus (the kingdom inaugurated) and the final realization of his promises (the kingdom consummated). The already-but-not-yet theme dominates the entire New Testament and functions as a key to grasping the whole story.
Who Is Jesus?
The New Testament highlights the fulfillment of God’s saving promises in the Old Testament, but it particularly stresses that those promises and covenants are realized through his Son, Jesus the Christ.
Who is Jesus? According to the New Testament, he is the new and better Moses, declaring God’s word as the sovereign interpreter of the Mosaic law (Matt. 5:17–48; Heb. 3:1–6). Jesus is the new Joshua who gives final rest to his people (Heb. 3:7–4:13). He is the true wisdom of God, fulfilling and transcending wisdom themes from the Old Testament (Col. 2:1–3). Jesus is the final prophet predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22–23; 7:37). Jesus’ miracles, healings, and authority over demons indicate that the promises of the kingdom are fulfilled in him (Matt. 12:28). His miracles also indicate that he shares God’s authority and is himself divine, for only the Creator-Lord can walk on water and calm the sea (Matt. 8:23–27; compare Ps. 107:29). Jesus is the Messiah, who brings to realization the promise that One would sit on David’s throne forever.
Jesus is the Son of Man who will receive the kingdom from the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13–14) and will reign forever. His reign, however, has been realized through suffering, for he is also the servant of the Lord who has atoned for the sins of his people (Isa. 52:13–53:12; Mark 14:24; Rom. 4:25; 1 Pet. 2:21–25).
Jesus is the image of God (Col. 1:15; see Heb. 1:3), is in the very form of God, and is equal to God, though he temporarily surrendered some of the privileges of deity by being clothed with humanity so that human beings could be saved (Phil. 2:6–8). Jesus as the Son of God enjoys a unique and eternal relationship with God (see Matt. 28:18; John 20:31; Rom. 8:32), and he is worshiped just as the Father is (see Revelation 4–5). His majestic stature is memorialized by a meal celebrated in his memory (Mark 14:22–25) and by people being baptized in his name (Acts 2:38; 10:48). In a number of texts, Jesus is specifically called “God” (e.g., John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1).
Christ’s Work on the Cross
The New Testament particularly focuses on Jesus’ work on the cross, by which he redeemed and saved his people. The narrative of Jesus’ suffering and death consumes a significant amount of space in the Gospels. It is the culmination of each of their story lines, indicating that the cross and resurrection are the main point of the story. In Acts we see the growth of the church and the expansion of the mission, as the apostles and others proclaim the crucified and resurrected Lord. The Epistles explain the significance of Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection, so that believers are enabled to grasp the height, depth, breadth, and width of the love of God (Rom. 8:39). Various themes woven together—creation, adoption, forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, redemption, sanctification, and propitiation—teach that salvation comes from the Lord, and that Jesus as the Christ has redeemed his people from the guilt and bondage of sin.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
Jesus promised to send the Spirit to those who are truly his disciples (John 14:16–17, 26; 15:26), and he poured out the Spirit on his people at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4, 33) after he had been exalted to the right hand of the Father. The Spirit was given to bring glory to Jesus Christ (John 16:14), so that Christ would be magnified as the great Savior and Redeemer. The Spirit empowers the church to bear witness to Jesus Christ. At the same time, having the Spirit within is the mark of a person belonging to the people of God (Acts 10:44–48; 15:7–9; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 3:1–5). Transformation into Christlikeness is the Spirit’s work (Rom. 8:2, 4, 13–14; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:16, 18).
Sin, Faith, and Repentance
Sin and death are twin powers that rule over all people, so that they stand in need of the redemption Christ brings (see Rom. 1:18–3:20; 5:1–7:25). Sin does not merely constitute failure to keep the law of God. It represents personal rebellion against God’s lordship (1 John 3:4). The essence of sin is idolatry, in which people refuse to give thanks and praise to the one and only God, and worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18–25).
But sin is not the last word, since Jesus Christ came to save sinners, thereby highlighting the mercy and grace of God. The response called for by God’s grace is faith and repentance (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38). Indeed, the whole of the New Testament can be understood as a call to repentance and faith (see Hebrews 11). Those who desire to be part of Jesus’ new community (the church) and part of the kingdom of God (God’s rule in people’s hearts and lives) must forsake false gods, renounce self-worship and evil, and turn to Jesus as Lord and Master. The call to repentance is nothing less than a summons to abandonment of sin and to personal faith. People are called to trust in the saving work of the Lord on their behalf instead of thinking that they can save themselves. Even those who are already believers are to press on in faith and repentance as long as life lasts, for this is the mark of Christ’s true disciples.
The Church as the People of God
The saving promises of God have begun to be fulfilled in a new community, the church of Jesus Christ. The church is composed of believers in Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles. The laws in the Old Testament that separated Jews from Gentiles (e.g., circumcision, purity laws, special festivals) are no longer in force. The church is God’s new temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Christians are called to live out the beauty of the gospel by showing the supreme mark of Christ’s disciples: love for one another (John 13:34–35).
The church eagerly awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the consummation of all of God’s purposes. Meanwhile, the church is to live out her life in holiness as the radiant bride of Christ, and to herald the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth, so that others may be transferred from Satan’s kingdom to the kingdom of the Lord. The church longs for the day when she will behold God face-to-face and worship Jesus Christ forever. The new creation will be a full reality, all things will be new, and the Lord will be praised forever for his love and mercy and grace—for New Testament theology is ultimately about glorifying and praising God.
New Testament Timeline
The following chart provides a detailed New Testament timeline. Most of the dates can be determined precisely by correlating biblical events with extensive historical documents and archaeological evidence. Dates with an asterisk denote approximate or alternative dates. The extensive external confirmation of New Testament dates and events encourages great confidence in the truth and historicity of both the Old and New Testaments.
|5 b.c.*||Jesus is born in Bethlehem.|
|4 b.c.||Jesus’ family flees to Egypt to escape from Herod’s plan to kill Jesus (Matt. 2:13–18); Herod dies; Judas (of Sepphoris) and others rebel, requiring the Syrian Governor Varus to intervene throughout Palestine; Sepphoris, a city four miles from Nazareth, is destroyed by Roman soldiers; Judea, Samaria, and Idumea are given to Herod’s son, Archelaus; Galilee and Perea are given to his son Antipas; Jesus’ family, after returning from Egypt, resides in Nazareth (Matt. 2:19–23), a small village in southern Galilee.|
|a.d. 6||Archelaus is exiled for incompetence; Judea becomes a Roman province; Judas the Galilean (of Gamla) leads a revolt against the tax census; the governor of Syria, Quirinius (a.d. 6–7), appoints Annas high priest (6–15).|
|8*||Jesus (age 12) interacts with the teachers in the temple (Luke 2:41–50).|
|8*–28/30||Jesus works as a carpenter in Nazareth (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) and probably in neighboring villages and Sepphoris, which was being rebuilt.|
|28–29*||John the Baptist begins his ministry around the Jordan River (John 1:19).|
|28–30*||Jesus begins his ministry in Judea, but soon focuses his efforts in Galilee. In Jerusalem, Pharisees (like Gamaliel) train disciples (like Paul) in their tradition. They send a delegation to Galilee, but the delegation rejects Jesus’ teaching. In Alexandria, Philo (20 b.c.–a.d. 50) attempts to unify Greek philosophy with Hebrew Scripture.|
|33 (or 30)||Jesus returns to Judea, is crucified, and resurrected. James the brother of Jesus becomes a believer after witnessing the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7; Acts 12:17). Jesus ascends to the Father’s right hand (Acts 1). Jesus’ first followers receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and begin to proclaim the gospel (Acts 2).|
|33/34*||Paul witnesses the resurrected Lord on the way to Damascus and is commissioned as an apostle to the nations (Acts 9; Gal. 1:15–16).|
|34–37||Paul ministers in Damascus and Arabia (Acts 9:19–22; 26:20; Gal. 1:16–18).|
|36||Pilate loses his position for incompetence.|
|36/37*||Paul meets with Peter in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26–30; Gal. 1:18).|
|37–45||Paul ministers in Syria, Tarsus, and Cilicia (Acts 9:30; Gal. 1:21).|
|38*||Peter witnesses to Cornelius (Acts 10).|
|39||Antipas is exiled.|
|40–45*||James writes his letter to believers outside Palestine (see James 1:1).|
|41–44||Agrippa, Herod the Great’s grandson, rules Palestine; he kills James the brother of John (Acts 12:2) and imprisons Peter (Acts 12:3).|
|42–44||Paul receives his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7).|
|44||Peter leaves Jerusalem; Agrippa is killed by an “angel of the Lord” (Acts 12:23).|
|44–46||Theudas persuades many Jews to sell their possessions and follow him into the wilderness where he claimed he would miraculously divide the Jordan River; Roman procurator Fadus dispatches his cavalry and beheads the would-be messiah.|
|44–47*||Paul’s Second Visit to Jerusalem; time of famine (Acts 11:27–30; Gal. 2:1–10).|
|46–47||Paul’s First Missionary Journey (with Barnabas) from Antioch to Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, and Lystra (Acts 13:4–14:26).|
|46–48||Roman procurator Tiberius Alexander crucifies two sons (Jacob and Simon) of Judas the Galilean.|
|48*||Paul writes Galatians, perhaps from Antioch (see Acts 14:26–28).|
|48–49*||Paul and Peter return to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council, which, with the assistance of James, frees Gentile believers from the requirement of circumcision in opposition to Pharisaic believers (Acts 15:1–29); Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch (Acts 15:30) but split over a dispute about John Mark (Acts 15:36–40).|
|48/49–51*||Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (with Silas) from Antioch to Syria, Cilicia, southern Galatia, Macedonia, notably Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea; and then on to Achaia, notably Athens and Corinth (Acts 15:36–18:22).|
|49||Claudius expels Jews from Rome because of conflicts about Jesus (Acts 18:2); Paul befriends two refugees, Priscilla and Aquila, in Corinth (Acts 18:2–3).|
|49–51*||Paul writes 1–2 Thessalonians from Corinth (Acts 18:1, 11; also compare Acts 18:5 with 1 Thess. 1:8).|
|51||Paul appears before Gallio, proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12–17).|
|50–54*||Peter comes to Rome.|
|52–57*||Paul’s Third Missionary Journey from Antioch to Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, Macedonia, Greece (Acts 18:23–21:17).|
|52–55||Paul ministers in Ephesus (Acts 19:1–20).|
|53–55*||Mark writes his Gospel, containing Peter’s memories of Jesus; perhaps within a decade, Matthew publishes his Gospel, which relies on Mark and other sources. Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (Acts 19:10).|
|54||Claudius dies (edict exiling Jews repealed); Priscilla and Aquila return to Rome and host a church in their home (see Rom. 16:3–5).|
|55–56*||Paul writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (Acts 20:1, 3; 2 Cor. 1:16; 2:13; 7:5; 8:1; 9:2, 4; see 1 Cor. 16:5).|
|57*||Paul winters in Corinth and writes Romans (Acts 20:3; see Rom. 16:1–2; also see Rom. 16:23 with 1 Cor. 1:14); travels to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1–16), visits with James the brother of Jesus (Acts 21:17–26), and is arrested (Acts 21:27–36; 22:22–29).|
|57–59||Paul is imprisoned and transferred to Caesarea (Acts 23:23–24, 33–34).|
|60||Paul begins voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1–2); he is shipwrecked for three months on the island of Malta (Acts 27:39–28:10).|
|60–70*||Letter to the Hebrews is written.|
|62||James the brother of the Lord is executed by the Sadducean high priest Ananus.|
|62–63*||Peter writes his first letter (1 Peter) from Rome (1 Pet. 5:13).|
|62*||Paul arrives in Rome and remains under house arrest (Acts 28:16–31); he writes Ephesians (see verses for Colossians), Philippians (Phil. 1:7, 13, 17; 4:22), Colossians (Col. 4:3, 10, 18; see Acts 27:2 with Col. 4:10), Philemon (see Philem. 23 with Col. 1:7; Philem. 2 with Col. 4:17; Philem. 24 with Col. 4:10; also see Col. 4:9). Luke, Paul’s physician and companion (see Col. 4:14), writes Luke and Acts.|
|62–64||Paul is released, extends his mission (probably reaching Spain), writes 1 Timothy from Macedonia (see 1 Tim. 1:3) and Titus from Nicopolis (Titus 3:12); he is rearrested in Rome (2 Tim. 1:16–17).|
|63–64||Work on the temple complex is completed.|
|64 (July 19)||Fire in Rome; Nero blames and kills many Christians.|
|64–67*||Peter writes his second letter ( 2 Peter). Jude writes his letter. Paul writes 2 Timothy (see 2 Tim. 4:6–8). Paul and Peter are martyred in Rome.|
|66||First Jewish-Roman War begins with a riot between Greeks and Jews at Caesarea; Roman procurator Gesius Florus (a.d. 64–66) is murdered and a Roman garrison wiped out; Menahem, son or grandson of Judas the Galilean, murders the high priest Ananias and seizes control of the temple; Nero dispatches Vespasian with three legions.|
|67*||Romans destroy the Qumran community, who beforehand hid the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls in nearby caves; the church in Jerusalem flees to Pella (Matt. 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20–22); John migrates to Ephesus with Mary, Jesus’ mother.|
|68||Nero commits suicide; year of the three emperors.|
|69||Rebellion quelled in Galilee and Samaria; Vespasian summoned back to Rome to become emperor.|
|70 (Aug. 30)||Titus, Vespasian’s son, after a five-month siege of Jerusalem, destroys the temple after desecrating it; the temple’s menorah, Torah, and veil are removed and later put on display in a victory parade in Rome; the influence of the Sadducees ends; the Pharisee Johanan ben Zakkai escapes and convinces the Romans to allow him and others to settle in Jamnia, where they found a school.|
|73 (May 2)*||Before Roman general Silva breaches the fortress atop Masada following a two-year siege, 936 Jewish rebels commit suicide.|
|75||Titus has an affair with the Jewish princess Berenice, sister of Agrippa II (Acts 25:13, 23), whom he later abandons because of the scandal.|
|77||Pliny the Elder writes Natural History.|
|77–78||Josephus publishes Jewish War in Rome.|
|79||Pompeii and Herculaneum are destroyed by eruption of Vesuvius; Pliny the Elder dies attempting to investigate.|
|81||The Arch of Titus, celebrating his destruction of the temple, is erected in Rome.|
|81–96||Domitian, Titus’s brother, persecutes Christians among the Roman nobility, including his own relatives Clemens and Domitilla.|
|85–95*||John writes his letters (1–3 John), probably in Ephesus.|
|89–95*||John writes his Gospel, probably in Ephesus.|
|93–94||Josephus publishes Jewish Antiquities in Rome.|
|94||Domitian exiles philosophers from Rome.|
|95*||Amidst persecution, Clement, a leader in the Roman church, writes his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Clement) appealing for peace between the young men and elders.|
|95–96*||Exiled by Domitian to Patmos, John writes Revelation (Rev. 1:9).|
|96–98||Nerva, the first of five “good” emperors, ends official persecution.|
* denotes approximate date; / signifies either/or