The International Critical Commentary says, “In the whole of the first epistle, there is hardly a single thought that is not found in the Gospel.” John’s main goal was to hammer home the deepest truths in the Bible! He had been prepared by Jesus Christ personally to get this message across. And most of it is for us in the last hour.
The Jamieson, Fausset and BrownCommentary refers to John’s “contemplative character.” He did a lot of contemplating. Spiritually, he was a brilliant man. I’m sure he was also intellectually bright. He was very submissive to Jesus Christ. Probably no other biblical writer had John’s depth. Christ used him for a specific job because he was so spiritually profound.
We are to use God’s Spirit to search out “the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). John was doing that in his epistles. We must deeply concentrate in our studies of these books! There is so much spiritual beauty and depth in them.
The introductions to John’s writings are a good demonstration of the quality of his thinking. John was no ordinary leader. Not only did he have personal, specialized instruction from Jesus Christ, he lived a long life and had plenty of time to think on that instruction.
Notice the introduction to 1 John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). Immediately, John is dealing with monumental themes—speaking of the eternal history of the Logos.
“(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)” (verse 2). John is showing us eternal life. The Word was with God for eternity. Then He came to this Earth in the flesh. John had a panoramic vision of God’s master plan. We have to study and ask God to help us understand this galvanizing vision.
The introduction to John’s Gospel is similarly penetrating: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The furthest extreme of history—before anything else existed. This is the ultimate beginning. It was a time when there was only God and the Word. There were no angels, universe or human beings—a time before creation and before Genesis 1:1.
The book of Revelation begins, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
This is revelation delivered by Jesus Christ, given to Him by His Father. The greatest book of revelation in the Bible came fromthe Father (not Christ). Christ then gave it to an angel, who gave it to John. The fact that John wrote it in just this way is another powerful demonstration of his understanding of the God Family and of the panoramic sweep of history and prophecy! John had a greater, more sweeping overview than perhaps any other biblical writer.
Have there ever been three more powerful introductions written?
The introduction to each of John’s books takes us back to the very beginning. We are given the majestic overview. In the book of Revelation we are taken back to the ultimate source of revelation—the Father. But the Son’s supreme role is also explained. Prophecy is put in a God Family context!
John knew Christ intimately. He fully understood that before Christ became the Son, He was the Word. John knew Christ’s history. He always reminded himself that Christ was the Word who existed before there was any creation, and who became God in the flesh. This was the person whom John and the apostles “handled.” They had handled the Word of life—not just a righteous man named Jesus!
John always went back to the beginning. If we don’t get the premise right—as established from the beginning—all is wrong. We must look at origins, or it is like we are coming in during the middle of the movie, and we are confused. John was able to communicate these panoramic visions in the most inspiring way.
John was the only New Testament writer to designate Christ as the Logos—the Word!It is an incredibly special word.
Winston Churchill said that the further we see into the past, the further we can see into the future. John saw as far into the past as it is possible to see, with very unusual depth! This gave him an amazing vision into the future. He wrote the book of Revelation, which puts all prophecy into a time frame as far as we can see into the future. He discusses the new heavens and new Earth in Revelation 21—a time when humans will have been glorified into sons of God, a family of God beings. This vision reaches as far into the future as we can see!
We have to strain our minds to even begin to comprehend this overview!
Laodiceans Lose the Logos Vision
John had an in-depth grasp of extreme history, back to when there was only God and the Word. This gave him a transcendental vision into when everybody will be living as God and the Word have lived for all eternity!
This breathtaking vision staggers the mind! Do we really get it?
John searched out the deep things of God. And so must we. In John’s books you will find that search exhilarating.
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). Those are Christ’s own words. He revealed to John the Laodicean problem. Here John didn’t specifically use the term Logos, but he did describe the Word’s history—“the beginning of the creation of God.” The Word existed before creation. Only God and the Word were there. Then the Word did the creating under God’s direction (Ephesians 3:9).
Why would God inspire this to be written for the Laodiceans, the final era of God’s Church? Because the Laodiceans have lost this logos vision. As a result, they are lost in the present and have become “rich, and increased with goods” (Revelation 3:17).
If the Laodiceans had this reach into history, they would see their own spiritual condition and their disastrous future. They have lost God’s Family plan, which was from the beginning. They are “blind” and confused.
The Philadelphians have the “key of David” vision (verse 7). This is the greatest vision in the Bible. It reaches far into the universe and eternity (Isaiah 9:7). It is all unlocked by the key of David, which shows that Christ will rule on David’s throne forever. But you can’t understand this future unless you understand the past. What is God’s Family plan for David? What did He plan “in the beginning”?
This key of David vision gives the greatest possible meaning to the present!
The Laodiceans have rejected Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which contains the foundation of the key of David vision. The Laodiceans are interested in material things now. They are not excited about the greatest depth of history ever written! And they are not interested in the greatest reach of prophecy ever recorded! Endless peace for all humanity doesn’t interest them. They are wrapped up in their own selfish goals, not the royal Family of God.
“The beginning of the creation of God” puts us back at the “start of the movie” when there was only God and the Word. That perspective enables us to understand the meaning of all creation. We can clearly see God’s master plan from the beginning and on into eternity. We see the vision that transcends all visions.
If we comprehend the Logos vision, we know that God and the Word have lived in peace and harmony forever and that they will give mankind the same peace forever. That peace will eventually permeate the entire universe.
“The beginning of the creation of God” understanding gives us the history of what happened to the angels, why many of them failed, and how this caused God to decide to re-create Himself through man. It was the only way to bring peace to the world and the universe. Only God can rule the Earth and the universe. So man is created into God and becomes a member of the God Family.
The Word is the Spokesman for the God Family. He has a vision to deliver to man. It is so magnificent that we should never lose it. But the Laodiceans have become lost in a tiny span of time and a small amount of things. God wants to give them eternity and the whole universe! (Hebrews 2:7-8).
How pitifully embarrassing to reject that vision!
John was an expert communicator. The language he uses to illustrate this vision is incisive and colorful. Consider the depth of his unique expressions: last hour, from the beginning, the elect lady, love in the truth, Logos, the elder, witness. He uses powerful opposites: light and darkness, life and death, love and hate, truth and lies, Father and the world, sons of God and sons of the devil, to have life and not have life, to know God and not know God, Christ and antichrist. There are no gray areas with John. He thought it was the last hour—no time to soften the truth!
The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called synoptic Gospels, meaning they are all similar and overlap with one another. I believe Christ gave John something different so we could understand the other Gospels better—the spirit behind all those words. John dwells more on understanding God’s words, not just His deeds. He was contemplative. He searched out the deep things of God in a special way.
John and his brother James were called “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Look at the book of Revelation and you would quickly agree with that evaluation of John—it is the most prophetic book in the Bible, filled with lightning and thunder both spiritual and physical! In John’s epistles you see, in some ways, an even greater thunderclap, because they are about God’s own people losing their eternal lives! What a message of thunder John delivered—and it continues to be delivered by the Philadelphia Church of God in this last hour.
The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved
John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was the only disciple who used that expression. Why? What does it mean? Why did God inspire him to use it so many times? I believe there is a message in that expression. It has a lot of meaning for us today.
Christ was teaching John a special love that you won’t find written about by the other apostles. John got the best education Christ had to offer. He had the opportunity to be instructed in a profound way by the Son of God, who was with God for eternity! Christ had an extraordinary job for John, which had a lot to do with our job in this last hour!
Will you and I take advantage of our opportunity the way John did?
John spent a lot of time leaning on Jesus’s bosom (e.g. John 13:23). What closeness they had! Christ was in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18) and was teaching John about His closeness with the Father so John could teach it to us—because Christ knew we would especially need this Family unity in the last hour! We need to be in the bosom of the Father and understand the love Christ had for John and for every person He creates!
When Jesus was crucified, He committed the care of His mother to John (John 19:25-27). So John was able to learn a great deal more about Christ from her, in addition to the special one-on-one time he had with Him.
When Christ appeared on Earth after His resurrection, John was the first to recognize Him: “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (John 21:7). Perhaps that reveals something about John’s perception.
God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). If you want to tackle a deep subject, study that expression! By the time Christ finished educating him, John probably understood God’s love better than any other biblical writer. He gave us his Gospel, which contains deep lessons in love; his epistles go even deeper into true love; the book of Revelation is really about God’s master plan of love. Christ is teaching us an unprecedented love through John. He is taking us deeply into the very nature of God.
John showed us that the closer we get to Christ, the more we see how deeply He loves us. Then we are inspired to keep drawing closer to Him—our love for God grows. As we grow, the way John did, each one of us becomes the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” or loves. John was teaching us how personally and individually God loves us. He was teaching every person ever born how to become “the disciple whom Jesus [loves].”
God used John as a powerful instrument in teaching the supreme lesson of love to all humanity.
John Had the Solution
Things became so bad in the first century that God had to move the lamp to the Smyrna era. God’s people were losing their first love. They couldn’t get excited about God’s Work.
John on the other hand never lost his first love! The more I study and reach for what he understood, the more I wonder how anyone could fall away from God’s truth! How could anyone lose this—the greatest truth you could ever know?
How do you solve these kinds of problems? With John’s epistles. These books reveal the solution to the Laodicean problem. God’s people in the first century didn’t understand the love of God. John saw the apostasy coming, and he sought to counter it by driving home this lesson of love! John was primarily addressing last hour issues. Now is the time to get it! What a disaster to fall away at this time!
We must deeply study that love in this last hour. We will only survive if we love God. What keeps a physical family together through rough times? Usually love. If there is love, a marriage will survive. If there is love in God’s Church, our marriage to Jesus Christ will survive!
God wants us to have this love and demonstrate it. This is why we are here on Earth! To say that we are becoming God means we are becoming love because God is love!
Even John’s name indicates his purpose: John means God is gracious or merciful, God graciously gives, or God’s gift. God must give us love. He must also give us understanding of love. It is not something we can intellectually do on our own. Love is a gift from God. He graciously gives it. We need to be asking for it and working for it—or we will end up like the Laodiceans! They turned away from God en masse because they didn’t have this love for Him and His truth.
Our greatest need today is to comprehend the depth of love that John had!
Jesus brought this point home to Peter in one of their conversations. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao—God’s love] thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo—have friendly affection for] thee” (John 21:15). The same exchange took place a second time (verse 16).
Finally, Jesus asked a different question: “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [phileo] thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? …” (verse 17). Christ had questioned whether he even had the human, phileo love! What serious correction. But Peter knew that he didn’t have the love of God in him! Without that love, he had denied Christ three times, even after giving Christ his word of allegiance.
Words mean nothing of themselves! Without God’s love, we simply cannot endure our trials and remain loyal to God, as Peter demonstrated! We need the love of God to survive!
The solution to our problems today—or anytime—is the love that John described.
Dying for God
After that conversation, Jesus told Peter that he would be martyred (John 21:18-19). Is dying to glorify God a bad thing? So far as we know, all the apostles except John died violent deaths.
But something disturbed Peter. “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper …. Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?” (verses 20-21). He must have suspected or known that John would live after the other apostles were martyred.
“Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (verse 22). We all have different jobs. Each of us must keep plowing forward and not be distracted by how God is working with others. As Christ said, just “follow thou me”! For some of us, that may mean having to die for God. Don’t give up—don’t give in—don’t begin to trust men, even if you’re about to die. Just follow Christ.
This was a hard trial for Peter, but Christ essentially told him, “Follow me to your death! Don’t worry about John!” How much are you loving God through your hardest trial?
By saying, What is it to you if John tarries until my return? Christ was allowing His disciples to think He would come back right away. He knew John would not tarry until He returned. But He also knew that lack of knowledge would undoubtedly help motivate them.
As I have stated, Christ had a powerful job for John. I am thankful God let John live and not Peter, because I don’t believe Peter could have done that job as well as John did. (Nor would John have been the leading apostle as effectively as Peter was.)
You can begin to see—if you take on John’s panoramic vision—that we must submit to Christ’s way of doing things. God knows what He is doing. We know so little! We must not challenge God or act like we are being mistreated. The fact is, we are beinglovedby God, and if we think otherwise, we are out of sync with reality!
Of course, knowing you were going to be martyred wouldn’t be easy. But what if you had the opportunity to sacrifice your physical life for God, as Christ did for you? Would that not be noble?